Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Law of Unintended Consequences

I guess our friends over at Mythbusters had a little accident.

If the video happens to go away, here's a link to similar coverage from the San Francisco Chronicle.

FosterEema and I love the show (Danielle hates it) and we watch it whenever we can. I think the show is hilarious, and we love watching them blow up stuff in new and different ways.  My favorite detonation is probably the cement truck explosion from a few years ago.

Now I'm quite glad that nobody was hurt in this mishap.  Although I am sure the affected property owners aren't so amused, I couldn't help but laugh.  Their accident sounded almost like a cartoon, with a cannonball missing its intended target, blasting through a wall, bashing in the front door of a house, rolling up a staircase, crashing through a bedroom and out the wall, flying across a street, bouncing off a neighboring roof, and finally smashing into a minivan.

It's hilarious.

Of course it wouldn't be if someone had been hurt.

Now I've watched enough episodes of Mythbusters to get the impression that these folks are a pretty careful group.  They really try to anticipate, and safely prepare for, the consequences of their detonations.  They try to the do the right thing, and I'm sure that the people whose houses and property were damaged will be fairly compensated for their trouble.

This is sadly a case where things went terribly, horribly wrong, and it brings to mind the law of unintended consequences.  The Mythbusters staff didn't plan to damage two houses and wreck a car, but they did.

Earlier this week, Danielle exploded, though her explosion wasn't nearly as funny as the Mythbusters-gone-wrong cannonball accident.  The "high point" of her explosion occurred after she'd been asked to step outside to cool off because she was being verbally abusive.  There, she threw rocks at the house, screamed and yelled, continually slapped the doormat onto the concrete,  repeatedly kicked our glass storm door (nearly breaking it), and scrawled profanity (which she misspelled) on the driveway with a white rock.

Danielle is 16 years old.

She is way too old to behave like this.

Afterward, when things were calm, she told FosterEema that she wasn't going to obey us or follow our rules, no matter what we did.  Here is a transcript of part of that conversation.  FosterEema recorded the conversation on her cell phone, which is why we know in such detail what was said.  The conversation has been slightly edited to remove identifying information.

FosterEema: So, what I heard you say, though, was basically that you're not going to behave the way we want you to.  You're not going to conform your behavior to our expectations, and so there's no point in even trying.  Is that right?

Danielle: Yeah.

FosterEema: That's how you feel?

Danielle: (inaudible)

FosterEema: So, so am I understanding correctly how you feel?  That you're just not going to do what we want and there's no point in trying?

Danielle: Well it's not that I'm not gonna do what you want, it's just I'm not going to change when you want me to. I'll change when I feel like it.

FosterEema: Okay...but how's that working for you?

Danielle: It doesnt...really matter to me if it's working or not.  It's just...

FosterEema: So...

Danielle: ...kind of  difficult.

FosterEema: I'm confused.  'Cause you're saying you are doing things that aren't working for you.

Danielle: No.

FosterEema: You just said, "It doesn't matter to me whether it's working or not."

Danielle: It doesn't matter if it's working for me or not.

FosterEema: So then you are doing it even if it's not working.

Danielle: Right, and I'm doing it even when it is working.

FosterEema: Okay, well it is working right now?

Danielle: Geeze, does it look like [it] to you?

FosterEema: Well, I'm asking you, 'cause you're the one that's doing it.

Later, the conversation covered the subject of apologizing. Danielle insisted that I should apologize to her for giving her a consequence for  mouthing off, but that even if I apologized, I wouldn't be forgiven.

FosterEema: What do you mean you are going to forgive her?  She's supposed to forgive you.  You're the one who did the thing that was wrong.

Danielle: Still, you should still apologize to the person who you [wronged].

FosterEema: Why? You haven't apologized for any of the things you've done for three years.

Danielle: Uh...Yes I have.

FosterEema: Not and meant it.  You said so in [therapist's] office.  You said you're not going to apologize because you know you are not going to change your behavior.

Danielle: Well then don't expect me to apologize.  I mean, really.  You've seen the pattern that maybe [Danielle's] apology doesn't mean anything.  You still want an apology, even if it doesn't mean it?

FosterEema: Mmm hmm.  But you need to mean it.

Danielle: Right, and that's the part I have a hard time with.  I don't mean it.

FosterEema: Why don't you mean it?

Danielle: I say sorry to make the person feel better, but that doesn't mean I mean it.

FosterEema: But does it make them feel better if you don't mean it and you do the same thing again?

Danielle: That's what I'm saying.  That's why I don't apologize.  I mean, you've got to understand, here.  Okay.  You're dealing with a stubborn, bratty child, okay?

FosterEema: Yeah, I've noticed.

Danielle: So...I'm always going to be stubborn and bratty, so I'm going to say sorry to make her feel better.  If she doesn't like it, tough shit.  No offense, it's a whole waste of my breath.

Now I suppose in the larger scheme of things, it's probably great that Danielle was so honest in explaining that she isn't going to obey and that her apologies are meaningless.  Although it's been clear for a long time, this just gives us another data point in understanding that, not only is Danielle unwilling to obey, she has no remorse about her behavior.  In fact, the tone of her voice even seemed to convey a certain amount of pride in her actions.

This unfortunate conversation will be the catalyst that triggers a whole raft of unintended consequences for Danielle, for us, and for our family.  For starters, FosterEema and I have realized that we need a break from Danielle and her behavior, so she will likely be going to a new respite home for the majority of her winter break.  This certainly wasn't in any of our original holiday plans, but the realization that Danielle is deliberately and consciously choosing to disobey has made us both realize just how tired we are.

I am sure when the Mythbusters crew set off that cannon, they had no idea what was about to happen.  They were out there, doing their jobs, and trying to do the right thing.  I think that Danielle's adoption has been very much like this accident.  We tried (and fought) very hard to do what we thought was the right thing, but instead of finding a happy result, we've triggered emotional wreckage that wasn't supposed to happen.

I never thought, when I signed my name to Danielle's adoption paper, that it would turn out to have so many unpleasant unintended consequences for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, 16 is too old, so is 71 (my dad's age) who often throws temper tantrums, breaking things and windows, screaming, cussing, and blaming everyone else for his behavior. Hopefully, Danielle will grow up; my dad never has.


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.