Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happy Anniversary Corazon!

We celebrate the fourth anniversary since Corazon has been in the family. I wrote and reflected a bit about the way our relationship got started a few days ago and today my head is filled with the progress we have made. In the past four years she have experience such a wide range of emotions that she has never expressed (and recognized) before. This year I have seen her acknowledge fear, frustration, disappointment, anxiety, jealousy, sadness, sorrow, and embarrassment (newly). None of these would have been expressed as anything but anger and rage in the first two years of being together and now she can actually distinguish them and for the most part respond appropriately. We no longer feel like we are regularly on the brink of despair and on a regular basis she behaves as though she cares about being a good and fully participating family member and she tries. I can honestly say that there are several times a days when I look at her and think "wow, she is acting like a 'normal' kid" even if she is exhibiting behaviors I would usually associate with her RAD. This isn't to say all is well but a lot is really good. She still struggles with transitions, sneaking, control issues, and getting attention. We no longer have the rages, the tantrums and the massive meltdowns. She gets angry, pouts, refuses to cooperate, but she doesn't destroy anymore. We no longer have the big toileting problems (urinating in public when she didn't get her way, refusing to use the bathroom only to scream at the top of her lungs that she has to pee when we are as far from the bathroom as possible, peeing in her bed, floor, closet, shoes, toyboxes, etc. instead of going to the bathroom at home, etc.) and last June (a month or so before her 8th birthday) we used the last of the pullups and have not had to go back to them day or night. She still tell lies but much of the time it is to avoid "getting in trouble" rather than what I called "for fun." She used to lie because she could get away with it and it gave her a sense of CONTROL. She lied about the big things and the little things without making any distinctions. In fact, it was the compulsive lying that ultimately led me to find the RAD. That's is a long story I will save for later but suffice to say that she would sit in her bed at night (at 4 1/2 years old) and recount to herself ALL of the lies she had told and gotten away with that day. She has not stolen (that I know of) in almost a year although we still see "sneaking" of forbidden items to and from various places whenever we drop our vigilance. She is still stubborn and wants to control things but for the most part those times when she would refuse to write an apology or in her journal and spend up to 7 hours NOT doing it have diminished. She can still take 3 hours to get ready for school, finish an "unpleasant" chore, or to do her writing journal entry in the morning but those happen a couple of times a week rather than every day. Her need for ADULT attention is still very present but it is no longer focused on strangers. She has begun to distinguish the desirability of "positive" attention over "negative" attention although there is still a good deal of slippage in that area but she has learned to tell the difference even if she cannot make the right choice as often as she could. She no longer tries to triangulate her parents but on ocassion will still attempt to do it with other significant adults in our/her life and she still tries to get "sympathy" from those people. She does not do it with strangers at all anymore but she did recently tell her new teacher that the reason she was tired and working slowly on her schoolwork was because she has to get up at 6 a.m. (school starts at 9:30 am) to "take care of ALL the animals" and do all her chores. (Her morning chore is to check the cats' water dish, see if dry food needs replenishing and change the litter box if it needs changing!)

As I think back on the past four years and even the last year I am so impressed with her progress. It has been a very long road and we aren't where we need to be but I am really proud of her and the progress she has made and she really has worked hard at it.

I feel as though we spend more time enjoying our daughter than knocking our heads against the wall about how we are going to get through to her (there are still those moments.) We have come a long way and I am so blessed that I get to see the "real" Corazon on a more regular basis and I can even say that to her without her having a complete meltdown. She is a caring and generous little girl who has wonderfully handled the changes in our family over the past two years (she went from being an only to one of FOUR kids in that time). Getting an older brother with significant emotional, developmental and behavioral issues has actually helped her make progress and see where she can be a resource and a help to him. Getting a younger brother and sister (one as an infant) has opened up conversations about things she missed when she was a baby, toddler and preschooler and how she feels about that. She is a terrific big sister!

I cannot imagine my life without her and certainly cannot remember my life before her. The "sacrifices" I have made to help her on this journey seem small in comparison with her progress. It all seems worth it as I think about how hard it was to keep my job and my sanity for the two years after I realized she had RAD and the work we needed to do to "find" the real person in there and as I pulled her out of school and began homeschooling her while working full-time and transitioning her brothers into our family. Even my decision to give up my career and become (at least for this year) a stay at home mom (not just for her but the rest of the kids too) seems worth it when I see her heart smile, or when she says she missed me and genuinely seems to have done so, or when I see her playing with other children and she seems to be having fun even if she is not "in charge." It is worth it when she can crawl into my lap and I feel her full 54 lb. weight on me and know that there is no other place she would rather be. It is worth it when she says "you are the best mom in the whole world!" and she means it!

I love you Corazon and I am so very proud of you! Happy Anniversary!

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