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, January 10, 2011

What The Dad said

I forget to blog about the other people in this story because there would be no story if there wasn't a RADical RAD living under the same roof as the rest of us. Truly, we'd have a very ordinary existence, maybe even a bit dull. My family has a story to tell because we have Sissy.

That's demented.

So this week I'm going to highlight each of the four nonRADs living in this 1200 square foot matchbox with her. And maybe even the dog. Because seriously? The dog has thoughts about the RAD too. And they aren't good ones.

Today I highlight The Dad. My TALL, hunky man. Tall. Six foot seven inches (in his shoes) tall. And I'm only five foot four. Kissing is a challenge. I have a pair of four inch heels and that's still not enough to kiss him properly. He just barely walks through door ways without ducking, tall. He has gotten many whacks in the head from ceiling fans, tall. But I forget that he's tall. For 14.5 years I've lived with tall so I just don't think about it. And even with this giant in my life, I still grab the stool to get things out of reach instead of calling for his help because I'm all miss independent that way. But then we'll be in the grocery store or something and someone will say to me, "wow. He's tall!" And I'll say, "oh yeah. right. He's tall. I forget. But it sure makes him easy to find in a crowd!"

He's a fantastic businessman, owning, operating and managing all aspects of our window cleaning company. He has a way with our clients both residential and commercial that can't be learned in a text book, it just comes naturally to him. He has single-handedly kept our business open in this absurd economy and at the same time managed to earn our family an income. We'll never be rich but the bills will always be paid and the pantry will always have food.

We've endured the stress in different ways but in general have the same thoughts about our situation. He is introverted. I blog. He plays word games on the computer, I quilt. He smokes a cigar, I drink a whiskey sour. He is restless and goes without sleep trying to figure things out, I crash and burn and sleep for ten hours without another thought. Most of the time, even if it requires a day of hashing out with a few angry exchanges, we usually discover that we are thinking about the same things where Sissy's concerned. And when we have different view points, it usually helps the other person gain perspective instead of lose it.

We have the I'm losing it days too. On those days we have a "tap out" system in which we allow the other adult to just walk out or away when things get too RADical. No questions asked just "Go, I've got this." Or maybe "You need to go" when we have to help the other person recognize they're getting too emotionally involved. Sometimes it's a "go take some time for yourself today" type of thing. We have to cover each other or we'll fold like a house of cards. This incessant stress and trauma in our home demands that we take care of each other first and foremost, a task we often overlook and then are jarringly reminded of when our the other is crying, "uncle!"

We also started a "three positives" email, a suggestion from my fabulous cousin. Every day we email each other three positive things about the day before. Even if the day before was hell on earth, we conjure three positives. Because The Dad said, "We don't have FUN anymore! Everything we do and talk about is therapy, medicines, doctors and Sissy!" and he was right.

There are conversations about news events that are scarily similar to our situation or worse, the that could be us stories. Stories about adoptive parents being killed by their RAD son or bipolar fifteen year old daughters hiding pregnancies and delivering babies in public restrooms. Tales of mentally ill persons wreaking havoc on society, killing indiscriminately with weeks of follow up stories telling the public that "everyone knew he was crazy but no one did anything." Articles about heartbroken adoptive parents that lost a child to a drowning because he knew he couldn't swim but jumped out of the boat anyway or interviews from jail cells with criminally insane persons. Daily news about meth rings, shoplifting crimes, prostitution, rapes and the standard police blotter about stupid crap college kids do. All of it makes us think that could be us. that could be Sissy. this could be our future no matter what we do for her today.

The stories that seem to give us the greatest pause are those that include indiscriminate killing by persons that are later revealed to be mentally unstable followed by interviews with people that knew the individual wasn't well. We nod our head in understanding when we hear the interviewees say things like "I was worried and notified the police but they couldn't do anything" or "we did all we could for our child but in the end, it wasn't enough, it was never enough" or doctors that say "my patient refused treatment" or roommates that say "I was terrified for my life but was more terrified to say anything". RAD kid we think to ourselves. Bipolar and not taking meds. Once upon a time, in my naive little life, I would have blamed the parents for not being more supportive of their ill child and thereby allowing the crimes to occur by nature of their passivity as regards to their child's needs. Not so any more. Challenged people are going to do what they're going to do, irrespective of any assistance they have access too.

Oh, and then there's the broken system that makes gaining access to that assistance almost impossible. But that's another post.

So after The Dad read yesterday's post, he came to me and hugged me. Then he gave me his brilliant opinion, in light of the Tucson, AZ killings this weekend.

He doesn't lament, grieve and mourn about Sissy the way I do, in part because the nature of the father/daughter relationship is different than mother/daughter. Sissy's issues don't play on his heart strings the way it does for me. He loves her, she is his oldest and truth be told, he always wanted a daughter first where as I wanted a son first. He has come to a place of acceptance about her challenges and the nature of his relationship with Sissy. He put it this way: If God had said to us that we would be caregivers, not parents; that we would be responsible to protect Sissy from herself and from others not nurture her; that we would be expected to love her but never be loved back, would we still have chosen to parent her? The Dad says that yes, of course we would have, but we'd have done it with full disclosure instead of being blind-sided, which might have made it easier if we had known from the beginning what we were getting into. It certainly would have minimized the grief of the loss of something we unfairly anticipated in our relationship with Sissy.

He went on to say this: Knowing that there are despicable horrors every day and that even just recently a mentally unstable individual, motive unknown, has taken life wantonly, he regards our position as one of protection for the world. Point of fact, he said that by building one small safe room for Sissy, we just might be keeping the rest of the world safe from her when our intent was initially to keep her safe from herself. He said it has been a tough choice to give her things that seem reprehensible because a parent wants to shower a child with affections, possessions and time but the truth is, Sissy needs a stark white, structured, institutional-like environment to be safe. And if we can provide something as close to that as possible and as a result it prevents her from doing something reprehensible later, then so much the better.

We won't know what the future holds for Sissy or for the rest of us until we march through time but if I go by The Dad's estimation, no choice we make for her mental health today is too small if it means preventing harm or loss of life later.

You see? He's very keen, yes?


GB's Mom said...

You are blessed to have such a partner! And he is right- you didn't know what you were getting into, but if you had known and God asked you to do it anyway, you would of said yes. I knew at 5 months that GB would never be typical and yet "yes" was the answer from our hearts. {{{Hugs}}}

Kelley said...

Very, very keen. From all I've learned from you amazing women (and families) I too have a different view point when I hear those things. You all are changing the way people look at things and giving understanding about the things you do to love your kids the way they need to be loved one person at a time. It's awesome! Slow, and probably often painful, but AWESOME! And I've helped change how my family sees those kinds of situations - so it snowballs and one day, hopefully not too far in the future - it won't be so hard and people won't have to say they knew, but couldn't do anything because of this or that.

Ilsa said...

My dear, you definitely got yourself a gem in the husband department! I'm glad that through all of this, you have each other.

FosterAbba said...

"Challenged people are going to do what they're going to do, irrespective of any assistance they have access to."

I think this is spot-on. Although I think you are right in making the choices that you are making for Sissy, there really is no guarantee that she won't do something terrible later.

It's worth noting, though, that even so-called "normal" kids sometimes do terrible things. So there's really no guarantee for any of us parents, although we'd like to think that if we do a fine job of parenting that we'll end up with fine kids.

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Your husband has some terrific insight. How lucky you have each other as anchors. Hmmmm? Ya think we can sneak him to Orlando??? I just love the +++email (3 positives) Please thank your cousin for us...I'm starting today.

Acceptance with Joy said...

yes, good guy - keep him :-)

Awesome post!!

Tara - SanitySrchr said...

The Dad sounds like a great man!