Last week was delightfully mundane. Exercise time for me, band concert for Hope, the revival of crockpot recipes, and end of school year English projects. We capped things off with a trip to the hometown to see family. Post-Placement life continues to be a generally lovely thing. The lack of drama has allowed me to just enjoy Hope and do some reflecting on the last two weeks. But of course, drama is back and all I can think is, “Here we go again and how long do we go this time.” So…back to recaps.
I hate that damn reptilian brain. All that primitive thinking crap, fight or flight responding and all that just base level crap. I hate it. I hate it because there is no reasoning with it. There’s no amount of being pissed because the reptile brain is in charge that makes the primitive brain just take a break. The reptilian brain behaviors sometimes bring out the worst in me, despite my best efforts, which just gives it more power. I hate it.
Hope has a phobia of bugs. I’m trying to work with her, but it is now June in the DC area…there are bugs everywhere. If the bugs aren’t outside, the bugs are trying to get inside to a cool space. This will only get worse as the summer drags on. A bug got in the car today; Hope quite literally pushed me out of my driver’s side door with her arms and legs and then set off running. Fortunately we were still in a parking lot. I lost my shizz—my own reptilian brain was terrified and it came out as fury. I yelled and screeched. I howled because my arm got hurt as I was trying to get out of the way when she was pushing and kicking. We could’ve been so easily killed today, and good Lord it was a GNAT!!! A gnat almost got us killed. I cannot imagine how pissed I would’ve been at the pearly gates because my arrival was triggered by a got-dang gnat! This is the second time this has happened. She’s like a long armed, long legged windmill in the front seat of the car (a Mini Cooper—so there is limited space as it is). It’s scary and it’s dangerous.
But all Hope can see is that she was terrified of the gnat, had to get away any way she could and I didn’t understand and yelled and screamed. Because it’s a phobia there is no appreciation of the scale of danger between the gnat in the car and pushing through me through the driver’s side exit of a car that was barely at a complete stop.
The fury was only heightened since we were on our way to a medical appointment and the doctor “sided” with me on the danger factor in discussing the need to address the phobia and stat!
I can’t with this today. I hate the fight or flight response, and I hate the reptilian brain. #gonnafindahypnotherapist #phobiasbegone
Any unanticipated deviation in the schedule wreaks havoc, especially when layered up on existing stressors. The great weekend road trip was still a bit physically and emotionally stressful. Hope seemed to handle it like a champ. No apparent meltdowns on the horizon. Follow up on the day back with a scheduling error with a medical appointment —it was an hour earlier than what I recorded on the calendar so we were late. I apologized profusely, but the damage was done. Appointment was a disaster; homework time was painful; huffing and puffing. She even put me on punishment—no hugs and kisses for a month (#hollowthreat)— she was an all-around pill for two hellacious days.
And then I finally just got us together. Explained that we’re doing this thing together, that we will have good days and bad days and that hopefully there are more good days than bad days. We had creamscicles, and I got some hugs and kisses and hopefully tomorrow will be a better.
Developmental issues are often invisible. I finally realized why I’m so touchy when Hope acts out in public (aside from just general embarrassment), or when someone chides me on why my daughter does something that they think is rude or otherwise inappropriate. They don’t know what I know. They don’t appreciate that she has developmental issues that are now more obvious to me, but remain largely invisible to everyone else. I can’t go around saying, “Oh, she does that because of a lifetime of trauma, so cut us a break why don’t ya?” To do so violates her privacy and her trust and potentially gives her a permanent label that just isn’t necessary. So I grin and bear it, mostly in silence under withering glares or sometimes even the phone call that comes offering unsolicited parenting advice.
But this tidbit of information explains so much of why she does the things she does, of why some of her behaviors are odd and occasionally disruptive. The public spells are less frequent, but they happen. Her coping skills are improving, but they are still woefully lacking. Her developmental delays are increasingly apparent to me as she grows comfortable in our home. I’m better at accommodating them most days. But managing them in public is an issue for me. I wish it wasn’t but it is which brings me to my next aha moment.
Managing expectations is exhausting. When you are managing developmental delays with an older child who everyone assumes is “normal,” grateful to have been adopted and should be grateful and excited about meshing into your life, it’s so overwhelming that you just say nothing, withdraw, and mishandle the whole kit-and-caboodle. It’s like a disaster set up. You just can’t win; God bless us all if on one outing she is delightful and the next she’s acting like a three year old. How do I manage all of that and the follow up shade too?
Managing Hope’s expectations in social situations is tough, but that’s doable. Feeling some obligation about managing other people’s expectations about what my kid should be doing and how she should be behaving is absurd. Often you really can’t manage them at all. You wish you could, but you really just never can. It just feels like failing over and over again. I’m honestly not sure why I still try to manage expectations other than my own and Hope’s, but for some deep seated, unconscious reason, I still do.
Despite all the drama, the walls are coming down. Hope is increasingly allowing herself to be vulnerable. She wants to talk; she wants to tell me so many things. She tells me she needs hugs, and I’m only too happy to oblige. Hope trusts me and she’s working hard at it, and I’m working really hard to make sure I am worthy of that trust. I don’t have much of a poker face and I’m finding that sometimes that’s a good thing; at other times I learning to be stoic enough to not distract her from telling me everything she wants to tell me. It’s hard, but her trust means a lot to me. Her trust is a major motivator in changing certain parenting behaviors.
Of course, I’m the only person she trusts. That’s a heavy load for me to bear sometimes. It’s hard to be the only person your kid trusts; I mean I want her to trust me. I need her to trust me, but building trust to a slightly broader circle sometimes feels impossible. It’s lonely and it’s heavy. Hope is very data driven (ironically, just like me); a lifetime of data has shown her that most of the people in her life don’t deserve to be trusted. I’m honored that she trusts me, but it’s hard being the only one. I look forward to the day when she is able to let others into her circle, not just for her own development, but to give me a break too.
So, we’re recovering after Bug-gate. Tomorrow is another new day to just try again. It’s easy to get down for a few days and just get stuck there. I hope we’re unstuck. Moving forward again.
June 17th, 2014 at 3:59 pm
I know ‘bug-gate’ was traumatizing but it really cracked me up. Probably because my sister has a bug phobia as well. When I say phobia, I mean she deserted her apartment after 3 months because bugs kept coming in.
Its great that she’s learning to trust you everyday. I have complete faith that you’ll handle the pressure of being ‘the chosen one’ and eventually her circle will open up…her faith in others just needs a little more time.
June 17th, 2014 at 6:48 pm
Have been pretty incognito adjusting to the fostering life. Now 7 weeks in with a five year -old who is in her third placement. There is no preparation for this stuff — and you have a forever family with real history built in. It’s funny because the things that show up on the radar are so often ones that never crossed your mind before. And other things you fret about in advance end up being non-issues once the kiddo shows up. Ironic. Maybe that’s neither here nor there (?) At any rate, you continue to have total rock star status in my book.
June 17th, 2014 at 7:48 pm
Forgive me but I was totally cracking up about the GNAT! (My kids even asked me what was so funny). It is dangerous and I have little (no) patience for kids (or adults) who freak out at bugs. None. I’m right with you there – I would have been screaming at her too, for better or worse that would have been me. Thank God you weren’t driving down the road!