Disney Cruise! OMG – NOT!

Another RAD mom and I sat around discussing taking  Disney cruise full of RAD kids and parents.  Seemed like everywhere we went on Facebook, Twitter, etc, parents were posting pictures of their “awesome” vacations with their kids.  For us, a successful trip to the grocery store without any meltdowns, bloodshed, broken or stolen items is worthy of front page news.  We imagined our kids on a Disney cruise…. the crew tied up and locked in the engine room, Mickey Mouse with his ears torn off, Goofy being beaten with Mickey’s ears, the engine room overrun by our kids…. and as we first walked on the ship, everyone was  saying how cute and sweet our kids were….   Yeah, no Disney cruises here, for the sake of, well, Mickey and the crew.

Sometimes – more than sometimes, FREQUENTLY – it’s hard not to be jealous of all the things other parents get to do with their kids.  Disney cruises, zip lines, helicopter rides, Disneyworld… all the fun stuff we imagined doing with our kids when we were young and dreamed of having kids.  That is our loss, and it is a loss, and we do have a right to grieve that loss.  Let me repeat that.  It is ok to grieve the loss of what should have been, or what you wanted your family to be.  It is also ok to mourn that loss for your kids, even if they don’t know what they are missing out on, you know.  You know an unstructured environment, or an entire staff of unwitting strangers ready to be charmed into giving them candy while they are being robbed by our little pickpockets, is a disaster in the making, and so, we avoid it.  We can mourn that loss, we can hurt for that loss….. but just like with any loss, we must go through the different stages, and move on.  The process repeats itself, it’s not a one time deal, but we must always keep working to move through the process so that we can accept what we have and where we are and find enjoyment in the life we have.

I truly believe we have a higher calling.  Whether we entered this path by naivete or by choice, this is the path we are on and we are chosen now.  We are the chosen ones, just like our kids.  Our calling is not Disney and ice cream, but rages and psych holds.  Ours is not an easy life, ours is not a kid friendly life.  But our impact on the life of a child will affect that life forever, even if we don’t see it.  We are changing hearts.  We are breaking down walls.  We don’t have to see the results to know that we are accomplishing an amazing feat.  There are so few in the world that can do what we do, that can survive what we have survived.

Anybody can do Mickey Mouse.  But you are taming the Hulk.

-realmom

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You can’t put yourself last. Period.

Growing up, we are taught that to be good parents we must put ourselves last all the time.  As parents, we feel the need to put ourselves last, and daily we can see the crushing results of parents who put themselves first and their children last – neglect, abuse, etc.  But in the case of raising special needs/attachment issues/mental health issue children…. we need to put ourselves much higher on the list.  First, in many instances.

Much is required of us as parents in these special circumstances.  Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, we are sucked dry by our children, our friends, our extended family, with very little to fill us up again.  I compare it to trying to drive your car to the gas station or the emergency room or the beach when it’s on empty.  You can’t get it to go when there’s no fuel, no matter where you need it to go or how important the trip is.  There’s just nothing left to fuel the engine.  The same is true with us.  We can’t let ourselves run out of fuel.  Then we have nothing left to give our children, our spouse, even ourselves.

Although it may go against the grain, it may feel selfish, put yourself high on the list.  Take care of your needs.  Eat well, don’t skip meals or eat a lot of junk food in place of a meal – your body needs fuel.  Get sleep – even if it means checking into a hotel by yourself or with your spouse sometimes and leaving the kids with a caregiver so you can get a full night’s sleep.  The floor doesn’t need to be swept or the dishes don’t need to be done if you need a nap.  Get out with some friends – have a cup of coffee, or dessert.  Take some time for yourself.  The problems will still be there when you get home.  The stress will still be there when you get home.  Nothing will have changed – except you.  You will be lighter.  You will be refreshed.  You will have a higher tolerance level for “the crap”.  You will have more patience.

Second in line behind you is your spouse.  Many, many marriages are destroyed with special needs kids.  Work together, spend time together, just the two of you.  Get away from the stress and worry at home, and focus on having some fun.  Make some rules for this time:  Do not talk about the kids, money, or anything that stresses you out.  Have fun.  Play games, go hiking, go for a walk, go to a spa, get a couples’ massage, get intimate, whatever, but spend time together.

You can do this.  This is not a sprint, but a marathon, actually more like a triathalon.  Fuel yourself, your mind, body, soul, and partner, so that you can give to your children and help them heal.  You got this!

-realmom

One size does not fit all

Somewhere along the line manufacturers got lazy and started making things in the size “OSFA”.  One size fits all.  Well, not really….if you’re short, it’s too long, if you’re tall, it’s too short, if you’re skinny, it’s too baggy, if you’re chubby, it’s too tight… and so on.

The same applies with the healing and treatment options for our traumatized children.  One method does not fit all.  One method may not fit a child at all but a mixture of this method, and that method, and little bit of this mixed in there, and a little bit of your own creation might very well work.  If someone tells you they have “the” answer, run.

Don’t be discouraged if you try Method A that’s so highly talked about and it simply doesn’t work at all with your kid.  Everybody’s different.  It doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent and it doesn’t mean you did it wrong, and it doesn’t mean your kid is permanently broken.  One size does not fit all.  After trying it for a reasonable time period, try Method B.  Hopefully you’ll be doing this with the support of qualified, trained professionals who can tell you what a reasonable time period is for a particular method, but in a lot of  cases we don’t.  Remember, you know your kid best.  Yes, you will make mistakes.  You are human, after all.  And that’s ok.  Just do your best. Keep a journal, keep a record, of things that seemed to help some, things that backfired miserably, and eventually you’ll find a mixture of things that when mixed together will help your child make progress.

In this crazy path, YOU are the expert on your kid.  You may not know all the answers (spoiler alert: neither do the therapists) but you’re doing the best you can to help your child.  Keep plugging away.  Whether your child completely heals, makes some progress, or doesn’t seem to make any progress at all over the years, you HAVE made a huge difference in their lives.  You may not see the outcome yet, but you have changed their lives for the better.

Perfect Parents

You know who they are… because they are either people you know, that are constantly telling you how “they” raise their kids, and how you “should” raise yours.  They’re the ones posting or writing on blogs on how so many people – usually parents of challenging children – are just bad parents and the kids are fine.  Or they might be at your school, a teacher, an aide, even a counselor, telling you how your little angel is so well behaved and his/her behavior at home must mean that YOU are doing something wrong.

Yeah, you know who I’m talking about.  I bet your blood pressure just hit the roof thinking of those people.

Let’s examine the perfect parents in the world.  No, really.  Jesus – no, wait, he wasn’t a parent.  At least that’s the general consensus.  Ok then, Mother Theresa, oh WAIT, she wasn’t either…. Ok Ghandi, he’s a good man, right?  Ummm…. but he’s been vocal about the parenting mistakes he’s made over the years…. so let’s see…   ummmm…..   (crickets)

Yeah.  The three greatest, most giving people I can think of, anyway, the most perfect people I can imagine, and 2 of them weren’t parents, and the other admitted many mistakes and was definitely not perfect.  And the rest of us, or the majority of us, who are we compared to the likes of them?  We’re just regular people, not only are we not in the same league… we’re not on the same planet.  We can’t compete, so to speak.  That INCLUDES all those Perfect Parents who just know EVERYTHING and have to share it with you and the world.

Keep that in mind as they wear you down, making you feel one inch tall because you aren’t up to “their” standards.  They are so arrogant that they are putting themselves above some of the greatest people in history.  Dang.  That’s some huge cajones, there, by golly.

You are allowed to smirk at them.  You are allowed to laugh in their face.  You are allowed to be snarky.  Why not?  After all, they are inserting themselves into your private business, without asking, without getting your permission to pry into the lives of your children… so go ahead, snark away.  “I’m so glad to be in the presence of someone greater than Jesus!”  “Wow, Ghandi could learn SO MUCH from you!”  “Why are you not famous?  You should write a book.  I mean, you have all the answers!”

The thing about special needs parents, whether the special need is physical, emotional, mental, whatever, is we are so quiet and sweet when idiots get all up into our business.  Smile and wave, move along.  I’m tired of it.  Where in the book does it say we have to put up with other people’s crap all the time, when we have enough crap we deal with on a day to day basis?  So… go ahead, bring on your snark.  Call on your inner smartass.  Let out your bitch.  Whatever.  Enjoy yourself.  And maybe they’ll think twice next time.  Or not.

-realmom

STFU

A new therapist recently told a teenage RAD that when she gets upset, to “zip it, count to 10, and to go her room.”  After 7 years of therapy, this new therapist thought all the raging and destruction and pain and damage caused by this girl could be immediately ended with these 3 little steps?  The mom of this child was in shock that she’d just paid $200/hr for that kind of answer.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

When she posted it on the forums, we all had a good laugh over the naivete of the therapist.  Maybe McDonalds was hiring…  The more I looked at the list, though, the more I liked it.  For me.  My first thought when my kid pushes my buttons, or does something he knows perfectly well will either drive me crazy or piss me off, just because he can and he likes the family in chaos, is for me to start flapping my jaws at him.  But I need to think before I speak.  He’s done these things for a reason – they are thought out – and so must any words I speak.  But my emotion/irritation/anger gets in the way and I blurt out stupid stuff which doesn’t help and feeds his addiction to chaos.  So my first thought needs to be:  zip it.  Don’t say a word until you’ve thought through things.  Count to 10… get rid of the anger/irritation before speaking.  This is therapeutic parenting.  We have to be mindful of what we say.  And of course I like the last part, in theory, anyway, if I can’t zip it and I can’t get control of my emotions, just go to my room!  Wouldn’t that be great? LOL  Ok, maybe I’ll just go in the kitchen and grab some chocolate.  There is no rulebook here and nothing says the issue has to be addressed and finished right then.  Old-time parenting says that… but this is not old time parenting.  Maybe all you say is, “Clean it up” at that moment, and you deal with the rest later when you’ve calmed down.  That’s ok.

Although the therapist was very serious when she told this teen this, and although its’ really stupid advice for a RAD who is not in their “higher brain/thinking brain” in the midst of a rage, maybe it’ll work for me.  Hey, it’s worth a try, anyway!  Who’s with me?  (and if it doesn’t work, well, there’s always chocolate!)

-realmom

We are not on “Lost”

I almost entitled this “The Day I Made Complete Strangers Cry”.  But I wanted to show the ending of the story, not the beginning.  At the end of this I will copy what I posted in that made complete strangers cry and reach out to support me.  And it made a huge difference to me.

Some of my kids are special needs, medical special needs.  We thought we were through all the scary stuff and have been coasting for a few years or more, thinking we were doing great and it all went to the background of our minds.  We were dealing with behavioral issues, attachment issues, adoption issues (although he too, is adopted), school issues, sibling issues, and all that fun stuff.  Then BAM we’re hit in the face with some medical stuff that at first was just troubling, then began to get worse, and now has us running around getting tons of medical tests, but the main contenders would mean my little guy would be blind, or have a rare genetic disorder that is terminal, or leave him in a body that doesn’t move, or he has two separate things going on and has more than one of those!  It set me in a tailspin.  It brought on my PTSD from way back when he was a baby (he’s 12) and his major medical issues were an issue.  I was a mess.  Really a mess.  In my mind I knew it was PTSD and I was overreacting, because we don’t know anything, yet, and it could be something correctible and he could live a long healthy life.  But my emotions were all over the place.  But these women, only a few of whom I actually know, came to my rescue, calling me, texting me, posting, supporting me.  The forum we talk on has nothing to do with medical issues or anything to do with that particular son.  Didn’t matter, they all supported me.  I wasn’t alone.  I was being held up by a group of sisters, my “tribe”, and I am not alone.  I am not an island.  I am not on the tv show “Lost”!

Thanks to my tribe for being there for me.  That is what support does for you.  That is why we need it in these trenches.

Here’s part of what I posted:

I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach. This kid, this loving, empathetic, sweet kid, doesn’t deserve more crap to fight. So far – without a specific diagnosis – the worst case scenarios are – terminal illness… illness where his symptoms get worse and worse and he ends up unable to move… or he has 2 different things going on, one of them being – he’s going blind on TOP of the other medical stuff going on if it’s not related. Gah. Spent a lot of time crying yesterday and not letting him see. He’s a little oblivious so he doesn’t know, which is good. When he was about 8 months old, I held him in my arms and watched him struggle, unable to breathe, for over 8 minutes, his eyes begging me to fix it, til the paramedics got there. CPR didn’t work. None of us knew at that time both lungs had collapsed. In the ambulance his heart stopped, so when he arrived at the hospital he was dead but they kept working on him anyway, were able to drain the air out of his chest so his lungs would reinflate and then got his heart going. Then I got to see him. It was my child’s body, but “he” wasn’t in there. They said he wouldn’t survive the night, and if he did he would basically be a vegetable. I held his hands and kissed his face and told him mommy and daddy would be ok, that if he couldn’t come back and be Z then it was ok for him to go be with Jesus, and we would see him real soon. I let him go once, and he was miraculously (even the doctors were amazed, literally calling it a miracle, when he woke up the next day a true miracle, because he’d had extensive heart damage and it had disappeared over night! and there was no brain damage from lack of oxygen that long – well over 15 minutes) and he was chattering away, like nothing had happened to him. My little boy came back to me. I don’t think I can do that again. PTSD much??? Maybe that’s why I’m freaking out more than I would normally be….

-realmom

The hole in your child’s heart

Situation: Your child tells you stories about how wonderful his life was with his biological parents, all the fun they had, the places they went, how much they loved him.

Reality: Uhhh…. NOT!

There will always be a hole in the heart of adoptees. It can never be completely filled.

Some of the hole is “why”:  Why was I given up?  Why couldn’t they take care of me?  Why did they leave me?  Why wasn’t I good enough?  Was there something wrong with me?  Was I bad?

Some of the hole is “what”: What is my history? What nationality am I?  What religion were my folks? What were family traditions?  What happened to my birth parents?  What were the circumstances around giving me up?

Some of the hole “desire”:  This innate, unconscious desire to be connected with birth family.  It may be illogical, it may even go against memories that the child holds of the birth family, knowing it was a horrible situation – but the desire is still there.

All adoptees have this hole, in some it’s bigger, in some it’s smaller, but no matter how good or happy the circumstances of adoption, no matter how good or healthy the in utero days were, that hole still exists. Acknowledging those feelings and letting the child have those feelings is very important, critical, in fact, to having a healthy, well adjusted child.  Helping them know the truth as you know it early on (age appropriate) is also very important, because if they don’t have “why” they fill it up with fantasy, outlandish fantasy, which is hard to erase as it becomes their reality and their truth.

Your truth is this: you will never be able to fill that hole.  That is not your failure as an adoptive mom, it is just one of those losses of adoption.

Let me get personal here.  I am 50 yrs old and I still have that hole. Does it bother me in daily life? No. But it is always there. And I know, I’ve always felt, that my birth mother loved me before I was born and that she did not give me up because she was selfish but because she wanted me to have a life she couldn’t give me, as a young teen, not even out of high school, in the 1960s, where girls were shunned. Yet, the hole is still there. I have no idea why.  My brother and sister, older than me – same adoptive parents, same parenting fails and wins growing up, adopted at 1 and 3 days old, have a much bigger hole than I do.  Personality?  Genetics?  I don’t know why.  Their holes led them to addiction and self-destructive behavior.  There’s no rhyme or reason to it that we can see.  Of course with the 3 of us we have no idea what our biological parents’ personalities, genetics, etc were, or what the in utero experience was for each of us, and that certainly played a role.  Quite likely you don’t know for your adoptive children as well.

Bottom line is:  that hole exists and it’s not your fault, nor is it your failure that it exists and always will exist to some extent.  Do your best to meet the needs of your child in filling up that hole, but that lack of information may be something they have to learn to live with, and they need to fill up as much of that hole as they can with themselves.  It doesn’t matter who their parents were, it matters who THEY are.  It doesn’t matter what nationality their parents were, who do they want to be?  That doesn’t mean ignore the hole, but guide them in filling up  that hole with themselves as much as possible, to the best of your ability, in seeing that what really matters is THEM.

-realmom

Let It Go

A series of questions have been asked over and over in the forums, probably for all time.  “How do I stop worrying about the future of my child, he’s only 4?”  “How do I forget that my child just tried to scratch my eyes out when 2 minutes later he comes to me for a hug?”  “How do I move on after a 2 hour rage by my teen, when he walks in the room 10 minutes later as if nothing has happened?”

I’m the kind of person who can forgive, but I never forget. (Just ask my husband, LOL.)  But when it comes to these issues that happen constantly, I felt like I was literally losing my mind.  The only thing I could do, outside of turning to hard alcohol or running away from my life, was to simply Let.It.All.Go.  I had to “forget” as well as forgive.  I had to stop worrying about 10 years down the road, and work on the “right now” with my child.  Worrying about the future wasn’t going to change it, it was only hurting me and my health, and severely limiting my ability to help my child and family.  Keeping those things my child had done to hurt me bottled up inside was building up into a nuclear reaction type of explosion.  I simply couldn’t hold onto those things and my sanity, or any sense of being a good human being.  I had to let them go.  It sounds easy, but oh, it is not.  Mine came out of pure self survival, but I work hard at continuing that, so when the child comes for a hug and it is a true moment of connectedness, I can be there, in the moment, with love.  I’m not always successful, don’t get me wrong.  But I try my best, that’s all I can do.

Whether your gig is mediation, prayer, a long hot shower, aromatherapy, losing yourself for 30 minutes in a stupid tv comedy, or running on that treadmill like the devil himself is chasing you, look at cute cat pictures on Facebook, funny animal videos on Youtube, dance around your house like a maniac to 80s songs singing at the top of your lungs, whatever it is, find your thing and do it.   Get rid of the negativity, the feelings, and just let go.  Because this thing, or this series of things, is small in the big picture of the life and future of this child.  There is so much more at stake here than pee on a carpet or a broken window or a smashed figurine.  That doesn’t mean there’s not consequences for behavior, or ignore the behavior, I just mean don’t hold it inside of you where it can fester and rot.  Deal with it, and let it go, and move on.  Same goes for worry, is the thought something that you need to attend to right now?  Maybe you need to read a book about that topic, or talk to the therapist.  But if it’s a general worry – acknowledge it, and let it go, and move on.  If there’s nothing you can do right now about that worry, then now is not the time to think about it and waste your precious energy on it.

If it helps, dance around the house singing the song from Frozen at the top of your lungs.  It will drive everyone else in your family crazy, and that alone, for the fun factor, is worth it.

-realmom

Parents: Ignore the Media

It seems every other week there’s a big media blitz about some adoptive parent “giving up” their kid to foster care or “rehoming” them and then there’s a bunch of people up in arms and yelling at how horrible these parents are and how they would do things so much differently.

Parents: Ignore the media.

All media is yellow journalism.  All tv “news” is the Jerry Springer Show.  All printed news on this kind of stuff is the National Inquirer.  There is no fact checking, no objective reporting, no telling “both sides of the story”.  It’s all about making a fuss.  They could interview 100 people, and 97 people would agree with the parents, and they won’t show it or print it.  They would tell the last 3 people to be against the parents and for sure they’d be on national tv or printed in national media, and the idiots would do it whether or not it was their real opinion.

Ignore the media.  Ignore the comments of the masses.

Most of those comments are made by people just to stir up more controversy.  This is not real.  This is a stir the pot, anonymous shit.  Don’t listen.  Don’t read.  Ignore.

If people bring it up around you, and start talking like whatever was printed/shown was gospel truth, say “I saw/read that too! Right before the story of the lady who had an alien baby!” or some other smartass answer (if you’re a smartass type of person).  Unless you know this person, and want to get into a real conversation about it, don’t bother trying to teach people in the park, at the grocery store.  You don’t have the time or energy at that moment to really teach them.  Just move on.  This is not the short answer type of stuff.  It’s not your responsibility to correct all idiots in the world, either.

Just.Ignore.The.Idiocy.  You have enough on your plate.  It may seem like grinding your teeth, but it’s really not worth your stress or your time.  And in 2 days, they’ll publish something that says the opposite thing.  Just look at the articles in Huffpost I posted recently.  Well then the next few days they spent all their time posting nice and good things about adoption.  So really, it’s all about the “hits” and the “clicks” and has nothing to do with real life.

And remember, man never really walked on the moon.  It was a conspiracy and happened in a tv studio.  It must be true.  It was on the internet AND I saw it on tv.  They even interviewed someone who saw it happen.  That makes it true, right?

Relax. Ignore.  There’s nothing to see here but a bunch of monkeys chattering and throwing feces at it each other.  Keep moving on.  You’ve got a lot better things to do.

Keep it real, peeps!

-realmom