Trying to at least. Life with a kid who has experienced a load of trauma in her short life, has to deal with the impending arrival of a biological half sibling and all the repercussions of feeling like “the unwanted one”, a parent who is more absent than she and of course being 7, is not in the least bit easy. Actually, it’s pretty freaking hard, and this past month and a half has been damn near unbearable!
Mary has been exhibiting pretty normal behavior as far as the developmental milestones go for a 7 year old. Challenging authority, trying to prove her independence both socially and emotionally, developing better self-control, identifying emotions, and things like that. She has also been exhibiting the traits of a child who is 7 that has ALSO experienced severe, early, and chronic trauma. Disregulation of affect, behavior, and/or cognition, as well as problems with trust, shame, self-esteem, and interpersonal relationships. And even though I know that all of this is technically normal for “a kid like her” (I HATE when people say that, but here in this post it’s totally valid for making my point), I can’t help but be so damn frustrated and annoyed, and just at my wits end, and even thinking things that on a normal day I wouldn’t think.
Mary has been on and off of “punishment” or losing her privileges for the better part of a month and a half. She’ll lose her freedom and choices for a few days at a time, and then gain them back, but no sooner has she had a day or two of her privileges back, she does something to totally and completely fuck it up again. It’s been a continuous cycle for the past 6 weeks or so. Just recently, she’s been lying so badly and consistently, that it was recommended (hesitantly) by her therapist to lie right back, and we did, and it was effective, and she hasn’t lied since, but as soon as she started to get her doggone privileges back, she failed to do the right thing again, and now, after having had a carnival, a fun party to attend, a field trip at camp (we weren’t sending her on trips for about 2 weeks), a day at the pool, and her toys back all in the course of 3 days, she decided that it would be really freaking cute to be rude and sassy to the basketball coach at her camp on Monday.
Callie’s dad went to pick her up at camp. As he’s leaving the building, the counselor and the basketball coach chased him down to let him know what happened. Apparently, when they were playing basketball, the coach asked Mary to give him the ball. She adamantly refused, gave him the stink eye and said, “NO!” So, of course, he asked her again, and she repeated, “NO!”, at which point she finally gave up the ball by just dropping it to the ground and giving the coach a face that was just super fresh (you know the one with the dead stare and almost eye roll that makes you wanna smack them and the arms dangling at the side? Yeah! That face!). Then she stood there for the rest of the time, no effort, not moving, and when it was time to leave, the group filed out of the gym, and Mary was called back in by the coach, and she blatantly ignored him, and kept walking, knowing very well that she could hear him. So the counselor marched her right back into the gym, and they both had a conversation letting her know that her behavior was unacceptable and that she would be in big trouble if she did it again. Callie’s dad relayed all this information to Callie when he dropped her off at home after camp, and added, “Honestly, Honeypie, I don’t think she’s ever gonna learn!”. Then Callie sent me a text, and I. WAS. FUMING!!!
I figured, I’d do my best to keep calm, walked through every possible scenario on my train ride home as to why in the world she would think it was okay to be so damn disrespectful (can you tell I’m still angry about this whole situation?!), and figured, since Callie had already suspended her choices YET AGAIN, that when I got home from work, we would sit at dinner and I would ask her calmly, what happened. What had transpired during the day, or during basketball that made her act that way towards an adult? What was going on with her emotionally that made her act so fresh? So at dinner, we all set the table, washed up, and started to eat. So I asked how her day went (we pretend that Callie hasn’t told me anything initially so Mary can make the choice to tell me the truth about her day, especially when she gets in trouble).
“It was okay. But I got in trouble today at basketball.”
“Why did you get in trouble?”
“Because I wasn’t listening”
“Well, why weren’t you listening?”
“Because I didn’t want to play basketball”
“Why didn’t you want to play?”
“But what was your reason for not wanting to play?”
“So you thought it was okay to be fresh and rude because you didn’t want to do something that someone asked you to do?!” (Now I’m getting a little more animated and a little more aggravated because we have had this conversation a dozen times about “The Mary Show” and her doing what she wants to do and not was is required or asked of her)
She gives me a blank stare and that damn smirk, so of course, now I lose it! Like seriously lose it! Hands down my most shameful parenting moment ever in life.
“YOU KNOW WHAT?!?! I’M SO TIRED OF THIS CRAP!!! THERE IS A LOT OF STUFF THAT I DON’T FEEL LIKE DOING AND I DO IT ANYWAY BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO!!! I DON’T FEEL LIKE GOING TO WORK, OR TAKING CARE OF KIDS, OR MAKING MONEY TO FEED ALL OF YOU GUYS, OR TAKE YOU TO THE PARK WHEN I’M TIRED AND I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, OR BUY YOU NEW CLOTHES THAT YOU’RE GOING TO RUIN ANYWAY BECAUSE YOU AREN’T RESPONSIBLE WITH YOUR THINGS!!! SO WHAT DO YOU DO?! YOU’RE RUDE TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SO NICE AND FUN WITH YOU!?! I’M SO TIRED OF YOUR BEHAVIOR BECAUSE IT’S EMBARRASSING!!! YOU EMBARRASS US AND MAKE US LOOK BAD WHEN YOU BREAK THE RULES AND YOU ACT FRESH! AND SO HELP ME GOD, YOU BETTER GET YOURSELF TOGETHER MARY, OR I’M GONNA FREAKING LOSE IT! I’VE HAD IT! COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY HAD IT! (and with a pointed fork right in her direction…to end my tirade..) GET IT TOGETHER!!!! NOWWWWW!!!! AND NO PRIVILEGES UNTIL SCHOOL STARTS WHEN YOU PROVE THAT YOU’VE GOT IT FIGURED OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Slammed my fork on the table, and walked away)
Friends, this was just, ugh, so out of character for me, and I just, I don’t know! Totally lost it! I scared the crap out of her, and Callie, and even myself. I had a brief moment where I saw my mother, and heard her voice, right before she beat the crap out of me and my siblings. I couldn’t even believe that I actually did that. But at the same time, it was totally liberating and almost like, she needed to hear it and see me angry and not just kinda flighty about the whole situation. We have tried to address her lying and all of her behavioral issues in the best ways that we can (by the book, with the therapists help, with being in tune with the fact that she has loads of issues that your average 7 year old doesn’t have), and we have not even come CLOSE to fixing half of them. And I know that it takes time, and I know that she isn’t going to be open to changing if this is how I am communicating with her.
And the worst part is (and this is real deep y’all) that at times like this, it makes me wonder if we are even ready to take on a kid that is so damaged. What is this gonna look like in 5, 10 years. Am I going to be taking a 15 year old to a clinic for an abortion, or bailing a 17 year old out of jail? Am I gonna have to send my 16 year old off to rehab? Am I gonna have the authorities banging on my door at 2 am to tell me that my kid was caught doing something that she shouldn’t do? Am I gonna worry about the wrong crowd and the unimaginable happening? Do I have to worry that she is going to be a terrible influence on her younger siblings? What is her behavior and poor choices going to do to our family, because still at times, Callie and I stand quite divided on how we should handle some of the issues that we face with her. At times like this, I think, “No matter which way this adoption situation goes, I’ll be fine! If she stays, cool. If she doesn’t, cool.” And that makes me feel like a horrible person, and I know that I only half way mean it when I’m angry. And even though I know that we are doing the best we can, and we are trying our best to build her self confidence, and her self esteem and allow her to make mistakes so that she can learn from them, there is only so much we can take.
Every day, we lace up our boots, trudge through all the BS that parenting brings, and work together to do the best we can, when and while we can, to help change Mary’s life. I know that I should have been more proactive than reactive at dinner, and that’s something that I am more aware of now that it’s actually happened. I’ve made a promise to Callie and myself (and silently to Mary) that I will walk away BEFORE the explosion. I didn’t do the right thing friends, and it’s been sitting with me for these past 2 days…I feel like a horrible Mamà….