The third full day alone. The day itself was quiet. GB faced timed me this evening. She obviously had a difficult day. I asked why she hadn’t face timed me earlier. She said she had lost the right to talk to me because of her behavior. I know the anger I feel is more then the situation warrants. I also know the the odds of me allowing her to go for on a week long time with her father again are close to zero. The words that go with my current feelings probably shouldn’t be shared on the Internet.
With the girls heading to Florida with The Dad for a week, I have given some thought to being alone. Alone as in having an empty house and no one to take care of but myself. No schedule to follow, crisises to deal with. Being the only one my cooking needs to please and having all the power over my schedule. I haven’t been this kind of alone since January of 2008. Pre- Hope. A lifetime ago.
I was apprehensive about being alone, but ready. Outside of my weekly appointments, I scheduled nothing for this week. I was ready.
I momentarily forgot God has a sense of humor and the override button on my life. Last night I awoke to strange noises downstairs. First thought was to check on the cats. I had one on either side of me and neither of them cared enough about the noise to bother lifting their heads. The noise continued and I went down to check it out. The dog had pulled her cable out of the wall and trashed the kitchen. She ate the cat food, tore the litter box apart, and shredded the table cloth on the dining room table. The girls Easter projects were scattered.
I was too angry to deal with the dog, so I went to put her outside while I cleaned up. When I flipped on the outside light switch and opened the French doors, I forgot about the dog and the mess. It was snowing. For a second, I could have sworn I heard God laughing.
I had forgotten that no one is ever really alone. Not even me.
Last summer, The Dad and his friend Kathy took Hope and GB and Kathy’s two girls to Florida. Two other vans, filled with friends and family, went also. I had reservations, but The Dad and I agreed on a structure for the two weeks and I let them go. They had rented a huge house outside Orlando, with a large built in pool, a hot tub, wi-fi, HD TV in every room, and a game room- pool table, ping pong, and fooseball. Days at theme parks would be alternated with days staying at the house. Meals would be at the house. Routines would be maintained. It didn’t happen. At one point I received a panicked phone call from GB. She was by herself at Universal Park. She told me that she didn’t want to go on a ride and her father, Kathy, and the other three girls went without her. She didn’t know what ride or where the ride was and couldn’t tell me how long she had been alone. MK and her friend found her and took her with them. I vividly remember the dry taste of fear in my mouth and the anger I struggled to contain.
I don’t know why The Dad broke our agreement. I felt really dumb to have wasted the time trying to make things work.
An hour ago, the girls left with The Dad to spend a week in Florida. He is with a different friend this time. GB had mixed feelings about going and cried in my arms. I told her she didn’t have to go, but that home would be quiet and lowkey for the next week. Florida would be fun. I told her she could call me any and every time she wants do.
I watched them drive away and cried. I wanted to keep her and be sure she was safe. I also want GB to to try things out of her comfort zone and I want her relationship with her father to get on more solid footing. But I think it will be a long week.
I went to GB’s class play this morning. There are a total of five children in her class and play was organized and run by the speech therapist. GB played the mother and impromptu teleprompter. She knew everyone’s lines and her classmates looked to her for help. Her stage whisper needs some work but nobody seemed to mind.
This picture of her is not what I would have like. Today my hands were shaking badly. It is, however, enough to remind me how well she did and how happy she was.
Being a child from the hard places is difficult. So is being that child’s sibling. Adopting a child from the hard places is a marathon. Separating your life from someone else’s after 35 years is difficult. Divorce is hard on all kids. On adopted kids that have already experienced great losses, it is beyond hard.
Hard. Difficult. Today those seem like inadequate words to me. As always, there are better days and days that never seem to end. In recent weeks, I have had enough better days to keep me going. I hit the wall yesterday and it felt like I couldn’t take another step. I woke up this morning and the wall was still there. It is still there. Hope is struggling. Not new struggles, I know. After 55 months, the broken places are still broken. The pain she feels inside is still there. Sometimes her ear hurts, sometimes her throat hurts. Sometimes it is a rash that burns all over. You can’t see the rash or treat it, but the pain is real. Reality.
The Dad and I are miles apart on most things. There are fleeting moments when our bond pops back, but they burn, a lot like Hope’s rash yesterday. He went to send an honest, if unpleasant, message to one of his women friends. Only he sent it to me. He realized he sent it to me at the same time I read it and laughed. But information he assumed was driving events was information I didn’t even have until I read it in his text. When my brain caught up with it the laughter turned to tears. These days I just let the tears fall. There is nothing gained by fighting them or really even fighting him anymore. What broke will never be whole again. I feel a little more of what Hope feels. It doesn’t make me any better at meeting Hope’s needs.
I am torn between what I want and what I think is best. I truly decided to divorce over a 48 hour span of time back in November. My plans were to take full custody of GB and let The Dad take full custody of Hope and try to figure out how to maintain ties with the other parent. GB so needs the routine without Hope’s frequent meltdowns. I am tempted by the call of the quiet. Each rage Hope has brings flashbacks of MK during adolescence. As Hope grows older and stronger the resemblance between now and then increases. I do not physically restrain Hope. I can’t keep either of us safe. She still kicks, hits, and throws and occasionally bites. A few weeks ago Hope threatened me with a knife. Trying to talk to her about it triggered a three hour rage. Trying to address it with her therapist present the next day just triggered her again.
I reread the last paragraph and I know most people reading it would wonder why I would even contemplate the possibility of raising Hope by myself. The Dad loves her beyond words and can still keep her physically safe. If I knew that would be enough it would be a done deal. But I don’t. The Dad wants so much for Hope to heal that reality gets lost. If GB gets physical- and these days she does- The Dad not only notices it but makes note of it. He noticed Hope was physical this morning, but that doesn’t mean Hope’s therapist will hear about it during tomorrow’s appointment. And the fact that Hope was physical with him after school yesterday, before she somewhat regulated, was never even noticed. And that scares me. Hope is entering puberty even though she is not ten yet. The world no longer sees a little girl. When she rages, it carries a physical threat that wasn’t so blatant when she was 42 lbs. Up until this point the school has been focused on approaching Hope successfully by avoiding her triggers, such as the word “no” or asking her to redo work correctly. She has spent an extra year in the primary program to solidify her feelings of success. She will be in the intermediate class next year and the focus changes to her being able to meet the demands of school. She still loses it 2 or 3 times a week in the primary class. I can’t imagine what the intermediate class will bring. Stealing is an issue that has not had effort focused on it because the rages are still so significant. All of which begs the question “What makes you think you can do any better?” Honestly, I don’t know that I can.
What I can do is see what is happening and accurately report it. Since we first adopted Hope, The Dad has seen saving Hope as one of his primary missons in life. Since he retired 2 years ago, successfully parenting Hope is how he identifies his worth. I don’t know what successfully parenting Hope looks like. I am sure that my experiences with MK color my fears of the challenges Hope will have in the coming years. But after 35 years of parenting children from the hard places, I know that neither wishing things better nor denying what is happening does the child any good. I know I want more for Hope, no matter how hard or difficult. I just wish I had more answers.
Today was the second day Hope, GB and I spent as our fledgling family of three. Eggs for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Rabbit cages cleaned, GB singing to herself, Hope hiding with the iPad. The highlight of our day was coloring Easter eggs. The girls agreed on a sponge painting kit, split the eggs evenly, and shared the dye like pros.
No hissy fits, no tears. A drama free day. One day at a time.
Most of the time I fight through the day, knowing tomorrow is a new day, maybe even a better day. I have people I trust. People who will hold me until I am reasonably sure I am not going to shatter into little pieces. Pieces so small there will be nothing of me left. Then a day like today comes along.
Today I listened as GB tried to convince herself that it is her fault that the people she loves think she doesn’t see what is true. Mothers are supposed to protect their children, reaffirming their worth, validating their reality. I have put all my energy into validating GB for a long time. Yet, at the core of her being, she believes her father chose Hope over her. She has no belief that it will ever be different. I reassure her that our break up has nothing to do with her. I tell her that what her sisters say is because of their hurt, totally unrelated to her or anything she has ever done. It is such an overwhelming burden for any child to carry, much less a child who is twelve, but not. FAS has damaged GB’s ability to protect herself. She can not use words to convey her reality. Her words trip and stumble over each other and she has no response when others twist them into unrecognizable shapes. She is asleep. I am free to cry the tears I couldn’t set free while she was awake and watching me.
I pray when I wake up tomorrow I will be ready to fight the good fight again. This can’t be as good as it gets.