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

Monday, September 6, 2010

Stale mate

After Friday's therapy session in which Sissy went cold in her emotional response, the therapist left saying she had plans to really step it up for home and school visitation with the team to hammer out the truth.  Is Sissy just playing us all with a severe case of RADs or is she genuinely incapable of mentally and emotionally comprehending what is expected of her in a home environment?  Currently, any demand of Sissy nets us a full-rage response.  And these demands include no whining, picking up after herself, practicing proper hygiene or being respectful.  I know.  I KNOW!  We're hideous parents expecting way too much of a fifth grade student that meets the standards in education.  Seriously, we should be taken out back and shot. 

So we've done the following:
#1 - returned her space to it's post RTC glory.  She has been significantly scaled back in her personal items allowable in her space.  Ironically, as I cleared out her space, the majority of what I confiscated was 3 bags of trash.  HOW did she put that much trash in her tiny space?!?  It defies logic.  I'm not kidding.  She'll be a hoarder in adulthood without supervision.  Mark my words. It makes me think that by continually striping her of posessions I may be perpetuating her need to hoarde. Nah. She hoarded before RTC when I was naive and let her keep her stuff ...

#2 - all family privileges are on hold until she can produce a sufficient list of 10 specific behaviors and expectations we need her to do, behaviors that we think will make our home life a much more livable place.  As her therapist said to her, "Sissy, I can think of one that should be on the tip of your tongue!" but Sissy just hung out her tongue and rolled up her eyes.

After much deliberation between us and the therapist, we really do think it's a matter of choice for Sissy. If she is appropriate during school, is able to shut off her behaviors instantly whenever a teacher passes by, if she isn't academically floundering in the classroom, then she's not mentally incapable regardless of her parse learning challenges. Another point that her therapist made that has really struck a chord in me is that Sissy makes deliberate high-risk choices. Meaning, she makes choices to lie or sneak or manipulate when she knows the truth of her actions or words is easily determined but she does it anyway. This would be the sociopathic ideology of someone that is so emotionally distant as to be unreachable. The therapist went on to say that despite what we may have thought, Sissy's RADs is still pretty severe. When the therapist said the words "high-risk choices" it really gave me pause. She's 10. In four years, those "high-risk choices" will be a horse of a significantly different color and consequence. This is a lot to think about, a lot indeed! CAN Sissy be reached? Or are we grasping at straws and biding time before criminal and sexual misconduct begin? I'm very nervous and concerned.

So until the therapy team has completed their full investigation (which means they'll be in the classroom several times a week and in our home every.single.evening), we're going on the assumption that Sissy is choosing to ignore common household rules and expectations. She's choosing to escalate to violence in an attempt to make us back down.

This is distinctly different than AB. AB will escalate because there is something or someone he does not understand. When he comes out of his episodes, he is genuinely remorseful and we get to resolution immediately. Thursday morning is a classic example. I was putting on his AFO's and one of the orthopedic socks had a string loose. AB was pulling it to get it off and I was saying, "no, don't pull, it will unravel the whole sock!" i startled him, he thought I didn't understand how much the string was bothering him and he escalated to full-rage crisis instantly. I followed him to his room, spoke quietly and calmly while I cut the loose string and in 30 seconds he was hugging, crying and explaining what had happened for him. We talked it through and came up with a way to communicate better with one another for next time. It's scary when you're in the moment but manageable. Thus AB can be in a home environment. He seeks to be "better". He is interested in knowing if there is another way to tackle a problem. He often comes up with solutions for himself.

But Sissy? She just doesn't want to do stuff. She doesn't want to be told. She won't obey. She will defy at every turn. She spends her waking energy figuring out how she can do what she wants when she wants how she wants with absolutely no regard for any other human on the planet. We are but drones to be manipulated to bend to her whims. And if one of us defies her, she explodes. Nuclear explosion. That is NOT behavioral like it is with AB and his spectral issues. It's choice. It's not sensory, it's not mental retardation. Yes, this summer we made some strides in attachment by acting toward her as though she was significantly impaired but maybe i did a disservice to her in that regard. In school she's expected to perform at grade level because she can. If we promote the double standard at home by playing it down for her, it's confusing and unfair. Sure, this summer was easy for her and she didn't escalate. But what did I ask of her? Little. I was thinking we'd made progress. Nope. Inadvertently she got me to do what she ultimately desired, she got me to play it down and treat her like a little infant that can do nothing. No need to escalate to rage if people are talking to you like you're mentally retarded when in actuality you're reading at a 7th grade level.

But the conundrum becomes this, she won't escalate for her teachers because she respects their authority out of fear. However, she neither respects nor fears The Dad or I. So she'll escalate every time. And this is why she goes straight to crisis almost immediately after I pick her up from school. Why should she respect or fear me? I've allowed her to convince me that she's a weak, incapable, mentally retarded, socially and emotionally inept child that needs to be coddled and coerced. I still err on her behalf albeit unwittingly and out of self-preservation. (I really didn't want to spend my summer with Sissy in full rage every time she was expected to take out trash.) But if I switch gears now, I'll have a ravenous, un-caged lion in my home. And that's not safe.

So we're at a stale mate. Sissy can have privileges when she writes her list. And if she writes her list before her next therapy session, too bad. We won't reinstate privileges until we've reviewed the list with a professional. End of story.

11 comments:

GB's Mom said...

Sorry things are so difficult. Prayers and hugs- I wish Georgia was closer.

kisekileia said...

Is it possible that she can contain herself but only for a certain length of time, and that is why the behaviours come out at home but not at school? Being able to control oneself some of the time doesn't equate to being able to control oneself all of the time.

Is it also possible that she has far more difficulty understanding social and emotional concepts than academic ones, or that she processes information better when she's given it visually/in writing than when she's given it orally? I'm trying here to think of ways in which the school and home environments may be different for her.

Integrity Singer said...

@ kisekileia - we've explored all of those avenues already

Meg said...

She sounds like an unstable bipolar child to me. Every bipolar child from 7-17 in my group acts like this when they aren't stable, including my own. I'm not sure I'd conclude she can't live in a family.

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Glad you are continuing to set healthy boundaries (review the list w/ professional). How very tempting it must be to give in when she has you worn down so much. On a completly unrelated note -do you read Kari at http://coffeecatharsis.blogspot.com/ FASD is her thing and she is a presenter at many foster/adoption conferences..but I just enjoy reading her. She's friends with Claudia at http://fletcherclan.blogspot.com/ Claudia is an adoption matching specialist - she and her husband, a minister, have adopted a whole passel of kids (12 in 11 years!).

Integrity Singer said...

@ meg - talked to pdoc. he and I agree if the med dosage she was on all summer was perfectly fine and her behaviors jacked up with school, it's a therapy issue, not a med issue.

@ mama drama - yep, I read them both

kisekileia said...

:( Sorry, I should have realized.

kisekileia said...

Maybe she needs more meds when she's under more stress though?

Integrity Singer said...

@ kisekileia - no worries. even the therapists say,"wait, what if we tried such and such?" and I always sigh and said, "we did that for 6 months" or whatever the case may be.

Integrity Singer said...

@ kisekileia and meg - called the pdoc and left a msg. The school called after I posted this and told me she'd been sleeping in class all day. ergo, she did not sleep all night. ergo, manic? ergo, up the lamictal? except she can keep a lid on it ALL.DAY.LONG. at school and I watched her SHUT IT OFF when she wanted to crank it up with me when I picked her up last week but a teacher walked by and WHAM, she SHUT IT OFF. Cold.

Debora said...

Oh, I.S., I am here grieving with you! I so wish Sissy would simply snap out of this, because apparently, she knows how. I see so many of the same behaviors in our daughter that I had to read this post to my husband, who was nodding and agreeing and seeing the same things I had. Our daughter doesn't escalate nearly as often as Sissy, but again, it is her CHOICE when she does so. She is full of pride and thinks we have no right to be in authority over her, though we read to her from God's Word about His placing parents in authority and that children are to obey and honor their parents. We pray He changes her heart...and Sissy's.