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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Measuring Bonding

There was a thread on facebook about adoption disruptions, why they happen and how people can even consider disrupting.

If you adopt a child, your child should be treated exactly as if they would be if they were born to you. In other words, if you wouldn't have given up if you'd birthed them, then don't give up just because they're not your blood.

I can't imagine loving our child any more whether she were born to us or not. She's the light of our life.

As the thread progressed, the question came up about how you measure bonding.

We got lucky. We adopted our daughter from an adoption that was dissolved and she fits in perfectly like a missing puzzle piece in our home. She's doing well and with work (attachment parenting) and attachment therapy, the bonding has occurred.  It was connection from day one and felt right right away, but even if there hadn't been that connection, I'm stubborn, we'd never give up.

As for answering how to measure bonding, I can't say I really know that exact answer, but I do remember some moments along the way that were good evidence in my eyes that bonding was happening.

We came back from vacation once and kiddo said "it's so good to be back home" and the way she said home was so different than other times. I knew she had become a family girl and was no longer just trying to fit in and feeling like it was temporary.

Early on when we visited her bio sis or social worker out of town, she'd pack stuff "to do" and a zillion baby dolls. The trip was 3 1/2 hours each way, but it wasn't about having things to do, despite what she said.  When we got home, she put her dolls away and told the other dolls and her dog that she didn't know why they were worried about the dolls being put up for adoption, they came home.  Tear jerker moment.  The day she started travelling light, I knew she knew we were forever and bonding had occurred.

We also own the house next door and rent it out. Kiddo said when she gets married, the renters go and she will move there. She said her and I will be talking from our front porches, she'll come eat our food and she'll send her kids to us when they're getting on her nerves.

For her, evidence we were in it forever was after massive meltdowns. She asked us on numerous attempts, tearfully, to send her back. We refused.

When we defended her in situations she wasn't accustomed to having support in, she knew we were going to take care of her.

When she was cutting, she had written a note to a friend that she was worried about us finding out and sending us back to foster care.  We found out, took her to the hospital and I took some time off with her to ensure she knew that we were serious about wanting her to be well, healthy and with us.  There have been no incidents since then.

The major one though, was after her foot surgery.  She was a demon for about 36 hours after the surgery and that was the roughest time we've had as parents (even more so than the cutting incident).  She had 6 weeks of having to depend on us for almost everything.  That, plus not giving up on how she behaved those first 36 hours, gave her the confidence to depend on us and know we were forever.

We still have issues, but nothing serious like that, knock on wood.

The food issues have been so much better over the past 6 weeks or so too 
So proud of her.

Have a few concerns about summer coming up, but also a few joys about it.  She's so much more relaxed in summer being here, not having school, etc.  But it is a challenge to get her out of the house and I want her to go out and enjoy things! She loves home so much that it's hard to get her out of the house when it's not a "required" activity, like school.

On the flip side, this is the first year that she's looked forward to vacation the way she is.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Transgender Bathroom Controversy

What bugs me the most about the transgender bathroom controversy is how much more we worry about that than about the kids in our country that are neglected and/or abused. I rarely see worry over that (except in adoption groups).
I respect passion and it's great to be protective of our kids, I don't want mine in most public restrooms alone regardless of who's allowed in there or not, but it really saddens me that this is so much more important to most people than the overall future of our country.....that's not where we're likely to need our child to be protected from.
Do you think 1500 people are going to be killed by a transgender person each year as a result of this "new" rule that isn't new at all? That's how many kids per year die due to abuse and/or neglect every year. Why isn't THAT important to anybody that hasn't experienced it first or second hand?
Where do you think they're (Transgenders) currently going to the bathroom at?
The only thing likely to be changing is the constant discussion about it. Everybody loves to pretend to want to make a difference, but it's usually talking about something that we can't change. The future of our kids we CAN change though. How about a few join the cause on that. THAT is where the real difference comes in at. Fix that problem, fix the vicious cycle and I can PROMISE that the world will change for the better.
Some respond with that they're looking after the kids, most never mention preventing issues.  Pretty sure it's not about helping the kids, as 99% of them have zero information or rage towards child abuse from areas that it actually happens in.  Most people like to vent about things they can't control vs doing something about what they can control.  pushing 90% of sexual abuse is done by somebody that the child knows, not a random stranger.  
Kids are going hungry every day, kids are being abused daily, 4 kids a day are dying from abuse, kids are being sexually abused by PEOPLE THEY KNOW, not some random transgender person.
When I look at the adoption sites to see if some of the kids we met or knew about before we found kiddo have found homes and more than have haven't, it tells me there aren't enough people actually wanting to make a difference.  If more would step up and help, then authorities may have time to prevent some abuse by protecting kids and getting them out of abusive situations and helping families either get their acts together or find a safe place for kids.
We can rationalize our opinions, but the numbers really don't lie.  
This is intended not to be pro or con transgender bathroom issue, but to provoke thought and suggest maybe people would get out and do something about what matters to them, instead of just whining. Be a solution.  I wish some would put things in perspective, but many are just happier being mad and prefer placing blame over fixing an issue.
Some say "I believe this, but it's because this....", I challenge you to really think about WHY you believe the way you do, regardless of your beliefs.  Look at any friends wall on facebook and you can tell what matters most to them. The most prominent subjects on your wall are the things that are most important to you.  
If the only stance you take against child abuse is that a person may pose as a transgender to get in the bathroom and stalk your child, but you never worry about a child that dies from hunger or from being tormented, you never worry about sexual abuse, it's not the potential for child abuse that truly bothers you.  If child abuse was primary concern, you'd also worry about real dangers to a child.
It really upsets me and I know that's personal and emotional on my level, but it hurts to see how much people care about this issue and yet so few cared enough to get my baby out of a situation before it was as bad as it was.  It hurts to know that I KNOW what some of the kids went thru and it took so long to get that child help.
I live with 2 people that have PTSD from childhood abuse, I do take this personally.  It's real and it's a daily battle.  
Who's willing to go out there and make a difference?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Holiday Triggers

Off and on we've experienced kiddo struggling during various holidays.

She's done so well over time that it's not always the same one or the same reaction, but there is generally obvious anxiety, even if it doesn't result in meltdowns.

Sometimes it does result in meltdowns, but whether those occur or not, I try to be sensitive to those holiday triggers that are all too common for trauma kids.

Acting out isn't a behavior problem though, it's a way to communicate the fear and turmoil they're feeling. It's difficult to articulate and many times, the child doesn't even realize the holiday is what triggered the problem.

Fathers Day and Mothers Day have been 2 of the harder holidays for kiddo.

It's logical though.

Imagine being a little kid and while you're still little, your father leaves.

Fast forward a year or two and the abuse starts.....your mother isn't able to keep you safe.  Eventually Social Services steps in and removes you from the only mother and father you've ever known.

Hard enough even if you stop there.

Now picture you moving to a different home. You're told you're safe there.  Abuse starts a year or two later.

Now you've lost the next set of parents you had.

Of course by the time you end up with your forever family, you're just waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Not only do you worry about if they'll always be who they say they will and if you'll always be safe, but you're expected to be all nice and stuff for fathers day and mothers day and give them gifts and love.

No! Why would somebody with that background trust it.  Why wouldn't they think with pain to the past and mothers and fathers day trigger those memories of the past, the mothers and fathers that weren't able to be there for them.

One year for Fathers Day, we made the mistake of going to the beach for the weekend.  Oddly, it wasn't intentional to schedule it for Fathers Day, but just landed that way.

It was horrible.  Total trigger city.

Vacations were difficult early on. Kiddo thought she didn't deserve good things happening to her and vacations were a stressor, worrying if she was behaving well enough to deserve all that fun. Add to that, the knowledge of Fathers Day.....already there is distrust of men in general, now you are suppose to pretend that everything is normal, that you haven't lost so much before this point, that you don't remember the good moments with the past pretend you don't remember the bad moments with the past families....both hurt in their own way.

The next Mothers Day, I had to constantly remind myself not to be upset with her.  She didn't wish me a Happy Mothers Day. She didn't make me a card or anything. It was just another day. I wanted that normal day that a mom usually has, but demanding would be useless and meaningless.  Waiting and not having an expectation would help and be healing for her.

Now, time is creeping up and she's mentioned being away of Mothers Day around the corner.

With the healing that's gone on over the past year or two, it'll be interesting to see how she handles that trigger.

I'm not mentioning the day though.  I am preparing myself and telling myself not to have expectations, even though she "says" she's making something for me.

The first Mothers Day here, the adoption wasn't final. We were sorta in our honeymoon stage, meltdowns, but not fully attached yet at that point. Regardless, I'll treasure that card she made that said I'm the best mom ever.

While she said what she thought she should at that point, I'm accepting the challenge for that to be what I am to her.

We're now attached, but she still has insecurities.  It may be a long time before we have a complete year of holidays and no triggers, but that's okay.

I will understand and accept my childs feelings.

I will also realize there is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday.  ie. Christmas....we use to love to feed the hungry on Christmas. Kiddo is triggered by crowds and noise, we changed that tradition. We used to visit family on Christmas. We stay home now. It's just for us.  We have zero expectations of a "perfect" day.

Guess what? When we decided it was okay not to be perfect, that's exactly what the day is!! Maybe not perfect in other peoples eyes, but perfect for us.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Food and Family Progress

It came on so subtly that I almost didn't realize how much progress we've seen lately.

Back in October, hubs had a dispute with kiddos bff's mom.  The mom forbid bff from being facebook friends with hubs.  Kiddo was so upset about the absurdity of it that she immediately went on her facebook page and defriended bff's mom.  She said if BFF can't talk to daddy, I'm not talking to her momma!

Then another night, we went to a really good restaurant that we hadn't been to since kiddo moved in. Kiddo loved it and loved the mashed potatoes so much that she passed me a bite.

Completely unheard of.

Her sharing food?

Yeah, she wanted me to taste how yummy it was, instead of stressing that somebody would eat her food, like has been the norm the entire time she's been here.

Last month, BFF's mom and I got in a dispute. BFF's mom defriended ME this time.  Whatever!

Kiddo was the first to notice it and she got so angry that she defriended the BFF.  I told her that her and BFF had nothing to do with the issues and she didn't need to do that, but she was in protective mode. She wanted me to see that she had my back.   She doesn't let anybody speak ill of her momma and daddy.

She said "besides, it's not like BFF and I talk anymore, I'm tired of rejection and being used".

Another recent instance was Friday on the way to school.  On the way to school kiddo pulled out a baby bell cheese wheel that she'd gotten from the fridge to snack on on the way to school.  I noticed and we were talking about how much we love them and I said I wished I'd thought of that. She pulled the other one out (she'd brought two) and handed me one.

What?! Sharing food is one thing, but now it's also her last one!?

I'm so proud of how far she's come.

She's starting to finally feel safe.

She knows she's loved and that we want to support and help her, hence having our backs when others treat us unkindly.

She knows we'll feed her no matter what now and she's starting to not "protect her food".

She also has let me help her with homework a few times in the last month or so.

It's little things, a little at a time, but then I realize how much in such a short time and I'm overwhelmed with the love I feel for her and how proud I feel of her for being so resilient, for being willing to learn to trust and love and for trusting us to be the parents she deserves to have.

Standardized Testing

 I hate SOL's.  They are so not a representation of who a child is and yet, so much weight is put on it.  Kiddo was suppose to have her first one today.

We've told that child at least a zillion times that we don't believe in the SOL's (she does know we very much believe in a great education and giving her all at school, just not concerned about the silly test).

We've reassured her over and over again to just go in and do her best, not stress and no matter the score, she's loved.

Yesterday her and I had a little talk and I wrote her a letter in more detail. I told her I didn't want her feeling like I was lecturing about school, so I put my thoughts on paper, but short version was not to stress, it's just not that important in the scheme of things.

I also reitterated that school itself is very important, it's just not about the tests.  It's about using what you learn to deal with life.  She is so resilient and proven so with all that she's had happen in the past, so of course we have high expectations.

She giggled at a few points of the letter  (like my example of having to be respectful to adults not having to do with submission but learning not to let emotions rule and learning to problem solve)

I had even signed the slip about testing saying not to re-test her if she didn't pass the test.  My idea behind that was to show her that it wasn't a big enough issue to make it worth spending a ton of time on.  She requested I redo it to let her re-test. She said if she got a 399 and suppose to get 400, she'd WANT to take it again and pass, that she knew she could do it.  I couldn't have been prouder at that moment.

I'm so proud of all she's done and I never want her feeling like one day at school means the whole year was a waste. She's so afraid if she fails the test that she will have to go to summer school and that'd mean no Tybee Island.  I explained that's not the case.

All that said, imagine what some of these kids that have all this anxiety over the test thought today. Kiddo came home this afternoon and they didn't get to take the test.  Of all the weird things, their server went down and she couldn't take the test.

She seems to be taking it well, but if I was prepared for a big day and and the day didn't happen, it'd probably be anxiety ridden.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Goodwill Find

Kiddo had money burning a hole in her pocket and asked me to take her out shopping. We stopped at the flea market, with no luck and then off to Goodwill, where she spent almost to the penny what she had on silly stuff.

As we were in the line though, something CRAZY caught our eye.  She asked me to see the price because she'd put everything back for it.  It was $48. She had nowhere near that.  She begged me to buy it for her.  I didn't have the money either.

She talked all the way home about it, asking me if I was sure we couldn't get it.

It was cool.

It was awesome.

It was strange.

I wanted it too.

When we got home, she was talking a million miles a minute and telling daddy-o all about it.  He asked me about it and I showed him on e-bay. He asked what I thought about it. I told him I wanted the thing too, but the problem is, I'm not spending $48 for something she's going to put in her room that we all love and not get to enjoy it.

Yeah, he thought it was crazy.

He loved it too.

That day, hubs went to the grocery store and kiddo begged him to stop by Goodwill and pick it up.  He didn't. We agreed to each other that if it was there the next day, we'd get it, but not make an impulse purchase on something so silly.  She didn't know this though.

Later that night, I asked if she wanted to play Mario with me.  She declined.  It made for the perfect setup.

Next morning, hubs runs out real quick to get that item at the store he forgot.  She hadn't forgotten her request though and asked if he'd run to Goodwill.  He raised his eyebrows at her and laughed.

When he came home from the store, he snuck the prized possession into the living room and brought the item from the grocery store in. She said "daddy, where is it?".

Kiddo and I had to run out for a minute and daddy said "Whatever you do, don't look in the seat of the truck, take the trailblazer".  She was convinced he had it there.  As we went out the door, she said "why would he say that, knowing that'd tempt me?".  Since I knew he was playing and it was already in the living room, I played along and said "If you look, I promise I will not tell".

Of course it wasn't there.

When we came back home, she told him there wasn't anything in the truck. He said it was suppose to be, so she ran out and brought in the meds he'd accidentally left behind and said "really?"


an hour or so later, we FINALLY got her to agree to come watch a family movie with us in the living room....Aliens....which is appropriate considering.

We're sitting there and a few minutes in, the squeal......

she notices....

Yeah, an alien lava lamp.
Right at $200 on ebay.

She wondered aloud how long it had been there. Not answering, but playing, I said "Hummmm, maybe somebody should have played Mario with me last night".   She assumed that meant it had been there since the day before.