Friday, September 30, 2011

What is School Coming to These Days?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. S, Danielle's elective class teacher.  It seems there is a large disconnect between what her homeroom teacher is saying, what Danielle is saying, and the actual facts.

On Tuesday, we got a frantic e-mail from Danielle's homeroom teacher.  She reported that Danielle was failing Mr. S's class. She had been instructed to bring her book home that night (which she didn't do) and that there was no possible way that she could get caught up at school.  We told Danielle that she needed to bring her book home the following night, and she needed to get caught up, or there would be dire consequences.

Wednesday afternoon, she brought her book home and claimed that all her assignments were done.  FosterEema wrote a note to Mr. S, asking him to call and verify that all the missing work had been turned in.

Mr. S. called this morning and reported that Danielle was still missing three assignments, but that her grade had been brought up to a passing mark.  FosterEema called the homeroom class and spoke to an aide who reported that one of the three missing assignments had been turned in and they were working on the remaining two, which should be finished today.

So it seems there's a pretty big communication problem here, and there are several things that I don't understand:
  1. Why, given that Danielle is in a special program for mentally and behaviorally challenged kids, did the school wait until she was eight assignments behind before notifying us?
  2. Why did the homeroom teacher represent the situation as being impossible to rectify at school, when clearly it is being taken care of at school? 
  3. Why are we getting different stories from everybody?  I can understand why Danielle might lie, but why is it that we are hearing different information from the various teachers?
Although I found Mr. S. to be helpful, he did tell me something rather disturbing.   He told me that the school was soliciting voluntary cash donations to support his elective program, and that he had offered students in his class extra credit points for bringing in those donations.

So basically, if parents make a donation of a certain dollar amount, kids get enough extra credit points to bring them up a full grade letter.

I was shocked.  Money for grades?

"I'll take it under advisement, as to whether or not we can afford to make a donation," I told Mr. S., "but if we do make a donation, Danielle should not be given extra credit for it.  I believe that grades should be earned, not bought."

Mr. S. seemed surprised at my reaction.  He tried to explain that he offered students a variety of ways to earn extra credit in his class.

"Extra credit I have no problem with," I replied, "if that extra credit is based on work."

I was shocked.  I am still shocked.

Frankly, I'm surprised that students are allowed to turn work in so late and still get credit for it.  Back in my day, teachers would take a full letter grade off of your assignments for each day something was late, unless you had made prior arrangements, or had a valid medical excuse.  Now, it seems kids can turn things in late, right up to the end of the grading period, and it doesn't matter.

Now kids can buy their grades, if Mommy and Daddy will just write a check.

What is school coming to these days?

Administrative Note: This post was edited after its original posting to clarify that Danielle's teacher was soliciting cash donations in exchange for extra credit points.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sink or Swim

I'm extremely troubled by the knowledge that she's failing one of her elective classes.  I'd be less troubled if this was a case of her simply being unable to do the work or pass the tests.  She's failing because she hasn't turned in her assignments.

As I said earlier, I'm just not going to get into a nasty control battle with my kid over her school work.  Her teacher asked for our involvement, so we told Danielle she needed to get caught up or face consequences, and that's pretty much the extent of what we can do.  I'm not going to force her to sit at the kitchen table and battle for hours (like we used to do when we home schooled) over an assignment.

She's 16 years old, and it's time she learn to solve her own problems.  It's time that she learn she has to sink or swim on her own merits.

This is a sad and scary place to be, because I am not convinced that Danielle will swim.  Yes, she's certainly at a disadvantage in the race called life, but I firmly believe she can swim.  She might not be the fastest, the most graceful, or the most skilled, but I do believe that if she put the effort in it, she would be able to do laps in the pool called life.

My fear is that she simply won't try.  She's learned that if she plays victim long enough, someone will swoop in and rescue her.  If she looks like she's drowning, and cries for help loud enough, it seems there is always someone who will feel sorry for her and try to help.

She's done this to teachers, therapists, friends, and extended family members.  One by one, people have realized what she's up to, and their willingness to help has decreased or disappeared.  Folks have learned that a great deal of what Danielle does is manipulation, and they are tired of it.

So I wonder what is going to happen when she finally has to swim in the pool of life and she learns there isn't a lifeguard.

What makes this all the more difficult is that I feel like we are on a collision course with an unpleasant future.  I can't fix my kid.  I can't force her learn, to grow, or to acquire the skills she will need to have as an independent young adult.  I can't make her stop abusing us.  I can't make her follow the rules, which she so conveniently "forgets on purpose," which makes her living here untenable past her 18th birthday.

I am acutely aware of what this situation means.  Danielle isn't safe to live here, but she won't be ready to live on her own, either.  The idea of casting my kid out on the street sounds like a terrible, uncaring thing to do, but we also recognize that we can't continue to live this way either.  We aren't rich enough to set her up in a subsidized apartment, and she won't have the academic skills or achievement to go away to college.

Danielle's 16th birthday is just a few days away, and she needs to start swimming.

But I am afraid she is going to sink.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

F Marks the Spot

Against what we considered our better judgment, Danielle's program for behaviorally-challenged teens decided to mainstream her for an elective class this semester.

Not surprisingly, she is now failing that class.

The reason?

She hasn't turned in eight assignments.  At least some of those assignments were assigned while we were out of town.

Danielle knew, in advance, that we were going out of town.  We informed the school that we were going to be out of town, and asked that her instructors send work home with her.  Danielle "forgot" at least some of those assignments.  We know for a fact that she didn't bring her reading book home, and she denied receiving any assignments from her mainstreamed class, other than being asked to take a few photographs while she was gone.

She barely did any work while we were away.  We reminded her a couple of times, but opted not to get into a control battle over homework.  The consequences of failing to do her homework were going to be on her, and that's where we left it.

Yesterday, we got an e-mail from Danielle's homeroom teacher that said the following:

We've been trying to help her get caught up.  There is not enough time in the day to devote the time she needs to get caught up.  She was directed by our staff to bring her [failing subject] book home and work on assignments there.  She left the book on her desk.  I believe she was also told by Mr. [teacher of failing subject] to take pictures of [failing subject] and label them.  I don't know if she followed that directive.  She also has had notes downloaded on her gig stick, but never seems to bring it to school.  Perhaps you could help her get caught up so she can have a passing grade.

We avoided the temptation to send back a snarky, "we told you so," remark, or to ask the obvious question, "how do you expect us to help her if we don't have the book here?"  We politely replied that we would discuss the situation with Danielle, but that our availability to help her is somewhat limited, because of our work schedules.

The real answer is, I'm not going to get into a huge control battle with my kid over school.

We did tell her we expected to see the book, in her hands, tomorrow afternoon, no excuses.  We also told her that if she brought home a failing grade on her progress report, there would be some unpleasant consequences.

When she tried to argue, we cut her off.  "You know what is expected, you know what the consequences will be if you do not meet our expectations, and that's all we have to say on this subject."

And now we are done discussing the problem.

Of course Danielle tried to argue that she'd already received some consequences at school.

"That may be true," we answered calmly, "but when your teacher says, "perhaps you could help her get caught up so she can have a passing grade," we are going to get involved.

I think a snowflake has a better chance of surviving in hell than Danielle has of passing this class.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yes, It Does Suck

This morning, Cindy, over at Big Momma Hollers, wrote a post entitled, ODD Sucks.  In her post, she outlined the numerous ways that parenting kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder can be difficult and unpleasant.  In her post, she wrote:

When these ODD combatants grow up and leave, I always find myself stunned and shocked at the peace and calm that immediately descends in their vacancy. Really? I lived like that? I don't miss them for one single second and I find that to be a very sad commentary, but I'd be a masochistic idiot to miss the above behaviors. Any one of them, for example the constant complaining, would be enough to send a relatively sane person over the edge, try any combination of those behavior on for size 24-7, and see how it feels.

Yes, it sucks.

In addition to PTSD, my child's numerous therapists have knocked around diagnoses such as ODD, Conduct Disorder, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder.  Our current therapist has raised a concerning possibility, but changed her mind, because she wanted to give our child the least serious diagnosis so as to avoid causing her trouble later in life.

I'm not sure that a more serious diagnosis will make any difference for Danielle at this point.  The fact that she has a diagnosis of PTSD has already precluded her from joining the military*.

Cindy's list of behaviors certainly does a great job of describing our child:

  • yelling
  • whining
  • chronic complaining
  • overt and covert defiance
  • screaming
  • temper tantrums
  • throwing objects
  • talking back
  • use of profanity
  • stealing
  • engaging in constantly annoying behavior
  • ignoring requests
  • physically resisting
  • failure to complete routine chores
  • destroying property, physical fights with others
  • failure to complete school homework
  • disrupting other activities
  • ignoring self care tasks

Cindy went on to say:

No, it's about me now. I'm attempting to heal from within, to try and recover from the intense emotional abuse. Every bruise I've ever had on me from someone came out of one of two possible sibling groups. 'Nuff said. Is it any wonder that I find myself both grieving and furious?

ODD sucks for everyone. I have to recover, they have to change. Only one of these is possible I'm afraid.

In our case, it doesn't really matter what Danielle's true diagnosis is.  We've realized that her problems aren't fixable, and she's going to carry these behaviors into adulthood.  Even the therapist agrees that there is no way to create a happy, fairy-tale ending for our family.  At this point, all we can do is try to declare a truce, and attempt a reasonably peaceful co-existence for the next couple of years.

Yes, Cindy, this sucks. Worse, there's no way to really communicate just how bad this is to anyone who hasn't already lived it.

* Even if she did not have PTSD, her extremely short stature, and lack of academic progress would likely keep her out anyway.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Therapist Calls a Truce

We had an interesting meeting with the therapist this week.

And when I say "interesting," I think I mostly mean frustrating.

We were talking about how things were going, and the therapist started asking Danielle about her level of compliance with our rules and expectations.  She, quite honestly, admitted that she often didn't follow the rules or do what was expected.

"I forget on purpose," she said.

She tried to deny that forgetting on purpose is the same thing as making a conscious choice to disobey.

Like I said, it was rather frustrating.

At one point, Danielle was excused from the room so we adults could discuss goals.  It's clear, from how all three of us feels, that the possibility of a sail-off-into-the-sunset happy ending isn't going to happen.  We talked about what we each wanted, and how we felt.

Then Danielle was called back into the room.

When she returned, the therapist called a truce.  She basically told Danielle that we don't have to love each other, we don't even have to like each other, but we do have to get along.

The therapist elaborated on what she meant by this.  When she was finished, she asked Danielle, "Is this okay with you?"

Danielle was very non-committal.  "I guess," she shrugged.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Murder Close to Home

Someone I know stands accused of murdering a parent.

I am shocked.  I am stunned.  I am speechless.  Although I didn't know the alleged perpetrator well, we'd had regular business contact.  The person struck me as nothing but nice, and gave us absolutely excellent customer service.

I am deeply troubled by these events, because it makes me think of my own child.  I think of the child who has hit, bit, kicked, punched and threatened my wife and me.  I think of the teen who has  threatened to kill us and our pets.  My kid is often not nice.

If someone who I thought of as a decent, kind, caring human being could be capable of such a terrible and violent crime, I worry about the implications for my child.  Given that she has repeatedly made threats, and has acted on her violent impulses, am I at risk of dying at her hands?

Although Danielle's behavior is substantially better on medication, it hasn't solved everything.  She is still a deeply troubled and dysfunctional person.  Although the drugs do seem to be helping now, there's no guarantee that the honeymoon won't eventually wear off.

We have been so concerned about her behavior that we put a lock on our bedroom door while she was away at respite.

I am deeply, deeply troubled by this murder.  Although I didn't know the alleged perpetrator very well, and didn't know the victim at all, this case weighs heavily on my mind.  It kept me awake last night, because it hit just a little to close to home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Better Doesn't Make Everything Okay

About ten days ago, Paula over at NaCl H20 Times wrote about how tired she was of being knocked down, beat up, and judged.

[L]ast night I got blindsided again. Some really hurtful things were said about me and behind my back and I'm ready to runaway and never come back. I know that when you get knocked down, you're supposed to stand up again, but I'm losing the fight in me. I'm sick to death of being judged by people. I am tired of Christians being so dang mean. Those invisible knives that keep getting plunged deep into my soul are starting to bleed me to death.

I have only one thing to say to Paula:

I hear you, loud and clear!

I could say the exactly same thing.

Danielle has been home from respite for  about a month, and on medication for a little over three weeks, and things have been measurably better.  We've gone a month without major tantrums, threats or acts of violence.  Things have been really pretty decent, which is a huge change from the way things were before we sent her off to respite.  The break from each other and the new medication have made huge improvements in our child's attitude.

And that's great.  Things are a lot better.

But that doesn't make everything okay.  I feel this external pressure that I should somehow be automatically ready to "start over" or to "forgive and forget" about all the violence, threats, false allegations, and verbal aggression that has plagued our family for years.  I feel like family members, friends, and the so-called caring professionals think that we should be able to magically start over fresh, as if none of the things that have defined our relationship with our child had ever occurred.

Although I do have the capacity to forgive, I will never be able to forget.  I am too battered, bruised and traumatized to be able to put everything behind us and act as if it nothing has happened. I feel completely used up, and when it comes to my kid, I don't feel like I have very much left to give her.  I'm really very tired.

I shared this with our new therapist this week.  I mentioned during our family session that I felt like the past name-calling, verbal aggression, threats and acts of physical violence had completely damaged my relationship with my child.  I spoke of how when Danielle behaves nicely towards me, it feels insincere, as often she's putting on the sweet charm to convince me to give her something she wants.  I shared how I'm really struggling to have much in the way of tender feelings towards her, because of the horrifying abuse she's heaped upon us over the past few years.

The therapist nodded and claimed to understand.  She turned to Danielle and asked her if she wanted to improve her relationship with us.

Danielle was staring off into space, completely disengaged.  When the therapist called her on her daydreaming, she sat up with a start.

"What?" Danielle asked.  "Oh, umm, I guess so," she finally mumbled.

I found the session rather troubling.  Danielle was evasive and disengaged, and seemed unwilling to commit to the idea that violence and threats in our home are unacceptable.

There's no question that things are substantially better in our home, but that doesn't suddenly make everything okay, especially when it comes to our relationships.  A few days ago, Danielle came home from school, extremely upset.  Apparently one of her straight friends at school had called one of her gay friends a nasty pejorative, and she came home in tears.

I felt more emotion about the gay friend who had been the victim of the verbal bashing than I did about my own child's feelings of upset.  I imagine I should have felt more, but I'm to the point where I I've been kicked so many times that I do not have the strength to stand up again.  I cared that Danielle was upset, but I simply couldn't create much emotional energy to do anything about it.

"I'm sorry this happened," I told her.  I listened to her tearful explanations, but I didn't want to engage them too deeply.  I didn't have the emotional bandwidth available for a multi-hour conversation, as so many of her upsets seem to require.  I was facing a looming deadline, and I really needed to get back to work.

Some of my family members seem to think that I should be viewing Danielle's medication as some sort of magic cure that will solve everything that ails our family.  I don't think that a prescription can be the Holy Grail in that sense.  Yes, it's clear the medication is helping and making things better for us and our child, but it can't undo everything that's transpired.  Although the drug may very well help her mood, it won't suddenly improve her weak problem-solving skills, her lack of good judgment, or guarantee she will pass the state's required academic tests.

So better is really better, but it doesn't solve all our problems or magically make everything okay.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Excuse Number Four

This is my third and final post explaining why I was absent from the blogosphere for so long.  For those who might have missed them, here are links to my first, as well as my second and third excuses.

Today's excuse has a lot to do with the fact that we are somewhat in a holding pattern. Basically, we are doing a lot of waiting to see what happens next.

We've had a couple of pretty significant things happen over the past few of weeks.

Most importantly, Danielle started medication.  Although it's really too early to tell if the drugs will make a lasting change in her mood or behavior, the initial signs are promising.  I haven't wanted to say much about it, one way or the other, because I feel like I'm walking around the house constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.  We've seen periods of good behavior before, only to have them end in sudden, overwhelming, and violent explosions.  Medication might be a game changer, or it might not.  It's just too darn early to tell.

Danielle's new therapist made a preliminary diagnosis a couple of weeks ago, but has since changed her opinion and given a new one.  Personally, I think her first opinion was more accurate, but I suppose the official diagnosis doesn't really matter.  Whatever label they want to use, as long as it gets the kid some appropriate help, is fine by me.  In this case, the treatment for both diagnoses is similar, so it probably doesn't matter if Danielle really suffers from condition a or condition b.

So I haven't blogged, because I'm not sure how much I want to say about any of this.  In the past, I've been pretty open about what's gone on, and I'm not sure that the resulting headaches (and child abuse referrals) have been worth it. I'm really torn -- I think the world  needs to see just how bad things can be for adoptive families, but I'm not sure that the personal costs (created by trolls, bashers, stalkers and false abuse reports) make it worthwhile.

Someone needs to tell these stories.  I'm just not sure it should be me any longer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Excuses Number Two and Three

Today's post will be a second installment of excuses explaining why I didn't blog for so long. Yesterday's excuse put the blame on camping.

Today's excuse will be blamed on work and a lack of privacy.

Although I did have a portable Internet connection with me, I ended up spending the bulk of the Labor Day holiday, and all of the following week, working. My original plans were that I was going to take off early Friday, work from the campground that day, and enjoy a nice three-day weekend.  I'd planned to work from the campground Tuesday-Friday, and then  enjoy another weekend, already set-up and ready to go.

But things didn't work out that way.  Something I'd been working on was launched on Thursday against my express advice.  It's always a bad idea to turn anything brand-new out of the barn on a Friday because people want to have their weekends off, and it's even worse if you do it right before a holiday.  I'd suggested we wait until immediately after Labor Day, but my advice was ignored by the powers that be.

Things started to go really wrong when the campaign we launched resulted in more than forty times the number of responses we expected on the first day.  For every customer we expected, we had dozens more who patiently waited, and even more who gave up and walked away in frustration.

Needless to say, my client's customer was not pleased that we were so woefully unprepared.  On the bright side, our lack of preparation wasn't entirely our fault.  The sales results we were given from last year's program didn't reflect the overwhelming response that we received.

I spent the weekend fixing things, re-allocating resources so that we could handle the load, and by Tuesday morning, the mess was considerably better.  The overwhelming initial response had died down a little, and we had been able to allocate more resources to handling the unexpected rush.  I spent the rest of the week sweeping up the remnants of the mess, preparing reports, and performing a postmortem on what went wrong.

By the following Friday, things had calmed down sufficiently, and I got off work about an hour early.  At that point, I needed the weekend.

Needless to say, since my work situation was completely out of control, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about writing blog posts.  When things were a little quieter, I did think about posting, but it seemed that whenever I wasn't working, I had an audience.  Although FosterEema obviously knows about the blog, my kid, my real-life friends and my family don't know about it.  It's my little secret, and I am trying to keep it that way.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Excuse Number One

As I said earlier, I've been carefully considering what I should and shouldn't say about my recent unexplained absence from the blogosphere.

There are a number of reasons, not all of which I am sure I want to explain, but I'll start with the easiest one:

We went camping for ten days.

Even though we were camping, I had to work almost the entire time we were gone.  Although I was supposed to have Labor Day weekend off, things went awry at work, and I ended up working for a good chunk of the weekend.  I'd previously planned to work the Tuesday-Friday after Labor Day, but the problem at work really messed up my plans.  Still, I managed to get all my work done, despite the fact that we were in a remote area, by forwarding all my calls to my cell phone, and using a wireless, cellular modem for my Internet connectivity.

It worked surprisingly well.  I'm glad we had the foresight to purchase the wireless modem last year, as I would have had to cancel my Labor Day plans without it.

Despite the work crisis, we did manage to have quite a bit of fun.  All of our cooked meals were prepared over the campfire, and we ate pretty darn well.  We consumed more than our fair share of dead cows and baked potatoes, and I made several treats in our RV's oven.  I baked muffins, cupcakes and even a birthday cake for a friend who was celebrating.  (A commercial cake mix and homemade butter cream frosting to the rescue!)

This trip I started to realize that cooking over a fire is really more of an art than a science, and that I'm getting pretty decent at it.  I learned a few things about the characteristics of fire, and that it's not absolutely necessary to have the perfect bed of coals to grill a steak.  Potatoes, on the other hand, do require coals to be completely happy.

Cavemen don't got nothin' on me when it comes to cooking over a fire, that's for sure!

Another big plus was that this camping trip was meltdown-free.  The kid managed to make it for ten whole days without name-calling, throwing temper tantrums, making threats or becoming violent.  Even more amazing, she was actually helpful for most of the trip.

We had a lot of fun, but things didn't always go quite as planned.  Our RV's toilet crapped out quit working on day one, so we had to deal with the inconvenience of having to flush by pouring water into the bowl.  Still, the toilet worked well enough to spare us from a long hike to the campground's restrooms, or resorting to bush-wacking as our not-so-nice neighbors did.

The big thing I learned from this trip was that I can work from the road, even under less-than-optimal conditions.  I was happy to see that I was able to fix our work-related disaster without having to drive home.  When I left, I had a substantial backup plan worked out, just in case.  If my portable Internet connection hadn't worked, I had two other potential Internet hotspot locations lined up.  If those hadn't panned out, then I would have had to drive home.

But it all worked out.  I also learned that having to work from the campground is less fun than having time off, but it's still better than having to cancel a planned trip.  Still, I'm going to do everything in my power to try to avoid work/camping collisions from happening, as it doesn't make a lot of sense to pay for a campsite just so I can sit in the RV and work all day.

So that's my blogging excuse for today.  I'll probably have more, later.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Is Everything Okay?

I haven't posted since September 1, and a number of nice people left me comments asking why I haven't posted, and if everything is okay here at chez FosterAbba.

Yes, everything is okay.

I haven't written because we've had a lot of things happen over the past week and and a bit that I am still pondering.  The big question is just how much I should say publicly.

Some of it is good, some not-so-good, and some indifferent.  Part of my absence has to do with work, part has to do with Danielle, and part has to do with other stuff that has nothing to do with anything, but manage to quite handily get in the way of blogging anyway.

So I apologize for disappearing for more than a week without any warning.  I hadn't intended to be absent for so long.

My big struggle, which has been evolving for quite some time, is how much I should disclose here in the public blog.  It's clear that a certain subset of my readers are intent in doing me and my family some harm, and they seem to take delight in interpreting everything I say as evidence that my wife and I are abusive parents.  I've had enough people send me private e-mails and comments (which I have not published) saying that if they knew where I lived, they would turn me into the authorities in the hopes that the child welfare authorities would take our kid away, or that we'd be arrested for child abuse.

Of course it's kind of hard to have us arrested for child abuse when we haven't committed any abuse, but I guess that doesn't matter in the minds of certain people.

So that's largely why I haven't written much.

I'm trying to catch up on all my blogs, and while I was doing so, I noticed Kari's post Those Convinced Against Their Will...  Her post made me think of a recent camping trip, where we encountered an unusually obnoxious couple, accompanied by a large crowd in attendance to celebrate their wedding.  The happy couple had been together for quite some time, had several young children together, and spent several days drinking, and partying in a nearby campsite.

The group consumed enormous amounts of alcohol.  The bride-to-be (who appeared to be pregnant, though we were later told she still had her baby-belly from an earlier birth) became incredibly intoxicated.  She drank to the point of falling down, and on the day of her wedding she had a huge black eye and bruises all up and down her legs.  She had fallen several times, colliding with a picnic bench and the ground.  Her male companions took delight in yelling curses, loudly extolling their past sexual behaviors in intimate detail, and urinating all over their campsite.  One gentleman (and I use the term loosely) opted to relieve himself into the fire.  Another, made a habit of using the space behind their trailer as a toilet, and he was observed on a number of occasions to be relieving himself in broad daylight.  He was witnessed by my mother, my kid, my friend, and myself.


At one point, after the campground staff had asked them several times to cease using the campsite as a toilet, my mother marched over and angrily gave them a piece of her mind.  They responded by calling her a rash of ugly names and stated that she was some type of sexual deviant for watching.

It was hard not to notice, considering their impromptu outdoor latrine could be easily spotted from our trailer's dinette window.

Later, the now-bride came over to apologize for the conduct of her husband's guests.

There's just something fundamentally wrong with a relationship when a bride has to apologize for the behavior of her new husband.  She claimed that he and his guests had simply not been "properly socialized" when they were children, which was why they behaved this way as adults.

Worse, the couple's two young children were present for the entire shebang.  Granted, they were very young and probably slept through most of the antics, but I can't help but think about these children.  Given how much their mother was drinking, I had to wonder if the children had FASD.

In her post, Kari wrote:

I didn't approach the pregnant woman who was drinking alcohol in a public setting because I have slowly come to understand the wisdom in an old saying. Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blame the Parents

This is something that has been on my mind for a very long time.  Although Morning Buzz touched upon the topic last month in her post A Bunch of Bunk, and Paula touched on a similar thread in her post Trauma Mama, written a couple of weeks ago, this has been on my mind for much, much longer.

Morning Buzz wrote:

We saw a psychologist today - what a waste of time. We sat there for over an hour and listen to him tell us all the things we were doing wrong as parents to create our child's behaviors. We just need to take control and take back our house. We ask him point blank to give us some ideas/tools to that would help us do this. But we just got the hem and haw act from him. He even watch OLA go into full melt down mode after being told no (and no giving in on our part). We held firm - but obviously we are doing something wrong as parents. It was he who finally said after about thirty minutes of watching us standing firm and OLA in melt down mode that he decided our time slot was done and we should just leave.

I am so tired of being blamed, directly or indirectly, for all that ails my child.  I feel angry when I think of all the time we have wasted in therapy, only to have the therapist imply that Danielle was somehow justified in hitting us. It's been hugely frustrating, because every piece of advice we've received has only been contradicted by someone else.

If only we:
  • were more lenient/had stricter boundaries
  • expressed more empathy/stop letting her past be an excuse
  • understood that she is delayed/force her to act her age
  • allowed her to express her anger/insisted that she use her coping skills and control herself
The list goes on and on and on...

Danielle's behavior has been our fault for a number of other reasons as well:
  • She really needs to be placed in a "normal" family.  (Read normal in this case to be heterosexual.)
  • She needs a family with structure.  (We should shutter our business and get 9 to 5 jobs that never require work evenings, weekends and holidays.)
  • She needs the attention of a stay-at-home parent.  (Having two work-from-home parents isn't good enough.  One needs to focus 100% of of her attention on Danielle, while the other leaves the house to go to work.)
  • She needs siblings.  (Yes, let's go through several more years of hell, including social worker visits and legal battles to adopt again.)
So it was a big eye-opener for everyone when she went to respite and things didn't work out so well.  Danielle spent a few weeks with what seemed like the perfect family.

They had all the attributes of an ideal family:
  • White, heterosexual, and legally married.
  • Husband works out of the home in a highly-respected career, while the wife is a stay-at-home mother.
  • Upper-middle class lifestyle, including a big, beautiful home, a huge yard, nice cars and even a private swimming pool.
  • Several other beautiful children.
They were perfect in every way.  In everyone's estimation, Danielle should have gone to respite and behaved like an angel.  It would have further proven that the problem is us, and our lousy, despicable, terrible parenting.

Only that's not how it worked out.  Danielle was awful while she was away.  She showed most of the ugly behaviors she shows at home, plus she even came up with some new and even more despicable ones.

It was, in short, rather amazing.

As aggravating as Danielle was in our friends' home, her behavior did have the benefit of finally vindicating us.  If Danielle could pull out all the stops and be so terrible for this perfect family, it makes it clear that the problem isn't really us.  The fact that she finally showed her true colors when in the presence of experienced, heterosexual parents gave a lot of credence to what we've been saying all along.

Pity it had to take so darn long.  I wonder what might be different now if social workers, therapists and other helping professionals had taken our concerns seriously, instead of brushing us off, and instructing us to take a few dozen more parenting classes?

Paula said it right when she wrote:

I'm tired of it. Don't tell me to shut-up about my life. Don't tell me that I should do more or put up with violence or that I should try a new medication or that I should read this book or put my child on that diet. I will never be good enough in your mind no matter what I do. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but I'm going to continue to be honest. I'm not going to sugarcoat my reality to make adoption look better. Plus, I HAVE experienced trauma from taking in abused and neglected children.

And that's the rub, isn't it?  There are people out there in this world who believe that all children will heal, and if they are still acting one, two, three or five years after their adoptions, it must be the fault of the parents.  If only they would love them more.  If only they would show more empathy or sympathy.  If only they would attend this parenting seminar or seek out this therapy or medication that isn't covered by insurance.  If only...

"If only" is bunk.  We do what we can.  We seek out help and therapies that are within our financial reach and we try to do the best that we can do.  But, at the end of the day, these kids are under our control for only a short while.  All children become adults one day, and at that moment we lose our ability to make decisions and to control their lives.

In just a bit over two years, our time to parent Danielle will be over.  Will we have made a positive difference in her life?  I don't suppose we'll be able to tell, at least not for a long while.

I just know that I've done my best.  Perhaps it hasn't been and won't be good enough, but it's all I have.  I recognize, in just a couple of years, I will be just that much closer to retirement, and that much closer to having aging parents who will need my care and concern.  As much as I want to make a positive difference in my child's life, I recognize the likelihood of  her being here much  past her 18th birthday is small.  I can't count on her assistance in my dotage, so I am faced with the weighty knowledge that I must not bankrupt my future to save my child.

Even if I did, I'm not sure that it is within my power to save her.

It's not that I don't care.  I do care.  It's just that I realize that there aren't many years left before she won't be here, and I'll still be responsible for managing my own life.  The first half of my career has gone by blazingly fast, and I don't have near as much to show for it as I think I should.  I am sure the second half will go by even more quickly.

I am the parent riding a doomed airliner.  The oxygen masks drop down from the ceiling, and I have a choice:  whose mask do I put on first?

I choose mine.