Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Complicated Kids, Complicated Parenting

In the scheme of things, although the babies have been dominating blog discussion here lately, the boys require far more brain power to parent. The girls? Should I chop their grapes into slices or cubes? Huggies or Pampers? Soy or Dairy? It's BUSY but it doesn't require much in the way of continual brain stimulation.

Reality is, despite appearances or successes outside the home, my boys are complicated and parenting them can be a challenging process. No child comes through the system of being inadequately parented (even during pregnancy), orphanage care or foster care and adoption untouched. NO CHILD. If you are thinking of adopting and you think your story will be different, I will tell you quite clearly that you are wrong. This is the REALITY of older child adoption. Our kids have been hurt and the consequences of that hurt is often life long.

One son in particular tends to cycle through times of brilliance and times of continual opposition. We are in the midst of a continual opposition phase, that seems riddled with absolute seeming stupidity and escalates into continual parental frustration.

This week he carved up an antique desk that was given to me as a child by my grandmother. So being destructive would fall under the label of oppositional behavior. The stupidity? He carved his own initials. The frustration? When confronted he blamed the fact that when his now 8 year old brother was 2 he colored on his comforter and we didn't get HIM in big trouble so he shouldn't be in trouble now.

He had a math test on Monday that he refused to study for on his own, and refused my repeated offers of help over the weekend. He stated repeatedly that it was easy and he understood it all, and he would be just fine. All fine and good except on Monday morning as we were leaving the house I noticed writing on the palms of his hands. The math formulas needed for the test. Trying to cheat? Oppositional Behavior. Using a bright red marker to do so? Stupidity. The parental frustration? Denial that his barely passing grade was unacceptable and that being provided more opportunity to study (aka losing his tv privileges in the evenings) was extremely unreasonable punishment.

He is refusing every request and being severely oppositional all the time. The rest of the family tip toes around him knowing that any interaction will be an excuse for an argument or worse. The only ones getting his good behavior are the babies. With the babies he is happy, engaging, and completely appropriate.

In other words, it's driving the rest of the family insane. This isn't a post that I can wrap up with a quick resolution. Parenting complicated children with complicated histories is difficult. Those going into foster care adoption, older child adoption or adoption in general need to be aware that even with the gorgeous pictures full of beautiful smiles there are many years of hard work.

We regularly examine and re-examine our medication choices for him. We work daily to provide him the structure that he needs. We pay for an education that is unique so that he can succeed. We love him. We struggle. We survive the day and know the next morning will start again with someone being screamed at or screaming.

We don't know the whys or hows. It could be hormones. It could be trauma revisited with the arrival of Miss Precious whose infancy experience mirrors his own. It could be adoption related, brain damage related, or it could be we are just horrible parents. It could be really ANYTHING, and as I said, not so gently, to a support person in our lives this week, I really don't care about WHY anymore because the "why" doesn't really matter at this point. One more diagnosis won't change anything or open up any more doors for help. The reality is, it simply IS. We have to deal with the present and finding blame won't make ANY of us feel any better.

Complicated kids. Complicated lives. That is our reality. Some days its smiles and cuddles and precious moments, other days its being the mom of the kid who cheats on his math test and carves his name into a piece of furniture.

And that, I suppose, is the rest of the story.


Jenny said...

Jen, you really hit the nail on the head with this. Sometimes it the predictable, unpredictability that droves us up the wall. Even when I can pinpoint the "why" of the the downswing it doesn't make it stop or end quicker. I can't tell you how many times I have simply thought "WHAT are you thinking?!?!" It seemingly, doesn't end and there are days I find myself simply exhausted.

Unknown said...

I used to wonder why somedays I can't even get the house clean. I would feel like there must be something wrong with me, now I realize somedays leave me exhausted just dealing with the ups and downs and I pray for a happy ending to this story!

Di said...

YOU are NOT a bad parent! Sometimes we just never know the whys & hows... we just have to hang on to the end of the rope and swing! Hang on Jen, Hang on!

Unknown said...

I think one of the last things that you say is the most poignant..that the diagnosis and the why doesn't matter. It is what to do and the fact that you have to deal with it day to day that matters.

Jo said...

I love love love it! I am going to have that posted on my forehead! "The WHY doesn't matter... it just IS"! With my adopted daughter we have the SAME issues - she goes from brilliant to stupidity to frustration! Glad to know we are not alone.

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister! You said exactly the things I needed to hear someone (other than myself) say. The constant seeking of 'why' is exhausting, let alone trying to solve the problem. Just knowing I am not the only one out there exhausted gives me strength. :)

Lisa (magnif7)

Monique McKay said...

Hi Jen:
We met at the Forget Summer Arts Festival;I interviewed you for a series on adoption I'm writing? I'm just now pulling the last in the series together now. It will run on the front page of The Plain and Valley, with a circulation of 23,500 throughout eastern Sask and western Man. Your story consists of about 1/3 of the article. Questions: would you be willing to send me a picture I could feature? I love the one on your blog, or WHY. May I print your blog for others to access? sweetmamalove@hotmail,com; the paper prints on Friday.
Thank you so much. I love your writing.

Lisa said...

All I can say is "AMEN!" You describe my life, my concerns, my feelings and thoughts exactly. I love your blog.....