Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Six years ago today

Six years ago today, I showed up at an RTC to pick Tortuga up and bring him home. He was so excited and terrified about the move that the moment I met him he announced "I'm not going with you. I am staying here. I changed my mind." I sat down next to him and told him I could tell he was scared but we would get through this together. He was adamant that he wasn't leaving. I explained that he was leaving because the RTC could not keep him any longer. However, if he preferred to go to a different foster home we could talk to his social worker about that. (The RTC claimed money had run out and he was being kicked out for lack of funding not because of any progress he had made.) Immediately he changed his mind and said he preferred to come home with me. At that moment I fully recognized (but didn't fully appreciate) that we were in for an uphill battle/transition. Tortuga was terrified of EVERYTHING and like many who experience this type of fear he postured a self-confidence and cockiness that didn't quite mask the terror. We welcomed him home to much celebration from Pollito (his bio brother) and Corazon. They were soooo excited to have their big brother home and insisted we have cake, balloons and presents.

We overwhelmed him with activity that week. The following day he started a new school in a special education classroom for kids with cognitive issues and language based issues. The day after was Valentine's Day and we scrambled to help him write cards for the 8 other kids in his class. At the time he could barely write his name and most of the time it was not spelled correctly. The next two days were filled with testing and we picked him up from school on Friday and drove 9 hours to visit C.'s family in PA for what turned into a 10 day visit because her father was critically ill and hospitalized. To top it all off, we announced at the hospital room that C. was 3 months pregnant with Milagro! The poor kid was so overwhelmed he didn't have time to process much less react. Through it all he was amazingly calm (although he was also heavily medicated). We were moving so fast and dealing with so much that week that we weren't able to keep up with the meds schedule the RTC has sent him home on.  In retrospect that turned out to be a blessing because when we returned to Boston and checked in with his psychiatrist explaining what he had missed and what we had observed we made the decision to ween him off several of his meds and made a plan to take him completely off all the various drugs he was on and try to find "the real kid" underneath it all. And see that kid we did. So much of it is unbloggable. He had so many issues, gaps, negative behaviors and trying to find our way out from under the violence and aggression, the bullying, the impulse control issues, the fear, the lack of so many basic skills, etc was overwhelming.

Today he still struggles with many issues but all of them are issues to a lesser degree and some are completely gone. At times the healing he has done is incredible to believe. Other times I find myself exclaiming in frustration "Why are we still dealing with this?!!!!" On this day I want to honor how far Tortuga has come. He can read. He no longer rages. His meltdowns are few and far between. He is kind. He is caring. He can read and write above grade level even though his early assessments indicated he was borderline MR. He loves to read, write, draw, poetry, play guitar, sports, legos, chess, learn about history and science, going for hikes, riding his bike, skateboard, and scooter, help our elderly neighbors, and spend time with the family. He can spend hours focusing on one activity and he has begun to learn to laugh at himself. This doesn't mean we don't have major struggles with rudeness, trust, meanness, fear, anxiety, bad judgment, impatience, and aggression. We do and we know he still doesn't trust us. He still uses information as a weapon both against people (when he has it and uses it) and against himself/us (he withholds vital information until it becomes a major issue). But he is healing.

When he came home we were told by therapists and social workers "no one would blame you if you didn't adopt him." It seemed unfathomable to us that at age 7 everyone would have already given up on him. It was clear he had given up on himself. So much of our struggle with him has been to help him recognize that he is a good person, that he can nurture the good in himself and express that. We have had to help him see that there is much he can accomplish if he sets his mind to it but that he has to let go of all the "stuff" that gets in his way. It is hard. Very hard. He is no longer 7. He is almost 14. Each day we struggle I go to bed wondering if we can keep doing this. Each morning I remind myself that we have a new day, a new opportunity to try again, a new chance for success. Some days, he surprises me because he goes back to being that child who behaves like a trapped and wounded animal. Other days he surprises me because he rises about that and he move beyond those primal feelings. Today, I am most proud of him because he keeps trying. He is still willing to try. He still fights us on many levels. He still doesn't trust us. Yet there are glimmers of hope. I know he loves us. Three years ago he would have said that he didn't need or want us. Today, he cannot imagine living anywhere else and talks of being with us forever (we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. :-) ) I don't know what the future will bring nor do I know if it will be enough but for today I honor and celebrate the progress and the hope. For today, that is enough.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tapping. Changes.

When you parent kids with trauma, you learn to be open to anything that has a chance of working no matter how "silly" or hokey it seems. If it will help my child I will gladly feed her m&ms while looking lovingly into her eyes even though she tried to kill me last night. If getting my kids to spend 20 minutes belly crawling and crawling around the house helps their brains, then that's what we'll do. If it will keep my child safe I will alarm his doors, set up motion detectors, and video monitors in strange places. If it will help my child I will look like a fool/tyrant in front of my family and friends who don't get it because my child needs to know I will set boundaries for her no matter what.

My older children have done tapping and rubbing for years. Sometimes we have periods of time when it doesn't seem to be helping and other times it makes the days survivable or even pleasant. Corazon has a love/hate relationship with tapping even though she has seen the difference it makes. Because she has healed so much I started easing up on the tapping especially when she was resistant. A few months later I realized that she was only tapping two or three times per week and her behavior was out of control and generally inconsistent. As usually happens when I talk/text with another mom parenting kids like mine I realized that she needed to get back to tapping but we had stagnated a bit.  My dear friend, Lisa offered to create a tapping script for Corazon, who she has met and interacted with on various occasions. Of course, I jumped at the chance and when I saw the script I thought, "hmmm I am not sure some of these are issues for her" but decided to let her try it. I gave it a big buildup telling her that as she is getting older her tapping needed to change. I also noted that she doesn't like to do it but that she also knows it helps her. I talked about it generally over the course of a week or so without taking the time to introduce it to her (mostly because I was dealing with someone else's traumaversary behaviors). When I finally did it with her she was ready to try it and in a good space. I don't know if it was the script, renewed interest in tapping, or the fact that she or I hadn't created it but that day was one of her best days in months. For the past two weeks she has tapped a couple of times each day using this new script and the difference in her is noticeable. She is calmer, happier and so much more relaxed. In fact, C. commented last week that she had noticed how much more "fun" and appropriately "playful" Corazon was. C. didn't know we were using a new tapping script.

Earlier this week we celebrated her 8th "anniversary" of the day she came home. As part of the celebration she wanted to see pictures of herself growing up so I made a slide show similar to the one I made for Pollito last month. When we finished watching she was very happy and commented "I really have had a good life." She has thanked me for it a few times and asked questions about some of the pictures because she didn't remember when/where they were taken.  I don't know if the slide show triggered "stuff" for her but yesterday, she hit some bumps in her science project which is due in a couple of weeks (for an outside class she is taking) and she took out her anxiety on me. After several attempts to redirect and refocus she still couldn't get it together so I called a time-out and sent her to her room for 20 minutes. When I checked on her she was tapping. I didn't say anything when she came down except that I was happy to see her and I gave her a quick hug. The rest of the day was a little bumpy but ok for the most part. As she was getting ready for bed she gave me a hug and spontaneously added "I am sorry for the way I behaved to you this morning. I don't know what made me act like such a jerk to you when I was the one who made the problem bigger." I was so proud of her. She apologized AND took responsibility all in one breath. This is huge for her.

 When I was checking on her writing this week I came across this entry, which was NOT assigned. She didn't even tell me about it.

Dear Ms. Lisa,

How are you? I hope you and J. are doing well. Thank you very much for my tapping script. The first time I did it, it made me feel better saying them because I knew they were true. I was afraid to fail, to make a fool of myself every time I make a mistake. I do feel ashamed sometimes. Saying those outloud, I felt better and I also had a great day. Thank you so much for thinking about me. I hope to see you soon.


This daughter of mine is blossoming into an even more amazing person each and every day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Corazon. 8 years.

Today we celebrated 8 years since Corazon joined our family. What an amazing journey this has been. I look forward to many more years of watching her grow.  Happy Anniversary my dear heart.

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