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biological bias?

During my last year of grad school, I conducted a research study related to parent-child closeness in adoption. While researching my topic, I found a study that coined the term “biological bias” to explain the reason why parents of biological kids rated their children as less difficult than parents of adopted children that displayed similar behaviors.

At the time the study spoke to me directly, and it resounds even stronger now given the current circumstances occurring within my family. Regular readers of my blog know that I never hesitate to spew my angst related to the antics of my adopted son. I go on and on about the broken rules, walls and doors. I pay little attention to his pleas for privacy. “I’m sick of you telling people my business” is heard but largely ignored.  I justify my printed words by telling myself that writing is a coping mechanism for me. But, if forced to be honest with myself, I would have to admit that more often than not, I wear my adoptive parent status as a badge of honor. I am seeking validation.

Currently, my youngest child is presenting a completely different set of challenges for me as a parent. The angst that I feel in response to this child’s behavior is different, but no less strong.  Writing about these challenges would likely be as cathartic as writing about my adopted son’s issues, yet I don’t. I am sad to admit that I am demonstrating my own version of biological bias. I am choosing to protect the privacy of my youngest son, a courtesy that I have not extended to his brother.

But that stops today. This blog will always serve as a medium to share things that are happening in my life, including the general challenges of parenting, caring for an aging parent and other issues that give me pause, however, the posts will be void of our dirty laundry.

I have several forums open to me that serve in supporting my role as an adoptive parent. I will continue to utilize them when I need to be propped up. I also have a great husband and supportive family to give me strength when other issues are threatening to pull me under water. I am eternally grateful.

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pissing match

The title of this post describes the battle that I am knee deep in with E. How long can a mother expect to have to wait for her child to follow a directive?  One minute, one hour, one day? It was on day 3 that I took the clothes from the floor of the first floor bathroom and back entry. It could be argued that I fired the first shot.

The years spent together have not served to minimize the conflicts.  We were told from day one, that an adopted child cannot be expected to conform to a ready made family. We the parents must conform to the child.  As a result,  we took advantage of “kid time” a group for adopted kids and their sibs, multiple therapists, and untold hours of education regarding the effects of trauma, and exposure to alcohol on the developing child.  My language and style of interacting were molded by all that I had been taught. Build the relationship and the rest will follow. Still rather than  falling into the rhythm of family life, this child continues to fight it tooth and nail.

On Sunday I let him know that cleaning the bathroom was the ransom I was due in  exchange for his belongings.  As of this morning, they remain in my possession. This is a child that was born to cut off his nose to spite his face. Two mornings in a row he spews expletives my way, angry that he is without his sweatshirts, black skinnies and belt. Something deep within is preventing him from paying the ransom. Long ago a therapist told me that these kids hold on tight so as not to lose themselves along the way. My dilemma?  How to break through the stubborn without inflicting more pain?

sick and tired

Shit where do I begin tonight.  I must have a glass of wine before I spew my frustration about everything from my dad’s care to my son to my looming job change.  Ok, that’s better. My son E asked me just now, “Why do you like alcohol so much?  I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t tell him that it makes being his parent on a night like tonight just a little bit easier.

I went to see my dad at the nursing home on Friday night. He was leaning to one side in his wheelchair.  I went to boost him to the other side and noticed that his pants had a 5 inch vertical rip which started at the waistband. I found another pair with an identical rip in his dirty clothes hamper. When his closet revealed no more clean pants, I was off to Walmart to shop. When I got back to the nursing home an hour later with 3 pairs of pants and two shirts, dad was safely in bed. I don’t know if I am more pissed at the stupidity of the nursing assistants for ripping his pants in the first place, or their carelessness at not letting someone know the pants were ripped.

E bought a used bike from a friend. After the purchase was complete, he set out to dismantle the bike and put on different parts. Within 2 days the bike was no longer operational. Shocking, I know.  The two days that the bike was working were pure joy.  E was virtually never home. He left home right after school and came back at 8 or 9pm. I told Tom last evening that it would be wise on our part to bring the bike in for repair. After all, money spent on bike parts is well spent when it results in a peaceful house.  Well the bike was not ready today as promised and as a result, E went off.  The irony is that I tried to attend my adoption support group tonight, but missed it due to a location change of which I was unaware. Hence the glass of wine, though a poor substitute for a room full of parents who get it.

Now on to the job.  I accepted a position as a social worker with a local provider of kidney dialysis. It will be great experience and the job itself can be considered “clinical” experience which I need for my licensure.  The problem is that I keep having second thoughts about leaving my current position. I realize my current position leaves no room for advancement as a social worker.  It makes no sense for me to be paying on student loans while in a position that does not utilize my masters degree. That being said, it is awfully easy to find the great things about a job as you leaving it.  When I saw the posting fory position, I wanted to cry.

Well I got the venting out of the way. I am sitting on my front porch with an empty wine glass and a cool breeze blowing on me.  Perfect place to watch an episode of Ally McBeal on Netflix.  Ending the night with laughter will be good.

half empty boy

not feelin it

This is a picture of E after having just been presented with his new bike. E has been obsessed with BMX biking for over one year.  He began looking for a BMX bike last winter on the internet.  E has champagne taste on his parent’s beer budget and thus was looking at bikes that cost in excess of $250.  In the spring Tom bought him a bike on Craig’s list. E promptly destroyed the bike in an effort to make it into something that it was not.

E loves to rebuild things so I enrolled him in a bike making class this summer. He spent 15 hours at The Bike Depot in St. Paul  learning how to build and repair bikes. Before the class even began, E decided that he would not like the class because the bikes wouldn’t be the “right kind.”Needless to say, E left the bike making class without a bike. He deliberately chose to help another kid with his bike rather than make a “lame one.”

E was not moved by my argument that a “lame” bike could get him from point A to point B just as easily as a “cool” bike. Fast forward to Christmas. Tom had done his research by looking at the bikes that E had bookmarked on the computer and talking to E’s BMX pals. Tom bought a $300 like new bike on Craig’s list for $100.  It is in fact the same bike that E wanted to buy from his friend a few months back.  So how do you think E reacted? Drum roll please…. It’s no good. E sent his dad a Facebook message earlier today stating that since he cannot do a 180 on the bike, it is the wrong kind.  He has resumed looking for an alternative bike.

E is unwilling to entertain the idea that there isn’t a bike out there that is going to give him the BMX talent that he pitifully lacks.  His fantasy, which he had spent months nurturing, of becoming a professional BMX bike rider complete with sponsors was shattered by the red bike standing in our living room.

Reality and its limitations is hitting E hard.  It is difficult for me to be supportive when he takes what we give him and throws it back in our faces. I know intellectually that E is trying to fill a hole that can never be filled. The hole was caused by a mother who drank while she was pregnant and the complex trauma that he endured during the first 6 years of his young life.  That having been said it still sucks and wears me down knowing that nothing that we do on his behalf will ever be perceived by E as good enough.

uff da!

Oh what a day it has been.  I received a call this morning from my sister letting me know that her son who is also E’s PCA is not available to work with E for the next 3 weeks because  he signed up for work study at his school. As a result, my sister who recently took a furlough from her job will be watching E.  The situation is not ideal.  My sister has enough on her plate without worrying about my problem child.

This afternoon, she brought E and his cousin to the pool. They were to wait for me to pick them up on my way home from work.  It was only after I walked around the pool for 10 minutes and then enlisted the assistance of a male lifeguard to search the dressing room that I found out that they had walked home.  My frustration level was soaring  when I reached my sister’s house to pick up E.  His complaints on the way home did nothing to lighten my mood.

Things went from bad to worse and culminated in Tom coming home, getting into it with E and then trying to kick him out of the house.  Ughh!!!  I became the voice of reason and reminded Tom that E was at a point at which he could no longer hear Tom’s reasoning nor reduce his agitation enough to process the point that Tom was trying to make.  It is this type of situation where the tag teaming pays off.  It is difficult when you are in the midst of the insanity to pull out without an outsider reminding you of the futility of further words and/or actions.  See I was listening last summer during the four part parenting series on children with attachment disorders.

Therapy resumes for E next week.  His therapist completed an application for mental health case management services for E. It is becoming more clear as E ages and becomes more rebellious that we need extra support. We are hoping to receive respite care 2 weekends per month.  This would give the family a break from the daily outbursts and E a chance to chill for a couple of days without feeling the pressure to conform to family norms.  When I look in from the outside, I see how really difficult it must be for E to be in our family.  He is often comparing himself to our other children and feels inferior in many ways.

Despite the turmoil of early evening, the day is ending quietly and for that I am thankful.

there’s a hole in the glass

E’s glass has a hole in the bottom.  As a result it will never be 1/2 full or 1/2 empty.  Despite the vast amounts of love, patience and acceptance that his dad and I have poured into the cup during the past seven years, it  will never be full. By now you have figured out that the glass is E.  He has an empty space inside resulting  from the severe abuse and neglect that he suffered at the hands of his birth mother and the multiple caregivers that succeeded her.

E has strived over the years to fill the hole with superficial things like clothing, hairdos and the latest and greatest toy or gadget.  From the time that he was young, E has been obsessed with his appearance.  He determines what look is appropriate by watching YouTube videos of jerking, BMX biking and skateboarding. The hip hop culture has also greatly influenced his taste.   He changes clothes multiple times per day.

E has adopted very rigid rules when it comes to dress.  I refuse to buy him new tennis shoes when he has two other pairs that are perfectly fine.  This becomes a problem for E because he will not wear hightop tennis hoes with skinny jean.  His royal blue tennis shoes can only be worn with a shirt of the same color, of which he has none.  E’s clothing that he purchases with his lawn mowing money never fits correctly because he refuses to take input from me.  As a result his clothing often tears.  I don’t know anything. (not an issue unique to adopted children)

Unfortunately for E, he was adopted by an extremely frugal mother (Tom? Not so much.  We would be in the poor house if I didn’t manage the money.)  When the kids, myself or Tom need new clothing we do not automatically run to Kohls or the MOA. Our first stop is Valu Thrift.  Valu Thrift carries clothing that is in great shape at great prices. We have told the kids that spending less on items like clothing allows us to be more generous in areas such as family vacations, sports and camp fees. Michael and Patrick are good with this, E says it’s “ghetto.”

E is very hard on all of his belongings which makes it more difficult to keep up with his demands.  Every bike that we have purchased for him has been broken within the first week or two.  We told him last year after he broke a brand new bike that we were done. We agreed to get him a used garage sale bike as an alternative.  E refused to take responsibility for his bike breaking and instead maintained that it broke because we bought it at Walmart.  He never passes up a chance to chastise us for being “so fuckin cheap.

Because E is currently obsessed with BMX, Tom purchased a used bike for him off of Craigslist earlier this spring.  E declared it not good enough and immediately set out to improve it by  replacing pieces of the bike with parts from  his old broken bike.  His efforts to make the bike good enough,  rendered the new bike trashed.  So now he has no bike.  Believe me when I say that if I thought that he would be satisfied with a new bike, I would purchase one in a heartbeat just to bring me some peace. But it isn’t about the bike.  It is much more difficult problem to solve.

So I will move forward by pouring out my angst through this medium.  For E’s sake, I will again schedule some regular visits for him with his therapist and me and his dad will suck it up and continue to give him the love, patience and acceptance that he was deprived of in his early years.

limits

One  aspect of parenting a child with fetal alcohol syndrome that is the most frustrating is the number of times our children must experience a negative consequence before they learn to change their behavior.  A child with FAS will need to get it wrong 100x before they learn to do it right.  Because kids with FAS learn through repetition, it is counterproductive to impose lengthy consequences for misdeeds.  Yes, there must be consequences, but they should be  immediate and brief.

It is this last qualifier that I struggle with the most. I prefer to dole out long drawn out punishments.  A consequence that is only 10 minutes in duration hardly seems worth imposing, yet is the standard around our house when it comes to E’s misdeeds.  Disrepecting me while playing on the computer is an automatic log off.  As much as I would like to say “you’re off for the whole night”  I know that the ten minutes of agony I just imposed  (seriously, he reacts as though I just cut off his hand) is as powerful as a 24 hour respite  from watching You Tube videos.

Most of E’s misdeeds are caused by his impulsiveness  and impaired  judgment both of which are hallmark symptoms of FAS. Lacking the ability to filter his thoughts prior to verbalizing them makes E’s mouth his worst enemy. For this reason, technology is not his friend.  For instance, E had his FB account shut down for one week last year due to his  use of horrific language towards one of his “friends.”  Within 24 hours of reinstating his FB privledges, E challenged a peer to a fight.  The fight was to take place after school at a rec center near our house.  After this latest error in judgement, we took E off of FB for good.

This morning before work, E was working diligently on setting up a Yahoo account.  He told me that he needed the account to download BMX videos to You Tube.  On a hunch I searched for him on FB and low and behold a new profile popped up.  He changed his first name to his nick name, but the picture gave him away.  I sat wondering how long he thought that he could get away with it before Tom or I found out.  Friending his brother certainly didn’t help keep me in the dark.  Remember when I mentioned impaired  judgment? Identifying cause and effect is also a hallmark effect of FAS. If you have ever seen the dumbest criminals videos, you know what I am referring to.  It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the people showcased in the videos suffered from FAS.

Confronting E about his FB account wouldn’t lead me to anywhere that I wanted to go this evening.  I will save it for another day.  Thus far, he has no privacy settings enabled so I can lurk on his site to my heart’s content.  I am beginning to wish that I lived during the 1800’s. Parenting had to have been easier back then.