Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's not them, it's me

Parenting kids who are not biologically yours can be difficult. Parenting kids who have come from traumatic situations is tough. Parenting post institutional children is...well its difficult and tough.

Some days I'm not very good at it.

When Axel is e.x.t.r.e.m.e.l.y slow doing e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g, I have to remind myself a gazillion times per day that this is just how he is wired. He doesn't have a "fast" speed. His speed options are "slow" or "sleeping". It is hard not to get irritated when I'm trying to rush everyone out the door
Ice cream face! Most of his melted before he ate it.
Its not him, it's me. I need to realize this will never change and I need to allow him more time. I am terrible at math, but I am a good problem solver. I need to remember there are many things Axel is really good at, and that being quick just isn't one of them.

When Axel is getting lost in some sensory experience, and his eyes glaze over and take on that far-away look,  I need to cut him some slack. I need to remember all the years he spent wrapped up straight-jacket style and that his brain may never figure out what to do with certain types of input. I need to remember that sometimes he just needs to check out for a few minutes.

When Asher lays on the floor for hours on end dangling a stuffed animal over his face and grinding his teeth, I need to remember that he spent 7 years doing just that. He didn't know how to do anything else, and so unless he is being directed through an activity, this is his go-to place. It's hard to watch him leave reality when I know how much he loves it. I need to remember that those 7 years have far more influence on his brain than the 19 months he's been home.

When Asher is exercising this new defiant attitude he has developed, I need to remember this is a normal developmental stage for a 3 year old, which is exactly where his 8 1/2 year old self is! I need to remember this is PROGRESS!! That his new-found whining is communication he never had until last week, and instead of being irritated by it I need to celebrate it. (and to be honest, I find it kind of cute...for now.) Yes! Yes! I will celebrate WHINING!! When he asked me, in sign, if he can put his swim trunks on (because he wants to play with the hose...again.... I need to enjoy the fact he has enough language to make the request!!!

When Abel stomps his foot at me when I tell him "no", I should not get mad. Abel has spirit. The spirit his caregivers loathed is the one we need to embrace.  He is a survivor and a strong one at that. When he asks me 700 times for something I have told him he cannot have, I need to remember that just three months ago he had zero ability to ask a question or make a request. Now he can sign "I want drink please", or "I want cup please" (which is his favorite stimming object that replaced the block) He can tell me he needs to use the bathroom. He can ask if it's time to put his shoes on. He can sign "Want outside please" and then "Swing please" to tell me what he wants to do out there. Three months. Amazing.

He was happy with the corn dog....

 until he found the stick. Who put a STICK in my food??? Complete Meltdown ensued. 

When Abel pees his pants in fear when we walk into a store he is experiencing for the first time, or a doctor's office, or when he is very rough with his therapist when I'm not in the room, I need to remember his history. I need to remember that "therapy" wasn't always a pleasant therapuetic experience for him. When he acts as if we are murdering him by making him sit in a new chair for the first time, or a new swing, or a put a pencil into his hand that he has never seen before, I need to remember that his strong flight or fight response is what saved his life. (surely my neighbors have heard this scream by now and wondered if they should be making a phone call!) When he freaks out because I put a piece of tape on his finger, I need to remember "humor" is a developmental milestone, and he is not there yet.

Most of the frustrations I have in parenting our adopted kids are my problem. They are my reaction to parenting kids who have histories and habits that developed long before I came into the picture. I need to remember that kids who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have memories that can be triggered at any time, in any setting, and I will probably have no idea what triggered them. Those memories can make my life difficult and it is not the fault of my child.

For every time through the course of a day that I must give out reminders, I need to give myself three. It's only fair, since it's not them, it's me.


Joanne said...

This is beautifully written. I feel as if I need to remind myself this every afternoon when I feel as if the walls are caving in. I love your perspective and it is one that I need to revisit often. Thank you for your honesty and insight.

Stephanie said...

This is the best blog post I have ever read. ever. This describes my life to a T.

Melissa said...

Dang that ole stick in the corndog thing!Love the updates on the kids.

Stephanie said...

Even though my kiddo was not adopted or came from an institution, I feel similar about reminding myself that there are just things about him that are him. And that I need to take a moment and step back and allow him to be himself.

Your boys are just wonderful, Leah. You are a great parent and even though it's a lot of work for you and Dean, they are in the best place they can be.

Hope you are enjoying your summer! Call me if you want to get together soon, especially in August (O will be finished with school and we have tons of free time).

Connie Renee said...

Thank you for saying this so beautifully! Just perfect and i will be sharing this. THANK YOU!

Imogen said...

Beautiful post, and one that every human being could do with being midful of - for every person has their own way of being in this world.

I love your words and your wisdom xx