GB was scheduled to be in school for two hours today- 8:15 to 10:15. I chose to keep her home and talk about how difficult everything has been for her lately. She reminded me that she could now do a cartwheel AND a handstand on the balance beam and that she thought she was going to make gymnastic her life. I agreed that her hard work in gymnastics was paying off and she was getting better at it all the time.
She was quiet for a bit. She told me she works very hard in school and she was not getting better at it. The Dad told her that it was very hard for her because the program had changed. It was no longer the best program for her. Then The Dad told GB her new teacher wore high heels. GB immediately brightened up and said “That’s awesome”.
We spent two full days with my friend, J., and her family. J and her most excellent husband have adopted three children from trauma backgrounds. Their youngest is very close to Hope in age and behaviors. The two girls became quickly inseparable. GB and J.’s two oldest also enjoyed being together. It was good to spend time with J. and meet her husband. It was good for The Dad to have the opportunity to be with adults who “get it”.
Canada is a beautiful country. I have driven through parts of it before as we drove to Michigan, but this is the first time I have seen Canada in daylight. The reds on the turning trees were beautiful. Beautiful old homes and vast fields with wooden fences that were different than any fence I have seen before. I have always assumed Canada was just like the USA, like a far north state. It is and it isn’t.
J. and her family were so warmly welcoming it was like coming home. When Hope’s first trip to the bathroom resulted in a shaving cream cans worth of mess, there was no surprise. Hope continued to be Hope and J. was ready for it and the time flew, with everybody enjoying themselves. The acting out behaviors were just a ripple in our time together.
When we had to leave this morning, Hope did not take it well. We stopped at a Starbucks for coffee right after leaving J.s. Hope started raging in the car and continued on the side of the drive thru lane. It lasted for over forty five minutes. Once she was done, it was still six hours to home. She was nasty and miserable for the rest of the ride. When we stopped to eat, The Dad took Hope to sit at a different table to eat. It should not have bothered me as Hope was being so nasty I didn’t really want to deal with her. It did.
J. lives in the middle of nowhere. One thing J.’s husband said last night, as we visited over (good) wine, was that they could never raise kids from the hard places in suburbia. Living in a place where 12 or more neighboring families hear your kid rage is stressful. Part of it is the knowledge that sooner or later CPS will show up on your doorstep is wearing. It also makes putting your child outside to rage an option we don’t have.
J. has offered to take Hope in respite for a while. Other people I trust have also offered. My fear is how Hope will react. It is not yet a rational fear. I still have some processing to do.
Mother’s Day, as it exists now, in this country, is a commercial success for Hallmark. It wasn’t always that way. During the 1600’s, the early Christians in England celebrated a day to honor Mary, the mother of Christ. By a religious order the holiday was later expanded in its scope to include all mothers, and named as the Mothering Sunday. Celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter), “Mothering Day” was celebrated honoring all mothers of England. Since many of England’s poor worked as servants for the wealthy, jobs were located far from their homes and the servants would live at the houses of their employers. On Mothering Sunday, the servants would have the day off and were encouraged to return home and spend the day with their mothers.
In 1914, President Woodrow adopted a resolution that the second Sunday in May was to be set aside to honor mother’s. It took less then nine years for Americans to commercialize Mother’s Day.
In our family, Mother’s Day always involves a mix of emotions. The little ones plan and plot surprises. I still struggle with the loss of my mom, even though four years have gone by. The Dad’s Mom has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember anything. GB has been angry at her Birth Mother for several years now and does not, even in her own mind, consider BM as Mom. Hope gets angry, I think, because in her mind, she doesn’t have a mom. MK is proud to be a mom, but has never resolved her feelings about her birth mother, prenatal alcohol damage, and being given up. I am her Mom, but in her mind, the worst mom in the world. J always finds Mother’s Day a source of guilt- for expectations he had for himself and didn’t meet.
With all these emotions swirling around, Mother’s Day is tiring, sometime exhausting. I try to take several minutes to myself to be grateful for the mother I had for 50 years, for the birth mothers of my children who chose life when they didn’t have to, for the children God gave me to love and end with a prayer that my children will find peace with who they are. Then I join in whatever celebration my children decide they want this year. And maybe, we get a little closer to acceptance.
This is where I am with Hope- parental ambivalence. I feel pulled in so many directions that I think even Gumby would break instead of stretching. There has been so much progress made. The constant, raw terror is gone. Hope has words that she can and sometimes does use to make her needs known. Dinner is not a battle every night. She is sleeping most nights and managing most school days without any psychotropic medication.
And yet… I live in a battle field. Hope lives for the fight. If I won’t engage, GB will. GB isn’t capable, at this point, of recognizing what problems belong to Hope and leaving them with Hope. Hope misses no opportunity to poke. Her bad feelings are like an oil spill- when she can’t contain them, they cover everybody around her and are extraordinarily difficult to clean up. You can never completely undo them.
I am committed to this child. I have break through moments when I feel real love for her. They are fleeting and then the battle field is back. She is still hitting, kicking, and throwing things at me. She is screaming no before I finish my request. She spends
all most of her waking hours trying to play The Dad against me.
Hope will be moving into the little room as soon as I find somebody to redo D’s room, which is where the office will go. That will give her a place to rage where the only things she can destroy belong to her and it can be made safe enough that a monitor can replace us. GB will get her own space back and her possessions will once again be safe.
Ambivalence… my mom used to say “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Maybe that was just another way of saying the same thing.