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.


  1. And the little instruction card in the seat pocket in front of you tells you to do exactly that. You can't help anyone else if you are keeling over from lack of oxygen (literal or metaphorical). If there comes a time when Danielle is ready to be helped and seeks it out, it would be really great to be able to do it.

  2. I'm a little late catching up on my reading, but once again, you've posted a brilliant post. I'm so sorry you are going through all of this still. It's just nuts. And just a fyi, my family fits all that criteria of the supposed 'perfect family' and you know how well it's all turned out for us. Plus, my violent one is now in the psych ward in MO. and amazingly, I'm not anywhere near her.
    I'll blog about that later!

  3. I hope everything is ok - I've missed your posts in the last week. I hope you're just taking a mini-vacaction. :)

  4. Hey where are you? A little break will be acceptable but I'm getting bored here without your posts lol


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