Baby T not a baby anymore
Warning this will be long and boring as I catch us up…The new exciting dirt comes in the next post which will be either tonight or tomorrow.
The last time I tried to resurrect this blog, I failed. I was still licensed and privacy rules were getting in the way of my honesty. I would rather not write than be shushed. So I stopped. Since then, we have closed our license. It kills me to think of never fostering again. No I am not talking about the wonderful rainbows and unicorns of “saving the world”. I am talking about the adrenaline rush. Plain and simple, it’s a drug. The Anticipation. The Wait. The Call. Other foster parents will get it. It is why so many of us have so many kids. We don’t want more kids. We don’t need more kids. We rationalize. We say “it’s a calling”. Maybe it is. Pftt. It’s an addiction and just like smoking, I am no longer taking that drag. The first hit is always the best and well the rest is just a cigarette. Wow, I just read that. Pretty cynical. Pretty disturbing. Well let’s just say I am not the person who started this blog.
What about Baby T?
Baby T is now Baby A. We were able to adopt what will be my last baby. We changed his name. This is a very controversial subject in the world of foster and adoption. My other children kept their birth names and even combined their previous surname into their new name. New being the addition of our last names. With Baby A (who is now a terrible two entering into the throws of three-age as we speak), his identity was more us than them. Them is birth family. We had always wanted a little boy with his name. So the only linking factor that we kept to his history was the T. He has a second middle name that was once his first. I would love to say that we did this to honor his birth mom’s choice. The truth is we didn’t. We did it to honor his history. His fight to survive and those that prayed and fought alongside him and I as we made that possible. People prayed for T. T remains a part of him.
So he is okay. His autoimmune disease is stable but chronic. He depends on chemotherapy treatment every 4 months and IVIG blood infusions every month. He has one tomorrow. These hurt and involve blood work, needles being inserted into a port in his chest, tubes and long days of ouchy boo’s. He is now waking up often and asking “is it tube day mamma”? Kills me. Again, he is okay but he is not in remission. Remission would me no longer needing to use these harsh drugs with heavy side affects and no longer suffering the symptoms. His doctor and nurse teams here are amazing. Here is Michigan. However, they can’t do much more for him. So, we will need to see a specialist in L.A. This means moving across the country in the next year and a half. Yippie! I love the idea of getting close to my sister, who lives in Arizona, which is where we will land. Boo! I hate the idea of moving my kids who struggle to ridiculous levels with transitions of any type. This will be traumatic no matter how much preparation we put into it. Due to the fact, they self-sabotage and have anxiety issues, we will not tell them yet. So if you know my kids, shut it. In the meantime, we try and make life as normal as possible.
Because I am delusional and an idiot.
So last year, I still believed in the awesomeness of adoption and wore my rose covered glasses. I was still high (remember fostering is an addiction) and thought I can do anything. (Again I am an idiot and no I can’t do it all). So after some information was passed on to me, I thought hey lets adopt a pregnant teen who resided in a residential facility and help her raise her baby. WTF was I thinking? Right! Oh the support came in. The response was overwhelming. I mean didn’t I adopt 4 kids (3 at the time, Baby A wasn’t finalized), didn’t I move mountains to keep Baby A alive? We had this.
My next post will be about my fall. It will about the devastation of things not going well. It will be my walk of shame.
I figured it out! My kids get together and plan it out. They decide to behave like lunatics all at the same time. I imagine them sitting around saying “I’m going to make mom nuts by…” . Someone else pipes in, “well, I’m going to see your crazy and raise it one by doing…” Yeah, you get the picture.
Good News: I won! I didn’t yell today. Not even one time. I never even raised my voice. I am toasting my glass to myself as I type this as you would too.
Sometimes the beginning of school brings anxiety for neurotypical children. For our trauma survivors it is a whole different ball game. Transitions cause all sorts of PTSD symptoms and school brings another level of stress to the mix. There are sensory changes, authority figures (trust issues) and fear, plain old fear. This can bring on a slew of behaviors.
I spent some time at the sheriff’s station today during a crisis situation with one of my guys. No need to get into the details. No blood and no violence. Sometimes good kids make really bad choices. No charges filed. Simultaneously, another of my wonderful brew decided that skipping after school practice to hang out a friend’s house (who is on the off limits list) with a couple members of the opposite sex and no adults would be fun. Too bad the coach didn’t think it was fun and other middle-schoolers don’t keep their mouths shut, so… Then there were the two notes from the elementary school. One gave me the pleasure of discovering that I have failed to teach my younger kids about gossip and its damaging effects. The other to inform me that my youngest daughter tried to cut out a barrette that was stuck in her hair… I tried to contact my oldest. No reply…My baby wouldn’t take a nap.
So there you have it. The week has not even ended yet.
But: I didn’t yell today. Everyone got a hug. Everyone got a kiss. Dinner was nice. Everyone knew that they were not perfect and that no matter what they would be loved. There was no stress. I didn’t yell. . (I said nothing about drinking).
Tomorrow is Friday.
Goodbye. I am really starting to hate that word. After saying “Goodbye” to my mom forever and saying “Goodbye” to my oldest child as he enters a new chapter in his life away at school, my heart aches. I have said “Goodbye” to four foster children that I have loved. Even when our time together was short. It hurt. I have watched my kids say “Goodbye” to their foster brother and sisters. I have watched them say “Goodbye” to their foster mothers and fathers. It hurt.
Today was meant to be different. It was meant to be all about reconnections. I cannot emphasis the importance of this. If you parent a child who has suffered adoption loss in any way or form, please, maintain one positive connection on their behalf. Please, find one teacher, one caregiver and if at all possible one relative in which they can connect.
Sometimes, us (I do it too), foster parents freak out about our kids’ pasts. It can be terrifying to think that they have memories that don’t include you. It scares the crap out of me. What if they have great memories? What if I can’t compete? What if….
Well, I am here to say “STOP”! They deserve better and you do too. You may never be a part of their past memories but you can create new ones. (Remember that time, I talked all night with dad about my former foster brother and how we played chess and I missed that. Remember that is why, he started playing it with me). So, mute the anxiety button and reach out. It’s okay.
My middle son has one special teacher that we were blessed to visit and maintain contact. (Click here to read about C’s Reconnections) There is something remarkable that happens when a child learns that not all roots were severed and that he has links, special links to his history. Having these connections provides my son with validation that his story mattered and that he was not forgotten. He was and is important. Thank you Mrs. T, for being you!
Today, I was able to provide this gift to my daughters from hard places. Today, F and E were able to revisit a part of their past. It was wonderful and sad all at the same time. Today, their former foster family came for lunch. While Sloppy Joes filled their bellies and lemonade quenched their thirst, their souls were nourished in another way.
We gathered around the kitchen table as stories were shared, laughter boomed and tears rolled. Pictures were passed, memories were recalled and the definition of extended family took on a whole new meaning.
Seeing my daughters with their foster sisters reminded me of the special role that woman play in each other’s lives. It defined the connections that we make out of love and not out of biology. It melted my heart. It, also, panged my heart. My eye caught my youngest daughter B’s reaction. Her quietness told me something was not right. It dawned on me how much she misses R, her foster daughter that had left us. It has been over three years and yet the pain is still there. It is raw. (Click here to read about R) There is just something about sisterhood that cannot be denied.
I will continue to nurture B’s heart. I will continue to keep the connections alive for my trauma survivors. Most of all, I will never take sisterhood for granted. God blessed me with an amazing sister through birth, a bunch of awesome sisters thru marriage, several trauma mamma sisters and medical mamma sisters. I cherish each of you.
Back to School! HELL YA! I’m sorry if you are one of those parents who cry and get all emotional. If you are than we are not on the same page. If you home-school, bless you, but again we are not on the same page. Back to School is the second best time of the year; Halloween being number one. What? You thought I would say Christmas? Then you don’t know me very well.
Anyways, I hate the planning and preparations regarding school stuff as I wrote about previously. CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT I hate the drama, the shopping, the trauma meltdowns, the anxiety attacks and the attitude. Oh the attitude.
However, the back to school, out of my house, on with your life stuff is pretty worth it. I have been criticized in the past for not homeschooling my children with attachment issues. Yes, I know, it could be a better way to bond. Whatever. At the end of the night, I am a better parent if I am sane. I know this because by the end of August, I find myself questioning my mental health every freaking year. In addition, the amount of money that I spend on wine seems to correlate directly with the amount of time my kids sit on the couch muttering things like “give me a snack” and “I’m bored”. Until I grow my own grapes and start juicing, I need to put a ceiling on the bill.
It is about this time that my husband and I have the conversation that we have every year. This is “The how much do we tell the teachers” conversation. This sucks because it means having to balance privacy of our children with real life drama that will occur if we carry on without explanation. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because the staff doesn’t listen, they forget, or simply don’t understand and our work to educate and pass on awareness goes out the flipping window.
My kids from hard places have suffered and still struggle with certain things. These certain things tend be magnified in the classroom. It makes sense; lots of people, little one on one attention, and relationship issues that include problems with authority. The amount of transitions and PTSD anxiety is over the top. Let’s be real. My kids don’t automatically trust adults. That trust needs to be earned and won’t happen on day one. Or day two. Or day three. They have no reason to trust adults. It is not the teacher or staff member’s fault. It is not the child’s fault. It is simply a reality that must be acknowledged. Therefore, they will try and protect themselves. How do they do this? Well it can go one of two ways. They can either hate the teacher at first or love the teacher at first. Let’s hope they hate first because that is actually easier.
You see the defiance and attitude will fade as the child becomes less fearful and more comfortable. Once, respect is earned, the rest is cream cheese. My oldest daughter is the poster child for this situation. She will close up, barely speak and argue about homework and its necessity. Once, she builds the relationship with the teacher, things change (usually after the first semester) and she is a great student. Every year, I hear from her teachers “what I change I see in E, she has really opened up and is working so hard”.
Now let’s look at the other scenario. My middle son plays this role to a tee. He is so very charming and engaging at the beginning of the year. Many teachers may even question why he has certain IEP services. I will hear “what a delight C is and I would never have guessed the past he is working to overcome.” Then, after a bit, once teachers and students settle in and the workload increases and expectations expand, things suddenly change. All of a sudden, this child is no longer easy going and assignments are not being completed. Lies are told and excuses and attitude become the daily norm. The child begins failing all his classes and not taking responsibility. The teachers begin looking to the parents for help only to realize that the parents (me and my husband) are trying hard to create a strong attachment and homework wars will prevent this from happening. The staff soon learns that they are on their own. Sorry. It is just how it is. My relationship with my son will always beat out their homework.
Next on the list of sharing and awareness is the dreaded conversation about certain assignments and their inappropriateness. I am talking about the Family Tree. Please God, don’t give this or any off shoot twisted rendition of this assignment to my child’s class (yes, the whole damn class). My kid doesn’t know or want to share it. If everyone else is doing it and she or he gets an alternative assignment that sucks too! It is like holding a giant sign that screams “hey, I’m different, go ahead and ask me why”. JUST. DON’T. DO. IT. Consider it a peanut in an allergy free zone.
Last year even after giving lots of notice about the issues that this could cause, my daughter still got an assignment asking her to bring in 3 items from her childhood. Yes, that week sucked.
So, the letter will go out. The materials regarding Reactive Attachment Disorder will be included. I will highlight parts of the book “Help for Billy” by Heather Forbes (excellent source if you are a trauma mamma with school age kids). I will expect maybe one staff member to read it. So why bother? Call me bitchy but it’s nice to be able to sit in the conference later in the year or respond to the 16th phone call from the school social worker with the words, “Well if you refer to the paperwork that I provided you at the beginning of the school year, this would not be a surprise. How are you going to fix the situation?” Yeah, I know, but us trauma mammas, we need something…
Now off to review the changes that I want imposed on their IEPs. That is a whole other post. **sigh**
That word doesn’t get the recognition that it should. How much does the general public really know?
Abuse. There is one that we know. We all know a story about a little girl that gets beat so bad that she ends up in the hospital with a fractured skull. We know of the boy who wet his bed and had his head bashed against the wall. We have read about the cigarette burns and the broken ribs. We have looked at pictures of black eyes and bruises. We have learned about the predators and we have responded. We have treated the abused. We expect trauma to have its effect and we educate on how to prevent it.
But what about neglect?
The word usually brings about images of poor hygiene and unhealthy living conditions. It conjures images of malnutrition. We see pictures in our mind of dirty tattered clothing and imagine children left alone in rundown buildings. This is not wrong. We react with the same emotions and reactions to that of abuse. But what if we are missing something? What if we are missing something so big that many children simply slip thru the cracks? What if we learned a bit more about neglect? Could we save children from further trauma? Could you recognize it? Could you stop it?
Do you know what emotional neglect is?
I am not sure that I really understood it until I met my kids from hard places. I had opinions and presumptions about it. I assumed it meant that kids were being ignored and not cared about or shown acts of love. What I didn’t understand was the effect that this had on my kids and many others. I didn’t realize that emotional neglect caused brain damage. I didn’t know that simply loving my kids would not heal them and that it would take much, much more.
Here is a picture of two brain scans. The one on the left is that of a three year old that is considered typical. The one on the right is a three year old that was severally neglected. The brain structure is changed completely. It is damaged.
Emotional neglect can be brought on by various things. The common culprits include drug use by parent or caregiver causing them to exist physically but not able to tune into the child. Another is parent not being interested or knowing how to raise and care for a child. Sometimes medical and mental illness can cause a parent to be absent or the relationship to be strained. No matter what the reasons are, the results can be devastating.
What can we do?
Be aware. Take action.
How can I be sure? You can never be sure BUT, I believe better safe than sorry. Here are some helpful indicators:
Indicators of Emotional Maltreatment and Emotional Neglect of Children
• Wary of Adult Contacts
• Apprehensive when other children cry
• Behavioral extremes (aggressiveness or withdrawal)
• Frightened of parents
• Afraid to go home
• Habit disorders (sucking, biting, rocking)
• Conduct disorders (antisocial, destructible)
• Neurotic traits (sleep disorders, speech disorders)
• Inhibition or inability to play
• Psycho-neurotic reactions (hysteria, obsession, compulsion, phobias, hypochondria)
Still not sure that you know what emotional neglect is?
Here is helpful video. Take a few minutes and view the whole thing – if you can. It was hard for me to watch and yet I am glad that I did.
Please share and help me build awareness. My trauma survivors thank you.
Kids are expensive. All kids. I have learned, however, that kids from hard places can be very expensive. There are several reasons. Sometimes, it can be simple. They may have never have had anything and don’t know how to take care of things. Other times, it’s more complicated. Impulse issues get in the way. Anger issues get in the way. Passive aggressive misdirected coping strategies get in the way. Sometimes, it gets even messier and mixed up. Sometimes, trauma survivors have guilt complexes. Low self-esteem can cause self-sabotaging behavior. The fear of failure and rejection results in destruction of things in their environment. It can be easier to deal with a broken item than to have another thing lost, taken or destroyed by someone else. Sometimes, a desire for chaos exists. This may be a desire to recreate the environment that is familiar or the environment that is residing inside one’s own mind. No matter the reason, it blows.
Destroyed by “Not me”:
12 Pairs of glasses
6 Dresser drawers
2 Cabinet doors
2 Counter tops
1 Towel rack (3 times)
1 Air pump
2 Pairs of goggles
2 Laptop computers
2 Phone chargers
3 Sets of earphones
1 Water bottle
1 Nintendo DS
1 Weed whacker
1 Piece of siding
1 Hole in wall
Acquired by “The Sartors”
Refrigerator Art for everyone in the neighborhood
Roots where none existed
A much bigger vehicle
A larger dining room table
Sporting events, sporting events and more sporting events
Automatic gratuity added to the bill
More wine. Lots more wine.