“Do You Even Like Her?”

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.

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Photo Credit: Robert Plaskota

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.

I did.

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.

Hubby said,

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.

Consider this:

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.

Shawwna Balasingham

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.

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Photo Credit: AdamKoford

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.

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Photo Credit: Courtney Carmody

 

 

 

 

About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'll give it to you straight. Success, failure, truth.

Posted on February 20, 2016, in Adoption, Christian, parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. This really spoke to me. Yesterday, I was so angry at the kids for pulling the same stuff they pull every single day, and I felt so mean. I didn’t even want to be in the same apartment with them.

    It’s hard for me as a stepmom… There have been times I haven’t “liked” my bio daughter, but the length of time I’m stuck in that attitude seems to be shorter with her, and I bounce back more quickly with her. I tend to think it lies in the biological ties I have with her that I don’t share with Middle and Little, but I don’t know if that’s true because I hear countless adoptive parents say how they truly treat all their kids the same way no matter how they came to be part of the family…

    Anyway, I reblogged this post since you have that option available. I hope that is okay… If not, let me know and I’ll take it down!

    P.S. My stepdaughter has days where she suddenly can’t read the word “of” even though that was one of the first words she learned two years ago… EVEN IF I HELP HER SOUND IT OUT. She calls it “playing the game.” :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right there with ya! 🙂 It’s like they have a personal goal to make me raise my voice.
      An adoptive family we know had two bios, adopted a third and then had a surprise bio. I asked the dad if he ever worried whether he’d love the adopted child less and he said no, but before #4 was born he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to love the new baby as much as he loved the adopted child. I thought that was cool. I think even in all-bio families, some kids are just easier to be around.

      Getting along sometimes is somewhat out of our hands; I imagine a bio-kid would be more attached to the bio-parent (assuming no trauma) than a child who was traumatized and then placed with a new parent (by adoption, marriage or whatever means).

      Thanks for reblogging!!! You’re definitely welcome to do that. 🙂
      Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Trauma Mama Drama and commented:
    Take a look at this brave blog by fellow “trauma mama,” Casey. Sometimes it *is* hard to “like” kids who have trauma-related issues.

    Also, her kid plays “the game” during homework time, too!

    Check her blog out for more personal experiences in raising children from “hard places.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just read it. That was beautiful! It’s funny; I’ve been thinking those exact words recently: none of us chose this, but we choose each other now. Also the part about loss—that’s been on my mind a lot as well. I guess as they get older, I think about what had to happen to them in order for them to be here. Thanks so much for thinking of us. You’re a wonderful friend. HUGS!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You. Are. AMAZING. Don’t ever forget that! You are also human! What you have done for her is a great thing not many would ever do. You, like normal people have limits and natural reactions. Don’t beat yourself up over it, and regardless of what others say- don’t EVER feel the need to validate yourself. You are doing what you have to do. Responding how your emotions tell you to, and dealing with a lot! She sounds like a beautiful handful! Keep your chin up and your prayer strong. This too will pass and it will be nothing more than a milestone!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As an ex foster parent I do understand what you are saying. These children who do not ask to be brought into this world end up being “damaged” by it. Foster care is not always a good solution. Because it isn’t looked at as permanent so many foster parents do not and maybe cannot put the effort and love into that you are. I thank god there are people like you who can help even ONE CHILD! It is a really hard thing you are doing and she may never be able to “attach” to you the way you want but SHE WILL IN THE ONLY WAY SHE CAN.
    Bless you all in your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that reminder, Donna. I need to be willing to let go of my expectations of “Happily Ever After;” even though I try not to hold on to them, those dreams are still part of my psyche. If I can just accept the reality of what she is able to handle and celebrate the baby steps that do come, we’ll probably both be happier in the end. I need to let “the only way that she can” be enough.

      Thanks for the reminder and for your continued friendship!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am glad you were okay with me saying that. I do understand as I loved my little guy but had to accept his limitations and he taught me that lesson. Now my grand daughter has autism it is really helpful. I cried and it hurt to find out. But when she first said grandma at the age of 4 and a half I cried again because it was a triumph for her and another lesson for me. I know that is not the same as what you deal with but the concept is the same. Sending love and hugs always with words of love only.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, it’s absolutely okay! I’ll take all the advice I can get! 🙂
          Autism is really tough, but can be so beautiful when you reach a breakthrough. They’re such special kids. My cousin’s son is autistic and I just love him…but it definitely makes things different for them. I’m sure you’ve researched ABA therapy; you might also be interested in a book called Neurotribes. We have another friend who was able to get a special computer for her son to help him communicate. Do you think that’s an option for your baby girl? Our son may be on the spectrum, but very high functioning. We’re having him tested soon.
          Love and hugs right back! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Isn’t God good! Refining you at the same time He is using you as a channel. I am continually amazed at His grace. I am also going through an interesting season with a beautiful child in my classroom who is dealing with a lot of issues. As I spoke to him about what God wants to grow in him this year, I heard the Lord saying to me: “Listen to the words coming out of your mouth. They are also for you!” 😊 Really not easy, but so worth the pain. Refining! Praying for you!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not kidding! 🙂 I get that “listen to your own words!” feeling often. I’ll be praying for you as well, my friend. I know you are making a huge difference in the lives of those kiddos. Teachers change lives. I ran into my high school Biology teacher last week and hugged her tight; haven’t seen her in 20 years. She mentioned a science fiction story I must have let her read; couldn’t believe she’d remember that. I told Hubby I saw her and he was enthusiastic; she was one of his favorites as well. We’ve disused her many times through the years. Someday, that little boy will tell his wife or children how a very special teacher spent a little extra time and saved his life!

      Like

  6. I feel like I just read the story of my life, except my daughter isn’t adopted. She’s in fifth grade and learning at a seventh grade level yet she daily tells me she understand her homework and will openly admit she pretends she can’t do it so I spend time helping her. She also destroys things, fights with me constantly and seems to live everyone more than me. Your story reminds me that I’m not alone and I’m not the only one who has negative reactions sometimes. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad; we’ve felt very alone at times and I started the blog so others would feel less alone. Very sorry you’re experiencing the same, but we’re in this together! I’ll be praying for you.
      One thing I’m committing to do is spend five minutes of undivided attention listening to her (and now it’s in writing, so I have to do it). 🙂
      As of now, I listen to her all day long but I’m usually doing other things at the same time, like cooking or dishes. I’ll let you know if it makes any difference.
      Hugs!!

      Like

  7. It must be tough! Your little girl is lucky that she has you to help her through her problems…I’m sure you’ll get through her barriers in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah…there are some funny moments, though, like the other day. She got really snarky with me, then shrugged and said, “well, I AM only two years from being a teenager, so…” I had to laugh but then explained that being a teen does not give her ‘tude free rein at our house. 🙂

      Like

  8. Casey,

    Best of luck with the new start. All my prayers to you and your family.

    rob

    Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: She’s Driving Me Crazy | Hypervigilant.org

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