**Four years ago to the week, this was my first post on Hypervigilant. Ah, memories…
Ever notice the words “adoption” and “insanity” have the same number of letters?
Coincidence? I think not.
It’s been almost three years since the Wednesday they arrived, dropped off by another foster parent. At the time, we didn’t know that a Social Worker was supposed to be present to “facilitate” the situation. The kids had no idea what was happening. Neither did we. Married ten years, with approximately 20 years of “kid experience” between us, we thought we could handle it. The kiddos, then 5 and newly-turned-7, had met us and seemed to like us. Surely, this would be a breeze. They were so teeny and adorable..like baby jackals.
Surely you’ve heard the phrase, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” That Wednesday evening foreshadowed the next two years of our lives with fair accuracy. We took them to a church spaghetti dinner. During the course of the meal, they ate pasta and sauce with their hands (unwilling to use apparently foreign utensils), spilled six (count ’em, six) cups of pink lemonade – including a huge trip-fall-splatter that involved about a third of the floor space, and the five year old ate a napkin. Ate a napkin.
Well, ate might be exaggeration. He stuffed the napkin in his mouth, and despite (or because of) our exhortations of “Oh, honey, don’t…don’t do that.” “No, that’s not food. Take it out.” “Spit that out right now.” “SPIT. IT. OUT.” he continued to chew the paper with a “make me” glint in his sweet blue eyes. Finally, Hubby said, “Fine. Swallow it. It’ll probably stop you up and you won’t poop for a week.” The game was no longer fun. He swiftly deposited the mass of wet fibers onto the floor.
We arrived home past bedtime, exhausted, but bathing could not be skipped, as the kids were literally covered in sauce. Imagine all the cute photos of your friends’ infants eating pasta for the first time. Super cute, that tomato-basted babe. Fast forward five or seven years. No longer super cute.
We wanted to get them into bed quickly, so I started the shower, made sure it was warm, then helped the 7 year old remove her saucy outfit and step into the tub. She gave me a little smile. Then…she collapsed, screaming, on the floor of the tub. In my panic to find the problem, I left the shower running. “Are you hurt? Did you slip? Are you okay? What’s wrong?” She continued to scream. Hubby, who had been entertaining the five year old, opened the door slightly. “What in the world is happening in there? What did you do?” More screaming. What did I do? Clearly, I lost my mind and brought an insanely scary spirit-possessed child into the house.
Finally, as the decibels reached somewhere between ear-piercing and drum-bleeding, I regained my conscious mind and turned off the shower. Screaming stopped, immediately. No explanation. “Are you okay?” Nod. “Are you hurt?” Shake. “Did the shower scare you?” Another negative shake. “You have to get clean; will you take a bath?” Nod. The child then washed the remnants of dinner from her hair, calmly and apparently in her right mind.
We didn’t attempt another shower for the next year. Then, the younger one spontaneously decided he’d rather shower. Not to be outdone by her little brother, our girl braved the shower the next night, with no complications. Oh, how I love sibling rivalry.
Approximately six hundred showers later, she said casually. “Hey, remember that time I was screaming like a crazy person in the shower, on our first night here?” “Oh…um, I think I remember.” Yes, I remember. My eardrums spontaneously tremor at the thought. “Yeah, Mama…I was just freaked out about being in a new house. Sorry about that.” Freaked out, indeed. “Oh, sweetie, don’t even worry about it. That was a long time ago. I barely even remember it.” Liar, liar, pants on fire…
My mom says she doesn’t remember the hours of childbirth because the joy of seeing the baby’s face “erased the memory.” If you’re lucky, birth happens in hours (or if you’re unlucky, days). Adoption, especially with behaviorally challenged kiddos, is a little different. Labor pains happen every day for years.
And believe me, I remember every single minute.
Good thing we like a little insanity around here.
Last fall, we admitted our son to a residential facility, expecting a 30- to 60-day stay. Just to get his head straight.
From then through early spring, his behavior spiraled so far out of control that he didn’t have an off-campus pass until mid-spring. He earned a 6-hour off-site pass…and promptly spiraled again. He didn’t even wait 24 hours. His next off-site was three months later.
In the last two months, we’ve seen steady progress. He has yet to identify the catalyst, although we and the therapists are trying to find it. If we’re able to find the prompt, we can help him find his way to us again if he slides back into the dark.
No major crises or incidents in the last two months.
Last week, during free play, a basketball hit him in the face hard enough to leave a mark. In January, he would have tried to punch the face of whomever last touched the ball.
This time, he walked away and got an ice pack. Feels like a miracle.
I’m not relaxing yet; he has a lot of motivating factors at the moment and we’ve seen temporary success when he’s motivated, although this is the first time he’s managed past 30 days.
But we’re celebrating each good day.
It’s a long road; if you have a child in crisis, know you’re not alone. Whether you are able to manage in-home or whether your child requires more assistance than you’re able to provide, we’ve experienced both. Remember that finding the services your child requires makes you a GOOD parent.
People outside the experience may not understand why you “sent them away” or “can’t parent” them at home. I’ve learned to accept support and encouragement from anyone and everyone, but only accept concerns from those who’ve lived this. They may have the best intentions, but they have no clue. Smile and nod and thank them for the time they spent thinking about your situation…and then move on. (Unless they have a great idea; in which case, by all means, try it.)
You can do this. WE can do this. I promise.
Was looking through old posts; these are still some of my top picks for survival.
Tough day? Listen up. I promise this trifecta will help.
Music plays in my head all day. Choose three songs…the choice is almost as impossible as picking my favorite organs. (The ones that keep me kickin’, not the musical instruments.)
However, I must admit, three happen to be currently at the top of my cerebral playlist.
First, a quick backstory for those who haven’t read other posts:
Hubby and I adopted two kids (5 & 7 when they came to us via foster care). My good friend, an English teacher, says bambinos are “children,” not kids. “Kids” are baby goats. In our case, “kids” is accurate; a herd of goats would have been less destructive. More often, we call them the wild hyenas. During the first six months, if they were conscious, we couldn’t let them out of our sight. With one who couldn’t conk out until after midnight, and one who woke screaming almost every morning at 3 am, sleep was a pipe dream (pun…
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Sometimes, while reading my Bible, I find a passage reworking itself in my head. No sacrilege, just applying it to my current situation.
I know what it is to respect the Lord, and when I try to see through His eyes, I know He wants me to try to persuade others to follow His example, advocating for children and for reconciliation.
God knows my intent is pure and I hope you can see this, too. When I write about the our lives, I don’t write to brag or in hope that you will hold us up as an example of perfection. I write to give you hope and the knowledge that you are not alone. To be honest, some people think we are out of our minds. If we’re insane, we’re crazy with intention. Christ loved everyone, and His love compels me to love others, specifically vulnerable children with no protector.
He died for everyone and rose again, to show that He is making a second chance available to every individual. If He wants to give a second chance to all, how can I do otherwise? Because of what He did for me, how can I do anything but live for him and do my best to advocate for those who need help?
I used to see through my own eyes, but now I try to look through the eyes of Jesus. Anyone who sees through His eyes sees in a new way. God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the example of the ministry of reconciliation. God reconciled the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.
And He has now given us the responsibility to spread the word; it is our duty to promote reconciliation. We choose to be ambassadors of this great love; God is making this appeal through us. I implore you on behalf of Jesus: be reconciled to God and bring reconciliation to others, so their lives and families will be preserved.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21, UCV (Unauthorized Casey Version)
Reconciliation is a lifelong ministry of bringing others to know a great love. What better example of God’s love and reconciliation than the love of a parent who will do whatever it takes for a child?
The initial intent of the foster care system should never be to remove children from their original parents.
Sometimes, as in our situation, the abuse is so great there is no other choice, but in many cases, the biological family simply is missing something necessary to survival. Helping a family achieve reconciliation and forgiveness is an amazing opportunity.
Before I truly understood foster care, I was one of the would-be adopters who refused to consider foster care because “it would kill me if the child were removed” from my home after I’d formed an attachment. I’ve heard this sentiment from a number of other people.
We need to reconsider our understanding of foster care. It is not a means to adopt (although this may happen). It is a ministry of reconciliation.
God gave us the original blueprint, doing everything possible to create a connection. We need to approach foster care in a similar manner, being willing to do everything we can to enable families to remain together.
Related to: Put on Your Armor, Part 1 and Part 2
Several times, now, I’ve “diagnosed” our children in the face of therapists who disagree…only to have a psychological evaluation support my assertion six months (or more) later.
This is not because I’m more intelligent or have higher qualifications.
I don’t point this out to brag.
There is a reason it happened:
NO ONE can be an expert on EVERYTHING.
Every therapist has specialties.
If you’ve been part of the Hypervigilant community for more than a year, you may have wondered why I sometimes write yet another “we have a diagnosis!” post. Since he came to live with us, I’ve asserted our boy is on the Autism spectrum. And every time a professional confirms Autism, a different therapist disagrees the following year.
Some people don’t want their kids “labeled,” but in our case, what I call a diagnosis-in-writing helps us obtain needed services. (A number of therapists agree, “yes, I see those traits, but I’m not ready to put the diagnosis in writing”)
In search of someone who could finally help him, we bounced through the counseling community for six years. When the yearly psych came due, his counselor du jour completed the process.
At the time, utilizing the counselor most familiar with his current behaviors seemed logical, but not all of them were adept. In some cases, he refused to complete questions or gave answers he thought they wanted to hear.
His fluctuations in participation, combined with the wide array of specific spheres of knowledge, created anomalies in his diagnoses.
In January, a psychologist at the residential center completed a psychological for our son. Her field of expertise is ADHD. Almost all of her recommendations centered around mitigating ADHD symptoms. She did not address any of our concerns about Autism, ODD or social behavior, nor did she delve into factors impacting his aggression level.
I requested (okay, demanded) the center pay for a new psych evaluation with a different individual (since insurance wouldn’t pay for another). They declined to provide a full workup but agreed to a specialist performing certain specific testing.
Here’s what I never realized until now: we needed a TESTING expert.
The individual who performed the second battery does not provide counseling, therapy or psychological services of any kind. He only handles TESTING.
Our son’s session with the tester ended up fielding even better results than I’d hoped and I learned a valuable lesson in the process:
For therapy, turn to a licensed therapist or counselor. For medication, seek a psychiatrist. For accurate test results, consult a testing specialist.
But I digress. My point here is that no professional will ever have full command of every possible issue. Have you seen the DSM-V? It’s a chunky little book. And some of the diagnoses it contains are the sole focus of entire Ph.D. degrees.
When it comes to the kids in our homes, it is OUR responsibility to be the expert.
Children who’ve experienced trauma are each unique, but parallels appear in symptoms and behaviors across the group.
Unless your counselor is well-versed in results of a traumatic beginning, you will likely be your child’s best advocate.
If you live with a child, you know the child better than the “professional” ever could.
Don’t allow fear of being wrong or less qualified stop you from speaking up about concerns.
The most important part of being a child’s advocate is preparation. We need to put in the time to learn and to research.
With this in mind, in the next few weeks I’ll be posting resources to help kids who’ve had tough beginnings.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 encourages study of the Bible, so that we can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” While not specific to kids who’ve experienced trauma, it’s a great resource for finding hope and fighting fear, both integral to healing.
The idea also applies to studying on behalf of our kids. The more we know about needs and behaviors related to trauma, the better equipped we are to help them and to fight for them.
Let’s get out there and do GOOD WORK.
Continued from Put on Your Armor, Part 1
Preparation for helping our kids also applies to the spiritual side.
If, during a professional baseball game, the umpire decided to forgo the mask and padding, we’d think he was crazy.
If a policeman waded into a firefight without his bulletproof vest, we’d consider him nuts.
And yes, if someone ran a marathon in stilettos, we’d be amazed at the reckless (yet fabulous) nose-thumbing at potential bodily harm.
But so often, I neglect to prepare my mind and heart and spirit. And the days I forget, separating my child from his behavior becomes difficult.
My child is not my enemy.
The enemy is the evil that caused the trauma. I need to prepare mentally to make that separation and help my child heal.
I can’t do it alone.
…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
If I prepare my spirit and mind to do what is necessary, I can focus on the true target: helping my children find healing.
I may not win every fight in this battle for my kids.
But if I remember to put on all of my armor, at the end of the war, I’ll still be standing.
*This statue, The Motherland Calls, is in Volgograd, Russia (formerly Stalingrad). I found her while looking for images of a female warrior and before I saw the title, could almost hear her calling, “follow me, and fight. I will fight before you.” I want to be this brave, to have this spirit, to defend, to protect. She is simply amazing.
Roller coasters are my favorite amusement park ride.
If you stay at the park late enough, people stop filling the queues for cars in the middle of the coasters. If no one is waiting, the nice 16-year-old earning minimum wage to run the train will let you stay on for extra rides.
The day our son almost passed out on a kiddie ride, I thought my dreams of sharing terror and joy at top speed were dashed.
Five years later, I rode the tallest coaster in our state. The air rushing around me filled with the happy screams of my kids.
I love roller coasters, and I love that my kids have become amusement park thrill-seekers.
Sadly, this summer, I found my limit.
Three coasters with upside-down loops, and I’ve had enough. (Thankfully, I can still ride no-loop coasters in indefinite glee.)
Our son has been in a residential treatment facility since the fall. Sometimes I think of it as
Centre Residential Amusement Park, where EVERY ride goes upside down.
I’ll leave you to think through the park name acronym for yourself.
Good behavior earns passes for leaving the facility with family in 6-, 12-, 24- or 48-hour increments.
He displays consistent major upsets over minor issues; because of this, he qualified for only one 6-hour off-grounds pass in nine months.
However, this month he appeared to turn himself around and managed to have ZERO incidents requiring a staff member to physically intervene.
We worked with the therapist to quickly arrange two passes, hoping to show him that his good behavior benefits him.
One of our concerns is his potential intent to hurt his sister, but she was away at camp, so we brought him home for a day, and the following week we brought him home for an overnight.
He appeared to be a different child; even when things didn’t go exactly as he wanted, he managed beautifully.
We talked with the therapist and decided to try bringing him home for an overnight now that his sister has returned.
Tuesday, he intentionally provoked a peer, trying to get the child to fight him.
Wednesday, he punched someone.
He hasn’t physically assaulted another individual in almost two months.
The therapist called to let me know he didn’t feel comfortable approving a pass.
After a month of good news, I thought we were heading for the exit of Centre Residential Amusement Park.
Guess I’m buying a few more tickets for the roller coaster ride: one for me, one for Hubby, one for Jesus. I thought I’d reached my limit, but it looks like we’re riding once more.
Sometimes I forget to mention how much I appreciate Hubby and Jesus.
If I have to ride these loops again, at least I’m never alone.