I’ve been struggling lately, and I’ve really been struggling to write as well. For nearly two years, I’ve been able to write through pain and joy, highs and lows and achievements and falls. Presently I feel like I’m just fighting to keep up with just about everything, including writing, though writing really does tend to bring me some kind of solace.
Hope and I will celebrate our finalization in 31 days. It’s shocking that a year has nearly passed. Hope and I are closer than ever; consequently we fight like hell too. The closeness is good for her, and us, I guess. I know it’s good for her, but I struggle with being the sole, full time, emotional hole filler-upper. It really is exhausting, and I wish I saw a path for it to lighten up in the future.
There are still lots of developments that I desperately hope for Hope and me. I hope for:
- Improved social interactions. The lack of being able to make and maintain healthy friendships is a drag on both of us. There are no party invites, there are no movie invites, and there are few phone calls or texts. I only recently realized just how isolated Hope really is when I observed her with some classmates.
- The ability to be real. Hope is still “acting.” She’s like a mockingbird; she mimics her interpretation of surrounding behaviors. I say “her interpretation” because the mimicry is clear but it’s just…off in some way. Maybe it’s because in her efforts to replicate behaviors she has to one up everyone. Its makes the mimicry obvious and hollow, and it keeps her on the outskirts socially.
- A cessation to the food theft and trash hoarding. Food security was not an apparent behavior when Hope moved in. I don’t think that it’s really the heart of the issue now. I’m starting to believe that it’s some kind of self-regulating hiccup that I don’t yet really understand.
- A break in my own self-critical anxiety. Seriously, I’ve got to learn how to lighten up. I know I’m a good parent. I see the changes that have occurred in the last year. I know that it’s because I’ve worked my ass off. I need to be a bigger champion for me and less of a Debbie Downer.
- An enhanced ability to manage the schedule and various tasks. Gosh, we still have so many appointments. Therapies for each of us individually and together. Band stuff. Support groups. General health appointments. I’m really getting overwhelmed by it all. The thought of camp commuting this summer is also freaking me out.
There are lots of other things I could put on this list when I sit down to mentally itemize the things I hope for; it really is overwhelming. I suppose, I wish that our normal was…I dunno…more normal, whatever that is. I want to get back to some semblance of happy. Happy hasn’t really lived with me in a while.
That’s the downside, I guess. But there are some back-slap worthy upsides that I’ve managed to cull from my memories of this last year. I think it’s important for me to make a list of things we’ve achieved (or survived depending on perspective).
- I know Hope’s diversionary tactics well, and I can call her on them. Yes, I know all about the magic words, the “spasms” that occur in her hands, feet, temples, ears, nose and throat…Last week she pulled out her bag of tricks during a family meeting about chores. I shut her down on all of that quickly and it allowed us to get to the heart of the matter.
- Meltdowns are so very different than they used to be. Rages are quiet now; still powerful and still house-shaking, but they are different. And I’ve become more comfortable in riding them out. If Hope wants to rage about something I think is absurd, I let her rage. I let her self-soothe and I know it will blow over. I’ve learned to not feed them the attention they desperately demand because it’s a quick way to have both of us be out of control. Girlfriend can go be mad in her room for an hour or two and rip up her important papers, throw stuffed animals, whatever, but there’s usually a clearing after the storm. I’ve learned to wait it out.
- I have a much better sense of my limits now. I wrote about my ability to handle the gigantic problems, but be stumped and rattled by the little stuff. I know that. Hope knows it too. It doesn’t always change her behavior, but it allows me to change mine. I haven’t gotten to happy yet, but I’m on the right path.
- I can walk away from a meltdown. This right here is powerful. It throws Hope off her game and it gives me a chance to calm down and just be. My “walk aways” also involve turning off the TVs or other noise makers, not necessarily leaving the room but finding something else in the room on which to focus my attention.
- Despite the things that are totally my personal meltdown triggers, I am more deliberate about using my communications skills. I feel….When you… I had to do this last night.
- I understand her self-soothing and her attention seeking behaviors. I’ve also learned when to feed those monsters. Man, Hope’s emotional age has caught up a lot in the last year, but boy when the chips are down she’s still a little kid in a teenager body. Last night after I did my “I feel…When you” and then walked away, she banged on the table and human beat-boxed for an hour. And I let her. She made a bad choice, I told her how I felt about it and what the consequences were and moved on. She made a racket to see if she could push me further. Yappy and I retreated to watch Real Housewives of New York with some of his toys. #nope #notfeedingthemonstertonight
- I have a relationship that allows her to ask me just about anything, anytime, anywhere. Now sometimes I wish she was just go rely on Google, but I suppose there is a lot to be said about her desire to seek me out as the fount of knowledge. We’ve talked about sex (in such detail it would make porn stars blush), sexuality, gender identity, religion, politics, race…you name it, she’s probably asked. We’ve had the discussions at home, in the car, at the airport, on the train, on the bus, while sightseeing, in the middle of church…EVERYWHERE. And while I’m often annoyed by timing and location, I must have done something right if she feels that she ask me anything.
It will be interesting to see where we go and how we change during year two. Despite being down in the dumps a bit, I am hopeful that we continue to find our groove. Things will be changing this year as Elihu becomes a greater part of the picture and I’m sure there will be some drama around that. But I’m still optimistic that my little family will be ok.
May 6th, 2015 at 1:31 pm
I hear you on this post 110%! We have had some serious struggles with Mary, but at the end of the day (even if the results aren’t instant – and I love me some instant gratification, okay!?!) I know we are doing the right thing. Like you, we don’t feed into that BS “I need attention so i’m gonna do WHATEVER i can to get it” crap! Sometimes I get irritated with my parents because they are all like “but she’s in foster care, just let her/don’t punish her/pay attention to her” and uh, hell no! There is a time and place and we expect certain behaviors to be exhibited and other ones that better be put away! It’s awesome that you use the I feel…when you tactic. It works for us, and it breaks it down into such child friendly terms that they get it, even if they don’;t want to. Our case worker told us a while ago, “This is just the honeymoon, and when the honeymoon is over, trust me, you’ll know!” And we didn’t believe her, until it happened. We love her so much, but there are days, girl, when I wanna just run away and not deal with her and the attention seeking behaviors….but they went through a lot, ya know, so here we are, the best parents we can be….
May 6th, 2015 at 2:34 pm
Yep, I used to feel some guilt about it, but I don’t usually have that issue anymore. She’ll beat box in a minute and I’m convinced it’s just to annoy me. If I’m feeling petty and want to poke the bear I’ll put on my Biz Markie/Doug E. Fresh Pandora station. That usually shuts that down pretty quickly.
She still brushes off the I feel..when you strategy, but I know she gets it. Because she still struggles with taking responsibility for ANYTHING she utterly refuses to acknowledge that the “when you” part. Whatever man.
Yeah, we’re just doing the best we can.
May 6th, 2015 at 2:06 pm
Looking good… 🙂 Seems to me that one thing you lack is an effective support network. Is that correct? Just thinking back … I was a single mom, unconventional, working as a professional in a somewhat male-dominated world, and my daughter was (is) super-bright, super-tall, and super-stroppy. And our primary community was a pretty conservative (at any rate as regards sexuality and gender roles) charismatic church. People were kind and friendly … but from when she was young I really had to WORK at creating social opportunities for my daughter outside of school. If I knew she was friends with a kid, I’d initiate visits – and if I was told the kid was “staying home to look after her little brother” I was pretty shameless about asking if my daughter could hang out there too. I know some of the parents didn’t like it – they worried that I/we would be a bad influence – but given time to learn that my daughter was pretty normal and a lot LESS interested in talking about boys and makeup than their daughters were, they became more open. I was also the mom kids liked to visit, because we were laid-back, and also the kids learned they could talk to me about pretty much anything.
You’re in a completely different world, of course … but I wonder whether there are similar opportunities for you? (Yeah, I know how much you’re longing for suggestions of still more things to add to your to do list! lol)
May 6th, 2015 at 2:39 pm
Ha! I ❤ you! Yeah, I initiate all social outings and even that causes her anxiety. The other kids love me because like you, I'm laid back, hip and open to talking. I'm constantly mining for people to connect her with so that she can practice her social skills. I even have my own little mental goal chart–invitations to hang out, invitation to the mall, to movies, etc. My big goal is a sleepover invite. Last year only one kid came to her birthday party–cosmic bowling at the bowling alley–one kid. It was sad.
Now we don't even have the church so I'm feeling kind of rudderless and without my own connections. We'll get there though. Thanks!
May 7th, 2015 at 12:21 pm
You have come so far in such a short time! It must not seem like that some days-I know there are looooonnngg days sometimes. But good for you for recognizing and appreciating growth, gratitude can help get us a little farther down the road. Congrats on some really big accomplishments!!!