Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Now featuring theft!

And so, as we whittle our way through the list of symptoms that make for a diagnosis of RAD, we have moved into stealing. Woo hoo?

For most of her life with us, Genea has only shown the stealing habits of a typical kid but with her DSM- NOS spin. You know, swiping cookies, taking her sisters toy, that sort of thing, but with the exponential that RAD seems to add to everything. Once she took a full orange juice carton into the bathroom, slammed every last drop and left the carton weeping on the floor. We dealt with it firmly, so of course that led to a host of wonky/wtf thefts. Crackers under the bed! Binged through a box of cookies! 2 inch high crumb trail leading to her room!

This past summer though, with the Middle School of Doom approaching, she went off the rails in about 90 directions and one of those directions involved Things That Belong To Mom. So normally, we have been lucky that our RAD does not single out "MOM" for her RAD fun but has always divided it equally between The Husband and I. Sure, most people think of winning the lottery as lucky, my perspective is skewed.

While I can maintain a poker face for just about any offense Genea can think up (which took hella practice and could rescind itself at any time) , I made a rookie error late last summer and absolutely flipped my shit on her.

She had stolen my candy bar.

Not just any candy bar, but one of those uber fancy chi-chi foo-foo handmade by a glitter fairy candy bars. The kind of thing you buy yourself once a year to make just one day suck less. Dark chocolate with the perfect amount of caramel and sea salt, I pinched off tiny little crumbs to indulge in, meaning to make it last. This candy bar, I tell you, it was an orgasm for the mouth. Then it vanished.

I tried, really I did, to maintain composure as I cornered the two potential criminals and noted one no longer had beautiful brown eyes because her pupils had been replaced by 2 black cantaloupes. My poker face devolved into Freddy Krueger face and my voice may or may not have elevated to where only dogs could hear it. I. Was. So. PISSED! And so, I sabotaged myself.

Most of the Pre- Middle School of Doom behavior has faded, but stealing has evolved and progressed. No candy is safe. Box of candy for my birthday? Swiped. I left a few dollars laying on my desk. Swiped. Now expanded to lifting cash out of my purse in increments of 20. Jewelry? Gone.

Maybe it's me being stubborn, but I REFUSE to lock up stuff. It's my goddam house (though seriously if the issue were knives or antiques or something, it would be different). I can prevent her from stealing things I lock up sure, but it is guaranteed she will find something else. I wouldn't be surprised to see her hauling my couch down the street. In therapy, she blames me for the thefts. She doesn't steal from daddy because he doesn't leave stuff out. HE thinks I should lock my stuff up too.

Here's the thing- it's not impulse control. It not lack of cause and effect. Its not because she's hungry or needs something we are not providing. It's to "get" me. She actually told her therapist, "I know Mama is the one who loves me the most, so that's why I do it". Don't bother re-reading that looking for the logic, it's not there. It's RAD logic, push-pull on steroids sucking a crack pipe.

We quickly and uselessly moved through the usual. Natural consequences. Manufactured consequences. Room time. Restitution. LOTS of restitution. Banking money ahead of time. Moral discussions. Lectures. How-would- you- like- it conversations.

What is sorta- kinda working now is a combination of things. Manufactured Natural Consequences, like, "I'm sorry you can't go to your voice lesson today. You stole the money I was going to pay for it with". Hitting it heavy in therapy. Paying me back with chores. And traps. Cookie traps and money traps. I tell her I set out money for her to take and she resists stealing it, proving to us both that she can stop herself. High, super high structure with any free time being used for calming meditation. Since she has to be supervised, she has to go to bed early because no one can watch her. In my bizarro opposite world all this is actually easier than the usual day to day, and harder for her.

aghhhhhh gaatheusop BUUUPSTAPPPPPPHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
(that's me not reacting in the moment)

Oops! Almost forgot- If anyone has advice, suggestions, tips etc., for the love of Xanax,  puh-leaaaaase share!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Messy Musings

I'm getting older than I used to be. I realized I'm not just looking exhausted and stressed, but that what I see is my actual face now. Ugh.  (If anyone saw my new  FB cover pic, rest assured about the only thing still me in that pic is my head).

One of Genea's teachers is pregnant and going on leave. I'm planning a field trip for all the teachers in our area. We are going to march on down to the Walgreens and visit the family planning section. Maybe show a video. I'm not about to do a show and tell but if need be, I'll find someone. Probably a teenager. I love me some happily attached babies, but people need to be having them over the summer.

Thanks to Seraphinalina for alerting me that the full video of shopping cart has been released. Woot! Here it is in all its glory  Killer Karts  . While I hold bitter, resentful thoughts toward any stores that use quiet plastic carts instead of metal, I have to admit those plastic ones maneuver nicely. Smashing them is nowhere near the fun though.

This happened:






Her name is Bella





Poor Teena. She has wanted a calico kitten for ages. The Mama cat was in the same cage and when we took the baby out, she cried and reached her paws through the wire trying to grab her baby. Teena sobbed and begged to take them both home. We take Mother- Baby separation seriously around here. However, we did not take the Mama home.  Note that The Husband was NO HELP being practical and logical on the issue. This is my pathetic and unsuccessful effort to cheer her up.

 

Boo Boo does not like the kitten. He does not like anything. While the picture is adorable, when he eventually awoke and realized this invasion was happening he hopped up, hissed at her, and left. He then turned and gave me a look clearly meant to communicate abject betrayal.

Bindi, now Bindi loves the baby.

I  think everyone should have a kitten. There is nothing cuter! She loves to pull the drain plugs out of the sinks. Which is vile. But she's still cute. OMG SO MUCH CUTE!!!

 

Bindi continues to be kind of a bruiser. She loves Genea most and sneaks off into her bed all the time. She also loves gloves. Not sure what that's about, but she digs them out and carries them around the house while yelling. Unless a person comes along, then she's invisible. We call them her glove babies.

(took this picture in the fall!) No one knows how that glove got there. In fact, I'm not sure I even see a glove.


I had 5 inches of hair removed from my head. Has one single ingrate that I live with noticed? No. I posted a pic of Genea and I on facebook and four people, including two I've never met, commented on my hair. I just know if I put their clean goddam socks on my head, they'd notice.

AAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, I got a paying  job. Substitute paraprofessional at not-our schools. There can be any range of duties, its mostly 1:1 to 1:5 "aide" work with kids who need extra help. I'm finding a few issues with myself immediately that I need to work on. First, I have to stop paying attention to the teacher! I catch myself listening attentively as if I were the one being taught, LOL! The other is my inclination to therapize with the *ahem* challenging kids. I'm all like, "Are you feeling nervous because your regular para isn't here?". And, "lets do a firm  pressure massage on your arms to see if that helps you calm down". As much as I like to think I'm being intuitive and helpful, the job is to make sure the kids get their work done. Nobody cares what the kid is feeling, and it's someone elses job to figure it out. I'm there to make sure assignments get finished.

I have this idea for like a group post. I can't be the only one with dozens of half finished, or un-edited, or forgotten posts started. So my idea is we start posting them in all their half assed glory and link them up. Edit them, clarify them, leave them as is, whatever. I'm still thinking of a name for it, maybe Ghost Posts? Or Dead Post Society? LOL, leave a comment if you're interested. Or just leave a comment about other stuff.

WILL WORK FOR COMMENTS!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Her Story

In the dust of Genea's recent question, "why didn't they want me", I received an email about an upcoming webinar class by Heather Forbes, of Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control, called "Giving Your Children Their Story".

I am so totally doing it!

I'm guessing most adoptive parents struggle with giving information to their children. I know I certainly have! To gloss over Genea's story on clouds made of fairy wings would be wrong, but to bluntly tell the whole truth would be cruel. It's hard to use phrasing that never ever hints of anything being her fault, and to avoid projecting interpretation onto a birth mother whose story is unknown. There is so much to consider, and I'm sure many other people have the issue of multiple layers. We don't just have one abandonment, we have two, along with some bizarre situations.

Other issues lurk around too. It's her information and I don't necessarily feel like I have the right to hold any of it back. Yet, she's eleven and I would not expect her to understand trigonometry. I've read from adoptee's who say their story belongs to them alone, and many don't want their adoptive parents involved at all.

I cannot even describe how perfect this is for us right now. I just wrote the post "Black Holes and Revelations" last month (title take from an album by Muse btw) where I realized Genea has gaps in her memory. Not just of the actual events but of what we have told her so many times.

I've lifted these quotes directly from the Beyond Consequences website:

"Trauma is stored in fragments within the memory system".
YES IT SEEMS TO BE! When I was telling Genea a part of her life with the first adoptive parents, she got all excited, saying she had dreams about the event that scared her, but she didn't know why.

"Pieces of memory here and pieces of memory there can create confusion and conflict".
OH YEAH WE HAVE THAT! She often still confuses the story of her birth mother with the story of her first adoption.

"Help your child in the process of sorting through the reality and magical thinking".
YUP, THAT TOO! In the beginning, Genea put her previous adoptive parents on an airplane for a solid year, and whenever one flew overhead she jumped up and down hollering "there they are!".

So anyway! The webinar is on March 11th. I was surprised at how inexpensive the class is in the first place but there is currently a discount running that puts it at just $15.00 ( Seriously?). It's live, and interactive so people such as myself (ahem!) can ask questions. AND! Heather will remain online after the class to answer general parenting questions as well! Several years ago I hauled myself across the country twice to attend seminars with her and I can say both were highly valuable and helped me change a lot.

Class fees were waived in exchange for this post.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Black Holes and Revelations

On our way to therapy last week, Genea started telling me a lengthy story about Daddy's shirt. It's from Denver, and he got it a long time ago. And when she asked him about it, and he told her, she remembered another question she'd been meaning to ask.

"Why didn't that other family want me"?

Um.

"Do you remember what we've told you?"

No.

Whenever this has come up in the past, maybe a handful of times, we've always told her it was because the parents who adopted her first were getting a divorce. This is not exactly the truth, though that marriage had clearly been over for a while, and they did wind up divorcing a year later. Genea has been young enough, or oblivious enough, that the answer was enough. She accepted it with the idea that all three of them separated from each other. 

The truth as I know it is, she was too much for them. Her shrieking, that primal infant scream that they could not stop with any usual methods. They resorted to some unusual methods and the shrieking stopped, but there was nothing there then. They had no relationship, and felt like she hated them. She may have. She had stopped growing after a few months with them and developed a cortisol disorder similar to Addisons Syndrome. She also developed the bizarre ability to stop herself from making any sound while crying. Imagine a 3 year old who can do that. If I'd not seen it I would never had believed it.

In the therapists office, Genea pushed me for more information. "I don't know" was not going to cut it this time. I said "I can tell you what they told me, which was they thought they were bad parents and they didn't know how to help you. You were so sad all the time and they tried but they had some really bad ideas of what to try, and that made it worse". I asked her if that made sense, and she said sort of.

I explained some more, the things about her screaming and how they thought she was miserable. I made a point to tell her none of it was her fault. There is nothing a 4 year old can do to make parents do anything. The entire responsibility is on them. It was a hard conversation for many reasons, one being to describe her as she was then, without using any language to suggest anything was her fault.

When I asked her again if it was making sense, she again said "sort of". I realized she was waiting to hear a good reason. Something she could hang on to, to tell herself, oh so that's why. A reasonable explanation as to why the people who adopted her first didn't want her. Just throw a cement mixing truck at my head, I'll eventually catch on.

"If you're waiting to hear something logical, there isn't anything. If you're trying to understand what the good reason they had was, there isn't one. It was the wrong thing to do and they shouldn't have done it. What they did was bad for you, it hurt you".

And so she understood, in her 11 year old Genea way, that it was not going to made sense.  I'm certain it will all come up again and again, and I'm not sure why she doesn't remember. My suspicion is that she struggles so much daily just to hold the usual stuff together, that hard stuff gets pushed to the side and eventually forgotten.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What the what?

They say there is no such thing as a stupid question. I don't know who "they" is, but "they" are wrong. There are plenty of stupid questions. So. Many. Stupid. Questions!
 
We recently had a relative from not-my-side come out to visit. She had friends here who wanted to meet my family (really?). So off we went, through the blizzarding snow, to meet these friends of the Relative From Out Of Town. For the sake of expediency, we'll call her Root.
(you have to know how badly I wanted to make the acronym ROT, but it just seemed like too much).
 
Roots friends have a 2nd home here in Green Bay. One might think of that as an oddity worthy of its own show on TLC. After all, if I were to have a second home you can be guaranteed it would be more than a thousand miles from Wisconsin. Key West, or Hilton Head Island, New Orleans, NYC to name a few. But its actually something people do (freaky- deaky people, ahem). Buy a second home in Green Bay so you can use it for the 10 times the Packers play football at Lambeau Field. I'm serious. It's a thing!
 
Anyway, we went in and made introductions blah blah blah etc.  These people were loud. They responded to normal speech so I don't think it was a hearing issue. They were just super, eardrum- vibrating loud. So much that Teena kept her hands over her ears the whole time. But they were fun, sociable and pleasant. Until one of them made a comment, and it snowballed.

“Teena you look so much like your mom. I mean, I'm sitting here and I just met you, and gosh, you just look so much alike! Genea, how come you don’t look like them?"
Genea- “I’m adopted”
Loud people- “BWAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHA”
I explain, no, she really is adopted.
Root chimes in with, "she’s from ThuhyooCRANE!"
LP- “OH, are you a gymnast?”
 
(huh? what? a what???)
 
At this point I should explain that my brain was frantically firing neurons to come up with a logical explanation as to where this was going and why. Distressed little axons whipped about seeking clarity that would not come. So it was busy. (ps, I'm not sure what that means but I thought it sounded good).
 
Root- “NO, but all my friends think she looks JUST LIKE Nadia Comaneci”!!!!
 
Nadia


 
 
 
The Husband says- “Nadia is Romanian
 
 
 
 
 
 
 









This here is Genea. From ThuhyoooCRANE.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 





 
Later I thought, perhaps they were thinking of Oksana Baiul who is Ukrainian. And a figure skater.
 
 
 
 
 
At any rate, I am so completely bewildered I have lost the ability to speak

I shit you not. The conversation then extends to all the people everyone ever knew who was adopted.
One of the LP's asked Genea, "do you know other orphans from ThuhyooCRANE? My neighbor has a daughter from Korea and she knows another little girl from Korea too!".

Someone asks about travelling to ThuhyooCRANE in the future.
Root answers. Why would ROOT answer? Just the fact gave my sad little misfiring neurons a toilet swirly. Let alone the words that followed.
 
 “WE are going to take her there when she is 18. WE want her to be old enough to appreciate it. We are definitely going, and it will be a big trip for us. We just want her to be old enough to understand what's happening. But WE will take her there when she's 18.” 

The stink eye I sent her the first time progressed to the evil eye, then to a full on WTF face.
My head exploded. WE are not going ANYWHERE!!!!! When and if Genea's parents decide it is a stable time in her emotional and cognitive development, and if she wants to, her PARENTS will take her. In fact, her father and I have discussed 15 or 16. There will be MONTHS of counseling involved before and after.  At 18 she can take herself if she wants! However, I managed to let the comments gooooo, let it gooooo, let it GOOOOOO. Why? I have an unfortunate history with Root wherein she says stupid shit, and I call it out and make her take it back. Apparently in some circles this is not as appreciated as it should be. So I try.
 
But there’s more.

LP “Genea, you are SO LUCKY to be adopted!”
Me- ACK! ACK! ACK!
That's the point where I almost let loose with a little crazy of my own. Possibly they sensed it, because it was quickly expanded to "you're so lucky you have them for parents- Teena too!"

Seriously, I didn't realize before how fortunate we are that we’ve never been around people like that before.  I’ve always heard stories of stuff like this happening, but this was my first experience with hard core dumbasses. Obviously, us all being Caucasians means we rarely get a second glance and that's probably a big part of it. At least nobody asked her WHY her real mother didn’t want her (although I’d bet a tray of cheese curds they were all trying to think of a way to bring it up).
 
 
The stupid. It hurts.
 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Ye Olde Crusty Post- Mimimize Holiday Meltdowns!

I've put this up a couple times before, but I like it. So I'm posting it again!

The holidays are too much for many of our kids. Though it seems to us regular adults from regular childhoods that this should be the most wonderful time of year, for a kid who struggles getting though a normal day, getting through a series of high-expectation days with multiple events is stressful.

I have learned a few things over the years about managing the holidays with a child who has Reactive Attachment Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and DSM-NOS. Things which have worked to help Genea remain on the planet during times of stress, and I thought I would pass them on. I'm not an expert and I don't even play one on TV.

With holidays and school breaks, kids easily go haywire and stay off track for weeks, even months. Most childcare professionals will verify- kids who are sensitive often destabilize this time of year. In other words, they blow their shit.


First and foremost, be mindful that your RADish will probably struggle. Work from a position that expects problems and makes the effort to contain them before the fallout. Anticipate. Think to previous years and plan. Understand what is causing the blowouts and why.

RADishes do not like change!
My RADish (affectionate term for a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder) does not like change. She has every day scheduled to be exactly the same as yesterday. It might seem as if a  holiday like Thanksgiving where my little food hoarder/sneaker can eat all she wants would be a positive. However, the overriding feeling will be anxiety due to change in schedules, locations, people and rules.

But.. but... but... it's Christmas! She's getting presents! How could she flip out about that? That was my question until I realized, it's because of the changes. All change- even good change- is bad.

When things are predictable, she feels safe. Even though she knows it's Christmas, maybe she didn't realize that meant her regularly scheduled breakfast would be at 7:05 instead of 7:00 and there would be a parade to watch on tv instead of her usual cartoon. A typical kid wouldn't think twice about it but for the child with RAD, one change means everything could change and that is dangerous.

Anxiety always comes out.

When your child starts up with provoking behavior, constant demands and does bizarre things it may mean she is feeling unsure and unsafe.

So what do you do? You talk it through at every opportunity. I would describe every single thing I could think of to Genea ahead of time. We are going to Grandma's house. We are taking my car and leaving our house at 12:00. It will be a long car ride and I want you to bring a few books. We will try to drive straight there without stopping. When we get to Grandma's, remember her 2 dogs will bark at you at first. We will not eat right away, it will be about 2 hours after we get there but she always has snacks out for you right? She's having ham and those mashed potatoes you love (and sweet mother of tequila, those potatoes better be there) for dinner. These are the people who are coming.

But wait! Do not tell her too far ahead of time because then she will freak out anticipating the day of changes. For Genea, usually the night before a big event is good. Sometimes, the day of. Seriously, rarely more notice than that. Where you have anticipatory anxiety you have your meltdown. Simple.

The other thing that helps is to tell her you know what is happening and why. You know change is hard for her and makes her feel nervous. It is hard! But you will be there to help her, and you've always kept her safe.

Do what you have to do to keep the chances for failure at a minimum.

My child could not control her urine when stressed. Even though she was 7 and fully capable, unfortunately her continence was always one of the first things to go. We used protective garments at the homes of other people. If Genea doesn't need the back up, she doesn't need it but if she does it will not ruin the whole day, her clothes, or the furniture of others.

Know your child's signs of stress and look for them.

Genea can look perfectly calm, even happy, on the outside. I know she is feeling anxious because her pupils dilate. That may well be the only sign at all that she is internally dysregulated. And where does all that go if left to fester? After all, she looks good on the outside, why not take that for the truth? Here is why: because the meltdown is coming- it never just fades away. Maybe not at Grandma's for Christmas, but the next day? The next 7 unstructured days at home without school? Oh yeah, you will feel it!

Check in with your child often with physical contact.

I am always amazed when I casually hug Genea and I can feel her heart thumping like the drummer from a death metal band has moved into her chest cavity. Another cue she is feeling stress! I make her sit  next to me and I firmly hold her. Not forcefully, but as the adult in charge. We might discreetly work on breathing or counting. I will have her place her hand on her chest to feel her heart beat and work on slowing it down (I call that biofeedback for the poor, lol). I'll slowly "draw" the infinity symbol on her back, purposefully crossing the medial line to engage both sides of the brain.

We might escape to a bedroom and close the door and do some strong sitting in quiet.  We can do quick brain shifts or some academics. I might ask her to spell "frog" or use the math trick. The answer doesn't matter in the slightest- it will shift the brain out of panic and fear and away from fight/ flight/ freeze. Other ideas- ask her favorite color, favorite tv show, etc. Think of it as driving a car with a manual transmission (good God, why do those things still exist). If the car is in 1st gear going 45 miles an hour you are going to wind up with a messed up car. You have to shift to bring it into safety.

Other things that have helped Genea and I survive:
  • Keep visits to other homes short. Short.  Short as you can.
  • Plate your child's food for her. A buffet style or family style meal is going to overwhelm and freak out your little loved one.
  • Keep as many rules from home as possible. Example- we have a rule that you have to try everything on your plate with one bite, then you can decide not to eat it. Awkward and annoying to keep that rule at another persons home, but rules are reminders that someone is in charge and the child is safe.
  • Try not to "let it go because it is a holiday". I have wound up with 2 ungrateful, overstimulated brats on many occasions thinking I was giving the gift of fun and freedom from structure.
Get over the idea that this is your holiday too and you should be able to have some fun. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. Yes this will all be a lot of work. No, it probably isn't fair.

What about pushy relatives?

Those that are sure your RADish needs a fistful of crackers and you are just being too strict, you know them? They spend half the holiday trying to convince you that you are too hard on the child, you need to loosen up. Or the other where your child runs off totally out of control and just needs a good spanking. I have two lines that I have found will stop all opinions, second guessing, and unwanted "help".

1. Say this with your head tilted to the side and try to look tragic.

"You know, she will just never be totally sure that we won't abandon her too. No matter how long it has been she still doesn't quite fully believe we will always bring her home. Our rules may seem odd but she functions so much better with them".

Without fail, the "helpful" relative will make sad clucking noises, look off into the distance, and wander away. I think the it helps kick open the door that reminds people, we are not working from a regular box of chocolates here. Half the box isn't even candy.

2. Looking helpless or a little doubtful, shift the focus (blame) off of yourself.

"Mmmm hmmmm, her therapist (insert whatever professional you want) says we have to 'blank' for her to get better. You know, after all she's been through".

Around my relatives that will move immediately into a discussion about this feelings crap in society now-a-days, psychiatrists are nothing but drug pushers and the Big Pharmaceutical Companies are running the world.  And then the subject of medical malpractice with both a malpractice attorney and a medical doctor in the house. Before the beer bottles actually start flying, get out of the way because no one cares about you anymore. (though, hmm, that might  just be my family).

I realize the above ideas may turn folks off completely. Do what works for you. This is what has worked for me. 

Now, on to gifts!

Around here, my kids get a lot of gifts. What a problem, right? No, it's not something I complain about. However with my children, too many new things at one time overwhelms them. Then they wind up playing with the box or an old cat toy from way under the couch. Spread it out.

We will do our family gifts 3 days before Christmas. No one has ever been arrested for opening gifts early. Winter Break from school starts five full days before the actual holiday this year- that's a long time and I'm sitting on a pile of new toys? Gifts mailed out from relatives get opened two days before. That will give the kids most of the next day to play with their new stuff.

I know many people feel they should be teaching their children delayed gratification. That kids should darn good and well learn to wait and they'll be better people for it. That is totally valid, and I get it. It's true. My thinking though, is that my daughter spent the first year and a half of her life in abject neglect. She was forced into a life where delayed gratification was the standard. Only it wasn't a new my- little- pony doll, it was food that was insubstantial. Hugs that never happened. Non existent stimulation. She knows too well what delayed gratification is because it damaged her brain and torpedoed her development.



Anyway, like I said, these are the things that have worked for us. You may have already tried every single thing on the list and none of it worked. For me, it's about maximizing the fun and helping my RADish be successful. We will absolutely still have fallout, but if we try to work at the problems ahead of time and have a plan for the other stuff, it helps.

I actually wrote this a few years back, but to this day we still do most of the same things. I've updated it and added a little. Of course Genea is older now and able to respond better so that helps.  

So, opinions? Suggestions? What has worked for you and your family that is not typical? Fill me in, I will take all the help I can get!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Zero Dark Always

I've worked with many children who suffered from the "trophy for showing up" trend, and the "criticize the action not the child" movement (prisons are full of people who believe they are disconnected from their actions!). For them to have come to me at my former job in the first place meant they had severe problems getting through each day. But as we worked through the issues and would have success,  one specific blockade was awfully durable.

The kids felt, almost universally, they deserved fireworks and a Mardi Gras parade for showing an effort. Never mind what they were capable of, and for sure never mind what the rest of the day looked like. We could have a school suspension, been picked up by police- intoxicated, and said child expected a parade because when she came home she hung up her coat. Even though it should go in the closet and she hung it on a doorknob, because she remembered to bring it home and didn't throw it on the floor.

It was near impossible to get through to the kids what a minimum day should look like. That hanging up your coat is a basic expectation that should be done right, every time, without anyone telling you to do it. That hanging your coat does not erase the alcohol you stole. Hanging your coat does not even erase your snotty attitude. It is basic. It is a "zero".

Eventually I came up with the idea for a list I called Zero Dark Always. It uses a range of numbers from [-5] to [ +5] to describe what's expected, what could turn a good day bad, and what really would deserve a parade.

When Genea came to me last week genuinely confused why she was restricted from fun until a specific chore was done, I tried out a Zero Dark Always list. She said, "I do everything you tell me and I'm still grounded". The job was to wash the windows. Her attitude was so nasty and the job so half arsed, I really could not believe she didn't get it. She had ripped down a curtain at one window, breaking the rod. She had "fallen" down the stairs, actually hurting and bruising herself, to get out of it (didn't work, I knew she had done it deliberately and she admitted it later). She "accidentally" yanked a large set of heavy wooden blinds out of the wall. It bonked her in the face, making for another injury (still insists that one was real- I'm guessing the injury was not intentional but yanking down the blinds was). Screamed, cried and banged things around the entire time. About 1/2 the windows were worked on and of those, the job was 1/4 complete. 

So what was my problem? She had shown up! And all those problems were from her actions, not her!

Anyway, here's what I wrote up for her.

{+5} great manners and attitude, helps w/o being asked, occupies self, pleasant/fun to be with, using calming before it's needed, gets everything done right away, needs no reminders
{+4} Good manners, keeps self busy, accepts changes, uses calming when annoyed
{+3} flexible, pleasant, helps out, extra music practice,
{+2} Calms with reminders, asks to help, positive attitude and voice
{+1} is quiet/not disruptive, accepts "no" the first time, dry bed, uses calming without complaining, respectful to everyone

"ZERO" : pick up your things, take care of all pea, polite, honest, no tantrums, listen the first time.
Does: chores, homework, music practice, hygiene and dressing. May need 1 reminder for 1 task.

{-1} complains, in others' business, does most of chores, needs 2 or more reminders for daily routine, fake crying, cooperates with calming after tantrum. Any issues with the cats.
{-2} whiny/short tantrums, uses mean voice, rude, noisy, corrects adults
{-3} nasty to others, stomps around, bangs things, ignores "no", ignores reminders, completes 1/2 or less of routine, resists calming
{-4} yelling, screaming, refusing to use calming
{-5} full volume crying/screaming, shrieking, hitting, destroys things, hurts self or others

So the point is not to push [+5] days every day. I expect a [+5] to come around about as often as a [-5]. Which is to say, almost never. If there are all [+5]'s, that could very well indicate something else was going on (like she ate all your candy bars and is hoping you won't notice. Just for example). The ideal mix would be zero to [+2], with a few [-1] or [ -2]'s here and there, because no one is perfect.  Usually I would build in more room for reminders but with Genea, relentless unnecessary questions and confirmations are part of her issue. Everything is written down for her in detail and posted on the wall. Yes, it looks like a group home in here sometimes.

I haven't tried this with Genea before I guess because I thought she was too young to get it. And I have to say, had my own mother given me list like this I would have blown a gasket in 3 different languages. It should probably come from someone else, a therapist or teacher maybe. I did it for Genea because she asked. Obviously this one is specific to her.

But with the teenagers, after about a month they would be consistently over +2. Naturally they played it at first, and usually hovered at -1 or -2 in the beginning. The message had to be strong and unwavering, showing up is not enough. Usually, when they "got it", they got it good and would actually strive for higher numbers which was weird because that was not the goal at all.

I think, this is my opinion only, that most kids know smoke is being blown up their butts when people praise them for nothing. But as kids, they accept it and become complacent. It's easier to make half an effort and then go off for something more fun or to their own interest. They've known all along it was wrong, and felt disdain for the meaningless awards. It only builds an empty and dissonant confidence, and it makes for a far greater fall when the truth roars up.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Middle School Perils

I'd be happy to report this was a normal "freak out" if in fact it was not me "freaking out". And if I was happy about it.

I should be more descriptive. It's less of a peril and more a landmine positioned on top of quicksand. In space.

Hints have been wafting through the fetid air of my house for weeks. I'd chosen to save my sanity by ignoring all of it. I've learned a lot of calming techniques over the past several years. Change my focus. Breathe. Do math in my head. Tap-tap-tap. The hints kept coming and I tapped harder, focused on bigger unicorns, exhaled the entire tidal volume of my lungs and attempted the Fibonacci sequence (I can do double digits now!).

There is a dance this week. At the middle school. Where my daughter attends! I sort of feel like I just announced they found snakes in the toilets or a sniper on the roof. Or both. How are you going to tell me my 4 year old is going to a school dance (in my head she's still 4- see that cute pic on the right sidebar? That's her, forever) that will have booooooooooys! Boys who might want to daaaaaaaaaaaance! WITH GENEA!

Because lemme tell ya, no hormone addled mini perv is going near my daughter. I'm not the kind of parent who wants to be friends with her kids friends. I want them to fear the sound of my footsteps in case a foot slips and lands where the sun don't shine. I want them to stutter when they speak to me. I want visible shaking. Because your limited life experience means you cannot even imagine what I will do to you if you touch my little girl. And it will hurt.

A few weeks ago, Genea came to me- very serious- to ask how she would know if she 'like' liked a boy, and how she would know if he 'like' liked her back. I covered my stomach with a pillow to hide the sudden onset abdominal convulsions and pinned my face with binder clips to reflect calm curiosity. My brain was screaming- get those thoughts out of your head right now little girl you are only four! Fortunately the screaming stayed in there and didn't fall out, so I asked her for details.

What passes for interaction these days slays me. This boy has an ipad, and doesn't let anyone watch him play on it except for her. Aaaaaaand, she thinks he is cute. ACKKKKKK!

Being only 4 years old, Genea had already jumped to wanting to ask him on a date.

HELLNO!

Okay, see honey, you're skipping a few steps there. What do you know about him (#anyfelonies)? What does he like (#betterhavenetnannyonthatipad) to do? What makes you think he might like you (#checkthesexoffenderlist)? What's his full name and address, parents names and occupations (#backgroundchecksforeverbody!)?

I get that this is the goal and I should be proud of Genea (I am). This is what moms are told to do- lay the groundwork when they're little so when big things start coming up kids come to us with them. I just think the theory is a much better thing as a theory. One I'd still be working towards. Sigh.

At any rate, thankfully Electronica Boy moved with just a few days notice and *poof* the issue is gone. I won't get that lucky again. And now this dance is coming.

*****

I'd like to interrupt myself with an elevator pitch. I was sent this super cute spa bag by simply bridal  to review. I answered the original email by saying, my blog is about adoption and most of the people who read are already married! She wrote back- I know but check out our gifts! And sure enough! This is the cute spa bag:

(there's a way nicer pic on the link with all the different colors)


It holds full size bottles and such. For me though, it works awesome for my daily stuff of distraction. I was kind of surprised at how much fit in there. My tablet, day planner, knitting project with 2 skeins of yarn, water bottle, sunglasses, notepad and some pretzels.  Anyway, it's really well constructed, super cute and can be monogrammed. The best thing though is the fabric can be easily wiped clean. UNLIKE my other travel- stuff bag which has a multitude of messy reminders all over it.

*****



So anyway. The dance is this week after school. It's even in the afternoon. I'm letting her go with a friend despite my reluctance. She's actually 11 years old. That's young, I think, for a boy-girl dance. But all the kids are in that range and if I can remember that far back, mostly there's a lot of ignoring and giggling going on between genders. It's a costume dance. I'm thinking she can be duct tape- which I'll apply. With precision.

Have I mentioned she's learning the saxophone? It's big and it's heavy. I gotta teach her how to swing that thing.

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