On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wacky Words Wednesdays and a Change in thinking

see the label to this post to find out what Wacky Words Wednesdays is all about. then pass on the fun!

We have a family rule that the children get to play with their new items from birthdays and Christmas for the first day without having to share or be pestered by their siblings to play with the new toys.

One year Wonder Girl had gotten a make up set for her birthday the night before. She had left the items in the packaging until she was ready to play with it. Sissy was not keen on that idea.

The next morning at breakfast, Sissy walked into the kitchen, holding the package to the make up set which had been torn to shreds, some of the make up items still haphazardly hanging out of the packaging, a few plastic press-on nails plinking to the floor as she stood there, looked me dead in the eye and said,

"it opened up all by itself."

Sissy will be home in a few days, whether we like it or not and I've been pretty honest about how that impacts me and how I believe it will impact the rest of my family. This whole experience has been the hardest thing I've gone through in my life and I feel like I'm just beginning the journey. When I say I feel like Sissy's return to the home is equal to a return to hell, I'm not exaggerating.

The last three months I've really enjoyed having a family home life that is free of chaos and daily crisis. I've learned that I'm a good mom. I've laughed and snuggled with the other two without retaliating behaviors from Sissy. It has been amazing to not feel like I'm looking over my shoulder every second, preparing for another 3 hour scream fest. At night when I fall asleep, I no longer hear the phantom echos of Sissy's rages. At dawn, i no longer wake up to a seething Sissy glowering at my vulnerable sleeping body.

It has been eye opening to realize how much I've endured, how much my family has endured because we wanted Sissy to be better, to feel safe, to make progress when she only got worse. It has been staggering to survey photos and to reminisce about our life up to this point with Sissy and accept how much her mental illness has progressed. It has been grievous to know that her illness will continue to progress, that it is progressing faster than birth mom's, that RADs is just one of the many issues Sissy contends with.

It has been gut wrenching to admit that I'm not sufficient to meet my child's needs. It has been mind-blowing to learn that my IRL friends have severely autistic adult children on lower doses of anti-psychotic medication than what Sissy requires daily. It has been angering to accept that none of this, not one stitch of the reality I now live, was discussed with us as a possibility when we adopted, that we dove in head first, blindly, and into a pool without water. It is with despair that I acknowledge that RAD therapy may not even help, that it is very likely an exercise in futility.

I know there is one hope that is sure, for all of us. That God's grace is sufficient, that His hand is mighty to save, that it might take until we are in our perfected forms seated at the right hand of God before I get to spend time with a fully healed and cognitively alert Sissy. I hope when that moment comes, she'll have grace and forgiveness for me too. Because the hardest part is not really Sissy's needs, it's not the struggle, it's not finding a balance in my life, it's always wondering. Wondering if I'm making it worse, screwing it up, not doing enough, missing the boat, or being the wrong "match" for Sissy as her adoptive mom.

Just as Sissy's RADical needs demand absolution so she can receive the grace of unconditional love, so do I need absolution from my imperfections as her ill-equipped, unprepared, grieving, traumatized, anxious, fretting mother. Katherine Leslie talks of the starring role in a play we expect our RADishes to automatically know about, that we have to give them their unscripted lines, coach them for correct responses and prepare them for the difficult scenes. But RAD moms are equally unprepared for our role as director/stagehand/producer/screenwriter/audience/coach/choreographer/choir director.

I've used this blog as my punching bag, my battering ram, and my sounding board. My direct intent was to help people see the rawness and the reality while at the same time, eliminate my internal emotional challenges so that my IRL daily events weren't charged with my emotions. I've achieved success on both fronts but it has left me wondering if my readers have a genuine taste of who I am, the person you'd get if I came over for an afternoon. Actually, I'm a really nice person. I'm just going through the hardest time in my life to date. There'll be harder times, I accept that. I just wasn't prepared for how angry and bitter I'd be. I was hoping I could shake off those two evil twin brothers BEFORE Sissy returned home. I really wanted to be strong on my two feet when she walked back through the front door. Instead, I feel like I've just gone through a double amputation and I'm still on a morphine drip for the pain.

So I'm changing it up for a few days. The next three posts are going to be the children's adoption stories from this Mommy's point of view. I want to accentuate the positive. I want to remind myself why I got on this insane Mommy train to begin with. I want to recapture the joy I had when I discovered I was given the golden ticket to ride. I want to remind myself that deep down, I'm a nice, loving, kind person, not Atilla the Hun. I want to search my heart and see if there is still a hope in me for Sissy and maybe, just maybe, to open my heart again to other hurting children. I want to believe in myself again and rest easy that my heart hasn't turned to stone after all.

When Sissy brought me that torn up package that was Wonder Girl's present, my first response was to laugh outright. Such a silly thing, really, and after all, although she wasn't honest about it, she DID bring it to me. I want to hang on to that split second when I laughed and I saw in her eyes the glimmer of safety and love that a stupid toy wasn't something to go insane over, that I was a safe mom that loved her no matter what. Then i want to make that second last a life time so that she never wants to go back to another three hour screaming rage of fear and panic again.


Elizabeth-Anne said...


I am hoping that moment stretches forever, too. And I am so glad God let you see that moment for whatever bit of hope it may give you. You are always in my prayers, and I look forward to the adoption stories!


GB's Mom said...

You are a god mother and an awesome human being! Feelings are just feelings and this is a good place to dump them. God's grace is sufficient. I would love to come and have tea someday and visit an awesome person such as yourself!

GB's Mom said...

Sissy's problems ARE NOT YOUR FAULT! Sure, they may have been able to make a better placement for her- one where she was an only child- but THEY didn't- NOT YOUR FAULT! After 9 years you are still giving it your best- all that God asks of any of us. {{{HUGS}}}

Dia por Dia said...

You really don't come across as a mean person at all just someone facing a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety. We all need sounding boards and places where we can vent all the mixed emotions we experience when parenting traumatized and traumatizing children.

I look forward to reading your adoption stories.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jennie,
For what it's worth? I think you are an awesome mom! I think it takes a strong person to parent a troubled child--especially one that has the challenges that Sissy brings to you.
Thanks for sharing your pieces of hope with us... And just for the record, I have no doubt that you'd be a delightful friend if you were to meet each of us in person!
I pray that you will have the strength to do what is best for you, for Sissy and for your other children--and for clarity in knowing what that is!
Take care...

Mama Drama Times Two said...

You are brave and honest...thank you for sharing such difficult posts with grace and dignity.

Marco said...

You are in my thoughts and prayers ... a lot! What a difficult situation and I'm so sorry it is this way. ((( hugs ))). Maria (Canada)

marythemom said...

I heard something early on in this process that I try to remember often. I think of adoption of a severely traumatized child as being like CPR.

In a CPR training class I attended someone was talking to the instructor about being terrified that they would do it (CPR) wrong. The paramedic teaching the class looked at her and said, "He's already dead or you wouldn't be doing CPR in the first place. ANYthing you do leaves the person no worse off than he was."

You didn't do this to Sissy. If you did nothing she would still be "damaged." There is a possibility that if you do the right things in just the right way that she might possibly get a little better, but there is an equal possibility that even if you somehow do everything perfectly it could have no effect. There is also a strong possibility that what you do may not have an obvious immediate effect, but 5, 10, 15 years from now she may make a better choice because you were in her life.

You are a good mom doing the best you can in a difficult situation. It is in God's hands.

Hugs and prayers,
Mary in TX