Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Anniversary - Sort of

Today is a special day, but not one we really celebrate in our house.

Five years ago today I brought home one really messed up little girl.  She was with a fabulous family, but she didn't want to be there.  She did everything to let them to know, and she wasn't subtle.  At 4 years old she tried to choke an older brother, she screamed 8 - 10 hours a day, if she was hurt, she went to anyone BUT her mother for comfort and so on.

We had spent several months talking with this couple about "rehoming" their daughter.  We had already done respite for them several times, so we knew exactly what we were getting into, but we also saw something there that we had never (and still haven't) seen with our son - Hope.  She wanted a family, but she was angry at this family.  There is a very simple reason that she was angry and she could tell me why, but she couldn't get past it, no matter how much therapy they did, and boy did they.  This couple was so committed to her, but without change on HER part, it wasn't going to work, and she didn't want to change.

We met at a neutral location, which we always did when we were the respite family.  We did the "hand off" but something was a little different.  She came with a few more things and some personal things, such as her "baby book" (a scrapbook lovingly made by her mother.)

At the time we told her it was going to be respite, but we knew that wasn't the case.  We all think she did too.  We didn't want to tell her she was staying until we had permanent guardianship from the court, which took another couple of months.  None of us wanted to tell this little girl that she was going to stay if the court didn't agree.  She couldn't handle an adult lying to her.

If you look at a change in placement, it's a scary thing.  The child is being moved to yet another home (some kids can have 30 - 40 placements) with a family that they don't know who is telling them they love them and that they're going to be here forever.  Like we as adults would believe this, but we expect kids to.  We expect them to be excited to be in a house of strangers who proclaim love for them. How could they possibly love someone they don't know?

Things changed when our daughter entered our home.  She grew and flourished into a beautiful young lady.  It wasn't anything that we did that was amazing, it was her willingness to change and accept us as her family.

So while we are thrilled that we have gained a wonderful daughter, we hurt for the family she left behind.  They made the most loving choice they could for her and it hurt them deeply.  I know the pain of loving a child who no longer lives with you.  I still ache for them, and I wish they could have experienced the girl we have.  They did all the HARD work for her.  They deserved THIS girl!

So, before anyone thinks about criticizing an adoptive family who terminates a placement, think about how that family feels.  Their decision is made out of love, not out of selfishness.  No one would choose the pain of having a child leave their life.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas isn't always Merry

For the past few days I have had a great sense of uneasiness.  It is overwhelming and something I could not shake. This usually means that the 18 year old is about to blow.  To my knowledge this hasn’t happened, but I doubt anyone would tell me if he did.

These feelings had me edge, but as I sat in church last night, another feeling hit me. The feeling of not being wanted or welcome.  As our pastor described why it was so amazing that the shepherds were the first to hear the news of Jesus’ birth, I identified with them.

She described a population that were thought to be outcasts, unworthy, unclean and smelly, just a lower class person.  These feelings were overwhelming.

As we ended the church service with great joy, that feeling just nagged at me.

When we got home, I did my Christmas Eve tradition of curling up on the couch and watching “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  My daughter was in bed, and hubby was on an ambulance shift until 11 PM, so I was essentially alone.

As I watched the movie, I identified with the main character, George Bailey.  He faces a hard time and feels that things would have been better if he had never been born.  If you’ve never seen the movie, an angel is sent to show him what life would have been like for the people he loves if he hadn’t been born. 

I was left with some of the same questions.  I posted this on Facebook and received some beautiful messages from people about how I have impacted their lives, but my feelings are not unusual for parents with emotionally disturbed children.

You see, I have basically lost my family.  There are a few people that have stuck by me through the years, but overwhelmingly, I have more criticism than anything.  Unless you parent a child or children like mine, you can’t understand. 

I have family members that truly wish I no longer walked this earth.  They would rejoice over my death.  (No, I’m not exaggerating.) 

A few years ago my grandmother on my mother’s side called me and told me that if I wanted to be invited back into the family and attend family functions again, I would need to meet with her and she would establish the rules for me.  Excuse me?  This is how family treats each other?  I don’t think so. That meeting never happened, and we don’t do family functions.

The contempt for me on the other side of the family is not hidden.  It is more passive aggressive, but it is still there.  I have two aunts that do the digs behind my back.  Other family members delight in joining them. 

My parents and my brothers, those relationships are non-existent.  My father and I get along, but he will never openly support me. 

So, during a season when everyone is talking about family and togetherness, it is a not so subtle reminder that I have none.  Don’t get me wrong, I can do without the drama and hearing what a horrible person I am, the glaring looks from people who wish they could kill me with looks, and the over all sense that I don’t belong.

It is just an in your face reminder of what we don’t have.  I love my in-laws, but they live in Texas and usually aren’t here for the holidays.

This feeling or phase will pass, but I wanted to write this because I know that I am not the only one that deals with this.  Many families of kids with attachment disorder have lost friends and family because they can never understand what we live with every day.  I know my son is working things at family gatherings and presenting himself as the charming and mistreated child.  Only someone who understands will see through his charming demeanor.

And in case you’re wondering… no, we haven’t heard a word from him since Thanksgiving.  We are useless to him if we won’t give him money.  The fact that he is not with us for Christmas means nothing to him.

The fact that I have “lost” a child weighs on me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas

Now some people might think its offensive to put those two things together, but not really.  If you go back and check your Bible, Jesus was Jewish, not Christian!!

Our house proudly sports a Menorah right next to one of my (many) nativity sets.

Our family has some fabulous friends who happen to be Jewish.  Through them, we have been able to participate in, and learn, beautiful Jewish customs.  We have attended Passover and Hanukkah as well as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.  I've heard enough Hebrew to be able to say the Hebrew words in the prayers, although not very well.

A couple of years ago I was driving my daughter to our friends' home.  I thought I would head things off at the pass and remind her that the family didn't celebrate Christmas so there would be no tree or anything in their home.  From the backseat she responded, "Duh Mom.  They do Hanukkah."  She had learned more than I gave her credit for.

We are blessed that they are in our lives.  Our daughter learns so much from them.  She is exposed to so many different cultures, and has tremendous racial tolerance.

Wednesday night during our Confirmation class at church, I shared the meaning of the Menorah and the story behind it, with our Confirmation kids.  They even played dreidel during class.

Judaism and Christianity should not be exclusive of each other.  There is so much rich history that we Christians can and should learn.

So, as you celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus, remember that as he grew up, and up until His death, Jesus celebrated Jewish customs, not Christian.  Christianity didn't fully come to be until well after His death.  Picture a young Jesus lighting the Menorah and playing dreidel.  It might give you a different perspective on things.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Six Years Ago

These few days are an anniversary of sorts, but not the kind you want to celebrate.

SIx years ago we were making the arrangements to check our son into residential care.  We didn't know it would be the first of many placements, or that he would never live at home again (except for 2 months in 2006) and would only visit.

During these past 6 years (plus a couple months) he has been in juvenile detention 9 times, shelter care 7 times, 4 residential treatment stays, and 3 treatment foster homes.  Not the life you envision for your child.

If you had told me this was going to happen when we first took custody or even at adoption, I would have told you that you were crazy.  My exact words were, "He's a regular kid, just cranked up a few notches." Oh, what I didn't know then.  I don't think the system wronged us.  We had a great worker, and we are still in contact with her nearly 13 years later.  However, at the time there were no pre-adoption education classes, RAD was not something that was ever mentioned, and the internet was still in it's baby stages.  Living in a rural community put us even further from other families who might educate us.

Now I am connected with so many other families that have lived the type of life my family has lived.  I can now easily talk to other families, get resources and learn new techniques.

My friend, Nancy S, got me through those early months of his placement.  I was so certain about the placement, until I actually left my son there.  I was a nervous wreck when we walked out. Nancy had been through this before and talked me through the various stages of my emotions. Sadly, I learned procedures about checking my son in and out of various facilities, the procedures for juvenile detention, and at shelter care they came to know me well enough that a fax of my signature was the only requirement.  They no longer required me to show up in person to sign papers.

Life in our house is so very different than it was then.  It's been 8 years since I had more than one child in the house, except for respite kids.  Our daughter joined us 5 years ago and T has been out of the house for 6 years.  They never lived together.  There were times when they were together when he came "home" on visits, but never longer than a weekend.

So as these days go by I can't help but think of the child we yearned for, the losses we have faced (even though some people don't feel we've lost anything) and the outlook on my child's future.  These are not pleasant thoughts, but they are the reality of dealing with a child with RAD and other mental health issues.