Dear Daughter, I Choose You

Dear Daughter,

I’ve never lied to you but I haven’t figured out how to explain this to you, so I’m glad you haven’t asked questions yet. I’ve been cranky lately and I want you to know that I’m trying really hard to put it behind me and get back to normal.

I had to make a really hard decision to end a friendship, and I’m feeling really sad and hurt about it. I want you to know first and foremost that it’s not your fault. I was warned when I started the adoption process that people would drop out of my life, and so I expected it. I was warned that even close family and friends will question my future child’s behaviour and the parenting decisions that I make. I didn’t expect it would be one of my best friends, but I knew it would be someone.

I’m really struggling with losing my friend, but I don’t regret my choice. You are the most important person in my world, and everyone that surrounds us should be supportive. There just isn’t room in our lives for anyone who isn’t. I want you to know that I chose to adopt you and I will continue to choose you as my number one priority for the rest of my life. I will never regret those choices.

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Dear Daughter, I Don’t Enjoy This

Dear Daughter,

They told me that children with trauma and attachment issues would do everything they could to push a parent away and to test boundaries… but this sh!t you put me through; Kid, there ain’t enough vodka in the world. I don’t know why you take it to such extremes. I have always been good at following through on the consequences that I lay out for you, but it’s like you have to keep upping the ante. You keep pushing past my consequences like they don’t mean a thing to you, and I have to make the consequences harsher and harsher to match your escalating behaviour. And when you’ve been warned a thousand times of what will happen if you continue, you do it one more time just to see if I’ll follow through… and so I must, and now you sob uncontrollably because I’m such a mean mom.

The parenting techniques I used to preach to clients, have no effect on you.  Natural or logical consequences are out the window. So much for discipline vs. punishment. So much for getting down to your level. That does not work with you. You don’t need a friend, you need a parent. A strong one.

I want you to know that I don’t enjoy this. I do not want you to think that I am mean. I want to be warm and loving and let you bend the rules and have exceptions sometimes, but I can not. When I do, you are out of control. You do not feel safe, though you have begged for the flexibility. I must be firm with you, and when your behaviour is not appropriate then I must be more firm, and when it escalates then so must I.

This does not come naturally for me. I am spontaneous. I am care-free. I don’t enjoy following a routine or having every part of my life mapped out for me. But I do it for you, so that you feel safe within that structure.

So when you are older and you have memories of those times when “mom was mean”, know that I was doing it for you. Know that I didn’t enjoy it but that it was the only way to keep you from spiralling into an anxious mess. Most importantly, know that I was doing it because I love you.

Love,

Mom

The Young Boy I Met

In May I met a 14yr old boy at an adoption party. He was awesome, but I was holding out for a sibling group. I decided to look into him again recently and just today discovered that he’s been placed with a family. It is always bittersweet to hear about placements of kids you’re interested in – but I’m so glad he has a home now.

I’ve inquired about lots of kids over the past several months. Most of them from the public website. None have panned out yet. The trouble is that the kids on the website are the “hard to place” ones, who’ve been resorted to marketing tactics to find them homes. We don’t get to see files for the majority of the kids in care. We as adoptive parents have to leave our lives in the hands of a social worker – a stranger – and hope that they’re doing everything they can to match us with a child and expand our families.

It’s hard not to feel like you’re just another file sitting on someone’s desk. Usually, you are. I contact my social worker once every couple of weeks to ask questions and make sure we’re making strides in the direction of our end goal. What is that saying… the squeakiest wheel gets the grease.

In the meantime, I sit and I wait and I hope for a child to bring noise and laughter and life into my home and into my heart.

Confidence as a Parent and Expectations of Traumatized Children

As I inch my way closer to becoming a parent, I find myself struggling with feelings of inadequacy and a lack of self confidence. For years, I’ve been listening to my friends talk about raising their children. They’re so far ahead in the game that I’m not sure how I’ll ever stack up as a new parent. I know it’s not about comparing my successes (or my children’s) to theirs, but I feel as though I’ll struggle with the unsolicited advice and explaining to those around me how raising a child who has been neglected or abused is so much different than raising a child born to you.

I will likely have lower expectations of my children then I would a biological child. For a traumatized child, even the basic acts in life can be a challenge. My expectations need to be reasonable and achievable. There simply isn’t any comparison between a child who has been adopted and one who has not. For an adopted and/or traumatized child, feeling secure in a family, managing emotions and trying to understand why “this” happened to them take up the majority of their plates. At the end of the day, there isn’t much time left over to be the star basketball player or humanitarian of the year. Making it through each day without a meltdown is a success.

I will need to learn to trust my gut. To keep my confidence as a parent high, expectations of my children reasonable, and to shut out the voices of the people around me who think they know how it should be.

Lack of Advocating, Oversights or Outright Lies?

There’s this diagnosis a child can have called “Reactive Attachment Disorder” and it has the potential to be pretty terrifying. RAD is typically found in traumatized children and may result in a defiant or dangerous child (as with anything, there is a spectrum of seriousness); but this post isn’t really about RAD – directly.

I’ve heard a few stories now, one in person and several I’ve read online & in blogs, about social workers (government representatives) not being entirely open or honest about a child’s potential diagnosis’s or history. In pretty much all of these stories, adoptive parents were told that their child did not have RAD or FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) when they very much DID. In another instance, adoptive parents were told that one child did and one child did not have FASD. As it turned out, it was the complete opposite. This misdiagnosis or lack of information has provided in some really difficult situations for parents who may have chosen not to parent a specific child had they been given full disclosure.

I want to believe that this misinformation isn’t on purpose. I want to believe that perhaps the diagnosis had not been formally given yet, or the tests were inconclusive or perhaps the social workers weren’t well informed enough about that particular child. But, shouldn’t they be? If a test hasn’t been done yet, or information was unknown, would that not be disclosed as a possible risk or something that needed evaluation? Wouldn’t the child’s behavior in foster care be noted regardless of any diagnosis and especially if it was not in line with a given diagnosis?

I mean, if a child has been tested and determined not to have a particular diagnosis but still shows signs of that diagnosis, wouldn’t there be further testing or some form of second opinion? To the opposite end, if a child does receive a diagnosis but does not show signs leading to it, wouldn’t that be mentioned to the prospective adoptive parents?

Shouldn’t information be shared openly, regardless of its potential to “scare off” or change the mind of a prospective adoptive parent? Wouldn’t it be better to allow a parent to make the judgment call on what they’re getting into, instead of “tricking” them into it, only to find out later that their child is really nothing like what was described to them, for better or worse?

I’m concerned about this. Being new to the game, I don’t know the right questions to ask or the right people to talk to. The social workers are supposed to be the people who I can trust to guide me through the process and provide me with the tool’s I’ll need to make the best decisions and be the best parent I can be to the right child. If I can’t count on them, then that leaves me in a pretty vulnerable place.

Already, I’m seeing some breaks in an evolving system. I’m hearing rumours of efforts to improve the process but thus far what I’ve witnessed is poorly executed aboriginal training, months on end of waiting just for a phone call, discrepancies in information provided by social workers, and a lot of excuses for disorganization. It’s pretty clear already that I’ll have to stay on top of things to ensure my file doesn’t fall through the cracks. Now I’m concerned over what I’ll need to bring to the table when a match is finally made.

Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don’t establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers.

A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused or orphaned. Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships.

Reactive attachment disorder is a lifelong condition, but with treatment children can develop more stable and healthy relationships with caregivers and others. Safe and proven treatments for reactive attachment disorder include psychological counseling and parent or caregiver education. – “Reactive Attachment Disorder” as defined by the Mayo Clinic.