Monday, August 12, 2013

Starting High School

The Princess goes back to school in ten days.  Ten.  1 – 0.  10!  I cannot wait.

She, on the other hand, is as anxious as anxious can be.  Poor thing.  I know in my head what it’s all about.  Starting high school for any neuro-typical kid is hard enough.  Add trauma and developmental / social delays (a.k.a. immaturity beyond the immaturity of a NT kid) and we’re right on the edge around here.

Anyone else in these shoes? 

On one hand I can hardly wait to get her out of here and back in school for 8.5 hours a day.  On the other, I’m anxious for her, too.  And on the third hand (trauma mamas need at least 3 hands), I’m scared to death wondering whether or not she’ll pull some really big and really scary stuff now that she’s getting older.

For now, I’m dealing with a 15-year-old who behaves like she’s four and wants the privileges of a young adult.  She’s stupid lying and giving plenty of bad attitude.  She’s defiant and moody.  She’s a big ol’ pain in the butt.  And before anyone reminds me she’s a teenager, let me remind you she is my SIXTH child.  Plus, I was a challenging 15 year old.  I know how a witchy hormonal teenager behaves.  I know it’s not pretty even for NT kids.  My kid is not an NT kid.  This is different.  I’m not just blowing steam or venting or whatever you want to call it.  I’m writing because this is part of trauma parenting and despite what the Staples commercials say, this isn’t necessarily a trauma parent’s “most wonderful time of the year.”

I’m writing it to remind myself.

I’m writing it because I need to remember there’s more going on than just my kid being a pain in the tushy.

She’s scared and she doesn’t know it.  She can’t identify it. 

She told me the other day, “I’m sorry I acted like that.  I just get so ‘mad’ sometimes and I don’t even know why.”

I know why, baby.  And I am so sorry you went through what you went through.  I will try to remember you’ve been through more than I can even still imagine and I will try to catch myself and control my own triggers.  (It’s no secret that I hate being lied to.)  I will try hard to stop, breathe and relax – like I remind you to do.  I will do that so I can help you stop, breathe and relax.  I will remind you how great you really are and how very far you’ve come.  I will tell you I believe in you and I will pray that I come to mean it in a way I don’t yet fully.  

I will pray that the LORD will bless you and keep you, that He will make His face shine upon you and that He will grant you His peace that passes all understanding, and certainly any understanding I may know.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Look

I am humbled by the recent attention to this blog.  Thank you, dear reader.

I hope you'll enjoy the new look.  I just went to a basic blogger layout.  There was some criticism about the template I used earlier because the background made the text hard to read.  I agree.  I hope this simple layout will be easier on your eyes.  It certainly is on mine!

Much has happened since April and I promise to update you soon.  It's a crazy week here because I started practicing some of what I preach.  I've returned to my roots in theatre and am in a show this weekend!  (I know!  Wow, huh?)

So, tell me to "break a leg," but don't wish me luck (that's a theatre no-no).  I'll see you all next week, Lord willin'.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to be a Rock Star Therapeutic Parent

I’ve heard from several moms lately who think they have “failed” as a therapeutic parent because they’re tired and they’ve reacted to one of their children’s many, repeated over and over again behaviors.  There is such a pervasive culture among adoptive parents to be the perfect, non-reactive parent because this supposedly is what truly demonstrates unconditional love.  The ideas that were supposed to liberate parents and children to give them a new beginning and to create relationship have become an unbearable weight for too many tired moms who just cannot live the ideal perfect therapeutic parenting life they’ve perceived others must be living.  It breaks my heart and makes me angry all at the same time. 

Yep, I’m reacting!  Dang it all!  I’m reacting because I’m tired of seeing other moms feel like they don’t measure up and that they’ll never be like the portrayal of someone else’s public self.

If I can get my wonderful fellow trauma mamas to understand one thing it would be this:  YOU ARE AWESOME!  You are doing a job few others can do.  Few people choose to do the job you’re doing because it’s freakin’ HARD!  You are raising a hurt kid with problems and issues and mental and physical trauma that no kid should ever have to endure, and through which no parent should have to navigate.   This life of living with trauma and attachment issues caused by another adult before we knew our children is HARD.  You are an amazing success!

I am tired of parents being led to believe they must become the image they have in their heads of “perfect therapeutic parents” like Heather Forbes or Christine Moers.  Granted, these are very nice ladies.  They are intelligent and charismatic.  They are obviously very capable mothers with lots of experience and lots to share.  But they are not perfect.  Heather Forbes has had to navigate through tremendous personal loss.  Christine Moers may look like one, but she is no more a rock star than you and I are.  I believe both women would admit they react to their kids’ behaviors sometimes, too.  I believe they would admit they do not always disengage.  They do not always feel loving warm fuzzies toward their hurt kids.  I’d bet there are even moments they wish their kids were “normal” and wonder what life would have been like if they hadn’t adopted.  The difference between them and me, or them and you is they earn their livings by teaching the good stuff they’ve learned.  Did you hear that?  Teaching the good stuff they’ve learned is their BUSINESS.  That’s why you see and read all the good stuff.  Yes, it is a business born of love and of wanting to help others, but they are business women.  Look beyond that and know they are also just moms – no better and no worse than you.  Heather and Christine and other business women like them are awesome.  But YOU are awesome, too!

As my kids get older, the more I realize they need to learn the world is not going to give a crap that they come from a hurt background.  If my kids pull the kind of stuff “out there” that they pull here sometimes, they’re going to end up pretty lonely at best and in jail at worst.  People in the world are not going to put up with their reactions and triggers to trauma.  They need to use the tools they have (medication and behavior modification and therapy when it’s appropriate) to navigate the world outside the doors of the home where their therapeutic mother lives.  If they treat someone like a jerk, they’re going to get a reaction.  So here, at home, if I react sometimes – if I ENGAGE (oh, the horror!) – then THAT is therapeutic, too!  They are learning in the safest place possible how other people will deal with their crap.  The fact is, they won’t.  Other people will withdraw relationship.  They’ll yell back.  They might even press charges if things are really bad.  Know what?  So will mom. 

What’s different though is after the time that mom does engage and react, the kids can also learn that love restores.  Love repairs.  Love comes back together.  Respect is built over time.  Trust can be broken and when it is, it is not easily repaired.  It takes time.  Our kids need to learn how to do that, too.

Now, please know I am not saying that it isn't USUALLY best not to engage a triggered kid.  In most cases, I think it probably is best to wait to process what’s going on and to remain calm.  That way, when we do end up engaging, it is much more effective in stopping our kids in their tracks because they’re EXPECTING us to be non-reactive.  It’s almost like the old movies where the hysterical person is slapped in the face to snap them out of it.  The fact that we react sometimes is like a slap in the face to our kids.  It stops them in their tracks. 

Later, we come back together and we process it. 

As my kids get older, they are realizing I am a person, too.  I have emotions.  I have limits.  It doesn’t make me a bad mom.  It makes me a human being – and human beings are who my kids will need to deal with in this life.  They are learning their actions have consequences beyond losing privileges.  Consequences can mean hurt relationships.  It can even mean the loss of relationship.  Both kids have already experienced that consequence.  However, it doesn’t mean they need to get into a cycle of poor behavior and relationship loss throughout their lives.

I remember going into a family therapy session a of couple years back, feeling like I was a failure.  I wasn’t able to be non-reactive 100% of the time.  In fact, I came right out and told my kids they were behaving like spoiled, entitled 4-year-olds.  I said they were triggered and acting poorly.  I even yelled that I was a person too and I was sick of dealing with their crap! 

Our therapist asked how I handled things after they’d escalated.  I told her the kids and I talked later when we were all calm and I explained I was a person with feelings, too.  I told them they could not treat me like they had and expect me to roll over and take it.  I reminded them they can expect respect when they also give respect and that relationships are a two-way street.  I told the therapist we said we were sorry to one another, and that the kids even meant it when they said it!  We repaired and restored the relationship.  It was therapeutic.

Therapeutic parenting means teaching our kids how to have healthy relationships.  Healthy relationships sometimes have conflicts, but they also restore and repair.  If we teach our kids how to do that, then WE are indeed rock star therapeutic parents.

Rock on!