Friday, June 24, 2011

Self Care - Part III

I apologize to my readers who have been waiting for my series on self-care. I had planned to write a number of posts, one per day, until I'd covered all the topics I wanted to address. Unfortunately, life got in the way last week, and this week Danielle's behavior has been in the toilet.

It's hard to write anything really meaningful when you are being aggravated to death by petty, ridiculous behaviors.  Last night, for example, Danielle tried to argue that the case of sparkling water sitting on our front porch wasn't water.  FosterEema had asked her to bring our monthly water delivery inside, and she had brought in the five-gallon jugs, but left the case of individual bottles sitting outdoors.  When FosterEema called her on it, she argued that the [brand name] bottles weren't water, but were something else, so she wasn't supposed to bring those inside.

Funny that, considering the fact that the case was clearly labeled [brand name] sparkling water on the sides and top.

It would be funny if it weren't so darned pathetic.  Danielle has no idea how idiotic it makes her appear when she tries to argue things like water isn't really water, or that the Air Force isn't part of the military.

But I digress.

This morning's post was supposed to be about self-care.

In response to Self Care - Part II, Lisa wrote:

It took me too many years and tens of thousands of dollars (put on credit cards no less) to figure this one out. I felt like I had to try EVERYTHING to help my kids. I was depressed for weeks when I couldn't swing one type of therapy for 3 kids that would have run me over $300/week. I felt horrible guilt when I couldn't enroll 4 kids in a tutoring program that would have been upwards of $1,000/month. I was nuts. It took me much too long to realize that these kids would be GONE and I would be paying on these failed therapies for the rest of my life. I just had to start saying (and meaning) NO - and I did! It's been 3 years now and with a ridiculous amount of belt=tightening, most of the debt is gone. Of course one of the kids is gone, another is leaving in 10 mos and another a year later so it's not like we have time to develop a nest egg - and we are much older now than when we began this journey - but nevertheless, it's happening. Self care is so...important, and the one thing we NEVER budget for. Vitamin supplements that cost $300/month? We found a way. $50 for dinner and a movie once every 6 months? nope, could never do it. I regret that the most.

Try to ignore the haters, they have no clue...

And this is exactly the point I wanted to make in this morning's post.  There may very well be talk out there in the blogosphere about self-care in terms of respite, or taking time to do things one finds rewarding and satisfying, but there's very little talk out there about financial self-preservation.  Many parents feel, rightly or wrongly, that they should do everything possible for their children, even if it means destroying the family finances in the process.

In our family, we've come to financial crossroads a number of times.  We came to one when the county fought to remove our daughter, before her adoption was finalized.  We came together as an extended family, decided to fight, and spent tens of thousands of dollars in doing so.  We did this because Danielle said this is what she wanted.

Later, when her behavior completely cratered, we again came together as an extended family and scraped up the money to send her to a summer-long boot camp program.  We thought it would help her, since all the other interventions we'd done previously had failed.  We had taken dozens of hours of parenting classes, we'd gone to countless hours of individual and family therapy, and Danielle herself had worked her way through five or six different professionals and para-professionals, with no real, measurable, or lasting improvement in her behavior.

So this summer, when my wife and I found ourselves with a big financial choice ahead of us, we made the decision to go with what would make us happier.  We have made the decision not to incur additional debt in more attempts to "help" or "cure" Danielle.  Instead, we are making choices to fund our retirement and savings accounts, pay off our outstanding debts, and keep our credit cards paid off each month.

No doubt there are some people out there who will find us selfish for not sacrificing our own happiness and financial security in a futile bid to "save" our child.  Unfortunately, I think the sad reality is that she is who she is, and there's only so much healing she's going to be able to do right now.  I think she may do more once age, maturity and the school of hard knocks known as life, instruct her in ways that no parent, no counselor and no schoolteacher can do.

At this point, I know we have roughly two and a quarter years left until our child turns 18.  She's told us, hundreds, if not thousands, of times that she plans to move out the day she becomes an adult, so that she doesn't have to live with us, and our miserable, demanding, and unfair rules.

I can't fight that.  I'm not going to try and sit down with her when she's raging and offer her a bowl of candy to make things better.  Because honestly, knowing her as well as I do, that bowl would probably end up tossed across the room and I'd just as likely end up with her fist in my eye.

I realize that my kid, her problems, and our relationship can't really be "fixed" in any meaningful way.  So yes, I still owe her the duty of doing the best that I can for her, within reason.  That means that we aren't going to sacrifice everything for her, and we are especially not going to sacrifice our financial future.

Could we go $50,000 into debt and send our troubled, adopted child to a private RTC for a year?  Sure, we could.  However, I'm not convinced that it would truly help her, and certainly the financial stress of carrying that amount of debt in an unstable economy, combined with the negative impact it would have on our future retirement plans, won't make things better, for us as a couple, us as a family, or Danielle as an individual.

So sometimes, we parents just need to put ourselves first, especially when it comes to financial decisions.

At this point, we've made the decision to put ourselves first on the financial totem pole.  Our retirement, savings, and bills come first, because we know in just over two years Danielle will be calling the shots for her life anyway.  We are making decisions that will ensure our financial future, and by doing so, we'll be more likely to be  relaxed, less stressed, and better capable of dealing with the regular side trips to Crazy Town that our child routinely seems to make.

In ten years, will I regret focusing our financial resources on my wife and myself?

Probably not.

At this point, I'm not sure that throwing more and more money at Danielle is really going to help her.  I fear that she will never get better, but if she does, I think it's only going to come at the expense of bitter life lessons that come from the school of hard knocks.

Yesterday, Paula wrote:

Yesterday afternoon I had a long talk with one of my adult sons. He and I had our fair share of disagreements when he was in his teens, but he's turned out to be a pretty intelligent young man and is making wise decisions now. Unfortunately for him, he is also having to live with some very severe consequences from some of the foolish choices he made when he was younger. He's not whining or complaining about these consequences at all. He knows they are a direct result of his actions. As we talked I asked him if he remembered the warnings I'd given him. He did. I asked him if he remembered when I told him what the consequences would be if he didn't heed them. Again, he said yes. I asked him why in the world he didn't listen and obey then. His conclusion was that he just doesn't think that kids truly realize what they are doing and how it will affect them in the long run. I told him that's why God gave kids parents. They KNOW. They have gone before and been kids and now have an adult perspective.

With so many things in life, there are two ways to learn: the easy way, or the hard way.  Sadly, I think for so many of our kids, it's life's hard lessons that are truly the memorable teachers.  I've come to the realization that much of what we do for Danielle is really futile.  Telling her, showing her, counseling her, and teaching her isn't going to spare her from life's ugly lessons, because she simply can't or won't listen to us right now.

So, rather than futilely throw thousands of dollars more at ineffective therapies and cures, I think our money is better spent on things we all can enjoy now, and focus on our financial future that will be coming once our nest is empty.

I have a hard time being optimistic for my child's future anymore.  Her struggles, her pain, and the emotional, psychological and educational damage that has been done to her may very well be an intractable problem.  I realize that I am not capable of fixing her, as much as I might have liked to do so.  Since I cannot guarantee her future or her happiness, the best I can do is to take steps that will ensure mine.

Sometimes, when one is faced with a no-win situation, it's best to cut everyone's losses. Danielle has made her feelings absolutely clear, and I think continuing to try and pretend we are a "real" family (whatever that is) is only going to set us all up for more disappointment.  She has made it clear that she doesn't want to be around either of us (she is just as spiteful to my wife as she is to me) and that once she is an adult, she's going to leave and never look back.

There's an old saying that I think applies here:

When you find yourself standing at the bottom of a hole, stop digging.

I think it's time for us to put away our shovels, and focus on the things that will maximize health, happiness and security for my wife and me.

And perhaps, just perhaps, that happiness might rub off on our child.


As an added footnote, I should probably say that I'm not advocating that parents never spend money on their needy children. I'm just saying that it's important we strike a balance.  If a therapy, treatment or medication helps, then it is probably worthwhile.  I just think, especially for those of us parenting kids who aren't being helped by whatever interventions are available, that we need to strike a balance between providing continued treatment that has been proven ineffective, and bankrupting a family's financial future.

The bottom line is that parents need to take care of themselves and their children.


  1. I honestly wish my parents would have focused on their financial security. While they weren't facing the same issues you are, I think that taking care of your own future is important.

    It sounds like D does need help, and hopefully an answer will present itself in the future.

  2. I applaud you for planning for your future and not continuing to rack up debt.

    Have you ever thought about emancipating D?

  3. I think you took a wise decision. Firstly, I think that her current school is not too bad.

    I can't rely retell the episode, but once or two times, when I read your former blog, I had the impression that the school also knew how to deal with your child and, in some situations, was able to take stress off of you.

    Secondly: who says that Danielle would thrive in the private RTC, let alone enjoy it. Did she enjoy boot camp? I suppose most people don't.

    So if you took the decision to keep her home with you, you are also investing, because you are ready to deal with the additional stress she could cause. Therefore I think this is a perfectly rational decision you took. It might be even less unsettling for your child when she does not have to move to an RTC...


I love to get comments from my readers. Please be aware that comment moderation is on and there may be a delay between the time you post your remarks and the time they appear on the blog.

If you would like your comment read and/or published, sign your name to it and play nice.