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Sunday, September 24, 2017

The BFF Triangle

Several years back, we had some drama with BFF K's family. As a result they grew apart, as we weren't constantly inviting K to go do things. It's hard to spend money on somebody when you feel taken advantage of.

K was growing up anyway.  Slightly older, serious boyfriend, driving, job, etc.  It was only natural they'd be drifting from hanging out 24/7. 

We missed K so much though.  It's been rough to feel like we had a second daughter that all the sudden was no longer here.

Everytime they saw each other though, the bond was so evident and so sweet to see how much they truly love each other.

9th grade came along and BFF A entered the picture.  More age appropriate, they started forming a strong bond and so similar to each other, they could finish each others sentences.  She went to the beach with us this year and they had so much fun. 

The downside, however, was we quickly figured out she's in an abusive relationship with a controlling boyfriend.  Of course, like most victims, she made excuses for his bad behavior.  He texted her constantly.  Shortly after we got home, kiddo found out that A was sexually active and was very upset and angry over it.  Hubs gave her good advice and said "when your best friend makes bad decisions, that's when they need you the most.  It's okay to let them know it was a horrible decision, but be there for her because she's going to need somebody to help her pick up the pieces from it"

Fast forward a month.....former BFF K is pregnant.  OMG!! I'm going to be a grandma.  Well, not literally, but she was my 2nd daughter for years, that makes me a grandma, right?

She's a senior in high school and has worked it out to graduate in December instead of May.  Thank God she was ahead in credits, straight A student, etc and only needs 2 classes to graduate. She's taking those 2 classes this semester and will be able to graduate well before the baby arrives.

I'm devastated that she is making these big girl decisions and not being a kid and not getting to enjoy the traditional Senior fun.  This used to be my worst nightmare about kiddo. Knowing the past, I feared so many times I'd be a grandma before she graduated.  I hope we can use this as a learning tool.

After kiddo got over the initial shock and anger, she reached out and said "I'm going to be the best aunt your baby will ever have" and the girls have once again become inseparable.  Boyfriend is still with K, but he's gotten a stable job and working good hours to try to take care of the baby.  K is working part time on the weekends, so they don't see each other often, but her and kiddo are together in between. 

It's been good to see them laughing together, especially since K has been incredibly depressed since finding out she's pregnant. She said she feels horrible, because she was the girl that always talked about girls that got pregnant in high school and how stupid it was.  K was on birth control, but antibiotics interfere with that and apparently their once a week dates were enough to make things happen.  She always said she'd start having babies right after school. We always told her to enjoy life first and be her before having to be responsible for another human. 

My fear is that kiddo will romanticize it, since she'll get to babysit and be auntie, etc.  I hope that kiddo keeps her head on straight and doesn't go down that path. 

With both BFF's making those big girl decisions, it's a scary place for momma to be.

BFF A is jealous as all get out over BFF K. 

A spends ALL her time with the boyfriend.  K sees the boyfriend/baby daddy once a week.  Kiddo feels A is putting boyfriend above them and boyfriend keeps telling A that she shouldn't spend time with kiddo.

So, naturally kiddo spends time with K. It's easier, it's more relaxed, there is less drama.  A and her fight like cats and dogs sometimes. Kiddo is taking the easy way out, A is mad, A keeps texting because she's upset, but then gets mad when she's told what the issue is. 

Kiddo can NOT hang with A's boyfriend. He triggers her. His abusive demeanor takes her down paths she doesn't deserve to be. I've even explained that and suggested she at least split her time, but A doesn't get it and kiddo is left in the cold.  Apparently A even makes fun of kiddo because her and her boyfriend don't spend all their free time together, they haven't even really kissed yet. 

A and kiddo fighting like cats and dogs (not really) but I do think it's funny and appropriate that they did this at the beach. 

High school is so dramatic.  It makes me tired.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Past life......

When kiddo turned 13, her prior adoptive parents sent a gift and a letter.  We let her have gifts, but always put the letters in a file for when she's older and ready to tackle that.  She does know that we have them, however, and that she can ask when and if she ever gets ready for them.  Sometimes she just asks if there is anything in the letter that she'd want to know.

That was 2014.

The letter was addressed to "kiddo PRIOR last name".  We sent a letter that gifts and letters weren't necessary, but that if they felt the need to send them, to please NOT use their last name.

Over 3 years later before we heard from them again.  Last week we received a letter (sent thru DSS).

The letter was addressed to "Kiddo RANDOM last name".  I thought  I'd die.
Too funny.  Kiddo thought so too.

They were kind enough to send her pics of their dog (hers previously) finally.  They also sent a pic of themselves.  She took the dog pictures and asked if she could cut their picture to pieces.  I'm guessing she's not ready to deal with them.

Her grandfather when she was with them recently passed away.  I always worry about loss and grief effects on the trauma brain, even if it's not somebody she's currently close with.  One of her best friends mom was just diagnosed with cancer and that's scary to watch as well.  Every loss brings back feelings of loss and all that she's been through.

This week we heard from bio aunt.

Kiddos biological mom is in ICU, stroke and blood clot on the brain.

We let her know what was up.

She was very concerned about that happening to her one day.  We had a good talk about genetics and environment and how lives are a mix of both.  Pretty sure at least part of the concern was for the 1st mom, although she'll never admit it.

I know she means it when she says she has no desire to see her, but I also know that she cares about her.

Hopefully all this will not turn her too wonky.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Teenage Contolling Boyfriends

When somebody that had years of abuse tells you you're in an abusive situation, dismissing it is the last thing you should do.  If they share their story, don't dismiss it. Understand the pain that comes from reliving it.

When friends speak up, it may be hard to hear, but look at the common denominator in your challenges. Is it one person that thinks its a bad relationship or more?  If it's more, you know what needs to happen.

Love yourself enough to ask for help.  People do NOT change and nobody should have to try to convince somebody they love to change.  They should automatically be treated with love and respect. If you have to ask for love and kindness, it's not real.

A child can't control abuse within the home but anybody can stop abuse from a partner.  What you ignore becomes more.

Doing nothing says it's okay.

If friends start drifting, it is usually because they've been alienated and because it's so difficult to watch. There is nothing that can replace true friends. Don't give up.

There is nothing harder than knowing somebody you love is in a controlling, bad, abusive relationship and not being able to change it.

It's even worse when it's flaunted how much they "love them" and knowing they've chosen them over true frlends and a good life.  The people with good relationships don't have to post about it 80 times a day. If you do, you're trying to convince yourself and others.

Others know and love enough to want you happy and call you out. Love yourself.  It only gets worse with time.

I'm so proud of my child for speaking up to her bestie and letting her know with love that she is in relationship that isn't healthy. There was a time it would have been my child on receiving end, not believing she was worthy of being treated well.

It hurts to watch her friend make excuses and keep accepting poor treatment.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sibling Visits

How do you know if a separation between siblings was right? How do you know how often to visit? How do you know what's best for the kids? How do you know if they're ready to get back together again?

Our daughter lived with her younger sister for almost 8 years prior to their separation.  They'd been promised they'd never have to be separated and not to worry, that they'd get adopted together.  A few months after that, it was determined the needs of the girls would make it necessary for them to live apart.

It was heartbreaking.

My child had been ripped out of her last adoptive home, put in psychiatric care, followed by residential treatment. During their 1st overnight visit, things apparently went to WWIII.

It was right after that that they were separated, never to live together again.

Our daughters younger sister was "asked" whether she thought it was a good idea to not live together. Bear in mind the younger sister was in the prior adoptive home at least 60 days after our child was removed.  I'm not sure how much of that was being led to that answer, how much was anger over the situation and how much was the manipulation she went through prior to her removal from the prior adoptive home.

Next month will be 5 years since they were "officially" separated (on paper) but it was 5 years in April since they last lived together.

In that 5 years, we've had numerous sibling visits, ranging from barely over an hour with several supervisors  to all day with no supervision.  We've had no overnight visits.

In 2014, they were doing so well, we considered adopting her younger sister.  As we planned for increased visits before deciding whether to procede, as the first overnight visit was scheduled, both girls went wonky and our child ended up in the hospital for a few hours with an extreme anxiety attack and some cutting.

Needless to say, brakes were put on quick.

Separation was right for them.  They definitely need different things, they definitely are trauma bonded and they definitely are triggered by too much time together.

How do we know how often to visit?  and how much time frame? We kept notes after each visit about before, during and after, as much information as possible.  We were able to determine from that what was working on frequency.

Baby sis came to kiddos sweet 16 party.  Shortly thereafter, she crashed bad and destroyed 2 of the TV's in the group home she's at.  Clearly it was too overwhelming.  She had to share her sister. It was a long drive. It was a ton of junk food.  She arrived late.  So many triggers.

She's not likely to be able to attend future parties until after she's grown up.  I wish so much I could help her sister.  I can continue to help our daughter, but helping her sister is only a part time job for a full time responsibility.

We try so hard to help the girls stay bonded. We try so hard to help the girls heal.  What will happen though when they're older? Will they feel bonded? Will they realize how much we tried to help them stay connected? Will they feel isolated from each other?

I think I know, but how can I be sure?

Time will tell.

If you, however, have part of a sibling set though, I encourage you to make those siblings a part of your family.  If not your kids in your home, at least extended family, with visits. Treat the kids as if they were part of your family, not just your child.  Enjoy the siblings, they will feel your feelings and feed off of them.  Sibling relationships are the longest relationships of your life.  Their visits will help them understand where they came from. Their visits will help them know there is always a connection they can depend on.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Disruptions, Rehoming, Etc

A few pages I've been on lately have been "debating" on whether it's okay to rehome or disrupt an adoption.

I don't see what the debate is.  The answer is a big fat no.  I have a really hard time understanding how anybody could think it was okay.

Can  you imagine growing up with childhood trauma that leaves you with PTSD, anxiety, depression or more and feeling like because you had bad behaviors that you were going to have to leave the home you're in.

How many parents say when they adopt that they love their child as much as a bio child.  I know I do. I'm convinced I love my child probably even more than I would a bio child. She feels like as much a part of me as my heart does.  If they really do, why would they ever relinquesh rights to their child?  I suppose I should be grateful it's legal, since that's the reason I have a child.

Yes, our child was adopted previously.  Yes, they gave up on my amazing child.  Yes, they have serious issues.

Why do  I still disagree with it? Because if things were done properly, the adoption wouldn't have happened to begin with and therefore, she wouldn't have had yet another significant loss in her life.

When I think back to those first months and even years of placement with our daughter,  I look at how far she's come and I'm amazed. Amazed that she has been so receptive to being willing to love and be loved.  For those first few years, she always wondered after every meltdown she had if that was when she was going to be "returned", as if she was a defective purchase.   She tried everything possible to make us give up on her before she got too attached.  We made a commitment to raise her, to be there for her and never turn our backs on her.  She's stuck with us whether she wants to be or not.

There are several that "defend" those that dissolve their adoptions, saying "Well, they had to, it was dangerous to have them with their bios" or "well, if they can't handle the issues they should let them go to somebody who can?"  These are the same people that have adopted and know that there is a waiting period of at LEAST 6 months after they move in before it's even okay to adopt.  How does somebody NOT realize there are problems in that length of time?

When we read kiddos file, it was so evident that they were never a good parental match for her.  The struggles they had and how they handled them, yet, they continued and adopted her anyway?  Pride standing in the way.  If things are tough, ask yourself "What would I do if I had given birth to her?" and follow that.

Many times the child does so much better in the second home, as was the case here.  That's another reason people "defend" dissolutions.  I say that's why she should have gotten here sooner.  We were meant to be her parents. She was meant to be her child.

Yes, I'm passionate about that. Yes, I get angry about that.

I also have read about how the cases somebody were aware of "they were extreme and required residential treatment or forced to relinquish in order to get the child the care they needed and how sad it was for all involved.  Of course it was sad for all involved, but again how did they not know there were problems before adoption? If it's THAT extreme, there is NO way that there were no red flags.

Yes, my child was one of those "extreme" situations that required residential treatment, or that's what her file said.  So not true.

After a month there, it finally came out the real story and that's where "find the need behind the behavior" comes in.

Our child and her past is the reason I'm so passionate about it and why it angers us so much.  She's thriving with us but I get more angry over the last adoptive parents than the biological parents.  The red flags were there. They didn't try attachment parenting. Reports are done and sent to court before adoption to explain why the adoption is a good idea.  How did they in good conscience send that report in.  So much heartache could have been prevented.

She's best here and not there. We provided what she needed when they couldn't, but if they hadn't adopted when it was obvious it wasn't a good match, there would be one less disruption out there and alot more calm years in our girls life.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Is your goal attachment or compliance?

Connection before correction. True compliance doesn't come until attachment arrives. You may get behaviors you want short term, but not the understanding of the behaviors if you don't focus on attachment most of all. If you want long term success, please look for the need behind the behavior.

Imagine your child came from a history of abuse or neglect. They don't know what to expect. They have no idea what a family would be like.

Why would we think somebody coming in from situations so much different would understand the dynamics of a family. That's just setting yourself and your child up for a hard road. It very common, for a child to experience this feeling. There will be a lot of new things your child experiences after bringing them home. Don't expect 100% compliance on day one. It's nuts. This is a long journey and little things along the way "we do this as a family" or "we do this because...."

Please don't push because they don't want change. Change is hard for everybody, extra hard for your trauma child. Show grace, show love, show vs tell. What you do is so much more important than what you say.

You think you're just like other families, yet, something must be wrong. Your new child is pushing back on everything, even things that don't appear to matter. You want her to be comfortable but she just fights every thing. She doesn't have a clue how to articulate what she feels. She may not even know. It's unfamiliar. This just feels wrong to her.

Why would we be surprised that unfamiliar territory would be rejected initially? Isn't this true for most of us? It must be so much worse on a child, ripped from everything she knows, clinging to everything she's ever done. Then these strangers that claim they'll adopt her want her to be different. I'm sure she feels that's an attack or criticism. Without a solid structure in the early years, all the sudden parents that try to communicate....scary!!

So, your child that just moved in is annoyed that she has to sit at the table and eat dinner as a family. You've cooked a great meal, not a tv dinner in the microwave, not sandwiches on paper plates. She's scared that she's going to break a plate. She's scared she'll not like the new food. She's scared she'll never have junk food again. Why on Earth would a family insist that every little detail be the way they want it. Your child wants to eat off paper plates? Let her. She'll eventually move to eating on real plates with the family. She just nitpicks at dinner and doesn't really eat, OR she eats so fast you don't know what happened to the food. Poor kid was neglected perhaps? She's afraid it's her last meal. Of course she crams it in before somebody can take it away. You're eating as a family and she's never been taught table manners, she may nitpick because she doesn't want to mess up. It's okay. Let her grow in her own time. I promise it's not forever.

Your food served overwhelms her. How about making some of her favorites, some of yours and have her take a bite of yours each time. Gradually she'll learn to enjoy real food. Kiddo's favorite food is Calamari now. Before if it wasn't nuggets, burgers, fries, peanut butter or cheese, it was frowned on.

All the kids in your family attend private school. You always assumed you'd send your own kid to also. Your new daughter throws a tantrum about that idea. We ended up letting kiddo go to public school even though we wanted private school because private school was scary, more attention and she was hypervigilant and felt bad and didn't like too much attention, whether negative or positive. After a childhood full of having no attention, that small of a classroom can be too much attention and overwhelming and lead to failure more than success. Maybe private is the right answer, but please look at the need behind the behaviors before making big decisions.

Your kid is struggling in school. That's why you want her to go to private school? She needs a tutor for almost every class but nobody has nurtured her education so she refuses to participate and she shuts down? Hummmm....sounds familiar. Despite D's, your new daughter says she knows how to to do everything by herself (because she's had no help and it's overwhelming, accepting help equals something being "wrong" with her) Our daughter struggled back the first few years, we focused on attachment vs grades and now she's an honor student, almost all straight A's, proud and has goals. Before she didn't even believe she had a future.

Maybe the answer is home schooling, maybe it's unschooling, maybe it's an IEP, maybe it's private school, maybe it's public school, maybe it's just giving it time. For us, time was part of the healer. The other part was her temporary stint with homeschooling after ankle surgery. That gave her the confidence to get caught up without fear of looking dumb in front of classmates. A teacher came in and with one on one time, within a few months, she was ready to tackle the world. It took 4 years for our child to let me help her with her homework. She wants you to believe she doesn't need help. She wants to be under the radar and not have to switch homes yet again. She has no clue why she's been through so many foster homes. Maybe the last one didn't have time for that and she's scared. Let her know you're available, but don't push yourself on her. Homework is not the end all. (but that's another story that I could easily go down a rabbit trail on)

What? She doesn't want to go to church with you? Have you heard her thoughts? Is it a deal breaker? or is it that you don't have child care? or that it's that important to you? "I hear that you don't want to choose this religion, but as a family until I know you're safe and can prove you can handle being alone thru behaviors (or whatever), I will need you to be at church with us". We're a mixed religion family so we were well prepared in this area, being very tolerant and understanding that not everybody has the same needs.

However, recognize that some kids feel like they're being condemned at church and that they already think they were removed for being bad deep down and this just further antagonizes the problem, so be prepared if she decides not to continue with any religion. Our child was manipulated at times in the name of religion. Religion makes her feel not good enough. We can show Christian love without the stress she feels in organized religion. I truly believe God would prefer we show love than talk it.

Maybe she doesn't want to do any extracurricular activities. We pushed our daughter to try things, but ultimately she does better jumping on her trampoline alone than team sports, etc, fear of failure, rejection from others, not being sure she'll be there long term and not wanting to get close to others, a hodge podge of reasons. We asked ours what she was going to do to fill that time spot as she dropped out of activities along the way. Yes, they are good for you, but it's not the end all. Ours has tried soccer, softball and piano and gave them all up, with time she's getting better about commitment. It took ages before she invited friends outside of the friends that were children of my friends over. She thought she wouldn't be here forever, so why bother getting close to her classmates.

Maybe your child gets angry because you say no too much. She feels like she was always allowed to do "xyz" before but now you don't let her. You don't let her because you're a good parent and it's not a good choice for her. How do you make her understand she was never allowed to do "xyz" its just that she was neglected and nobody ever watched her. Maybe nobody cared what she did or where she went. That's part of why she was taken into care. Never bad talk the birth family. Empathize, be real and truthful, but don't attack the person, just be clear about the behaviors. "I didn't have you as a baby and this is how we do things, even if you don't feel like you need xyz, I do, humor me". She eventually saw it for what it was and I never had to bad mouth others.

Give your child a chance to make choices. Say yes as much as possible. Yes helps her learn that you WILL provide her needs and even some of the wants.

What do you mean your child doesn't understand what an adoption is? Of course they don't, they know their birth family couldn't do it long term, why would they think a stranger will accept them for who they are?" Our baby had a failed adoption even, so that added another dynamic to the mix. It's a long ways between being a family in name and being securely attached.

How do I help her without her shutting down? Attachment, attachment, compliance isn't goal, attachment is. Attachment comes with patience, diligence, time and effort, an effort not to make it about me, but about relationships.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Highlights of Being 15

15 started with a great pool party to celebrate your birth!

You started high school in August and celebrated with an over the top fun slumber pool party that your friends are still talking about.

You finally got a new phone and have behaved with it long enough to enjoy it.

You enjoyed school immensely this year, after years of hating school.

You achieved A/B honor roll at a minimum every semester and straight A's a couple of times, earning the academic letter.

You signed up for dual enrollment/advanced diploma for the remainder of high school, because you started having goals. What amazing progress, going from not believing in a future to planning for a very bright future.

We took you and BFF to dinner theatre to see Beauty and the Beast. Not the Disney Version, but over the top crazy version, semi-redneck. Poor Beast, at the end, that mansion turned back into a double wide home.

We gave you tickets to see Carrie Underwood for your birthday and since your dad hates country music, we had a girls night and took your friend, K3.  A was there too and we had an amazing time.

We took you and K2 to the Make America Rock Again concert and she loved it so much. K2 is such a respectful kid and we really enjoyed her.  She was stunned to find out you weren't kidding about having a baby sister.

We took you and B to see Cirque du Soleil.  B is insanely crazy and cute in small doses, but has no manners and would get on anybodys nerves long term.  Not using utensils for a upper scale Mexican restaurant, really?  Her parents said she talked non-stop about how fun it was though. It was nice to be able to share experiences with somebody not able to do that themselves.

We took you and BFF to see Santa and the Nutcracker.  BFF is so adorbs.  Moose sat on your BFF's head while y'all unwrapped your BFF hoodies.

You had 4 boyfriends this year, only 1 of which you wanted to "go OUT" with.  We like him.  The others, not so much. I didn't want you out with them anyway. I trusted them as far as we could throw them.

You went to several parties and even went out of town with BFF to trampoline park. All of that was a really big deal.  You used to not even tell us about parties, not wanting to go, now you're a social butterfly.

You had your first "date", fishing with Z.

We took you and Z to see Blue Oyster Cult and him and dad had a great time at dinner talking about video games.  Y'all shared a funnel cake and afterwards you said "Did you see Z feeding me? did you think it was sweet? I bet most people did, but I bet he did it to make sure I didn't eat the whole thing"

We went to VA Beach and you finally didn't hate it, with it being crowded.  You got a henna tattoo of Tweety Bird.

You got a car--cute Beetle with your school mascot on the license tag and the car is your school main color.  Your got your learners permit and driving me insane with the constant need to drive, even when we have nothing to do.

Your cousin got married and you handled the crowd, the change in schedule and the timing like a champ, we were so proud of you. We went to visit her a couple months before for the shower and you played with the little kids there.

We went to a water park with your sister and she has made enough progress that she let ME go on a water slide with her when you weren't interested in going.  She also was nearly in tears when we left, showing that she's learning healthy attachments.

We went to the Broadway show of Rudolph for Christmas, which was insanely fun. You thought you were too old for it, until we got there and you found out how appropriate it was for all ages.  You said you hoped that they were nearby this year too, so we could go again.

We went to see Cheap Trick, one of dads favorites, and you got another guitar pick for your collection.  Your sister called while we were there and asked us to bring her home for Thanksgiving. We weren't able to, so we went to her for Thanksgiving and ate at Cracker Barrel.

We went to see Rick Springfield, moms teen heartthrob, and mom jumped out and hugged him and you couldn't believe it.

Mom went to Arizona and you handled mom being gone like a pro and video chatted with me a couple times.  You sprained your wrist while I was gone though.

We went to the Broadway show of Cinderella. It was good, but I think you liked Rudolph tons better, probably partially for seating.

We took you and I to see Pat Benetar and John Waite in concert and you two were roasting all of us old people and having entirely too much fun with snapchat filters on random strangers.

Your uncle from Germany visited and we all went to a cajun festival together.  I finally got to try alligator there, you stuck with your old standby, chicken nuggets.

We attended high school graduation together and you didn't sit with me, being a big high school girl, you sat with friends.  I think I'm suppose to be offended, but I was nothing but proud.

15 was amazing and I'm so excited to see what 16 brings for you and us.
I love you baby bear! To the moon and back!!