Happy Verses Educated

The girls brought home report cards this week. Hope’s report card had some good news academically. Hope is not on target to meet any of her social/emotional goals. GB is hard working and a pleasure to have in class. The academic information I expect in a report card wasn’t there.

The same old debate started in my head before I even realized where it was going. It is a debate I have carried out, by myself, for every child we ever had. How much is an education worth? When is the price too high?

I have never been able to answer the first question and it is only in recent years I have started to answer the second.  For my daughters, I have temporary answers that may change. Given GB’s abilities, I want her to keep working hard and do the best she can. I do not want her pushed so much that she is chronically frustrated. Hope’s abilities are much different than GB’s. Ultimately, I see no limits as to how far she can go. Right now, however, academics aren’t making the radar. Hope’s behavioral and emotional challenges have to be addressed first. Then she will be ready to learn.

If you have a child with any kind of special needs, I would love to hear how you feel and why.

It is Okay

It was brought to my attention that another blogger used my family and a specific post as an example of what not to do. I am not providing a URL or name because neither matter. I have never been someone who monitors how other people are viewing my life. At 55 years old, I have no interest in starting now. The author just released a revised edition of her book and her whole post, including the part about me, was a sales pitch.

That is all the energy I am going to spend on that person. I promise a real post tomorrow.

Home For The Holidays

I know it is not December yet. In our extended family, Christmas has traditionally started the Friday after Thanksgiving. The holiday music comes out, we start decorating, planning projects, and planning menus. Hope had some good moments in the last two weeks, but I have still decided we need to stay home for the holidays. People who what to see us will come here.

Our December trip to the water park will wait until January. Various people will do traditional Christmas activity, such as visit Bedouin Park, with all its lights, ski Hunter Mountain, and going caroling. Everyone participates with the Advent Calendar and family movie nights with the traditional Christmas DVDs will happen. Homemade hot chocolate and various cooking projects will take place. Secrets and wrapping will happen.

Pre-holiday decluttering has commenced and the fireplace is working. Presents here are always low key and family games are traditional. Low key will not only allow Hope to enjoy more, but will reduce the stress level for everyone. Conversations are already happening around here to identify which traditions are most important.

My fourteen day challenge was only partially successful- the atmosphere in the house improved, but I didn’t do as well as I had hoped. A low key December is much more doable and something I am looking forward to.

Grateful

I was spitting tacks when we left for my sister’s last night. The Dad insisted on taking the Prius because the saving in gas is significant. I couldn’t imagine any amount of money worth traveling with Hope in the Prius on a ten or eleven hour ride. My fears were valid. Hope nutted up and The Dad spoke softly and called her his “baby”, while growling at GB to leave her sister alone. I should have just stayed home. My frame of mind was the pits at that point and I couldn’t find the peaceful spot inside that my therapist and I have been working on. So I switched my focus to keeping my mouth shut.  I was successful. I figured I wouldn’t say another word until we were at Lynn’s house.

I was startled by a huge bump and the strangest sounds coming from the car. Three in the morning, three hours from Lynn’s, we hit a deer. The Dad couldn’t open his door and a tremendous amount of steam rose from the engine. GB and Hope woke up, but,  thankfully, no one was hurt. Hope was snarly, which is how she always wakes up. Fortunately, while she raged earlier, she didn’t lose it then. We waited a half hour for a Virginia State Trooper and another half hour for a tow truck. By 4:15 we were in a hotel room.

This room has a complete, full size, set of stainless steel appliances, including a garbage disposal, and granite counter tops. The bedroom is completely separate. There is a kitchen table, a couch, a desk and an easy chair.

This morning we woke up to find we didn’t have comprehensive on the Prius and would have to pay cash to solve this problem. Not great, especially since, the Dad just took a half time leave, and our living money was cut in half.

I am grateful because:

  • Ten years ago, The Dad would have lost it completely. He stayed intact and dealt.
  • GB has always been a good car rider and trusts us completely. Telling her everything was going to be ok and her believing us was big last night.
  • Hope was Hope, but when we hit the deer, she didn’t rage, she just got snarly.
  • God has always met our needs and I trust that he will this time.
  • We will get to my sister’s by Thanksgiving, even if it is not on my schedule.

Most of all, we are all safe and together. Everything else pales beside this.

Wishing you all a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Whose Mistake?

We went to Radio City Music Hall and saw their Holiday Spectacular. We went with another family. We took the train down to Grand Central. We meandered around Rockefeller Plaza. The kids each picked an activity from the MOMA gift shop as a souvenir. We had hot dogs from street vendors and went to the 1pm matinee. Our seats were in the second row and each girl had cotton candy and a Radio City Music Hall Santa hat which came with cotton candy.

The show itself was an absolute success. All the girls were mesmerized.

Dinner was not as successful. We had reservations, but the restaurant was $50 an entree and had no kid’s menu. My Fillet Mignon  and the sauce it came with was delicious. Everybody else had trouble finding something they thought they would eat. I didn’t recognize most of what was on the menu.

Hope had an awful day. The only time she enjoyed herself was during the actual show. She was difficult all day. She had two full blown rages. In the middle of Manhattan. We had no graceful exits,

That old dilemma again. We want her to enjoy the family time with us. She can’t handle anything but a small, confined world. I am glad Hope had the experience of seeing the show. I never want to take her anywhere again.

Why Attachment Therapy?

A reader, JM, left the following comment:

I’m curious, if you don’t mind answering, why you chose to do Attachment Therapy with Hope as opposed to other therapies? Also, what do you think about the controversy and criticism of Attachment Therapy?

As we have recently made yet another four hour trip to see the attachment therapist, I thought this would be a good time to start to answer this question. I can only start to answer because Hope’s treatment is a work in progress.

When we Hope first joined our family, it was obvious that she had been severely neglected. Abuse, both sexual and physical, was red flagged by Hope’s behavior the first couple of weeks home. From the moment we took Hope, it was apparent that her rage was focused on the mother. That would be me. Hope has been seeing two trauma therapists since she came home. Last spring, the physical violence against me reached dangerous levels. A friend of mine, who had adopted a child from a Russian orphanage, had used the attachment therapist we are using with good results.

The therapist was Dan Hughes based, and also treated trauma. We did an eight day intensive in July and it was difficult. Difficult for us, difficult for Hope. The therapist told us how seriously disturbed Hope was. She said Hope maybe unable to live in a family, but there was still a spark there to work with.

Hope is not my first child with attachment issues. My first child was adopted at 10 weeks. He cried for the first three months he was home. My oldest daughter, who has FASD, was adopted at 6 months. When my daughter came home, she smiled at everyone. She never cried. She would take right away to anyone she came in contact with. Everybody, including me, thought it was a blessing that she adjusted so well. This was 27 years ago and nobody in the adoption world was talking about attachment issues. She wasn’t diagnosed with RAD until she was 17. She still struggles.

I was looking for a healthier outcome for Hope. I realize attachment therapy comes with a lot of controversy. The “holding” therapy is the source of much of that controversy. Children have died from it. Some of those deaths occurred because parents didn’t feel “in charge” and therefore did not educate themselves on the therapy their child was receiving. By not taking charge themselves, they became subservient to the therapist and allowed physical abuse. The Dad and I are always in the room with Hope and we always know exactly what is going to happen. The only time there is any “holding” involved is during trauma work. During trauma work Hope is rolled up in a blanket on a mattress before it begins.

I feel that since Hope is so young the best outcome for her is for us to become her psychological parents. I still think it is possible for The Dad. I am not sure it is possible for me. I do not know if Hope will ever let anyone be her mother again. This leads me right to where I am. Does Hope have to accept me as her mother in order to grow up healthy in our family?

I have no answer to that question. I can’t find anything in the literature. Most of the literature is written with the assumption attachment is necessary and then goes on to how to get the child attached. I am sure that secure attachment would be the best outcome. Nobody looks at  how to help a child who is not capable of attachment. There were some case studies of unattached child who grew up to be sociopaths, but no examination of unattached children who grew up without becoming sociopaths. I was looking for a study of the differences between the two groups.

I am sure this doesn’t fully answer the question, but I don’t really have an answer. We are a work in progress. Hope is a work in progress. Day by day, we look for new paths, partial answers.