We’ve had to make some drastic changes around Casa d’ABM recently in hopes of getting Hope back on track with a few things. It’s tough and painful, and it feels like all I do is pick on her and focus on the bad stuff.
But it’s not all bad stuff. I’m focusing on breaking bad habits and building skills that she desperately needs.
But I’m sure that for her, it feels like I’m picking on her.
Sigh…so in some ways, it’s kind of a short-term, no-win situation.
Damned if I help; damned if I don’t.
So…I’m back to throwing a bunch of interventions up in the air and trying to figure out which one fits, makes sense for us, and has the best chance at effectiveness.
Hope’s general outward response?
My response to her response?
Our joint response feels like it’s playing out like this:
Yeah, it’s like that.
We recently had an interesting chat. Hope was sharing her frustrations about coping with a bunch of stuff.
I asked her to give me some examples.
I made some suggestions.
She rebuffed them and doubled down on how her approaches were foolproof.
I noted that clearly they weren’t, otherwise this would be a moot conversation.
“Oh yeah, right.”
So, I probed how and when she developed her ways of coping. I asked her to explain to me why they had historically worked for her.
My heart hurt. Most of her coping strategies involved swallowing her emotions, withdrawing, learning to be ok just being sad because that was apparently her lot in life. I interpreted so much of the coping to be a sad acceptance of tragedy, the desire to limit her emotional trauma by just not being emotionally involved at all, and straight up denial.
How does that work for anyone??? How can you live like that?
And then it dawned on me.
These coping strategies are right on target if your goal is to survive your situation. If your goal is to just get to the next day relatively unscathed, without much physical or emotional hurt, then if you just fold into yourself, you can survive.
But what if your life doesn’t call for those specific skills anymore? Are those skills transferable in a more stable life? If all of your basic Maslow’s needs are met, and theoretically you can focus on some of those more abstract life goals, do those survival skills still serve you well?
Spoiler alert: They don’t work. You need a different set of life skills if you are moving from dysfunction to function.
I began to understand my daughter’s frustrations. She was using the tools she had developed and refined for years to survive in an environment where they didn’t really help her.
Just imagine that you are a whiz with a power drill; I mean, amazing! And then you are asked to go do a car repair…with just your drill. Let me know how that works for you.
Without being critical, I began to try to explain to Hope that she was going to have to try something new, and that I knew that was weird and scary, but her old bag of tricks wasn’t going to serve her optimally in this chapter of her life. In fact, her survival skills were becoming a hindrance.
She didn’t buy it. It’s ok, it will take some time.
Our kids, they are brilliant in their resilience, but their transition to normalcy is so hard for them to wrap their brains around. It requires them to trust, and that’s something they don’t really do. Hope tells me that she trusts herself, and that’s about it.
She does trust me, but there are some hard limits, and I know where those limits are and I try to earn my way beyond them.
It’s not easy though. I’m fighting years and years of her expertise in living her life in a way that she gets to see tomorrow. In nearly 44 years; I’ve never had to work that hard. Not on my worst day have I had to work that hard to survive. I can’t imagine that much change in her world view after only 3 years; that expectation is not appropriate.
She’s changed some. Her expectations of me increase, and with them her belief that I’ll deliver and ability to meet those expectations increases. But it is very slow, very incremental change.
As our Year of the Try comes to a close, I’m pondering next year’s family theme. I’m thinking the development of life skills is probably something we might give some focus in 2017.
November 5th, 2016 at 10:11 am
I’m feeling the pain of your sharing from both sides as a mother and an adoptee. In my humble opinion you are sowing the seeds Hope needs, and although she might not grasp them now she will always remember what you were trying to teach her and share with her. That speaks a lot and I believe you will see the fruit of it in the future.
I can understand the frustration with parenting in general, but being an adoptee I would have no idea how to parent ME! Hope sort of reminds me of me in many ways because back when I was younger and a teenager processing “that” pain was simply impossible. 1.) I didn’t have an adoptive mom like you encouraging me to share. 2.) In the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s things were “hush hush” the less you talked about it the better. That’s just the way it was. I think we’ve all learned by the prisons and jails and adoptees attempting suicide 4x the rate of non-adoptees that approach doesn’t work and is actually detrimental to the adoptee. I’m 4 years into working on my adoptee issues because I never did at Hopes age.. I saw a billion therapists and NONE of them talked about adoption, abandonment or rejection being an issue so my healing was stalled. Anger, substance abuse and rage was the outcome for 26 years.
I believe NOW as it’s being talked about and addressed more healing can happen much earlier. I think if you and Hope got along all the time something would be wrong in the parenting area! I can only imagine what it’s like to parent an adopted child this day and age. I know it’s got to be extremely hard for both of you. Addressing coping skills is a HUGE one. My 18 year old daughter is in therapy for that now, and I’m soon to work on it with my therapist. Coping for me is when triggers come and they’re everywhere, especially for the holidays.
I have a shelf analogy. It sounds crazy but I’m a visual person! I have to visualize things. When something happens with my kids or ANYTHING in life really that I can’t control I take it and visually set it up on a shelf. The shelf is me giving it to God. Then I say the serenity prayer! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FULL THE SHELVES ARE! But they just keep going up and up and up never filling up. But they are there safe with God. Some days I just CAN’T even entertain the thoughts of “ALL” of the things going on around. The shelf is a safe place, and sometimes if I get angry I visualize kicking these “things” in the closet and slamming the door. That feels good too. 🙂 ❤ Hang in there momma! Praying for you and Hope.
November 5th, 2016 at 9:14 pm
Thank you so much for your comment. It is so helpful to hear from adoptees about their lived experience. I try desperately to understand how my daughter sees the world; I try to meet her where she is. It’s hard. It means a lot when adoptees weigh in and let me know I’m on the right path.
We do see a therapist for adoption issues and attachment. It has been helpful for both of us. She’s now starting her own individual therapy with our family therapist, since she trusts him.
There are so many triggers, so many. It’s hard to learn them and remember them all. Some are big and some are “tiny.”
What is also hard is knowing that she intellectually understands what I’m saying but that she just can’t turn the corner to learn new ways of coping. I get it, but it’s sad to see her struggle so.
It’s so funny that you visualize putting stuff on shelves! I do that too!I just wrote a post about that not long ago: Boxes on Shelves
Thank you. Thank you! ❤
November 8th, 2016 at 1:29 pm
You make a good point thank you for the prospective. I guess I had forgotten the piece about M1 just trying to survive so certain things were meaningless to her because they are not survival skills. Thanks for the reminder I do appreciate it.
November 21st, 2016 at 3:24 pm
I love your blog and share so many frustrations you have.
You put it very poignantly when you said your daughter is using skills she learned that served her previously, even now in an environment where those skills are no longer necessary.
November 21st, 2016 at 3:42 pm
Hi Trauma Mama. Welcome!
Yeah, I think that my life isn’t much different than a lot of other parents who are struggling to parent children who have experienced trauma. Hang in there!