Up and down and all around

Rocky moments, with some calm, “normal” ones mixed in for good measure. The fever blister on Big Boy’s lower lip – the one that is visible below his lip, on his lip, and on the inside as well – tells of the struggle to maintain. I haven’t written, mainly because I haven’t wanted to relive the moments after they were over. So, to recap the major ones I remember right now:

 

Stealing. The first time I let my kids be on their own in any store. A very small Christian book store, where I could hear every move they made, and see them most of the time. We discovered it only at another store, when a small cross fell out of his pocket as he played with a toy in the floor. He tried to deny, saying he just found it laying right beside him, but J saw through it. Since, you know, he saw it come from BB’s POCKET and all. I took him to a quiet area, and he confessed he “might” know “a little bit” about it. He and I immediately went home. The next morning, he had to return that cross, along with a second one we found later, admit to the store manager what he did, pay for the crosses with his own money, and ask how he could make it up to them. It broke my heart as he cried, but he needed to know how serious it is to shoplift. Why did he do it? Because it was pretty, and he knew we would say no bc it was too close to Christmas. He also has to ride in the shopping cart in each store we go in, or hold my hand if no buggy is available. Indefinitely. No opportunity to repeat.

 

Kicking, punching, scratching, direspecting. His brother and us. The kicking and punching is mainly done to his brother. I try not to be too alarmed, because my younger sister and I did the same things when we were their ages, but combined with all of the other goings on, and given that he does sometimes pinch or pop my hand after I pop his? He appears to be ramping up instead of calming down. We saw this type of behavior when we first got the boys, but then it died down. What is bringing it back up?

 

Screaming, crying meltdowns. Just one or two, but those had disappeared, as well. During one, he finally admitted what J and I have suspected all along: he feels like he belongs with his former foster parents. He kept that secret from us for so long because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings or upset me. I told him Mommies are tough, and Mommies were made to tell your secrets to, and I could understand how he might feel that way. I asked him why, and he said it was because they spent a lot more time with them, and we both have to go to work. This was the day after we had just spent the entire day riding around as a family, looking at the flood waters at some local falls and a dam. I hated to do it, but I let him know that his therapist at the time suggested that his foster mom take him out of daycare to spend time trying to form a bond with him, and she refused. She continued sending him to daycare, even though she was home every day, even though it was not in his best interest. And now, he is in school, and goes to his grandparents until Daddy or I get off work, and the rest of his time is spent with us. They rarely spend the night away from home without us, weekends are almost always family time. I would love to work less, but  we have bills to pay, and we need a house and food and clothes.

Fixation on dying and guns and knives and violence. Just at times, but enough that we know a ban on all movies and games containing violence will not be lifted for a looooooong time. We own no weapons, the boys don’t know where the knives are kept. I don’t *think* we have to be concerned, but we aren’t taking any chances, either.

Those are the major things that come to mind. I’m hoping it was “just” Holiday Hell, as so many other trauma mamas have been posting about. I remembered before November that Halloween through Gotcha Day in February are always the worst times, but I don’t remember it being quite this bad. I have always been able to pick him up and carry him away from a bad time, but as he gets bigger, he will be able to overpower me, or simply be too heavy to carry. If I can get him to a place he perceives as safer, that is quieter and less stimulating, we can talk through it and he will be back to smiles, laughter, and compliance. I’m hoping that as we move back into the school routine on Wednesday, most of these behaviors simmer down. I’m not even sure we will mention Gotcha Day in just over a month.

On a better note, my sisters, mom, J, and I took all 6 boys and 1 girl to the circus today with few minor glitches. He had said he didn’t want to go, because the motorcycles in the cage scared him bc he thought he would see them crash and die. I told him we would go walk outside during that part, but he watched it, and he liked it! I could tell he was nervous and on the verge of losing it, but we talked about him being nervous and I reminded him that he was safe and loved and we would all go home together, and that helped get him through.

Here’s to a better year.

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Flip of a Switch

And just like that, Monday brought about a whole new attitude. Compliant, happy, more “normal” (read: acceptable) behavior at school and at home. Getting homework out of his backpack and willfully, cheerfully, just DOING IT. Without complaining or whining or needing me to stay by his side. “Check my work, Mommy, and erase the ones I got wrong so I can redo them!”

Not saying he has been perfect by any means – arguing and competing with his brother, and he did get in trouble at recess for not following directions the first time. But hey, classroom behavior has been much improved, so those 30 sentences he had to write for his coach are sufficient discipline. Gotta give a little guy a break sometimes!

I’m just puzzled. If it’s soooooo simple to just flip the switch and suddenly begin to behave normally, why do we have to go to The Crazy to begin with? Wouldn’t it be much easier to just stay even keel and not lose our minds? It’s like he has to “get it out,” then we can continue on as normal.

And now the Little Guy is struggling. Multiple conduct marks on multiple days this week alone. Notes, yes, with an “S,” plural, concerning distractability and lack of attention and improper lunchroom behavior and jumping in kids faces and tickling and talking over teacher. I’m hoping it’s just pre-Christmas energy.

For the love! Let’s just make it through the next 6 school days!

D is for

Dumb.

Dubious.

Conduct.

Wait, what? “No homework” pushed us into a D for conduct – with 2 weeks and 2 days to go. Some of it is ridiculous.

He left some flash cards at school, minus two points. So shouldn’t that be points of for, I don’t know, HOMEWORK?!?! That is not a “conduct” issue.

“Drawing on a test.” Actually, he was marking out incorrect answers on a test that had already been graded that she was reviewing. A test he made a 100 on, so he was bored, and instead of getting in trouble for getting out of his seat, he was basically taking the test again.

“Playing.” No! You mean boys do that?!?! This after being told that this kid learns best when he is moving. He’s not a zombie-kid, staring straight ahead.

Some of them seem legit, but when questioned, he was misunderstood. “Spit in two kids’ faces.” Then he better be in trouble! Completely unacceptable! Except, he was ssshhh-ing them, not blatantly spitting on them.

And still others, I am totally fine with. Explicit disobedience gets him in trouble at home, too.

If I had a D in conduct? I don’t know what would have happened, I never had below an A! I also never moved away from a family who exposed their child to domestic violence. I never hid from my drunk or high mom – the only thing I saw my mom drink was Dr Pepper and sweet tea!

Tonight, he said he is starting over. From now on, he will be perfect! I told him that’s not possible, but he *can* do better. He also said that missing his foster brother makes him misbehave. And he needs to be close to his Mommy. Now that is progress! Admitting that he NEEDS his Mama. He has known it, but had trouble saying as much.

Two weeks and two days. Let’s just make it through.

One

Only one incident that led to leaving a Thanksgiving meal early. When my Big Boy started (somewhat gently) banging his head against a tree, I pulled him away with, “I love you too much to let you hurt your head on that tree. Come with me.” Was it for attention?

It’s a new behavior, happening a few times over the last couple of months. Always when he is upset, always when I am there to see it. Made better by acknowledging whatever the cause, and giving attention. Is it being done *for* attention, or is this his new way of saying he needs something?

“I want to hurt myself.”

“I hear two voices. One is really loud, and the other is really quiet.”

“The quiet one says to not bang my head against the tree.”

“I don’t wanna tell you what the loud one says.”

Part of me feels this IS to get my attention, that he doesn’t truly want to hurt himself, but what if I’m wrong? So I err on the side of caution. We go to put gas in my empty tank, I make him get out of the car and stand beside me as I pump gas. He questions this, as I always leave them in the car, because I pay at the pump. I tell him he can’t be alone, he has to stay close to me until he no longer wants to hurt himself.

We go home, and he helps me cook for the next meal, to be split at two different homes, two different sides of the family. He crushes crackers, stirs the casserole mixture, asks to go play. Nope, not until I am sure you will not hurt yourself.

Does he truly hear voices, or is this the whole devil-sitting-on-my-shoulder thing? Because when I hear him talking about voices, the alarms sound off in my head and heart. See? I just did it, too. I’m obviously not hearing any bells or whistles, it’s an expression of concern. But if he is truly hearing voices, then we need to speed along with this evaluation. If he is banging his head and “hearing” voices for attention, I would like to know if this is progress, or just more complications. Is it better than acting out and getting conduct marks, or is it worse because it is directed inwards?

At my aunt’s house and J’s aunt’s, things were fine. Around 25 people at one, 18 at the other, lots of kids running and playing through the house. Well, I take that back… At my aunt’s, the children were eating in the garage. He did come to me, crying, and asked to go outside to talk. He said a cousin threw ice and hit him and it hurt. I told him to get his plate and come sit with me. He did, and within a few minutes, he was back to playing.

I did tell him that we need to tell his counselor about the head-banging and the voices. He agreed, which is NOT normal. He never wants to tell his counselor much of anything besides games he is playing and what kind of stress balls to order and he will sometimes answer simple questions.

To complicate matters, I am currently recovering from the worst migraine ever. I have had them since I was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler over 15 years ago, but I usually just pop some otc meds and keep going. I woke up yesterday morning with severe eye and head pain, nausea, vomiting, the whole shebang. J was at work, the boys were Lord of the Flies-ing-it. They watched a banned movie, and went through my midnight Christmas purchases. My mom came and picked them up, and J has entertained and cared for them since he got off work. My head is much better, I have kept down my first food since Thursday night, and now I just need to gain back some strength from 33 hours of laying in bed with no food.

As soon as my strength is back, it’s time to get these questions finished so we can secure an appointment to get a full psych eval.

Better… Or not…. But maybe?

So when report cards came out, the Big Boy had mostly A’s and B’s. He had a 79 in conduct, and a 79 in Reading. Two stinkin’ points away. His math level came up to above grade level, and his reading level also improved, to grade level. I was okay with the conduct grade. I thought we had turned a corner.

The first week of the new grading period was good.

The next week? The next week. THE NEXT WEEK!!!! In one day, he lost 6 points off his conduct. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that before it gets that far, maybe we should be sent from the classroom to see the school counselor? He had two other days where he received marks that week. This week started off rocky, but he has been better Tuesday-Thursday. We talked and prayed about conduct and behavior today, but I’m secretly not expecting a lot. Fall fest, costume contest, pumpkin voting, giving kids candy at school – they will all be cray-cray today. Throw in a non-typical school day that is way off the usual routine, and all bets are off with my little stress ball. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised, but probably not.

Teacher emailed me last Friday to tell me the Big Boy had a bad week. He marked on a test after she told him not to mark on it. He wouldn’t quit drawing on his white board, instead of using it for word work. She really just needs him to be a good listener and focus during her instruction time.

Know what I hear in that? He is not getting out of his seat, 3 feet away from his desk, so there is progress. And she expects him to be a zombie-child and sit, unmoving, staring at her as she teaches. Lots of people doodle. I’m not saying it’s okay to disobey the teacher, but I AM saying that sometimes, it’s hard for ME to sit and listen to someone talk and not doodle. In church, in meetings, wherever, a lot of people doodle and draw, and have no trouble paying attention. Heck, I color with the kids during church! I asked if I could supply him with paper on which to doodle, so he wouldn’t get in trouble for writing on tests or the board. Nope, they have plenty of paper for doodling during free time. He just needs to be a good listener and pay attention. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but if he is being asked to sit still and “pay attention” as this teacher demands, that is ALL he will get out of 2nd he grade. He will be so focused on “sit still and pay attention,” that he will not hear a word of instruction.  He just doesn’t learn that way. He learns better when he is moving, or bouncing, or cleaning, or shredding a tissue to bits, or doing anything besides sitting still and appearing to pay attention. Why is that so difficult to understand?

Am I being the difficult one? Is it asking too much to ask the teacher to teach the way he learns? I understand she has other students. I understand they might need to sit still. I’m not saying let him run wild. But I AM saying lighten up. Someone please tell me if I am in the wrong here.

The “A” Word

Big Boy has not wanted us to even speak the word “adoption” for some time now. “Because it brings up bad stuff from my past.” What kind of bad stuff? He would never say. Until last night.

His brother said the “A-word” at bedtime, referring to a group meeting we will be attending. I had them in bed by 8 for the first time in a couple of weeks, and I was honestly looking forward to throwing some clothes in the washer and going to bed myself. I’m still waiting for all of the energy I was supposed to have after surgery, it was my first night back teaching my church kids, and I was exhausted. Isn’t this usually when the adoption issues hit? 😉 But that’s my job, so I sat on his bed to listen.

And he opened up more than ever. He is quite sure nobody loved him like his biological grandfather did, or like his foster parents did. I acknowledged his feelings, but told him that we love him very much, too. He listed the things various people had, such as a trampoline, swing set, etc – and I countered with so do we. But they let me buy stuff, not too expensive stuff, but little stuff – so do we. But they spent time with me – so do we. But they took me on trips – we just got back from one. Then he changed it to “I loved them more before they went to jail.”

He cried because he is not sure if his biological grandfather went to Heaven or Hell, and he doesn’t know if he will ever get to see him again. He is quite sure his borth mom will be in Hell before he is a grown-up and can see her again. I rubbed his back and hugged him and told him I was sorry, because how do you respond to that? How do you explain to an 8-year-old something you don’t really understand as an adult?

He said he trusts all the people he used to live with more than he trusts us. I don’t really think so, based on his actions and behaviors.

He thinks he is a bad kid. Because kids at school told him he was bad. “You wouldn’t make a 72 if you weren’t a bad kid,” he was told. One boy is always mean to him and calls him a brat. I reminded him of all the ways in which he is a good kid – he is kind, helpful, compassionate, intelligent… He’s not a “bad kid,” sometimes he makes bad choices – as we all do.

For an hour, I sat or laid with him, rubbing his back when he would let me, letting him talk it out.  I know he needs to grieve the loss of all those other people, but that doesn’t make it easy. I’m glad he finally feels comfortable enough to talk about it. I hope we can work through it and he will be okay.

Is it a coincidence that yesterday was also the day I spoke with the clinic that will be doing a full psych evaluated when we get paperwork completed? I know it could be so much worse, but right now, I’m so sad for my baby.

He’s not a brat

It came from an unexpected person – someone who should know better, someone who should be more loving and kind. One of those memes on facebook. “In my day, we didn’t call it behavior disorder – we called it being a spoiled brat!”

Ah, ouch. And incorrect. Nope, behavior disorders DO, in fact, exist. And it’s not because the child is a brat, or a bad kid, or his parents have no control or are lazy. Trauma, abuse, and neglect over multiple years does a number on a kid.

I wasn’t sure if I should even broach the subject. It wasn’t just about my hurt feelings, this person could potentially be turning others away from the very place they need to be. And it was rude, and wrong. I asked a couple of people, and they agreed I should mention it.

So last night, I finally gathered the courage to address this leader of many. Privately, via fb message, and I know he saw it last night. I kind of dreaded seeing him tonight. Confrontation is NOT my strong point. I normally would much rather just sweep it under the rug and not worry about it. But I felt this was a time to educate. My family is not the only one in this community to have special needs – there are several families who have far more severe needs than mine. Did they feel the same? What about outsiders who might want to come in? Are they likely to join if the leader thinks their having-a-meltdown-child-with-autism is a brat?

I thought he might address it when I saw him, but instead I was ignored. Okay, then. Perhaps he didn’t read it; maybe he didn’t have time to reply; it could be that he is trying to choose his words, just as I typed and erased several times. I’m trying to come up with a reason for no reply, ignore the mom with the bratty kid.

It’s not okay to dismiss an entire group of people with a derogatory remark. It’s not okay to hold a high position, and alienate people who don’t fit your mold.

?????