Good Deal

30 10 2009

Back to a serious post… if anything that goes on here can be considered serious.   We go from OMGWTF? to HAHA-AWESOME! in less time than it takes to butter a piece of toast.

The kids are starting to get a lot of our sense of humor (finally) and we haven’t even started indoctrinating them with Monty Python and Mel Brooks movies.  They have seen Down Periscope multiple times, so that helps.  It’s pretty awesome to see them crack cynical, sarcastic filled jokes and it’s even better to see them understanding and using puns.  LJ is a LOT like me – he says “puns work because of a misused homophone.”  Absolutely child.  Absolutely.

Me and LJ – we have an odd sort of relationship.  It’s been hard for me from the beginning with him.  There was a time where we almost refused placement with him – it was that bad.  See, I’m an alpha female.  I have been since the moment I was born and everyone in my family will tell you that.  LJ, when he first came to us, was under the impression that a woman’s job was to cook and take care of the younger babies.  This woman who will never exist was supposed to see a 7 year old boy as having more status in the household than her.  (I know I’ve written before about how the household is like a dog pack.)  Well… as you can tell, this attitude didn’t work.

So, over the 2 years we’ve known him and he’s come to live with  us and become our son, we’ve been working on this.  At times I’m overbearing and at times, he is.  For the most part, he’s figured out that he doesn’t get to tell A&E what to do and I try and give him responsibility over himself.  (I do get to overrule stupid things like wearing shorts to school when it’s 50 degrees outside.)

We meet at loving books.  He loves to read and so do I.  We’d rather read in our bed than talk to anyone.  The problem is that he’s not real sure where the lines between fiction and reality are.  He told some teachers at the school earlier this week that a dragon had bitten him on the neck.  Of course, no one believed him, but the counselor called home to tell me what was going on.  He’s had some pretty big stuff come up in the past few weeks so she knew this may be something we need to discuss.

He and I sat in the car and talked while in the carpool lane to pick up his sister.  We talked and talked and talked.  He didn’t understand that the words he says to people cause reactions – no matter what you say, you’re going to get a reaction.  We talked about how if people knew he just made stuff up all the time that no one would listen to him if something was actually wrong.  We talked about believable stories – dragon bit you?  Obviously not true.  (though, it’s probably better to make up a story that can’t possibly be true than say something equally untrue but believable.)

We talked about appropriate things to share with people (conditional boundaries) and what would happen if those boundaries weren’t respected.  We talked about kids in the foster care system (when we were picking up our AA check at DFCS, he saw some classmates in the waiting room) and the different things that could cause a child to need care.

We spent a lot of time talking about severity and differences – not all kids go through the same thing he did.  For some kids, they had an easier time of it.  For some, they had a time that was much worse than his.  We talked about how everyone, everywhere has something in their past that hurts and how we deal with it determines the kind of person we are.

After all that – we made a deal.

Until November 15th, he is not allowed to either make up fantasy stories or read fiction novels.  He still has to read every night – but he gets true stories.   He’s involved in a biography of Cal Ripken Jr. right now.  I’ll probably go to Goodwill today or tomorrow to pick up more kiddo friendly non-fiction books.  If not that, then we’ll visit the local library.

Things have been moderately better since then.  He’s been meeting my eye and making jokes with me.  He’s been helpful and respectful to the little bits.  Last night, we even put everyone to bed with the sound of laughter even though it was an emotionally difficult day for everyone.  He woke up this morning and told me – amazed – “I didn’t have any nightmares last night, Mommy!”  Awesome.  Pure awesome.

This morning we talked about how to say “its not your business” to people who made them uncomfortable with questions.  We talked about whose business it is – the family’s and the doctors.

After going through foster care and adoption, this is something all of us need to rebuild.  We all need to work on appropriate levels of privacy for ourselves and each other.  We’ve all just gone through so many years of having to report every little thing by phone and in writing.  There were always people in and out of our house – I couldn’t let the laundry go or not load the dishwasher because at ANY moment, someone could pull up and get to judge our worthiness.  This is partly why I’m so open on the internet – it would be hard to rape our privacy and background any more than what it took to become a foster/adopt parent.

Now, we’re having to work on telling people it’s not their business.  Truth is, most people aren’t looking to help – they’re looking for gossip.  Shaun and I are also having to relearn to trust our own judgment.  We’re both grown but we’re too used to having every move picked apart.   That causes stress and anxiety for all of us – we can’t just relax and have normal everyday fights.  Everything is a possible catastrophe.  Everything is caused by this event or that event, and everyone has a different opinion of what caused what.

I mean, I just want my child to feel free enough to scream “I hate you – you’re the meanest mom EVER.”  Right now, we’re still all worried about what we’re saying and trying to use proper communication skills.  In foster care, if they said “I hate her – she’s so mean” to a case worker it wouldn’t be about whether I confiscated the Nintendo DS – it would be “are you feeding them properly?  Whats your discipline policy?  We need to have a face to face meeting about this placement.  I need to talk to my supervisor.”   Basically, if you get mad and immature, your whole life could be turned upside down  (and immature is probably 30% of my personality.)

I want to be able to say “I don’t even want to see you right now” without it meaning “she may not love me enough to keep me.”  No, I just need some time not seeing YOU.  I’ll get to where I want to see YOU again but first I need 5 minutes to look at something else.  Every word that I say has to be examined from how they’ll receive it and how it will sound if they repeat it or how it will sound when I tell the therapist about it (because I can’t lie worth a shit and they can tell when something is going on.)  Then the kids see that I’m uncertain and they start thinking that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing and maybe they don’t have to listen to me.   Or something.

For now, it’s just repeating “I’m your mom.  I was your mom yesterday and I’ll be your mom tomorrow.  I’ll be your mom next year and the year after that.  I’ll be your mom when you get old and have babies.  I’ll be your mom no matter what.”   If we say it enough, maybe we’ll all start to believe its not fiction or fantasy.

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New boundaries, therapy edition

24 07 2009

The kids appt went well enough – everything is about the same.  The psychiatrist let us know that today was her last day and they should have a replacement by the time the next appt comes around.  It’s too bad, too.  I like this doctor (all three times we’ve seen her) but I understand the position she’s taking is much better for her.  Hopefully our next psych will work out as well.

The center we go to does monthly health screenings at the same time as the psychiatry screening and it’s done by a nurse.  She’s always a little aloof and distant but today it was just weird.  It’s hard when they fit both kids in at once because I can’t be with them when they do the health screening – I’m with the other one with the doctor.  They have this form they fill out every month and it’s a little intense for elementary school kids.  Stuff like “do you have discharge from your nipples?”

So the first thing that happens when I go in to check on Alyssa – the nurse comes out in the hallway and says “Alyssa says that a male cousin tackles her a lot and he does it because he loves her.”  Ok, they have to ask about this – I’ve actually counseled a number of children who were abused by a relative.

I asked her “did she say anything else about it?”

“No, she thought it was fun.”

I’m trying not to laugh at this point.  The nurse HAS to ask me about it.  Apparently, she didn’t ask Alyssa anything else after she said this, otherwise she would have known.  Alyssa has only one male cousin… and he’s two years old.  He LOVES Alyssa.  Alyssa was one of the first names he learned – right after Mama, Da, and Bob.  He calls me “Lyssa’s Mommy.”  Every time he sees her he squeals A-LYYYYSSSSA! and runs at her full speed.  If he sees me first, he goes “where’s Lyssa? An Cinny – where’s LYSSA?”

I filled the nurse in and she didn’t even smile or act like that fact relaxed her.  The rest of the visit was TENSE to say the least.  Like “did you know that LJ has been having pain when he pees?”  LJ was at the time giving her the silent treatment and staring at his shoes, only answering with a twitch of his chin.  “Alyssa says you gave her a laxative.”

Now – first of all, Alyssa does not know what a laxative is.  Second, she can’t tell last year from yesterday.  This is developmentally normal – and yes, if she’s constipated, I sometimes give her a dose of children’s medicine.  I’m allowed – they sell it, doctors recommend it, and I’m her mother.  She has a pediatrician she sees if it’s too often or if it’s abnormally colored.  Guess what, I don’t have to document it anymore and I really don’t remember if it was two months ago that she was last constipated or a week ago.

During this time, E is in with the psychiatrist, waiting on LJ to get done with the nurse.  He’s not allowed to talk today because he’s been willingly defiant.  So I hear the doctor in there asking him questions.  What part did you not get about me telling YOU that he’s in trouble and his punishment is to not be able to talk – which is his absolute favorite thing to do.  He’s sitting still and being quiet – just ignore him!  The kids are pushing boundaries BECAUSE of the adoption – they are testing me out as a forever mom.  I do NOT need people who should know better to undermine me.

Ethan does not (and did not) want to talk about Mom beating him up – which is what it felt like she was trying to get him to say while I was out of the room.  In my experience, that’s why caseworkers and therapists want to talk to children alone.  He wanted to talk about spider guts and how he stepped in an anthill outside when he was playing.  Those were the first words out of his mouth all at once. He didn’t even want to talk about his most recent reason to be pissed off – Alyssa gets to go to school and he doesn’t – or how he set a fire in the sunroom or how he’s been throwing violent tantrums.  I mean – he’s FOUR.  He’s supposed to be thinking and talking about spider guts.  You aren’t going to get him to talk about anything else by the time I get back.

I thought we’d stop playing these “are you abused at home” games once the kids were adopted – but apparently no.  At least now we don’t have three people a month coming into our house to ask them, but still their mental health workers get to quiz them every time they see them.  How long do I have to be their mom before people stop second guessing my judgment?

I know it’s just my perception because I still get asked when I go to the ER if my husband beats me.  I’m like “it’s a migraine… he didn’t cause THAT.”  It’s just something they have to legally ask so that they don’t come down on the wrong side of the media.  We all have seen the headlines and even judged people without the facts.  We have to believe that there are signs that point towards tragedy, and people are so scared of missing the signs that they lead this very scripted life.

What happens is that the kids end up thinking that they’re asking because I’m doing something wrong or that they need to be worried about.  My job is to give them safety and boundaries – that’s what they need right now.  They need to know that not only am I their protector, but I’m also the law-maker.  When I’m questioned in front of the children about such and such an event, they start thinking that maybe I’m not right.  Their experience has told them that adults aren’t right all the time and sometimes adults hurt little people.

Foster families are built on structure.  Everything is planned, everything goes on the schedule, there are rules for everything.  Everything is documented, everything is scrutinized.  Now that the kids are adopted, I’ve been loosening up the rules little by little.  Things like LJ can ride down the street on his bicycle instead of staying in the driveway.  The kids can spend the night at Grandmommy’s.  We can watch PG-13 movies when Shaun and I agree they’re safe (we don’t worry about curse words – we just don’t allow sex or violence on TV.)  I can walk out in the living room with only my nightgown and a pair of undies on – I don’t have to be robed from head to toe.  We can make stupid jokes when before we’d get disapproving stares from the caseworkers if the kids told one. We’re attempting this idea that we’re a “normal family” now.

The kids know this and they also know the “back-up plan” is gone now that they have forever family.  They’re testing the waters, seeing when how far they can go before they hit a wall.

Ethan hit that wall around noon yesterday.  He’s been skirting it for a week or two.  This morning, he had hit it by 7 am so I told him that I didn’t want to hear another word out of him for the rest of the day.  Then, I have to justify it to the center because if I don’t, I’m afraid they’ll make “that call.”

When we left, Alyssa immediately started in on me with the superiority BS and the defiance.  Before we even got out of the parking lot, I had to have a come to Jesus meeting with her.  Developmentally, this is on target, but damn.  If there was anywhere I should have been backed up on my choice of discipline, it should have been at the center.   Aren’t they there to make life easier on everyone?

So I’m not touchy feely baby-talk kind of mom.  Whatever.  That’s ok.  I tell em how it is and how it’s going to be.  There’s no hinting or “mommy would really like it if…”  These kids are too street savvy to fall for that pleasing adults bull.  It’s easier on everyone if we’re straight up about what’s the rule and what we can negotiate on.

One of the rules is that they don’t get to ask why I said something.  I don’t have to justify myself to a child.  I’m mom – that’s why. I know more than they do and I’m smarter than they are and think about more than they think about.  My decisions are based on reason and logic, but I’m not writing a thesis paper.  I don’t have to defend my choices and my choices are not theories and cannot be treated as such.  “Mine is not to reason why…”  They’re total noobs at this whole life thing.  They don’t get promoted until later on in life.

They better listen too because I control the video game system.  So, they’re adopted.  It’s not an excuse to get what they want.  Whatever –  “adopted” doesn’t mean I have to make up for something that happened to them.  I’m not going to let them use that term for pity or to be spoiled, just like I won’t let it be used against them by the school system.

I guess now I just have to set up the boundaries with the service personnel in our lives.  They didn’t get to go to court with us and they’re still in the habit of treating me like I have to answer to them.  I need to get it straight in my own brain that I don’t have to answer to them either.