Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tough Love

Still no LOA.

We have not "missed the boat" because no LOA's for our agency YET. IF that happens you will all hear me scream. Not to be confused with the "WE GOT IT" scream. No, this will be the "WHAT!! Vickie's gonna hurt someone" scream.
Just to clarify there. (MOM)

So in talking this week to another wonderful mom parenting a disrupted "tough" child, she said "Ohhh you need to post about this." 

I *thought* I was fairly open, although respectful of my children's privacy.  But NO, she said-- this MUST be shared.  So here goes...........

Our oldest adopted son. Son of my heart. Son that God created MIRACLES to get this boy/young man here. I have not one doubt that he is MEANT to be our son. He has been home now over 2 years. Yet, he is still living in survival mode:(

 He does not like ME. He blames ME for things I did not do, things that happened to him in China. Sounds silly, huh? But I'm available, I love him. And for him to accept that means that I *could* (in his mind) go away, once he "lets me in."  Just like everyone else has done in his life:(

So how does this matter? Well, our daily life can get sucked up in his behavior. Not to say it's all bad. No, it's not. He goes along, is quiet, maybe even compliant for about 1-2 weeks per month. Then something happens to make him mad, usually something I say or do. And he builds. We SEE it happening. He refuses to speak to me, refuses to listen to me, starts doing things he knows will annoy me.  He escalates in self care behaviors- therefore cutting US out of his life, he "doesn't need us."

Then as he continues along this path, I eventually have to take a stand and we end up butting heads. Because he tries to take over MY HOUSE. The running of my house. In weird ways, things other people say "WOW, I'd be thrilled to have a kid put clothes in the dryer, rearrange my kitchen, etc."

But I know my son, and this is NOT to help, it's his way of showing HIS way is faster, better than ME. To OUT DO me. As one of the "bosses" of this home and family.  I often say he wants to "be me" and that's what I mean.  He would like to take ME out of the equation of his life so he can do things how HE WANTS them.

Of note, at first these behaviors showed up in him bossing the younger kids, hitting, being mean, running away, creating as much chaos as he could within the home. None of which got him anywhere. Our other children refuse to "listen" to him when he tries to parent them, they come to us and so he gave up when it became unsuccessful to do. AND we do believe him being male and taught many years of  the Chinese preference for males makes him think he is superior over me, a woman.

Why does this matter? Well.. we got him older than most. Much older. And he has so little time to get basic things missed. Our son is a survivor, great for surviving the streets of China, not so great here. Because he will not ASK anyone how to do something, or if he SHOULD do something. And we've explained to him over and over this will not WORK when he is on his own. He will not succeed, which he wants to soooo  badly when he can not and will not show his own MOTHER respect, ask for help or instruction, thinks he is always right, no bending on that at ALL, gets very offended if you even suggest he is WRONG.

We've run into a number of issues from him doing things how HE thinks is right and it's NOT. He's damaged things, hurt himself, created issues for the other kids, made us more work:(

 He is respectful to women at church, he is respectful to grandmother. He is rude, hurtful and downright WILL NOT LISTEN to me at all on a fairly regular basis. And he thinks it's OKAY to act like that? No it's not, not to this momma. Sadly, he treats his ESL teacher this way as well:( She has gotten the brunt of his anger because she is teaching him English that he really doesn't like learning, 'cause, it's hard. He got a huge, rude awakening when he got here and could not communicate for a long time. And he decided he WOULD NOT learn.

He likes to say he listens to dad even when dad yells at him because dad gets over it right away. Well, dad has explained to him I am a different person who has been hurt deeply in the past and I DON'T get over it fast. Hurt me and I'm going to be hesitant toward you next time. I work on this issue with God's help but it's part of MY history and I can't always change that quickly. I also get the brunt of his nastiness and quite frankly get tired of dealing with it.

 I mean, yes, I'm the adult but how many times is anyone going to take the constant "slapping in the face?" (NO one hitting me MOM, don't come over) and turn around for some MORE. I try my hardest with this because it's what God tells me to do even when I don't want to.

It's hard for dad to see because he never and I mean NEVER acts this way with DAD. Which again, tells me he knows it's wrong to be doing it. But each and almost EVERY month (I call it his PMS time - NOT MINE MOM) we have a blow up, problems, have to sit him down and explain what is going to happen if things do not change.


I feel- tired, sad, annoyed, angry, aggravated, bummed out, hurt, drained.

Tired, of doing this over and over with a 17 year old.
Sad, will he EVER get this?
Annoyed, doing this over and over with a 17 year old.
Angry, for his sake, what was done to  him, that I can't change it for him.
Aggravated, that it's ME he has chosen to do this to.
Bummed out that we may never see him heal in ways he needs to.
Hurt, that we go through this over and over.
Drained, that we have to do this again, every time, same stuff, different day!

Now, this is not to say things haven't improved, they have:) Whooo hooo. It used to be every week, then every other, then every 3 weeks or so, now we are seeing every month.  So I'm not saying he's not making progress and we are thrilled even to see him make baby steps. Because God gave us this son, He didn't promise easy, but He did promise to be here for us and He is, He hears from me OFTEN about this son.

I just don't think our son is going to STOP living in survival mode for a LONG time, if ever. And no, I do NOT think he needs a new home, a new start, because this child needs to stay where he has a mother who loves him, who loves his siblings, one he sees WANTS him, and that's ME.  He's not going to give ANOTHER mother a chance. No way. He doesn't even want to give ME a chance, so  another home is not his path. His best odds of "making it" is seeing his siblings, including Paisley accepting the love and family we offer to them.

So Monday night was "the monthly talk", he clung, and I mean CLUNG to his crap behavior, "Whatever, I don't care, I don't know," were his answers, wouldn't look at us and even said he'd rather be in the streets of China begging than to be here with us.  Yup, he sure did. 

We have to be TOUGH with this child/young man. We want him to "get it." And wimp parenting isn't gonna do it.  So he has been informed, that if he is going to disrespect me, ANY disrespect of me,  he will be met with punishment. And we hit where it hurts (not hitting any kids MOM, don't call!) We take things that matter until the behavior changes NOT a set amount of time because he would just wait out that time.

He tries to let on like he doesn't care but I know he does. So yes, he will get angry, and that's okay, because in some ways ANGER is a healthy emotion.HE needs to address his anger over what happened to him in China. BUT in a healthy way that does not mean taking it out on ME.

So what do we do? We take away TV, extra curricular activities,  he sits in his room with nothing to do. We have had to take his clothes, we take the right to go shower as he pleases. This angers him deeply. Last time we told him he had to ASK to use the stuff we were providing for him (shower) since he was using us (his words) to get what he could from us till he could "get out." So he snuck off and showered. I turned off the water on him and took ALL of his clothes. We made him SIT in his clothes for a whole day. Told him we would provide an outfit when it suited US to allow him to change. 

Let's just say he straightened up VERY fast.  He did NOT like that one bit. He is very (got some OCD for sure) picky about his "things" so for us to take them was horrible for him.

How does this work when we are trying to bond? Well... let's just say this is a different road than I expected, but it's one where he does know we love him, we do tell him, we do tell him how wanted he was/is. He also has been told we do not take in people just to provide for them-- we chose to adopt him and make him our son, God brought him here and that includes us loving him. That comes with a whole set of expectations of HIM.

 He MUST learn because he lacks skills to work things out. This is teaching, tough love, whatever you want to call it, but it's building the skill to ASK for help. To rely on us, even when he doesn't WANT to.

So when people ask me for help, I understand.  I can say what things I saw in the beginning with our guy that we didn't address, not realizing where they were leading to with this son. I can understand the draining of the family, of the person this anger is so often pointed at in the family and it's usually mom, more often than anyone else. I live it.

I also know how manipulating a child can be. Our son has gone to school, said he wasn't allowed to eat. Didn't have ANY breakfast because (MOM-- I'll say it for you--- THAT POOR CHILD!) wasn't ALLOWED to.  Thankfully our ESL teacher has learned (although the hard way) that he is a master at trying to manipulate things. She pulled in the twins and asked, "What ya got at home to eat for breakfast."  And the answer was pop tarts, fruit, cereal, breakfast bars, toast, etc.  Hummmm. Sounding fishy about now?  Yeah, so she called me. And here was the skinny of the matter-- he was cooking noodles and making a MESS and I got tired of it and said "NO noodle cooking in the morning, eat American food for breakfast." 

SO instead of listening to me, he wanted HIS way. And he figured if he got ME in trouble by saying he "couldn't have" breakfast he would be assured to get his way to cook noodles for breakfast.  Yep, he did.  To be honest it makes me mad just remembering that he did this.

So I take all these very strong emotions I have and what do I do with them?  I channel them right where I need to.  I have to feel that God has me parenting this son for a GOOD reason, and that this is for me to grow, me to use this type of parenting  for some better cause.

This is why I help people adopting, people struggling, people re homing, people taking a disrupted child. I get ALL of them. I don't claim to be an expert. But as either one of the first mom's to get one of these "tough ones" or possibly one of the few willing to share how tough this is, I didn't get much back up over these past 2 years. And since Sonshine goes off smiling and happy in every situation but HOME no one believes how tough he can make our home life.

 I do all I can to educate parents taking on an older child and honestly there are families struggling with much younger children with these same behaviors as well. I want to see it work out for both the children and their families but I also do not judge people who decide their family just can't take anymore and child needs to start over to make it. I understand, sadly, I DO.   I also know it often works for the child. Just look at Paisley:)

Paisley had many of the same "survival mode" behaviors and still has a few. But this time round, I knew where we had to stand firm and not tolerate it. For her to be emotionally healthy. And it's worked. She told me this week in English, on her own "I love you."

I don't EVER want to discourage people from adopting older. NO WAY. These kids are treasures. They want so much to be loved. But I also want to share because families are getting these "survival mode kids" and think they are ALONE. Something is wrong with THEM that this child is not making it.  It's just not true.  I look at our family and I know without one doubt we have done everything, 100% everything to help this son of ours make it. To help him overcome. To give him every benefit of being a family member, of being our son, of being adopted, of being with his sibs. Because the others are thriving, they are doing WONDERFUL.

It's HIS choices to be angry, unwilling, rude, miserable. And yes, we have him in counseling. We had him on some great vitamins that he now refuses to take even though we saw improvement. He has accepted God into his heart and he has been talked to by Youth Pastor, Youth Leader, Pastor's wife, Chinese mentor, his siblings. He makes the choices.  Pastor's wife did explain to him that accepting God into his heart meant following God's rules and honor your parents is one of those biggies.  And that not doing it is giving in and giving himself to the devil.

He actually apologized to me right away (after she said that) and sincerely, not something I usually get. And he's making effort today-- doing what he needs to do quite well.  I am enjoying my son today. Other days I want to quit. I want to cry "Uncle" and take the fast train outta here. (Not going anywhere MOM)

Wanna know what finally set him off this month? (He had been working up to it) Look at the picture. Was asked to stand there with his siblings and break something of a smile? Not look as if he hates the world?  Yup, that did it. Something that small, because it came from my lips:(  AND yes, we do know some of things he does is VERY normal teen stuff, no doubt. We make allowances for that and always have.

What does this do to our other kids? Well, at first his behavior deeply hurt the other kids. We had to reassure Chloe we did not blame her for wanting her brothers here and him behaving badly, because she thought it was her fault. She was appalled by his behavior toward me. Chance took refuge with US, to protect him from Chase trying to boss him. Camden knew to come to us, as did Kat. Our newbie, Paisley has watched his behavior and how we respond with great interest and adjusted HER behavior ( just little things) when dealing with us and her siblings, taking her cues of what he does is NOT GOOD.

So there it is. No sugar coating prettiness in this. But have NO DOUBT-- much, much love for this son, as we continue to weather the storms, savor the progress and know he is our son whom we love now and always. We also work hard to teach our son he has God, the ONE who will never leave him. Who kept him safe and got him here, Who loves him unending, He who will never fail him:)

I'm so thankful to have God to get us through the tough and to give to our son to allow him to heal. I don't think I personally could weather these storms alone or would have made it this long with our son without God giving me the guidance/strength.

Now for some GOOD news, Paisley has been doing so well--- I have to share, we have been working on her bond with dad, a very sore and hard place for her to go. So last evening when I was cutting up our roasted chicken for our meal, she said "I want the skin." And I told her, "That's DAD's favorite part, you'll have to fight him for it" as I pretended to punch the air:)  And she said "I won't have to fight him, I just ask him and he will give it to me." OHHHHHH-  I laughed and told Dad, "She's got your number dad!!"  Because she is right, he would. She's getting to know him and he's a big ol' teddy bear. He loves his girls, (and the boys too MOM) and would do anything for them. 

He also took her to PT this week, and to get the candy toppings for her "cell cake." (NOT a jail cell MOM) Animal cell, a school project, I made a small round cake and cupcakes, added a cupcake in the cake for the nucleus and then she used candy to make up all the parts of the cell. Neat- o huh??  Wonder what my--- oops I mean HER grade will be?

Loving the progress of ALL of our children, they are all, each and every one, soooo very precious.


Shonni said...

Thank you for this post!!! I told my husband that I feel I spend most of my days in what I call “the lack vortex” of our two newest’s manipulative behaviors. My newest son especially has issues with me and most nights I am drained and wondering what in the world to do different. I feel like I’m in “survival mode”, and I don’t like it!!!

Shonni said...

Sorry, “BLACK”, not lack.

connie said...

V, I'm so glad you posted this. There isn't a day that our son's (16.5 years old) trauma doesn't rear its ugly head!!!! Some days I handle with hope; some days I do not. Thanks for your honesty, sister friend!

Almond Tea said...

This is a great post. I always appreciate it when people are just honest about how it all really works.

I hope for an attitude turnaround for your oldest.

Sherri said...

Thank you for being so honest. I've followed your journey since you learned about the boys. I've sent quite a few friends over to your blog when they are dealing with issues in adoption.

I'm praying for Chase.

mom2three said...

Lord, Your word says that the very hairs of our head are numbered. You know us so well. And Lord, You know Chase's heart, the hurts and the walls he has built over the past many years. Lord, we pray for healing for this broken, wounded, hurting heart. That you would soften it, heal it, make him whole in You. As his hurting heart heals, may he not feel the need to hurt others, to lash out and cause pain. May he begin to see past his own pain to see the hurt of others. Only You can create new hearts, and nothing is impossible for You, so we ask. Also, please continue to give Vickie the strength, the peace, the comfort she needs as she helps You in this process. Thank You.

Love for Lilly Yin said...

Thanks for your honesty. ((HUGS))

Unknown said...

You are strong and you are having an impact. Small steps are how to measure it. Calm, structure, firm guidelines and a schedule.

I have lived by these words (well tried to) for 7 years and my eldest is only 8. It is a blessing that while you advocate for children you do not present a blind picture of what can come. I have encountered too many adoption agencies and families who brush it off with a "they will adjust" or "love can conquer all".
Parenting a child with attachment spectrum disorder or one who is somewhere along the post traumatic stress spectrum can suck you dry. It is wonderful that your current ESL teacher is getting the need to replicate your firm stance at school. My own manipulates any "nice" teacher that crosses her path. Sigh.
At the end of the day, when he moves out you will have left your mark. When it gets too tough he will come home to you or turn to God (who you introduced him to). He will have the hope of parenting children with attachment. He will always have a connection with his birthsiblings because of you. Hopefully, one day he will see what you have given him as seperate from the black pit of dispair at the pit of his stomach (that is how my daughter describes it).
Thinking of you

Julie said...

Oh how you describe our littlest. The anger. The manipulation. The parent shopping. Wanting to go back to China. The disrespect (of Dad). I honestly think we are dealing with PTSD but she is so language delayed in both Mandarin and English I have no idea if therapy would help. She is 5. We are working it out in much the same way your family is. Thank you for your honest words.


Sue said...

Well written. Erin also has been home for 2 years. She still sometimes does the survival mode on me and I know how to react to it now and not feed into it. It hard to see that they feel they need to go into that mode even when you have shown them that they are loved and protected. Extra prayers for you.

Lillie's Mom said...

THANK YOU for your transparency- the parents who are willing to put their truth out there are a big part of what keeps me going in my neverending battle with my Lillie. Sadly, she may never get it. She may never choose a full life of love and community and the God who loves her most. And I cannot rescue her from her choices. I can't love her into wholeness no matter how hard I try. *sigh* We call it beating our head against the great wall of China. And yet we keep trying! We sell our house to move to a county with better counseling and services. We try to motivate her to choose success over purposeful filure. We show her again and again that choices are powerful and she gets to make them here! Not that it's working. It's heartbreaking and hard but what else can we do but go on? Continuing to trust the One Who began this good thing- and knowing He's GOOD no mattter what she chooses! Praying Psalm 139 over you and yours- along with the other families I know of who are walking this road.

Desiree' said...

Thank you!!

Sandra Bishop said...

Thank you so much for your honesty. I've been reading over a year now (when we were in process for our first adoption). There are so few families living the older child adoption experience. While our journey has been much easier than yours, our daughter still hasn't accepted us as a permanent part of her life. She is going back to China - her words - and we are a means to that end at the moment. There are glimmers that she is starting to understand we are her parents FOREVER, but it is a work in progress. Just last week we also learned the depth of her lack of self esteem and self confidence - hidden until now under a mask of happiness.

Lisa M said...

Thank you. We are in the process of adopting a 13 yr old boy from China and I treasure your honesty. I believe that when we leave things unspoken we leave them in the dark, Satan territory. When we speak them, we bring them into the light, God's territory. Once they are in God's territory He uses them for his glory but we have to speak them and give them to Him. Thank you for giving this to God so that He can use it to teach, heal and encourage others. I appreciate you more than you know!

I'll be praying for your family and trust that you will continue to see improvement. I'll also be praying that God is your comfort and strength in a very big way!

We home school and will so be making a cell cake! You'll see pics on fb for sure :0)

wm said...


I have been following you for about 3 years now. I am also an adoptive parent of a daughter born in China, but she was adopted at the age of 20 months. She is now 9 and we have had no issues (so far). Thank you so much for posting on this subject. I know there are many adoptive parents dealing with the things you have dealt with but very few are candid enough to write about them, as you do. You do a great service to the adoption community. I give you and your husband so much credit; I don't think I could have tolerated the things you tolerate from your son. I probably would have given up a long time ago. You are a better woman than me. Wishing you and your family the best in life.