“Do You Even Like Her?”
Posted by Casey
I try to give an open, honest view of opening our home to older siblings—and the aftermath.
Adoptive families who live Happily Ever After Signing Adoption Papers might exist.
Our family isn’t one of them.
Neither are any of the other adoptive families in our circle.
Most of us adopted older children with physical or behavioral special needs. Each parent agrees we were aware, although none of us understood the depth of the issues.
Topics that make me squeamish abound.
“If I talk about ___, will everyone think I’m awful?” Hypervigilant conversations get a bit raw for me sometimes.
This is one of those.
A visiting friend asked, “Do you even like her?”
I’d just sent our daughter back to her room—and homework—with a less-than-patient tone, but I didn’t think I’d been unreasonable.
My friend’s question gave me pause. “Why do you ask that?”
“Well,” she said, “when your son asked for help on his homework, you helped him with a problem and sent him back to work on the rest. You didn’t even give her a chance to get out of the hallway.”
I thought back over the encounter and ruefully acknowledged I’d been a little harsh.
Then I fell back on the old “yeah, but you don’t live here 24/7,” although I made a mental note to be more kind next time I sent her back.
But since then, interactions with our daughter have been on my mind. Far too often in the past weeks, I’ve allowed myself to react, rather than act. My attitude tended toward annoyance. My patience waned. My tone was sharp instead of kind.
This morning, Hubby (who does live here 24/7) whispered, “be nice,” as he left to take our son on a Scout camping trip.
I need to change.
Our homework battle is ongoing; since the kids first arrived, one of her favorite ploys has been pretending she can’t do the work. The “I-had-two-years-of-Elementary-Education-classes-before-switching-majors” part of me loves to teach.
Her first grade homework took hours to complete as I diligently worked with her on reading and math. When I mentioned the amount of time spent on homework during a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me to let her stop after half an hour if she wasn’t getting it.
Our girl began failing. Everything.
We went back to full evenings of practice. Testing showed she had processing problems but her inability to handle simple math and reading stumped me.
I worried that she might need more help than I could provide when I asked her to add one plus one and she came up with three, or didn’t recognize easy letter combinations.
We used manipulatives and charts and play dough, because I thought she might have a sensory issue. I spent hours researching learning disabilities.
She can do the work. She’s playing you.
I didn’t believe. The learning deficits were so obvious.
Then, her teacher told me our girl wasn’t having major problems in the classroom. Yes, she struggled, but she could complete most tasks.
That afternoon, I called Hubby and told him what the teacher said. When he arrived home from work, the girl and I were deep in a math lesson.
He asked what we were working on. He asked me what math problem I’d just given her. He asked her the same question I’d asked three minutes ago (with no answer forthcoming).
She, blithe, answered immediately.
Hubby looked straight at me, eyebrow cocked. He looked at our girl.
Are you pretending you don’t know the answer so Mama will sit with you longer?
She squinted at him. “Yep.”
He grinned at me. “Told ya. Playing you. Like. A. Fiddle.”
So began the longest struggle of my life: determining whether she actually needs assistance (which is sometimes the case) or whether she’s just pulling out her bow to test the strings.
By the time my friend asked whether I liked our girl, I was plain exhausted. So tired of the fight that I almost didn’t care.
But I have to care, because the woman who gave birth to her didn’t bother, which is why we’re in this mess. (“Mess” being the academic problems, not the adoption.) I will NOT be the second Mama who didn’t care enough to help her succeed.
But being the Mama who cares is wearing my best intentions to a nub.
Academic struggles aren’t the only problems. She fights me on pretty much everything, because she is a child of RAD.
Reactive Attachment Disorder kids have difficulty creating more than superficial attachment. These children miss out on a bond with the original caregiver (usually the birth mother) and are unable to attach to subsequent caregivers. And they transfer their anger toward the birth mom, focusing it on another caregiver.
Although the problem is not isolated to foster children, they are more likely to experience RAD than the general population. About one percent of “typical” children are diagnosed as affected by RAD.
In the U.S., it is estimated that half of all children adopted from orphanages, along with 40% of children in foster care, are affected by RAD.
The problem is compounded when children are allowed to remain with a foster family, become comfortable, form ties and then are removed without notice.
Yes, I understand that it’s less traumatic for the foster family, and especially if the kids have special behavioral needs, the family must be considered. Good foster families are rare; social workers don’t want to lose them.
When we finally received approval for the kids to live with us, I asked the interim foster mother when she’d tell them. “Two hours before I bring them to your house,” she said.
I thought that was awful.
A year later, we finagled approval to take the kids to Disney with other extended family. At the time, they weren’t free for adoption and we wanted them to have a memory to keep forever. Just in case.
We told them about the trip three weeks in advance. Those might have been the longest three weeks of my life. After the fifty-millionth “when do we leave?” I called my friend.
“This is why I didn’t tell them they were coming to live with you until it was time to pack up,” she said. “Imagine three weeks of screaming and crying because they had to move again.”
So yes, I understand why most social workers wait until the last minute to tell the children. But there has to be a better way. One that doesn’t contribute to Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Our kids were moved seven times without warning.
Friends say I’m the most patient person they know. Part of this comes of being married to Hubby. (Just kidding.) I’ve worked with kids for years. But tonight I had to admit to myself, I let her behavior get to me.
And I remind myself again: it’s only been four years. Children of trauma need double the time to recover. We’ve got six years to go. I’m expecting too much.
I won’t even try to explain what we deal with. Some of it, you wouldn’t believe. Part of it sounds like no big deal.
And occasional drops of water hitting your forehead sounds easy to ignore.
Yet water torture sends people out of their gourd.
Sufficient description: she drives me crazy.
But I try to see people the way Jesus sees them. If I look at her through His eyes, she is the picture of a broken, wounded creature.
Yes, she’s combative. Because she’s hurting and angry.
Yes, she destroys things. Because she’s checking to see if she is worth more than our stuff.
Yes, she shuns me and snuggles up to almost anyone else. Because she’s scared to death that if she lets me in, I’ll destroy her heart, just like her first Mama.
Tonight, in front of God and all of you, I admit that I’ve let my hurt feelings affect the way I speak to my daughter.
She may continue to push me away, but I have to keep trying. I must reach her.
I’m committing to this adoption, again. She’s not the enemy.
I’m heading back to the basics.
About CaseyAdoption = my life. I'll give it to you straight. Success, failure, truth.
Posted on February 20, 2016, in Adoption, Christian, parenting and tagged adopt, adopted, adopting, adoption, adoptive, behavior, children, family, foster, parent, parenting, Reactive Attachment Disorder. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.