There is no question that Corazon is well on her way to healing. I was recently following a blog that has recently gone private which reminded me of our struggles with Corazon. My heart went out to that mom and her 7 year old every time I read a post because I often felt I could relate to her daily struggles, fears, frustrations, hopes, prayers, but she showed a whole lot more grace than I ever did when we were in the thick of it with Corazon. I appreciated the honesty and candor with which she shared her thinking and her experiences with her daughter especially as she balanced the need to keep her toddler safe. Her blog also helped to remind me of where we had been, how far Corazon has come and also how HARD that struggle must have be (and is) for Corazon. I am not sure where things are with them right now but I thought of them today when I was dealing with Corazon.
I was on a mission to address some recurring issues with Corazon. They are all small things but I am noticing their persistence. I have learned my lesson about letting them go for too long. They just get bigger. So this morning I reminded Corazon that she had been having difficulty following directions and completing all her tasks (school and chores) correctly and efficiently. I didn't mention that she was also doing everything in slow motion again and having general control issues. I asked her to do her morning routine (face, teeth, make bed, get dressed.) After 1 hour and 15 minutes I called her. She wasn't dressed, hadn't washed her face, and hadn't made the bed. She couldn't tell me what she had been doing. No problem. I told her to come downstairs, do some jumping jacks and tapping to wake her brain up so she could do the rest of her morning routine without a problem. She wailed, pouted, slammed the door as she went outside, and then just stood there. I waited patiently as I prepared breakfast for the rest of the family who was home. She was fuming and showed it. She did half-hearted jumping jacks while glaring at me and couldn't get through her tapping. No problem. I brought her inside and did it for her. She was still fuming. I chose to ignore it because she wasn't interested in changing her attitude so I sent her to do cat chores (food check, water replenish, litter box check.) 1 hour later she was (still) scooping the litter box and the cats' water hadn't been dealt with. I sat everyone else down for breakfast and ignored her. She walked past the breakfast area and glared at me when she realized everyone else was eating. I ignored her glares.
10 minutes later she was "finished" but hadn't dealt with the cats' water. I reminded her and she stomped off in a huff. I cleaned up breakfast dishes while she continued to fume and slam the cat dish around. Milagro wanted to go play outside so I let her out to the backyard play area (I can see her from inside the house easily) and that's when I saw IT. You know IT. The thing that reminds you your child is playing control games or is intentionally disobeying your request. As I debating how to address it I went over to the counter in the playroom and there IT was again. I almost lost my cool right then and there but managed to get my composure before I called her over.
Me: Why is that cat food lid sitting right outside the back door?
Corazon: What cat food lid?
Me: Open the door and see.
Corazon: (puzzled look on her face as she searches high and low outside the door without once looking at the cat food lid) Where? I don't see anything.
Me: You don't? Ok, let's try another spot. What is that cat food lid that I told you to pick up last night and put in the recycle bin doing still sitting on the counter?
Corazon: (walks over to counter) I don't see it mom! I'm looking but I don't know what you are talking about.
Me: Hmmm. I am worried about your eyesight. Go lie down and I will bring you a cool cloth to put on your eyes to see if that makes it better. If it doesn't get better I will call the doctor.
I then call upstairs to her brother and announce that we are going to have to CANCEL the library trip(her favorite activity) for today because Corazon seems to be having trouble with her eyesight and I may need to take her to the doctor. I apologize profusely to him. He is clueless about any library trip so I just keep talking loudly over his attempts to raise questions and tell me he didn't know we were going to the library. As soon as she hears this, Corazon springs off the couch and runs to the counter to grab the lid and put it in the recycle bin. She even stops to pick up the one right outside the door that she hadn't seen before. Amazing recovery! She comes in and declares "we can go to the library now!"
I tell her we both know there is nothing wrong with her eyes and she needs to take responsibility for her actions. She tries to protest. I stop her and send her to C. who is going to dole out consequences for her continuing problem with the cat food lids. I had already filled C. in on the saga. In a nutshell she has left those lids right outside the door, near the little kids' play area that is off limits to her, and on the edge of the counter where they can reach them no less that 15 times in the last month. She has had all kinds of consequences for this including losing that responsibility which was then given to her younger brother. Of course she begged to have the privilege of feeding the cat and promised to not leave the lids in the wrong places. During that time her baby sister cut her finger on one. Two days later her brother cut his foot on another one. This past week Corazon sliced a long gash in her hand with one. Still the problem persists.
C. spoke with her and asked her to write a lengthy paragraph detailing the issue, why we were upset about it, possible solutions and consequences to her problem, her feelings about her sister and brother getting cut, etc. Corazon was furious but talked herself into believing that when she finished it we would go to the library. She started working on it while she fumed and I suggested she try tapping. Instead of fighting me she stepped outside and did it! She came back to write and after a few minutes I noticed she was crying. I was sitting in the room doing some paper sorting so I stayed nearby to keep an eye on her and offer support with my presence. I was still really angry and frustrated with her but doing my best to hide it since it usually doesn't help matters.
She finally came over and asked if she could ask me a question. Her question was about feeling like she had too much responsibility compared to other kids her age. I heard her out and basically told her I didn't know if she had more responsibility than her peers at the gym but if that was the case then I felt sorry for her peers for not having parents who loved them as much as we did. (YES, I did say that!) It is a line we use with our kids whenever they try to compare our rules to other family's rules (e.g. they can watch TV whenever they want, they don't have to ask permission to....., etc.) The conversation quickly became about how hard her life was and how scared she was that she could not handle it getting harder as she got older and the responsibility increased. I told her that given her history she had already handled harder stuff than most people ever would be expected to.
She suddenly looked like a light bulb had gone off in her brain and she started talking. Talking about thinking people didn't want her, us changing our minds about being her parents, her aunt not wanting to be her mom, her fights to control everything she could especially the people around her. She just kept on talking and talking and making connections between her feelings, her actions, and her experiences. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I was so impressed with her ability to express her feelings and thoughts and her ability to make some critical connections between experiences, feelings and her behaviors. She has certainly gotten better in this area but we still struggle with cause and effect. This time she seemed to be "getting it" so much better than ever. I had to admit that even though I have worked for and hoped for this for as long as she has battled RAD I was now in new territory--talking with her and helping her work through the realizations she is able to make about how all this influences her life and even her future. It was such a big step and I flashed back to all the lying, tantrums, drama, peeing, sneaking, triangulation, aggression, lack of emotion, recklessness, and so much more and I had to smile at how far Corazon has come. Then I began to wonder what would have helped me believe this day would come in the midst of all that. I know I had hope but beyond that there were so many failures, battles, doubts, fears, shortcomings, and "experts" telling me she didn't have RAD and all she needed was a little more love as they took her off to play therapy (no offense to anyone who believes play therapy has helped their child). I didn't care what she had and have never been hung up on the labels but if those therapists had been more willing to work on her attachment to me and less on their relationship with her maybe we wouldn't have wasted so much time and energy and waited this long for her to be where she is today.
I didn't let myself dwell on that. For today I enjoyed her openness and honesty and her ability to articulate it all. It also gives me hope for Tortuga (who is a whole other story that I haven't figured out how to blog about which is why I haven't written about him in a long time.) It also reminds me to keep trusting my instincts which in those initial years I was less willing to do and kept hoping some experts would provide the magic formula.