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Taking Control

We’ve come to realize that almost all of the recent craziness stems from our son’s obsessive need to control every piece of his own life.

Unfortunately, he’s too young.

We give him as much control as possible, whenever possible. Even when there isn’t technically a choice (as in, “get ready for bed”), he decides the order of operation.

He always chooses his own clothes (although I sometimes send him back with the directive “pick something that can be seen in public” when he tries to don a dirty, worn t-shirt for a trip to our favorite coffee shop, or to wear torn jeans to church).

“But these are my holey jeans. HOLY jeans.”

Sorry, no.

His in-home counselor (yep, she’s here about 10 hours a week) asked him what he wanted to control.

“What I eat” was at the top of the list.

This utterly confused me.

He orders his own food at restaurants off the kids’ menu. He makes his sandwich for lunch any way he likes. He chooses what to eat for breakfast. After he made his “what I want to control” list, I handed him a list of available food and gave him the opportunity to plan what the whole family would eat for a week.

He didn’t complete it, because…

What he really wants is to eat whatever he wants whenever he wants without anyone telling him “no.”

A few weeks ago, Hubby and I confronted him about his habit of taking or doing whatever he wanted without asking. He told us the reason he does this is his aversion to hearing the word

NO.

“If I don’t ask, you can’t say no.”

He’d prefer to experience a major consequence after the fact rather than hear “no.”

Being one of those individuals who tends to ask for forgiveness instead of permission, I understand a little. However, when I use this strategy, I’m looking for the quickest route to what I need, not for a reprimand. If there’s even a chance of a consequence, I check first. This kid just doesn’t care.

He’d also rather lie than tell the truth.

We’re not big on spanking, but sometimes, let’s be honest, we’re in a hurry and there isn’t latitude for a long discussion.

Right now, things are pretty crazy thanks to a move and an eviction (not our own, thank goodness; we kept our first little house as a rental and ended up with some tenants who were unbelievably inept at paying rent). On top of everything, Hubby ended up having a work trip the week of the move, so we decided to move everything a week early.

During the “quick, let’s get the stuff moved” effort, around 10 pm and on the third trip taking trailer loads to the new house, Hubby and I walked toward the truck and heard a banging noise. Really sounded like something hitting the side of my truck (yes, I drive a truck and no, I’m not a hillbilly).

We got to the other side of the truck in about 15 seconds. The boy was sitting, angel-like, in the back seat of the truck.

Hubby:  What was that?

Boy (smirking): What was what?

Hubby: The noise.

(Knowing his propensity for word games, we provide a minimum of information in our questioning, as he considers saying “no” to “did you take a cookie?” to be completely honest if the question we should have asked is, “did you take THREE cookies?”)

Boy (more smirking): I didn’t hear anything.

Hubby: I’m sure you heard it. Mama and I heard banging.

Boy: Maybe it was the hose?

Hubby: The hose?

Boy: Yes. You know…sometimes it bangs on things. Were you near the hose?

Hubby: *eyes narrow*

Me: The hose did not make the sound.

Boy: Oh, the banging sound…I think it came from over there. (Motions vaguely off behind the truck.)

Hubby: We don’t have time for games. It’s two hours to midnight and we’ve got two more loads to go. We’re exhausted. Just tell us. What were you banging on?

Boy: I wasn’t banging on anything.  (Emphasis on “banging” indicated we were involuntary participants in the Word Games game show, and the boy was our host.)

Hubby: Okay. I will count to ten. Tell me what made the noise, or I will spank you.

For those of you who gasp at corporal punishment, let me tell you…these spanks are not abuse; they’re few and far between and are just a swat on the behind. Maybe because they’re rare, immediately afterward he often acts as though we’ve pushed a reset button on his Behavioral Operating System, which was Hubby’s intended result. Honestly, I wonder sometimes if we should spank more often. My brother participated in at least one good spank session a day for years, and he’s turned out to be a fairly cool dude…but I digress.  

Hubby counted to ten, then popped him on the behind. The reset button was apparently not working that night, as the boy continued to smirk.

And then began to wail as though we’d thrashed him.

This kid has perfected the art of crying on command (the kind of cry that sounds like he’s broken a bone) and can turn it on and off at will. He knew the neighbors could hear. He thought we’d back down.

The counselor told us not to make allowances or remove him from a situation for a reprimand. He’ll think we’re too weak to give him a consequence in front of others, which leads to sometimes-uncomfortable scenes (sorry, mom). So, we let him scream.

Hubby suggested that maybe the boy should tell the truth. The boy insisted he had no idea what we meant by “noise.”

Hubby gave him another ten seconds. No dice. He gave another swat.

We went through this SEVEN TIMES.

This kid is determined. So are we. (And to be clear, it’s not about “winning” the argument. If we don’t find resolution to this ongoing battle, this kid is going to grow up into a lying, manipulating adult…and I refuse to do that to my future daughter-in-law.)

Finally, with an immediate and somewhat creepy change in demeanor (from screaming banshee to calm and collected), the boy said, “The noise was me. I was banging my shoes to get the dirt off.”

Um, what?

Now, to be clear, he never said what he was banging them ON (it sounded like my truck), so in his mind he was still in control of that piece of the truth, but whatever. At that point, we were so tired, we didn’t have the energy to pursue it.

We asked why he didn’t just say so in the first place.

He shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

This has been an ongoing battle, once again for control.

He is determined to have control of everything, including the truth.

He believes we can’t MAKE him tell the truth.

It’s true. We can’t.

For the last year, we’ve tried everything we can think of to help him realize that telling the truth is best, including giving him NO consequence when he tells the truth about something he’s done.

We started this mind-bending and counter-intuitive technique because he constantly says he lies to stay out of trouble. However, he’s only in trouble if he lies, so this reason no longer makes sense.

Literally. NO consequence.

(Of course, if he did something really awful, we’d have to make an exception, but we’ve stuck with this so far.)

Me: “Did you eat the entire package of cookies and stuff the trash behind the refrigerator?”

Boy: “Yep.”

Me: “Since you told the truth, I won’t give you a consequence. However, don’t do it again.”

Ridiculous? You bet.

And yet.

He STILL lies compulsively about almost everything.

This year has been exhausting on both mental and emotional planes. We spend hours every day trying to train character.

Popular parenting advice says, “pick your battles!” but popular parenting doesn’t have this kid. We can’t pick battles, because if he wins one, he’s twenty times worse the next time.

Counselors say, “give control of everything you can!” and so we have. But for him, it’s not good enough until he can do ANYTHING he wants. I’m not even kidding; this is an open conversation we have at regular intervals, and he consistently states he does not want anyone else telling him what to do AT ALL.

Recently, he’s upped the ante; he wants to control where he lives and WHETHER he lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Lantern

If you’ve seen Disney’s Tangled, you may remember the Chinese lanterns filling the sky with warm light.

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Photo Cred: Chris Alcoran

Those lanterns are truly beautiful…in theory…with adult supervision…and safety measures in place.

 

 

See, this is inspiring, right?

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Photo Cred: Keith Williamson

Right?

Of course it is.

And a similar vision inspired our kid.

Sometime in the last month, our boy watched a “how to make your own Chinese lantern” video. This morning, he decided to put that knowledge into practice.

Without telling us.

I woke this morning to the unmistakable smell of burning plastic. Considering his propensity for experimenting, my first thought was,

What the heck did he put in the toaster?

I threw on my fluffy white robe and stumbled down the stairs.

“WHAT is that SMELL?”

Leaning against his doorframe with arms folded, I knew I exuded confidence in my momming abilities. Unfortunately, the fluffy makes-me-look-like-a-bunny-rabbit robe cancelled out my scowling face.

He immediately lied.

“Uh…I think that’s my toast.”

No, son, I’m sorry. Toast does not smell like Daddy did the day he replaced an outlet and found out our home’s previous owner had not marked the circuit breakers accurately. Shocking.

Our daughter appeared in the hall.

“Hi. I wiped the frame of the bathroom door, the spare bedroom door, my door and now I’m going to wipe the laundry room door.”

Due to some negative behavior this week, she earned a few extra chores and I told her last night that she needed to have them done before Daddy arrived home so she could have dessert.

Getting up in the morning to get them done is a strategy she’s used before, but giving me a detailed rundown of the few items she’s done is a clear signal that something weird is going on.

I thanked her and then stood in the kitchen, trying to figure out the quickest way to get the truth without the benefit of coffee to organize my thoughts.

The lighter on top of the fridge caught my eye.

“Hey. Did you see your brother with a lighter this morning?”

She paused. Froze like the proverbial deer in headlights.

“Did you?”

She shrugged. “Yes.”

I returned to his doorway. “What were you doing with the lighter? You have one chance to tell me the truth because I do not have the energy for this right now.”

He: “I was trying to make a Chinese lantern on the back porch. And SHE was laughing.”

She: “NOOOOOO! I was sitting at the table eating my breakfast! I wasn’t outside.”

After allowing them to spout about thirty seconds of conflicting stories, I said, “I’m going to look at the back porch. (To her): If I see your footprints in the dew, you are going to be in deep trouble because you knew he was playing with fire and didn’t come get us. (To him): If her footprints aren’t out there, YOU are in trouble for lying for saying she’s involved. You guys have from now until I get to the door to tell the truth.”

They both insisted they were telling the truth. No confessions.

Unfortunately, the dew didn’t cooperate. No dice on the footprints. The girl, however, couldn’t help herself. She hovered in the doorway, checking. I looked around and couldn’t figure out where the plastic smell originated.

“So, I can’t find the burned plastic…” I was talking more to myself than to her, but she answered.

“Oh, it’s right here,” she grinned, flipping the Welcome mat over. Sure enough, it was covered in melted grocery bags.

Then it hit me. The blinds were closed on the back door, and she said she’d been eating breakfast. At the table. If true, there’s no way she could have seen him burning the bag.

“So. You were here.”

Her eyes widened with feigned innocence. “I wasn’t outside!”

Mama Radar kicked in. There’s the tell.

If only she’d use her semantics superpower for good.

“You weren’t outside. But you were standing in the doorway with the door open. That’s why the whole house stinks. If the door had been closed, the smoke would have stayed outside.”

“But I wasn’t outside,” she repeated.

“Right,” I said, “but you know the issue isn’t about whether you were outside or not. The issue is that you stood there and watched him playing with fire. What are you supposed to do if he does something dangerous?”

“Come get you.”

“Did you come get us?”

“No, but I told him I was going to tell on him.”

“Right…but when I came downstairs, did you tell me?”

More pausing. “Well, no…because I didn’t want to get in trouble.”

This means that she was definitely involved, egging him on if not actually touching the lighter.

“Have we told you several times in the last two weeks that you need to come tell us if he’s doing something dangerous?”

“Yes.”

“Was this dangerous?”

“Yes.”

“Did you know it was dangerous?”

“Yes.”

“Ok. From here on out, if you don’t come get us IMMEDIATELY when he’s doing something dangerous, you will get the EXACT same consequence he does.”

She was not happy about this. We talked about it further and she finally admitted that she didn’t come get us because she wanted to see what would happen, then realized that since she stood and watched (and laughed, which she knows is his cue to continue), she would also be in trouble.

This afternoon after school, they both had to write a two-page single-spaced paper on the dangers of playing with fire, when fires are appropriate/safe (with adult supervision) and what one should do when tempted to play with fire (or watch). We showed them pictures of people and pets who’d been burned and watched a video of a veteran who’d been burned during a training exercise.

Hopefully we’ve seen the last of playing with fire. We explained to they boy that if he’d simply asked (and waited instead of following his impulse) we could have looked up the proper way to make a Chinese floating lantern and then created some as a family this evening.

I explained to the boy that Hubby would have created a plan including:

  1. How to actually build the lantern
  2. How to use it SAFELY
  3. Backup plan in case things got out of control

and he admitted he didn’t have any of those three in place. We assured him that we don’t have a problem with his creativity, just the impulsive behavior and lack of safety.

Maybe later this weekend we’ll make some lanterns.

Good thing I told the grocer I wanted plastic instead of paper…if he’d been working with a paper bag, he might have burned the house down.

In all this, I’ve also learned a valuable lesson.

Just because it’s above his line of sight doesn’t mean he won’t find it. No more lighters on the fridge. In fact, I’m just going to move them all to the garage.

And on the bright side, I recently listened to (Daily Show host) Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.

He actually burned a house down, and he still turned out okay.

I’ll just lean on that hope for the next 7.5 years…

If you have a chance, get the book on audio (Audible.com or your local library); read by the author, it’s an absolutely gripping memoir of his childhood during Apartheid. Hearing it straight from Trevor (yes, we’re now on a first-name basis, since I’ve listened to it three times) is perfect. In five words: funny, sad, triumphant, don’t miss. 

Lying

This could be me writing, except we only have two. It was so true to life I had to stop reading twice. *Breeeeeeeeaaaatthewhooooosaaaahhhhh*

Check it out:

https://traumamamadrama.com/2015/06/crazy-lying-enough-to-drive-you-crazy/

Great Expectations, Part 2

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Photo by Wayne S. Grazio

Albeit under a coat in the floor of the truck (who does that?) he was minding his own business when she started grabbing the coat away from him. He hissed and growled like a cat, trying to keep the coat, and she started laughing and pawing back at him. He started pulling at her laces, in cat fashion, when she decided she didn’t like him messing with her shoes and got angry.

By that time, he was wrapped around her ankles, still thinking it was a game. Knowing that I don’t have patience for physical contact between them (it generally degrades to a fight), she started screaming, “GET OFF ME!” as though he’d just jumped across the seat at her. (Which, let’s be real, does occasionally happen.)

And when I asked for an explanation, she described the situation as though she’d done nothing but wave her hands in the air to magically not really make it rain inside the truck cab.

“When I asked you what happened, did you tell me the truth?” I was seething, trying to hold it together. The boy had managed four straight days with no major incidents, and what she’d done might trigger him.

She is fully aware that if she gets him riled up before class, he has trouble de-escalating. On days she prods him in the morning, he tends to come home with many “red” marks and few (if any) “green” marks. Our rule is to keep the morning as calm as possible. 

She looked me straight in the eye. “No. I lied and said I’d only made it pretend rain because I wanted to stay out of trouble.”

I nodded. “And what’s the second reason you lied?”

Her chin jutted into the air a fraction of an inch. “I didn’t lie to try to get him in trouble.”

Really.

“So…if I thought you only made pretend rain and he attacked your feet, what would happen?”

“He would get in lots of trouble.”

I squinted at her. “But you didn’t lie to get him in trouble.”

“Nope.”

Sometimes conversations with this kid have me feeling like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. And then through a looking glass. And then took LSD.

“Ok. Let’s think this through. You lied, knowing that it would keep you out of trouble and he would be in a lot of trouble. Is that lying to get him in trouble?”

“Yes.” She shifted, unhappy with the turn of events.

I looked at the boy. “I don’t care what she does. You keep your hands off your sister. Got it?”

He nodded.

The bell rang and teachers lined the sidewalk to monitor incoming children.

I pointed at him. “This does NOT affect your day. Get it together before you reach the building. You’re on a four-day streak. Make it five good days.”

He nodded again. I told her we’d discuss it further after school, and they jumbled out the door.

Continued…

Great Expectations, Part 1

 

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Photo by Sandeepa Chetan

Tonight ended with our girl laughing in uncontrollable hysterics. This is not normal, by any means. It’s what happens when she discusses emotions that are uncomfortable.

It’s also the result when the lens through which she views the world becomes a little fractured.

For instance, when life doesn’t meet her Great Expectations.

This morning, I was not laughing, hysterically or otherwise. Our boy has had a rough six weeks since my father-in-law passed away. In addition to the trouble he finds all by himself, some of his classmates have figured out that if they blame him for things, he’ll either get in trouble or blow his stack (and then get in trouble).

On Friday, he was blamed for two things I’m fairly (because nothing surprises me anymore) certain he didn’t perpetrate. I didn’t have time to talk with the principal after I found out, so I left him a message this morning before school.

Yes, I’m that parent. Luckily he’s very patient.

He called me back while I idled in the dropoff line in front of the school. I stepped out of the vehicle to speak with him. He agreed that the incidents in question did not sound like our boy and assured me he’d look into it further.

As I thanked him, bloody-murder screams of, “GET OFF ME, GET OFF ME!” reverberated through my tinted glass windows. In spite of the tint, I could clearly see Boy stretched across the back seat onto Girl.

Ensuring I’d pushed the off-button (because who wants the principal to hear you threatening your kids), I yanked open the door and climbed inside.

GET. IN. YOUR. OWN. SEAT.

I glared at my son. “WHAT is so hard about staying on your side? HOW many times do I have to tell you not to touch your sister? WHY can’t I have a three minute conversation without you two acting crazy? WHAT THE HECK???”

Our son, who is starting to get the idea that telling the truth might occasionally be a good idea, said, “I was trying to untie her shoe. I’m sorry.”

Frustrated beyond a clear mental state, I growled at him, “I am sick and TIRED of telling you not to TOUCH your sister. This is riDICulous.”

Then I noticed.

My daughter was cutting her eyes toward him with a smug little smile. She realized I was looking straight at her and the eyes went wide.

Wait…

“How did this start?” I drilled her with my best Military Mama stare.

“Well…he was lying on the floor with the coat over his head and I was doing this in the air (hands waving) to pretend it was raining. I just did this (more hand gesturing) and pretended it was raining in the truck. (Pause.) It wasn’t really raining.”

I stared at her. “Of course it wasn’t really raining. You think I believe it would rain inside the truck because you waved your hands?”

She gave a little shrug. “Well…no.”

“So let me get this straight. He was in the floor, covered by a coat and you waved your hands in the air and pretended it was raining, and that’s all, and the next thing you know, he’s grabbing at your feet.”

“Yes,” she nods.

“And you NEVER touched him?”

“I just made my hands move like this…” 

I cut her off; when she doesn’t answer the question directly and gives me that big-eyed stare, she’s lying 99% of the time. The other 1%, she’s thinking about lying.

“Did. Your. Hands. Touch. Him. Or. Any. Thing. That. Was. Touching. Him. For instance, the coat on his head?”

She blinks. “I tapped him a little. Like rain. And then he started pulling on my shoes.”

“She was LAUGHING,” he interrupts. “And then she started screaming at me!”

Screaming like he was attacking her.

Something still didn’t ring true. I made her tell me the story again, from the beginning, fast. Trying to tell it quickly sometimes trips her up. It worked. In the middle of her two-minute explanation, she said something about yanking the coat away from him.

I stopped her and told her she’d better tell me the whole truth the first time, or the consequence would double. She still had a couple false starts. Then I asked them to stop and listen.

“What do you hear right now?”

The boy said, “I hear that man walking across the parking lot.”

The girl said, “I hear cars on the road.”

I said, “I was standing right outside the truck. Do you think I can’t hear and see through glass? Tell me the whole truth, NOW.”

Turns out, she started the whole thing.

 

 

Continued…

Ten Things I Hate About Mom, Part 2

Continued from Part 1 

Hubby’s working late, so I sit here enjoying two of my favorite not-so-guilty pleasures…writing and watching black and white TV. Tonight’s fare: The Twilight Zone. I love this show because there’s always a twist or an ending that leaves your emotions a little weird, off-kilter, skewed.

Sometimes my relationship with our daughter feels somewhat Twilightish. As in the TV series, not the pallid, sullen, angsty kind of Twilight. On second thought, we’re hitting adolescence, so we do have a bit of that going on as well. Some days, I think she hates me. (And, let’s be honest, I will always, always love her, but some days she makes it difficult for me to enjoy her company.)

The counselor agrees with us; our girl knows every detail of what she should do. For many reasons, she chooses to do the opposite.  In spite of what we thought might be a breakthrough a few counseling appointments ago, the counselor feels that it’s not the key. “She’s angry. She radiates fury. And, I’m sure thinking about her birth parents and what they did isn’t helping her. But the problem isn’t that she’s angry. The problem is, she’s decided to win.”

Which means we may have some very long years ahead of us.

All last week, I reminded her to clean her room. I suggested she get up early and clean it up before school. Encouraged her to take ten minutes each evening to do a bit. Friday arrived. Pizza-n-Movie night, as long as they’ve had overall success with behavior and chores. And rooms must be clean (so at least one day a week, we can kiss them good night without tripping over a Barbie or Lego creation).

For over four years, the rules for P-n-M night have not changed. They know the drill. Both have missed a few nights. Our first two years, the boy missed a LOT of nights. This year, though, they almost always earn the treat.

She was still cleaning her room (it shouldn’t take two hours, but she plays) when the pizza finished cooking, so I decided she could eat with us and then go finish her room. I didn’t happen to mention it to Hubby. I thought she’d be thrilled with the bit of grace and it would encourage her to complete the clean up in less time.

Then, I fell asleep on the couch.

Girlfriend didn’t head back downstairs when she finished her pizza. She stayed and watched the entire movie.

I woke up as the credits rolled, to see her looking over at me. Assuming she’d followed the plan, I said, “so, I see you made it back up here before the end of the movie. Great!”

Hubby glanced over at me. “She never left. Was she supposed to do something?”

I sat up. “What were you supposed to do when you finished eating?”

“Clean my room,” she said.

“So…you watched the movie, but you didn’t clean your room?”

Smug little smile. “Yes.”

These are the moments when I wish certain things were not illegal. Duct taping a child to the ceiling, for instance. Actually, I don’t think it’s illegal, but since it could lead to trouble, I skipped it. (Oh, come ON. You’ve never considered this? Sure you haven’t.) Hubby, who has become a child-psych genius, said, “Okay. You didn’t do it when you were supposed to. Is there anything else you didn’t do?”

She nodded. “I didn’t really clean up in our bathroom. And I never put away the dishes.”

I was so tired, I hadn’t checked behind her.

Lest you think she is Cinderella: both kids have a couple chores to do each day (she puts away dishes and fills the dog’s water. He takes out the trash and tidies their bathroom). They clean up their rooms (ideally) a bit each day. On Fridays, they each have an extra chore since there’s no homework. Cleaning their bathroom was her Friday chore.

Hubby stared her down. “We’re going to give you a certain amount of time to finish those chores. What is your consequence if you don’t do it?”

I gazed at him in wonder. What a great idea. The counselor keeps telling her that her bad choices are making her miserable, but the resulting consequences have been coming from us. Now she’ll make her own consequences. Perhaps it will affect her choices. (Spoiler alert: nope.)

Since she loves to sleep in, he told her that she needed to get up early to complete her chores. He gave her a time by which to finish. It was less time than she usually takes, but at least half an hour longer than she actually needed. “What is your consequence if you don’t finish? You get to pick. Think about it for a minute, and then let us know.” We both expected her to say something like, “I have to do an extra chore.”

“No movies for a month,” she said.

Wait. What?

I started to speak, but he held up a hand. “She made the choice. Now she only has to do one thing to avoid it. Do the work, on time.”

About 15 minutes after the deadline, I checked in with her. She was still putting away the dishes, but she’d really done a stellar job in the bathroom and her room. We thought maybe some grace was in order. I asked if she’d also filled the dog’s water bowl and bucket. She said she had, with a bit more enthusiasm than warranted, but I just thought she was excited about finishing close to the deadline.

I asked her about her morning. “First, I got up, and then I cleaned my room, and then the bathroom, and now the dishes.” Noticing she hadn’t mentioned the water, I asked about that. “Oh, I did the dog water first, I forgot. I did the water, then my room, then the bathroom, then the dishes.”

While I was speaking to her, Hubby noticed one of the dogs was missing, but she said she’d locked the dog in the pen to eat so the others wouldn’t take the food. He went to let the dog out and came back fast. “Come here, please,” he said. I went outside to find the water dish half empty and full of dirt. He said the water bucket, which holds about four gallons, had a half inch of dirty water in the bucket.

He called our daughter outside. “Did you fill the water?”

Smiling, she said, “Yes, right before I cleaned my room.”

He led her over to the water dish, asking again, and again she said she’d filled it. “Look at the water dish and tell me what you see,” he instructed. She looked at the dish and shrugged.

“We can tell you didn’t fill it this morning. Do you know how we know?” She shook her head at him. “Because,” he pointed, “half the water’s gone and it’s dirty. Why did you lie to us?”

She looked him in the eye. “I wanted to see if I could get away with it.”

Arms folded, he looked down at her. “There’s almost no water in the dog pen bucket. When was the last time you filled that?”

I’d been asking her all week to confirm she’d filled it, and she always said she did it before getting dressed. We had a crazy week, so I never went behind her to check.

“I think I filled it a week ago,” she said. He asked her why she told me she’d filled it, and the answer was the same. Just to see if she could get away with the lie. (And for the short term, she had.)

We’ve had many conversations with both children about how animals need a water source, especially when it’s hot, or they might die. “So…you’d risk one of the dogs dying just to see if you can get away with a lie?” He was incredulous. She nodded.

We’d already discussed taking the dog-watering chore from her, but were concerned she’d see it as a won battle. She’s admitted in the past that she does things poorly or slowly (or not at all) in hopes that I’ll give up and do it myself. This time, we agreed. It’s not worth the life of one of the pups.

“Fine,” he said. “From now on, your brother is going to fill the water.” Smug smile. “But we’re going to pay him.” Less of a smile. “And you’re going to get two new chores to replace this one.” No smile.

Here’s hoping this phase ends soon. Very soon.

On a brighter note, they rarely have a rough patch at the same time, which means our son is doing great. He’s working hard in school. The worst things he’s done recently? Forget his homework and toss a paper airplane. Problems of the 1950’s. No fighting, no violence, no principal’s office visits. He’s been positive and optimistic and funny. I’m truly having a great time being his Mama.

I’m heading to a conference tomorrow. Tonight, when I tucked him in, he asked me to snuggle for a few minutes. I was tired and said I planned to just go upstairs, but then he said in a strangled tone, “but you’re going to leave and you won’t come back to me.”  So I lay back next to him and we chatted. I told him about the conference and my conviction that I’d return the following day. He settled, snuggling up next to me. He fell asleep with his fingers twined in my hair (I think he was trying to keep me there).

If you’re in a similar situation, adoptive or not, remember to take one day at a time. It’s harder than it sounds, I know. Keep your expectations reasonable. If there’s been no light at the end of the tunnel for six weeks, don’t expect it to appear. That way, if it does, you’ll be thrilled (and if it’s another day of darkness, well, it’s just another day).

And always keep in mind that if the light does suddenly appear, you probably shouldn’t get too excited. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

Deep, right? (Just kidding.)

How would you have handled the situation? I’m interested in your thoughts. Unless they involve duct tape.

I’ve already thought of that. No go. It would ruin the ceiling.

***

Day 15: Write a post based on your poll.  (If you haven’t voted yet, it’s not too late!)

Many of you voted for more stories from our crazy life, so the above is in your honor.

I’m not sure how to tell who voted, so here are the people I know did. THANK YOU!

(Everyone else: You should check these out. Lovely blogs, all of them.)

Homemade Naturally

Swift

Nuggets of Gold

Defrosting Cold Cases

Word Shamble

Doted On

Little Learner

Adoption = Worst Case Scenario

I am so far behind. In EVERYTHING. The house is a wreck (let’s be real…more of a wreck than usual…housekeeping has never been my strong point). I’ve only worked a few hours (thankfully, my boss is aware of our circumstances and is very understanding). My favorite blogs are neglected. Writing a post? Pipe dream.

My friend told me, smiling, “I know some of my friends grit their teeth when the kids are out of school, but I just love it when my son is home. He’s so helpful and sweet.” I didn’t tell her my molars are missing about a millimeter since Christmas.

Some days when school is closed, I feel we’ve accomplished a lot. Teachers send additional work several times a month (anytime they get an F or D, we work on the concept at home), so even during unexpected breaks, the kids have practice pages to complete.

I’ll admit, I’m jealous of my friends who’ve had their kids since birth, taught the alphabet as they changed diapers (or nappies, for my friends across the pond), read Seuss at bedtime.

My kids, after being with us four years, are still far behind their peers. Most of my friends who don’t work outside their homes snuggle up in jammies and watch movies all day with their kiddos. We don’t have that luxury.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we play hooky. The day of the Big Snow, we truly had a snow day because I just couldn’t resist my son’s plea, “Snow is precious.” In general, though, our days at home are spent learning. We’ve found that if they don’t continually practice, the kids return to school as though they’ve had a memory wipe. Daily practice (and a lot of it) is necessary. (The school even gives me extra books in summertime and we summer-school at home.)

So, about my worst-case scenario.

The hyenas have been home all week. Every day. Ten days without a break. And these have not been “accomplished” days. The kids took hours to complete school work (pages which could have easily been done in 45 minutes to an hour). They each have a method of delaying or drawing out the school time. Our son dallies and dreams; our daughter pretends she doesn’t understand the concepts. This week, they used their tactics to the height of their talent. The muscles in my jaw got a serious workout.

They completed their few assigned chores but required constant supervision and commentary. “Cleaning the sink does not mean swiping with a rag. If there’s still toothpaste, you didn’t actually wipe it.” These tasks should take about 45 minutes.

I know they hope I’ll give up and say, “Well, you’ve spent enough time on math. Go play,” or “Forget it. Let me do that; it will be faster.” The funny thing is, I can’t think of a time I have, but I’m sure it must have happened. I can’t imagine they’d continue the behavior if it hadn’t worked at some point.

Tenacious should probably be my middle name. By the time they completed their school and chore assignments (which, again, should have taken under two hours at the max), it was time to get ready for dinner. I thought, “Surely, they will see the benefit of working faster so they can go play,” but I was mistaken. Every day.

On Thursday evening, Hubby held my face in his hands, kissed me on the nose and said lovingly, “Your eye is beginning to twitch.”

On Saturday, he took the kids out for three hours, bless him.

Last night, we had a long family discussion about problems happening consistently since Christmas, and increased in the last ten days: lying and not obeying. They have become talented at lying to our faces (we used to know immediately, but now it’s harder to tell). If we instruct them to do something, they either do the opposite or do nothing.

It’s like water torture. I have to constantly supervise them. After ten full days of this, I’m exhausted and very glad ground teeth don’t feel pain. (Until they crack…which may happen.)

At the end of our discussion last night, the children agreed that they have not been contributing to a happy home environment and committed verbally to do better. They recited the list of what they each needed to do in the morning to be ready for school and promised to do it.

This morning, however, nothing had changed. Our daughter woke up before six thirty, showered and dressed, then sat at the table for an hour, doing nothing. Like, actually nothing. Our son was half dressed at the time we normally needed to leave for school. (School has a delayed opening this morning.)

However, they are going back to school (WOOT WOOT) so I will have peace and quiet and can get a few hours in for work. (Conversation with adults? Yes, please.) I can catch up on some cleaning, read a couple blogs, insert my famous “you didn’t ask for this but I proofread your blog post” commenting, and maybe even get a thirty minute nap. This is definitely the best case scenario.

I just looked out the window. It’s snowing. Again.

Well, molars, it’s been a good run.

*Reposted to fix the font

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Worst Case Scenario.”

Adoption = Worst Case Scenario

I am so far behind. In EVERYTHING. The house is a wreck (let’s be real…more of a wreck than usual…housekeeping has never been my strong point). I’ve only worked a few hours (thankfully, my boss is aware of our circumstances and is very understanding). My favorite blogs are neglected. Writing a post? Pipe dream.

My friend told me, smiling, “I know some of my friends grit their teeth when the kids are out of school, but I just love it when my son is home. He’s so helpful and sweet.” I didn’t tell her my molars are missing about a millimeter since Christmas.

Some days when school is closed, I feel we’ve accomplished a lot. Teachers send additional work several times a month (anytime they get an F or D, we work on the concept at home), so even during unexpected breaks, the kids have practice pages to complete.

I’ll admit, I’m jealous of my friends who’ve had their kids since birth, taught the alphabet as they changed diapers (or nappies, for my friends across the pond), read Seuss at bedtime.

My kids, after being with us four years, are still far behind their peers. Most of my friends who don’t work outside their homes snuggle up in jammies and watch movies all day with their kiddos. We don’t have that luxury.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we play hooky. The day of the Big Snow, we truly had a snow day because I just couldn’t resist my son’s plea, “Snow is precious.” In general, though, our days at home are spent learning. We’ve found that if they don’t continually practice, the kids return to school as though they’ve had a memory wipe. Daily practice (and a lot of it) is necessary. (The school even gives me extra books in summertime and we summer-school at home.)

So, about my worst-case scenario.

The hyenas have been home all week. Every day. Ten days without a break. And these have not been “accomplished” days. The kids took hours to complete school work (pages which could have easily been done in 45 minutes to an hour). They each have a method of delaying or drawing out the school time. Our son dallies and dreams; our daughter pretends she doesn’t understand the concepts. This week, they used their tactics to the height of their talent. The muscles in my jaw got a serious workout.

They completed their few assigned chores but required constant supervision and commentary. “Cleaning the sink does not mean swiping with a rag. If there’s still toothpaste, you didn’t actually wipe it.” These tasks should take about 45 minutes.

I know they hope I’ll give up and say, “Well, you’ve spent enough time on math. Go play,” or “Forget it. Let me do that; it will be faster.” The funny thing is, I can’t think of a time I have, but I’m sure it must have happened. I can’t imagine they’d continue the behavior if it hadn’t worked at some point.

Tenacious should probably be my middle name. By the time they completed their school and chore assignments (which, again, should have taken under two hours at the max), it was time to get ready for dinner. I thought, “Surely, they will see the benefit of working faster so they can go play,” but I was mistaken. Every day.

On Thursday evening, Hubby held my face in his hands, kissed me on the nose and said lovingly, “Your eye is beginning to twitch.”

On Saturday, he took the kids out for three hours, bless him.

Last night, we had a long family discussion about problems happening consistently since Christmas, and increased in the last ten days: lying and not obeying. They have become talented at lying to our faces (we used to know immediately, but now it’s harder to tell). If we instruct them to do something, they either do the opposite or do nothing.

It’s like water torture. I have to constantly supervise them. After ten full days of this, I’m exhausted and very glad ground teeth don’t feel pain. (Until they crack…which may happen.)

At the end of our discussion last night, the children agreed that they have not been contributing to a happy home environment and committed verbally to do better. They recited the list of what they each needed to do in the morning to be ready for school and promised to do it.

This morning, however, nothing had changed. Our daughter woke up before six thirty, showered and dressed, then sat at the table for an hour, doing nothing. Like, actually nothing. Our son was half dressed at the time we normally needed to leave for school. (School has a delayed opening this morning.)

However, they are going back to school (WOOT WOOT) so I will have peace and quiet and can get a few hours in for work. (Conversation with adults? Yes, please.) I can catch up on some cleaning, read a couple blogs, insert my famous “you didn’t ask for this but I proofread your blog post” commenting, and maybe even get a thirty minute nap. This is definitely the best case scenario.

I just looked out the window. It’s snowing. Again.

Well, molars, it’s been a good run.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Worst Case Scenario.”

Adoption = Disaster

I had great intentions and high hopes for the first post of 2015; the first writings of the year should be spectacular. Start the year off with a bang, and all that. Instead, I’m just getting back on the horse any way I can. Our first week has been a bit rough.

In some countries, Christmas arrives on January 7; gifts are often exchanged on Christmas Eve, January 6. While those children unwrapped presents, our household received a gift of an entirely different kind.

In an earlier post, I mentioned Holiday Hell. This year had lower levels of angst than usual (we held to regular bedtimes when possible, which helped). Usually the kids have multiple meltdowns, but this year they expressed their feelings mostly by lying. In general, I’ll take lying instead of meltdowns; most of the time it’s less exhausting. However, they lied about EVERYTHING, and they did it badly.

Sometimes I wish they at least tried to cover their tracks. I just don’t understand why they lie when they are so inept at doing it.

For instance:

Me: “Who was sneaking sweets from the pantry?”
Child: “Oh, not me, mama.” (wipes chocolate from his mouth, looks at hand in surprise) “How did that get there?”

or

Child (tattling loudly): “He threw the cat down the slide!”
Me: “Who brought the cat to the slide?”
Child: “I did.”
Me: “How did the cat get up the ladder?”
Child: I carried it.
Me: “Who put the cat on the slide?”
Child: “I did.”
Me: “Did your brother touch the cat at any point?”
Child: “No.”
Me: “Who threw the cat down the slide?”
Child: “He did.”
Me: “But you said he didn’t touch the cat.”
Child: “He didn’t.”
Me (hoping for recognition of fact): “So, if your brother didn’t touch the cat, who threw the cat down the slide?”
Child: “HE DID.”
Me: “Wait. If he didn’t touch the cat, how did he throw the cat down the slide?”
Child (thinks for a moment): “Oh.”

He lies to stay out of trouble, she lies to get him in trouble. I should probably be thankful that they’re so transparent, but on the other hand, it’s a bit insulting. You really think I’m that dumb, do you? (Yes, I know that’s not actually their thought process, and yes, I understand that lying is a survival technique they have been conditioned to use thanks to their previous experiences. It’s still extremely frustrating.)

Back to January 6.

I was working hard on a project, Hubby was under tight deadlines at work. The kids had been lying up a storm for the last three weeks. Stress levels were high.

Our son has Scouts on Mondays and knows that he needs to be ready when Hubby gets home from work. I was working on the computer upstairs, and called down to him, on three separate occasions, “Are you fully ready to walk out the door? Are you sure? You have on your entire uniform and you have your book?” and each time our guy said that he was absolutely ready to go.

I heard Hubby’s car in the drive and ran downstairs to throw together a sandwich so he didn’t have to go to the meeting hungry. I stumbled over our boy, who sat on the stairs playing. He was missing half his uniform, and what he wore was unbuttoned and untucked. Hubby entered just then. “Why isn’t he ready” “Why aren’t you ready?” “I am ready!” Our guy then proceeded to tell me, in front of Hubby, that “Daddy said I didn’t have to wear my uniform pants.” Hubby and I looked at each other in shock.

One minute backstory: at the Scout Christmas party, I noticed a bunch of boys in jeans. I waited until our son was definitely out of earshot, then asked Hubby if jeans were okay, since I was under the impression they should be in uniform. He said that some kids either didn’t have uniform pants or just wore the jeans, but he wants our guy to be in full uniform every time. Another leader, standing by, agreed that full uniform is preferred.

We both knew that Hubby never said he could wear jeans, and the blatant lie in front of us both was the last straw. We had a very long, very loud “discussion.” You know the kind…all families have at least one, but no one wants to admit it out loud. You know me; I’ll happily admit our mistakes to make everyone else feel more normal.

Anyway, that Bible verse about how there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”…yeah, that was our house. The boy was weeping and Hubby and I ground our molars down a few millimeters. Hubby decided to go ahead to the meeting, since he needed to get some information for a Scouting event. Our boy stayed in his room. I went to clean the kitchen.

A few minutes later, still sniffling about being left behind, our son called, “Mama…should my ceiling look like that?”

I walked into our son’s room to see a huge bow in the ceiling, water dripping from the middle. I ran to get a bucket and a knife, then poked a hole and held the bucket while water poured out of the ceiling. After several minutes, the water slowed to a continual drip. I called Hubby, already at the meeting. “I know you just got there, but you need to come home. We have a leak.”

The kids and I moved everything from the wet side of the room. Hubby arrived and began tearing out the ceiling. We all worked together for the next hour, carrying soaked pieces of our house to the back porch.

Hubby removed part of the wall upstairs and found the leak. We shut the water off. The four of us collapsed together on the floor, satisfied with our disaster mitigation.

The leak gave us new perspective. Hubby and I apologized for yelling about the lying, explaining that we were extremely stressed but that’s still no excuse, especially considering we have a “no yell” policy. Our boy apologized for lying, since we also have a tell-the-truth policy. We all hugged. I said, “You know, sometimes we screw up, but when there’s an actual crisis, we all work really well together.”

Our guy nodded. “Yeah. That’s because we’re family.”

The evening of January 6, we were all extremely stressed, exhausted and on edge. I would have said that the last thing we needed was a two-floor leak.

God knew that a huge leak was exactly what we needed. It helped us see the big picture and refocus on our family’s relationship.

“The Big Leak of 2015” was the best Christmas Eve gift of all.

(But for the record, I’d like to skip any additional major disasters for the rest of the year.)

Adoption= Frustration

I feel like there’s more to this story. Some underlying reason. Underlying. Under LYING. Our girl lies to get out of trouble, which seems normal. She is also deceitful for no apparent reason. This is just weird.

The worst part is, she’s really, REALLY bad at it.

Occasionally, I want to ask, “Is that the best story you can concoct?”  But…I have a nagging feeling this would be bad parenting.  “Seriously, darling, you must practice your fabrication of falsehoods.”

Sometimes I truly think she wants to be caught. Tonight, I asked the boy to call her (to do a chore together). She was playing (and ignoring). He did the chore alone.

A few minutes passed. I popped my head out the back door, saw her near the garage and asked her to bring me the screen Hubby just fixed. As she walked over, she announced,

“I never heard him calling me.”

Me (momentarily forgetful): “What?”

She: “I never heard my brother calling me a few minutes ago.”

Me: “I didn’t say anything about your brother.”

She: “I know. But I didn’t hear him calling.”

Me: “How would you know he was calling you if you didn’t hear him?”

She (deer-in-headlights): blink, blink

I could swear she’s purposely fibbing poorly. She’s highly intelligent, and since lying has serious consequences around here, I can’t figure out her motivation.

Foster/Adoptive parents: is this something you’ve seen?

Foster/Adoptive kids (former and current): is this something you’ve ever done also? If so, can you explain why?

 

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