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In this life we can not always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.." :) Mother Teresa

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“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis


I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What I Did Wrong!

Well, as you can see our last few posts have been chalked full of activity. And all on MOTHER'S DAY WEEKEND!
Mother's day is a trigger time for children who have experienced trauma, and typically we do not make a huge deal of mother's day. You can't get away from acknowledging that it exists, but you can get away from the pressure the day brings.  

We have been doing so well, and there were no clues leading up to dysregulation at all.  So we went to the ENORMOUS ANNUAL BOOK FAIR with thousands of people,  for TWO days in a row!  Alli did wonderfully both days and really enjoyed herself. 

After that, we woke on Sunday Morning to go to a different church where our precious baby grand daughter was being baptized.    Her birth  triggered Miss Alli a bit but she expressed it very well, expressing true sorrow.    The Baptism brought once again attention to "love, raise and nurture" the baby in the Lord.  That was a trigger..... because Miss Alli was not loved, raised and nurtured.  That sting of seeing loving parents dote on their newborn carries a tinge of pain.

During the service, she had a distant look and I asked her, "Are you ok?"  She said, "I'm bored."  So I had her help me follow along in the bulletin and let her know we were not there to be entertained, but to worship and see Olivia be baptized. 

We left after the service and decided to go out to lunch for Mother's day.  Everybody seemed happy about it except Miss Alli.  She demanded that Erika give her a hair band for her hair, not asking nicely.  Erika carries hairbands around with her all the time.  If in need, she has an extra.    She gave Alli one, and she rejected it.  She gave her another one and she rejected it.  The last one was Erika's favorite.  Alli said, "I want THAT one."   Erika told her no, very nicely and said, that one I keep for me. You can have one of the other two.  Alli stormed off calling her selfish.

I took Alli aside and got her calm and then asked "Who was really being selfish?"  Was it the person willing to share, or the person who demanded the other person's hair band?    There was a blank stare. (Here is where I was trying to use logic and address an issue that was both illogical and NOT the issue! duh)   ( I was looking at the behavior and not what was DRIVING the behavior)

Now NORMALLY,  if such a behavior would have occurred we would have gone DIRECTLY home,  but I felt like that would have made the other girls who were all being kind and sweet feel as though they were being punished. 
 Alli pulled herself together enough to eat nicely and we did have a good time.  

But when we got home, the attitude  returned!  She went into a full PTSD mode thinking that we were going to get rid of her, and she was bound and determined to make it happen.
(This is not uncommon.  The child will try to CAUSE the parent to reject them, and hurry up the process because the rejection is so painful.  They think there is no hope, so it is time to just get the relationship over with.)
Once again I tried to use LOGIC! "Of course we are not sending you away!"  She was NOT being logical or making sense, so LOGIC did not work.  Even though we KNOW this and even SHARE IT, it is sometimes hard to remember.  (another DUH moment brought to you by Christie)

We finally got through to her after she exhausted herself,  and we even watched a movie.

 But in the a.m. it started all over again.
Miss Alli did get up, but then it was time to start school.....   She said, "You are going to MAKE me have a bad day aren't you!" 
"Ummm.... no.  Let's get our work out please. "  Once again, I was being logical. I was ALSO NOT RECOGNIZING there was no way she was going to be able to function with math and language when her window of tolerance was barely open.  So I "logically", 1/2'd her work....... when what
we SHOULD have done, was started with art... but no, I was brain dead.
I was also not recognizing that she was looking through the lens of PTSD, not her normal self.

Things escalated just like the day before and I made a call to our Social Worker.  I am so glad she called me right back!  She was VERY helpful!  She said, "change the scenery"........ DUH once again!    Of COURSE that is what we needed to do! 
It is VERY important to have others in our lives who can help us, because we CAN  forget in the moment.  Just like our children, when we feel emotional or sad or anxious, we can't think as clearly.
Our social worker Kathi Turner is AWESOME.  She is supportive and full of fun and energy.  She even gave me a story about her dogs (we both laughed) she is trying to train.  (they are rescue dogs)
And how her tone of voice caused one to attack the other. And she instantly knew it could have been prevented.

Sometimes, when a child is stuck in PTSD mode or RAD mode, the best thing you can do is change scenery.  Now Miss Alli was in the laundry room  behind the big laundry basket.  I was able to coax her out by using a different tone of voice, catching her interest and getting her into the car.
She demanded to know where we were going.  I know she was afraid I was taking her away.  I told her she would like where we were going, but I would not tell her until she was safely in the car. 
She got in the car and the look on her face was terrified. 

It was then I said, we are going to go to the park for a walk.  We didn't get 100 yards down the road and she burst into sobs of relief and sorrow, guilt and shame, and many apologies.   
"I don't know why I do this!  I just destroy relationships!"    I reassured her that we are not destroyed.
We love her and we will always be here.  But when she pulls away from us, and feels alone, it isn't us that has left, it is her, and she needs to face that AND change it!  ( this is when we can use logic and instruction..... when they are CALM and LISTENING)

How can she make the changes she needs to?   One step at a time. :)  Baby steps to healing.....

Using this technique has worked many times in our children's lives.  It seems odd that you would go for a walk or seemingly "reward" a behavior that is unwanted, but this was not just an unwanted behavior.  It is ALSO unwanted by Alli.  She does not like it.  She just couldn't see a path to get out of it, so I provided the path FOR HER.    There are times when the girls do things they shouldn't and are corrected in a very normal way.  "That was not ok.  We don't do that because.... or You need to come inside now because ...."    

The difference  in dealing with a behavior driven by fear and not just childish irresponsibility,  is huge.   If, we try to treat a fear based behavior like pure disobedience or irresponsibility,  the fear will grow bigger and even be substantiated in thier mind. 

What happened could have been prevented, had I been  paying close attention. 
Sometimes it is hard when you so much want to do something as in the book fair and chess tournament,  Olivia's baptism and  going out on Mother's Day.  We thought that everything would work out.   I took the chance and I was wrong.    And it cost us all.     I felt mad at myself for not being more careful.  

By the end of the day, Alli and Sarah were sitting in the wheel barrow together with sketch books in hand, creating nature pictures..... :)  Everything was calm , and all just seemed right with the world. :)

We are parents by choice, and a family by choice.  It is our honor to do what we do and we love it. We learn from our own failures.  Those failures bring us face to face with our own issues, helping us to recognize where WE need to make tweaks and changes in order to help our children to grow.  Being a parent, whether your child is adopted or not, is difficult and joyous at the same time.  It is CERTAINLY a life changer.   And one of the biggest benefits of parenting, is that it causes us to press into Christ all the more, who is our source of life and strength for each and every day.

 I want to mention my other girls.  They are so amazing and loving.  While I was holding Alli, Sarah came over and said, "Mama, it is time to pray.... you too Alli!" :)  (and we did pause and pray)
 That's my Sarah; and that's my Alli. :)


Milena said...

Mmh. I recognize that behaviour. I will re-read this post a few more times and try to remember! It helps that my husband now regularly reads your blog too, so we can discuss things more easily! He often says to himself "what would Christie Minich have done?" :-)

Christie M said...

Milena, It is soooo helpful when our husbands are together with us in parenting. It makes life so much easier to have a wonderful partner!

Mike and I often discuss things together too....
I happy you are finding the blog useful.

Sherrie Coffey said...

Your blog is so encouraging to me! I am a little stuck right now with my daughter. Joelle has been home two years and I still cannot leave her alone with her older sister. She tried to choke her around Christmas time. Things have gotten better but I just don't know how to help her feel less threatened and jealous of her sister. I try to keep Joelle close to me at all times to give her security and make her feel safe but I long for my two girls to love each other and eventually to be best friends. Any ideas for me?

Christie M said...

Is there ever a time where she is regulated enough to play with her sister? What has been her sister's reaction to her?

Sherrie Coffey said...

Well, there have been times when she has played with her sister but I am not sure why she can handle it then. Our life's have been very unsettled for the last two years - a move to another state and then back (five weeks ago) - my husbands company moved us for a temporary job and would not take no for an answer. My husband travels a lot and I think that is a definite trigger ( maybe he was home when she did well) but I don't know how to change that. There has been very few times she could play and not act out. She does seem to have some control because she will tell me that she won't hit and spit for a particular day (ie: Daddy's birthday). Her sister is nice to her most of the time but does not trust Joelle as she hurts her and steals her things, tries to get her in trouble, etc.....

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