Who are we kidding here? I’m not writing an ode.
But? We did have a follow-up appointment with Spuds’ pediatrician, and I love her now more than ever. First, I should tell you that Spuds has been off all of his meds except one for about two weeks now. The one he is still taking is at half the dose he was on when he came to us. So, you know, that’s a big reduction in medications in my book. And? If anything? His behavior is, on the whole, calmer now than it was when he first came home.
I realize the calmer behavior could have little to nothing to do with the medications and everything to do with the fact that he isn’t as ramped up because he is no longer in a brand new home. He’s still in a new home, relatively speaking, to be sure, but it isn’t brand new. Also, the behavior changes could have something to do with the fact that he gets to go outside and just. play. Every day. He gets to ride his bike, ride a scooter, roller blade, dig holes, ride horses, play in the sprinkler, play on the massive play set. We go swimming at the lake, he goes to cub scouts, we pull weeds as a family, we have friends over, he “washes” cars with his brothers. He gets to just be a kid for the first time ever. I really think that, more than anything, is helping him relax. There is something about letting a kid be a kid, you know?
That’s not to say he’s always calm, because he isn’t. He’s an eight-year-old boy, after all. And? The slightly excessively not-calm times are pretty predictable. For instance, any time guests come to our house, I know he is going to go a little bonkers. I can get him under control without adding meds, however. Any time we go to the doctor (you know, all two times now), he starts to go a little bonkers. But? Again? I can get him calmed down without additional meds. When McH comes home from work every evening the energy level goes up, but it’s manageable. And . . . umm . . . that’s pretty much it, really. Three hours of church on Sundays? He handles it better than kids who have been doing it their whole lives and have never been diagnosed with any kind of behavior disorder. Sitting through a movie? They don’t make meds that can keep him that still.
So, The Greatest Pediatrician In the World cut his dose in half again today. He’ll take that dose for two weeks, then he’ll take it every other day for two weeks, then he’ll be done. He’ll be off of everything.
“I think you’ve got the right idea,” the doctor said to me. “Kids need to be able to go outside and play and go to bed at night tired because they wore themselves out being kids. They don’t need to be stuck in a “cell” so that mom and dad can both go off to work. They need to play and do chores and be kids.”
I know that statement will anger any feminist who happens to stumble across this blog, but all I can say is: THIS DOCTOR IS A WOMAN. In no way was she saying women shouldn’t work. She was just saying that someone needs to be willing to stay home with kids, especially kids like Spuds who have a difficult, hurtful history, so that they can be kids, they can be carefree, they can burn off energy, whether it’s physical or emotional energy (or both) so that they don’t need pharmaceuticals to calm them down or make them sleep at night.
I’ve talked to Spuds several times about what we are doing with his medications. When I first broached the subject with him very soon after he came home to us, his response was, “I don’t know, I might go crazy again.” I told him at the time that I didn’t think he would. I told him a lot of that would depend upon whether or not he wanted to act crazy. We’ve talked a lot about choice and taking responsibility for one’s actions. He’s eight. We’ll be talking about it a lot more for years to come. At our first visit with The Greatest Pediatrician in the World, she told him basically the same thing. “Listen to your mom and dad. Do what they tell you, be good, and you will be fine.” He and I have discussed her advice a few times as we’ve talked about the changes in his medication.
The other night, as I was telling him that we would be going back to the doctor today and explaining that she would just want to talk to him to make sure everything is going okay before cutting his dose again, I asked him if he remembered what he first told me when I presented the idea of trying to get him off his medications. He had no idea what I was talking about. I reminded him about his comment that he might go crazy again, and I asked him if he still thought that might happen.
“I don’t know. No,” he said.
I asked him if he remembered the times when he “went crazy” and asked him what he was feeling when those times happened. He looked at me warily. He really doesn’t like to talk about his past (though he did tell me more about the scar on his knee the other day, how he got it and who was wielding the cigarette lighter that left it). “You don’t have to tell me what happened,” I explained. “I’m just wondering how you were feeling when you went crazy. Were you scared?” I asked, “Or angry? Or something else.”
“The first one,” he said. “The first one.”
That didn’t surprise me at all. He recently told me that he can remember being taken away from his birth mother’s house. It kind of seems like a stretch since he was not yet three when that happened, but he told me he remembers the police being there, and he remembers the police putting him in the back of their car and taking him away. “But they didn’t put handcuffs on me,” he said.
“Well, of course they didn’t put handcuffs on you,” I said. “You were a toddler, and you weren’t being arrested.”
“I wasn’t? I wasn’t arrested??” he asked.
“No, you weren’t arrested. Didn’t anyone ever explain that to you before?” I asked him.
“No,” he shook his head slowly.
I explained to him that he was removed for his own safety, the police took him because other people were doing bad things, but he had done nothing wrong. I know he’s good at making stuff up, but this one? I think he really believed he’d been arrested.
So the times when he “went crazy”? Many of those times occurred when he had been sent to his bedroom or sent to the “safe room” at school. Basically, his behavior got RAD-like when he was sent to kid jail. Seems like more than a coincidence to me.
Anyway, our goal is to help him feel safe. At this point, I think the behavior issues will be minimal as long as he isn’t constantly overstimulated by a gazillion different people, programs, and procedures being lorded over him and as long as he feels safe.
Every night we close his closet door for him. Every night we sit outside his bedroom until he falls asleep. Every evening I give him a basic idea of what the next day will bring. Every morning I remind him of the basic plan for the day. We want him to feel safe.
As we were walking out of the doctor’s office today, Spuds and Quinn walking a bit ahead in a race for the door, the doctor put her arm around my shoulders, gave me one of those sideways hugs, and said, “You are doing a great thing for him, Mom. You just keep it up.”
“Thank you,” I said. “So far it’s going so well, but I know the honeymoon could still end. I hope it doesn’t, but I know it could.”
“And if it does,” she said, “and you need help? I’ll be right here.”
I literally fought back tears. I am so used to having to fight for what I know is best for my kids any time an outside entity (mainly the stupid public high school) is involved in our lives, and so used to having to explain and defend our decisions to people who are just people and really probably don’t deserve the explanations, that I was joyfully overwhelmed by somebody actually being supportive. I used to be surrounded by supportive women, then we moved. And then we moved again. I’d be lying if I said I felt surrounded by supportive women in the past seven years. God bless that doctor. I am going to send her a Christmas card, because I don’t think we are going to need to see her again before then, and I want her to know how Spuds is doing and how much I appreciate her kindness.
Tewt the Newt thinks it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas and fully supports the deportation of all illegal elves, jolly or otherwise. Vapid newt.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman that just about made my head explode. She was telling me how she thinks we should have nationalized health care, but she doesn’t like the Obamacare we have now.
“But that’s not his fault. I know Obama wanted something better for the country, but the Republicans just wouldn’t cooperate with him, so we wound up with this mess.”
I explained to her how the Obamacare legislation was rammed through, how everybody was jumping up and down saying, “Wait, we can’t vote on this because it’s over 1,000 pages long and we haven’t had time to read it. We don’t even know what’s in it,” and how democrats said publicly, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill.”
The woman with whom I was conversing couldn’t believe that. I told her to look it up on Youtube. She said multiple times how wrong it is to say you have to pass something to find out what’s in it. But? She still thought that the Obamacare mess is the fault of uncooperative Republicans. It’s no coincidence, I suppose, that she is drowning under a pile of medical bills she can’t pay.
At any rate, I wanted to bang my head against a wall by the time I got home. Instead, I got on Facebook and messaged a friend who I knew would appreciate and sympathize with the frustration I was feeling. He started sharing stories of things he’s seen in his part of the good ol’ US of A: people who live in trailers but have big, expensive pick up trucks (I’ve seen that, too! I say), a friend who had a job she loved but had to quit it and take a job she hates, but which pays more, so that she can help pay for her husband’s truck (Ugh! I say).
But then all that talk of expensive trucks and lack of funds for which to pay for them reminded me of another story. I shared that story with him, and now I’m going to share it with you.
When McH and I were first dating, when we got engaged, and when we got married, he drove a shiny, black pick up truck. This is something apparently all American males dream of? I don’t know. But he had his pickup truck, and I had my little, black 1988 Ford Escort GT. I loved that car. I bought it used my junior year in college. It drove me back and forth across the United States several times. It took me on many jaunts to Chicago after my best friend and her husband moved there. It took me to work, it took me to play; it was my first vehicle of true, adult independence, and I cherished it. I would have kept it forever . . .
. . . Except by the time I got pregnant with A~ it had over 140,000 miles on it and it was dying. Things weren’t working right, and new things were starting to not work right. Fixing it would have cost way more than it was worth as it was worth almost nothing by then.
McH didn’t want his wife and his unborn child driving around in a car that wasn’t reliable, wasn’t safe, so he traded in his shiny, black man-truck, we gave away my Ford Escort to a man who needed transportation but had nothing to pay for it, and we got two Ford Tempos instead. We did all of this because, together, we had decided that I would quite my job once the baby came. A shiny, black man-truck payment and another payment for whatever we got to replace my already-paid-off Escort was going to be way more than we could afford. I should probably explain that I didn’t browbeat him into this decision to part with his blue-blooded American symbol of manliness. I didn’t even ask him to do it. It was his idea.
I did quit my job, and even with two cheap car payments we barely scraped by. I went back and did substitute teaching here and there to help put food on the table, but I never had to leave my child and go to work to pay for a truck that did nothing a gaudy, teal Tempo couldn’t do (other than haul stuff we couldn’t afford anyway and stoke the male ego). I’ve never had to work a day in my life for his ego.
My Facebook friend got an abbreviated version of this story, but I ended with, “If more people would live like that, our country would be in a lot better shape.”
He wrote back, “Agreed.”
No, McH isn’t the only one to have made sacrifices in our marriage, but I’m grateful for the sacrifices he has made. The world may be going to hell in a hand basket, but it’s so nice to be able to look over at my husband and know he’s not contributing to that, to know that, together, in our small corner of the world, we can stem the tide just a little bit.
Nineteen years and six kids later, and Tewt the Newt is still impressed.
“YOU HAVE HOW MANY KIDS???? HOW OLD ARE YOU????”
So, I don’t know this woman. I’ve never met her in person. But? I did hear her speak at a conference of sorts for the young women (ages 12-18) and women (ages 18-dead) of our stake.
Mormon lingo refresher: A stake is a geographical region comprised of several wards and/or branches (congregations of various sizes). Think Catholic Diocese but without, as my formerly Catholic son said, “God on a Stick.”
She was all very put together, well made-up, younger than I am but not super young, cute, you know, all that good stuff, and I thought, “I can see why she works with the young women’s organization in the stake! The girls probably just eat her up.”
Then she started talking.
The theme of this conference for all of these women and young women was, “You don’t have to walk the plains to be a pioneer.” This is a very good theme, actually, especially since some of the young women (those ages 14 and up) were preparing to go on a pioneer trek re-enactment camp thingy for three days, handcarts and all. Mormons in general have a deep respect for the early pioneers because they sacrificed and suffered so much so that they could worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. They were very noble people, and I am grateful for their sacrifices because they made it possible for the church to grow and the gospel to spread and, ultimately, for two young missionaries to find my mom in, of all places, Presque Isle, Maine. Unfortunately, the flip side of all this pioneer reverencing is that there is this undercurrent in Mormon culture (not doctrine, culture — there is a difference) that if you don’t come from good pioneer stock who stood with Brother Brigham when he declared, “This is the place,” or who suffered mightily as part of the Willy and Martin handcart companies, or who at least buried a baby in a shallow grave as they crossed the plains, then you are somehow lacking in the heritage an ancestry department. It’s kind of this, “You’re enjoying the fruits of my ancestors’ labors” attitude. You know, kind of like how conservatives look at welfare recipients as they are chatting on their iPhones and flashing their blingy salon nails while handing food stamps to the grocery store cashier. I guess the best way to describe it would be derision, but with more love and lots of pity.
I actually met a guy at BYU who swore he wouldn’t marry anyone who didn’t come from pioneer stock. Well, actually I think he said he wouldn’t marry anyone who wasn’t at least a third generation member of the church (would that be lDS3?), which, back then in the dark ages of the early 90s, might as well have meant he wouldn’t marry anyone who didn’t come from pioneer stock. I guess I should note here that he was only a second gen himself. Yeah, BYU guys could be pretty screwy at times. In all fairness? So could the ladies.
Anyway, so the theme was “You don’t have to walk the plains to be a pioneer.” Good theme, right? Right. My own mother is a pioneer in her/our family in the sense that she was the first to join the church. She left the religion of her youth behind, much to her parents’ disappointment and dismay, to embrace what she believed to be Truth, and she raised her children in that Truth, and now we are all raising our children in that Truth, and I consider it to be the biggest blessing in my life.
The main character of our little story here shared a similar tale as she spoke at the conference. She waxed emotional as she talked about how important her grandmother was to her, and what a pioneer her grandmother was. You see, dear old granny was the first in her family to join the church (what a pioneer!) and she was the first in her family to get divorced (umm . . say what??). She then went on to talk about how she, herself, was a pioneer in her family because she was the first to get divorced and remarried.
And, of course, I was sitting there thinking, “Do you even know what church you belong to? I mean, congratulations for being able to get on with your life after whatever happened happened, but this is a conference for, at least in part, teenage girls. Is divorce really the pioneering moment we want them shooting for?? Please, do not tell us your new spouse is a woman.”
As she went on, I read between the lines and sensed that maybe her first marriage was abusive and she was a pioneer in her family because she ended a multi-generational cycle of abuse and married a stand-up guy the second time, but I was kind of piecing different things together and reading between lines, and I majored in English in college so I kind of have some training in piecing things together and reading between lines. But the youth who were there? Not so much. And? Maybe I was just giving her the benefit of the doubt (or, at least, trying to). I mean, if the whole abuse ending thing was the case, you go girl! You rock! But even I don’t know if that was the case, so I doubt any of the youth had any inkling that it might even be the case. You know?
On the up side, there were only about five youth in attendance, and three of them were my daughters. Yeah, our stake really knocks things out of the park that way. I mean, I’m not sure how many hundreds of young women we have in our stake, maybe even only somewhere around one hundred or a bit less, 70 actually seems like a realistic number if we’re only counting those who actively attend church on Sundays, but still . . . Normally this kind of turnout for stake events makes me profoundly sad, makes me want to move back home where the church members actually seem to enjoy their church membership, and makes me want to do some heavy duty training in the areas of communication and publicity, but this time I think it was all for the best (plus? the communication and publicity hadn’t been so bad for this one).
When the whole event was over and we were leaving, the girls and I got into the trusty Suburban, I locked the doors, checked to make sure all the windows were up, and said, “Before we even exit the parking lot, before I can possibly forget, I feel like we need to do a little debriefing here.”
“We caught it, Mom,” said Midge (can you believe Midge is 12 now? I sure can’t) “and we know divorce is not the best way to be a pioneer.” The other two nodded with incredulity. I think I laughed with glee at the sharpness of my girls. You know, one of those crazy-ish laughs that come out involuntarily when you experience great and profound relief upon finding out that you haven’t done such a half-a$$ed job of raising your kids after all, despite all of the insane things and people around them who are working, either intentionally or unintentionally, against you? Yeah, one of those laughs.
“I think,” I said to the girls, “that maybe what she really meant was that she was a pioneer because she ended a cycle of abuse in her family, so the fact that she was the first one to get remarried . . . ”
“Ummm . . . mom? How did you get that out of what she said?”
See, people don’t realize just how positive I actually try to be. All they see is this horribly negative person saying, “You should not give kids rides in the trunk of your car!” and, “Why does this stupid state have dirt roads?” But I do try to be positive. It’s not my fault when people come along and make it so dang difficult (seriously, Canada South, pave your friggin roads).
Anyway, when the husband was telling me the story of Sister So-and-So who couldn’t believe he has six kids, and I said, “I have no idea who that is,” he said, “The divorce pioneer.”
I’m sure she is a delightful, lovely person who would be mortified to know that that is how she is known in our, or any, household; but, like I said at the beginning, I’ve never actually met her. I only know what she said. About herself. Publicly.
Tewt the Newt thinks he’ll never speak in public again.
What is the appropriate response when your hurt child tells you with a smile on his face,
I had a dream last night that I was in the ocean with a lot of people, and a big, great white shark ate one of them. It was [insert name of birthmom]!
“Do you think she tasted good?”
“How much blood was there?”
“Ooo! Maybe tonight your subconscious can squeeze her to death with a big snake! You like big snakes!”?
None of those options seemed even mildly appropriate, so I just asked him how he felt about her getting eaten by the shark.
“Good!” was the answer.
Okey dokey then.
Overall, I think I’m going to mark this one as a point in the progress column because, as he shared the dream with us, he said her name without acting like he was saying “Voldemort” for the very first time rather than “He-who-must-not-be-named.” And call me crazy, but I think Dumbledore got it right when he said that the fear of a name only increases the fear of the thing itself. Tonight? Spuds wasn’t afraid of the name.
Progress. For Spuds, anyway.
I, on the other hand, am relying on psychological advice from a fictional wizard. Let’s not talk about what that might mean for me.
Tewt the Newt says, “Lumos!”
Do you all know who the FlyLady is? She’s all about blessing your home and your family by keeping your home clean. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, you know, so it makes sense. The FlyLady has all kinds of good tips and tricks and systems. Oh, she’s all about the systems and schedules and things to help you keep your house clean.
I follow her on Facebook. She posts her little memes several times a day to remind her followers to get stuff done, or maybe it’s to make us feel guilty. I’m not sure. Anyway, one of her little FlyLady memes says, “A load a day keeps Mount Washmore away,” and every time I see that one? I just want to say, “Bite me, FlyLady. Just bite me.”
Okay, I don’t really want to say that. Not really. Just sorta. You see, I’ve heard her speak a couple of times at the big, Midwest homeschool convention. I’ve talked with her at her convention booth just a tiny bit. She is actually a charming and delightful person with lots of good ideas and advice, and someday I want to be just like her: an empty nester. When that day comes, I’ll be able to implement all of her tips and tricks and systems and schedules successfully, but right now? I have six kids living at home. Do you know what a load of laundry a day gets you when you have six kids and a husband? I’ll tell you what it gets you. It gets you behind is what it gets you.
I’ve been doing a minimum of three or four loads a day for the past . . . forever (and, yes, some of my kids do laundry, too), and you still can’t see the floor in my laundry room. What makes this especially bad is that I have a laundry sorter, and it, too, is still full-ish.
Not that I blame the FlyLady for this. Obviously, it’s not her fault that I have six kids.
Oooo! Side story:
A couple of weeks ago the studly husband went on a pioneer trek reenactment with the youth from several local-ish congregations of our church. He was the trail boss, which means he got to ride his horse and dress like Porter Rockwell (minus the long hair), and he was all kinds of happy. One evening, while on the trek and after the teenagers had all bedded down in their tents for the night, the adults were sitting around talking, and one of the women chaperones* asked him about his kids, and when he told them he has six kids, she did what everybody who doesn’t know us well does:
“YOU HAVE SIX KIDS???? HOW??? I MEAN, HOW OLD ARE YOU??? YOU CAN’T HAVE SIX KIDS!”
I’ll spare you the hysterical yelling that ensued when he told her the oldest is going to college in the fall. So, when she settled down enough for other people to get a word in, one of the other men said, “You know how you can prevent that from happening again, right?” and another quickly followed with a seemingly envious, “You are so lucky to be able to have so many kids.”
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
While I would have said (in my head), “Yeah, I know how to prevent that. The next time I get the urge to adopt, I’ll just stuff all my money and legal forms of identification into a condom. That should put a stop to things,” McH said (out loud), “Luck didn’t have much to do with it. We adopted the last three, so we pretty much made it happen.” Mr. I-Wish-I-Could-Have-Lots-of-Kids just kind of faded into the background after that.
Anyway, six kids. Lots of laundry.
On Friday, I told two of my girls to strip their beds of all bedding: sheets, comforters pillow cases, any extra blankets, you know, everything (they should, of course, be able to figure out what “bedding” means without this lengthy explanation, but if parenting for 17 years has taught me one thing, it’s that common sense doesn’t pass through the placental barrier), and start washing it while the husband and I went to Costco. Costco is about an hour from our house, so this was a big trip that gave them plenty of time to get lots of bedding washed and put back on their beds. Unbeknownst to me, however, two things happened while we were gone:
1. A couple of the boys heard me tell the two girls to get their bedding into the laundry room, and these boys assumed that everybody was supposed to strip everything off their beds and, apparently, out of the linen closets. They might have even hitched a ride to Wal Mart just to go buy more bedding to be washed. Okay, so maybe they had raided the linen closets a few days earlier to build forts and decided that all of those blankets were included in the washing decree. Pot-ay-to, pot-ah-to. I’m still not sure about the trip to Wal Mart. At any rate, they followed my instruction to put ALL THE BEDDING into the laundry room.
2. Nobody washed a damn thing. I guess, technically, that is something that didn’t happen.
And so it was that I came home to a Mount Washmore the likes of which the FlyLady has never imagined. I literally could not walk into my laundry room. I could not walk around the pile of bedding. I am not even kidding when I say I had to get equipment, set up base camp outside the door, and climb over the laundry to get to the machines. Okay, maybe I’m kidding about the base camp and equipment part, but I did have to climb over it. And? I did, for real, lose my water bottle in the laundry room for a whole 15 minutes or so.
If I could have easily gotten to the starch, I probably could have sculpted some presidential visages into the mountain, but that’s awfully hard, thirsty work to do without one’s water bottle handy.
Who am I kidding? I don’t own starch (unless you count corn starch which, in this case, you really shouldn’t).
Mount Washmore is finally gone now. It only took me three days to do it (not even kidding). There are a few random blankets on the floor, waiting to be washed like the last vestiges of . . . a mountain of laundry composed of bedding; but, you know, clothes needed to be washed. As important as clean bedding is, there came a point where I had to decide if I was going to wash the last few blankets so that the kids could take them out of the linen closet and build new, clean-smelling forts, or if I was going to wash clothes so that the kids could pull them out of their dressers and not run naked through the neighborhood. They are all currently clothed, so I think I made the right call. I imagine FlyLady would agree.
* This woman chaperone is another side story all unto herself.
Tewt the Newt can’t wait until I figure out the best way to tell it.
It occurs to me that maybe I need to clarify something: I really do like the FlyLady and her tips and tricks and systems and schedules. I have read her book, have bought copies of it for others, and have purchased some of her cleaning products. I haven’t fully implemented any of her systems and schedules, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned some valuable things along the way. I mean, why else would I keep going to her lectures at the homeschool convention?
Monday was a BIG day for me. I took Spuds to a pediatrician.
I know, I know, but please hold your applause until the end of the post. It gets better.
As we all know, I’m not a huge fan of doctors. It’s not that I don’t like them personally, it’s just that I have a difficult time finding doctors that I like professionally. It’s not even all their fault, though there are those doctors who are so arrogant I want to scream at them, “You aren’t smarter than I am, nitwit, you just have different, and more, degrees than I do. I could have been a doctor, too; but I pretty much hated every biology class I ever took, so it just didn’t seem like a wise career choice. See? I’m SMART like that!” No, mostly I blame pharmaceutical companies for my distrust of today’s doctors. Do you know how much of any given doctor’s medical education is subsidized by big pharma? Okay, I don’t know exactly how much, either; but my understanding (having both read lots on the subject and talked to actual doctors about it) is that med school is basically where the pharmaceutical companies train their best sales people: doctors. I may be exaggerating, but not by much.
Anyway, I needed to find a pediatrician who would work with me to wean Spuds off of his meds that we don’t think he needs. When we found out what all they’ve had him on and started researching it (because, in this day and information age, who wouldn’t do that kind of research when they know they are going to have to be dispensing medications to their kid every day?), oh my word, people! I had no idea how scary some of this crap is that we just shove down kids’ throats when they don’t behave in a convenient or even moderately easy manner. One of his medications was actually designed, developed, invented . . . whatever they call it when people in a lab coat mix things up in their cauldrons and then proclaim it to be medicine . . . as a blood pressure medication. Umm . . . so, you know, nice that it apparently has unintended side effects that can ostensibly help kids focus and all, but hello??? What else is it doing to my kid in the meantime? (Plus? Just between you, me, and the fencepost? It’s not helping him focus. He can be deeply involved in a conversation or activity that he initiated and . . . squirrel! And 15 seconds later? Squirrel!).
But that’s not even the scary medication, nor is it the hardest one to wean him off. No, the other one is much, much worse. Its list of possible side effects is terrifying, and some of those side effects can be permanent. But the best part? The BEST part?!?! The effects of that particular medication on children have never been studied. There is no pediatric dosing for that medication. The pharmaceutical company’s own website says it is not for children. Guess what? Doctors put kids on it all the time anyway, apparently, and Spuds? He was on the highest approved dose. That would be, of course, the highest approved dose for adults, because there is no official approved dose for children! In addition to the possible permanent side effects of this medication, there are many, many other possible side effects. Spuds has one that is listed as “rare” so, of course, he was on another medication to control that side effect. Brilliant.
GAH! Frustration. Terror. Abhorrence! These are all things I’ve been feeling for the past month as, night after night, I give him his pills because I can’t just stop these kinds of medications without working with a doctor to make sure everything goes okay.
Interesting side note: We’ve been giving him his pills at night because that’s how the other parents were doing it and how they told us to do it, but it didn’t make sense, because these meds are usually given to kids in the morning so that they are feeling the maximum effects during the day, when they are, you know, awake (see? the information age is informative). As the doctor was doing doctor stuff on her laptop while talking to me Monday, she kind of muttered, “It’s almost like they were using these as more of a sleep aid.”
Hmm . . . you think?
Anyway, we went to the doctor. I was nervous. Going to new doctors always makes me nervous. I was extra nervous this time because I just didn’t know if she would take me seriously, or if she would be a pill pusher, or what.
I could tell you a very long story about how the whole visit unfolded, but I’ll give you the short version and then get around to the point of the post title.
Short version: I LOVED her. When I gave her the backstory on Spuds and why we want to get him off all the meds and see how things go from there (he might need to go back on some meds, and I get that, but I have several other avenues to try first), and I finished up with, “I just feel like his body has been exposed to one chemical drug or another since before he was born, and I want his body to have a break,” she replied, “I agree. His brain needs a break.”
I could have cried tears of joy and relief right then and there, especially since I had come dangerously close to tears of mortification just minutes before.
You see, as I was first giving her The History of Spuds (he was in another room, playing with toys and being supervised by office staff so that we could talk freely without mortifying him — I asked him if he wanted to be there while I told the doctor about why he was on meds and why we wanted to try taking him off, and he was adamant that he didn’t want to be in the room), she made some comment to her nurse/assistant/whatever, who was typing everything into the laptop, that “foster mom thinks he needs weaned off his meds.”
“No,” I said. “I’m not the foster mom. This is a private adoption. It’s not finalized yet, but I’m the mom, I’m the legal guardian.”
So, of course, she was curious about how all that worked. “So, how does that work? Did his other parents just give him back to the state? How did you hear about him?”
No, they didn’t just hand him back to the state. They found an adoption agency that specializes in finding new families for adopted kids who, for whatever reason, can’t stay with their current family. Once they find a new family, then paperwork is done, the original adoptive parents sign away their custody, and the new parents get the child and custody. This agency looks for new families by posting pictures and bios of the kids . . . on Facebook.
I wanted to die. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die rather than tell the doctor and her nurse/assistant/whatever that I found my kid on Facebook. It sounds horrible. It is horrible. NO child should ever be listed on Facebook, or, more specifically, no child should ever have to be listed online anywhere. But the fact of the matter is that most people who are looking to adopt want their perfect, healthy, newborn. Kids like Spuds? There aren’t a lot of people out there looking for kids who have been hurt the way he has been hurt. And because people aren’t actively looking for kids like him, the agency actively looks for parents for kids like him. And in this day and information age? Social media is the most effective way to do that.
For the record?s We weren’t looking. We’ve talked off and on for years about someday adopting an older child, but we weren’t currently pursuing that, and I didn’t follow that agency’s Facebook page. Facebook would not have been the first place I would have looked if we were actively pursuing another adoption.
So, though social media may be an effective way to find families for kids like Spuds, it still kills me. On the one hand, I am so, so grateful to the friend who reposted the agency’s post about our new son. We wouldn’t have found him otherwise. On the other hand? I found my child on Facebook. This makes the story about getting physical custody of Tank Boy in baggage claim look like a happily-ever-after fairytale. It is a conflict I will live with for the rest of my life, but it is a conflict worth living with if it means Spuds has a better shot at life, and, right now? I’m pretty confident that he does. I suppose he could prove me wrong in the months and years to come, but I have lots of hope and reason to believe he does have a much better shot.
Anyway, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when the doctor and her nurse/assistant/whatever (they all wear scrubs — why do they all wear scrubs???? hows about only the actual medically trained people wear scrubs so that I can tell who is what?) . . . umm . . . I wasn’t the least bit surprised when their eyes popped out of their heads and they said in hushed, shocked tones, “But what about predators? Predators????”
They are right, of course. What about predators? All I could tell them is that this is a legal adoption, so there are agencies involved on both the sending and receiving ends, there was vetting, a home study (update), and there are and will be post-placement visits until finalization, so that really helps weed out the predators. I didn’t even bother telling them about re-homing because: a. that’s not what we’re involved in; and b. what would have been the point? They’d just had enough shock already.
Maybe I should have told them that one of the first things we did after getting custody was contact the placing agency and tell them that all information about and pictures of Spuds needed to be taken off their Facebook page immediately. I don’t know if that would have mattered to them, but it sure mattered to us.
It is a very different world we live in these days. I don’t always like it. I frequently don’t like it, actually, but, like everyone else, I’m doing the best I can to live in it and, hopefully, leave it a little better off because I was here. I guess this is where I could get all schmaltzy and pull out the story about the starfish and make maudlin statements about how we are making a difference to that one, because, God willing, we are. However, that doesn’t change the fact that we found our newest son on Facebook, and that is more than slightly mortifying. I have no regrets, though. The circumstances of Spuds coming to us are ugly, but he needed somewhere to land, and though I don’t think it will ever be easy to tell people about the Facebook connection, I’m glad he’s landed here.
Tewt the Newt is going to throw up in his mouth a little.
I hear this question all. the. time. Given that I’m an introverted hermit, this is saying something. Of course, there is being an introverted hermit and then there is living the introverted hermit lifestyle. I am the first, but not doing the second as much as I might like, especially right now. Okay, in all honesty I’m introverted by nature but not a hermit by nature. Living here makes me want to be a hermit. See? Still not over it. But I digress . . .
. . . And speaking of digressing, I just have to share something totally unrelated to the rest of the post:
Tank Boy has a friend over for the day/night, and this friend? His voice is changing! How did my little Tank get so old that he has friends going through puberty???? I will never understand how these things happen.
Back to the reason I’m blogging today.
Before Spuds came home, McH and I discussed the whole “nobody in, nobody out for two weeks” idea. I really would have liked to follow this practice for the first two weeks Spuds was with us, but it just wasn’t possible. Between church obligations (McH is the president of the boys’ youth auxiliary, aka Young Men’s Program, and I am the president of the women’s auxiliary, aka Relief Society) (which is generally frowned upon in the church, actually, but it is what it is and we’re okay with it) . . . where was I? Oh, yes. Between church obligations, graduation hoopla, and the fact that we have six kids, five of whom have rather established lives here, we’ve been go, go, going quite a bit. So people are always asking us, “How is he adjusting?” I usually can barely murmur a non-committal response before the questioner then follows up with one of the following:
He’s getting right in there and playing with all of the other kids!
He’s so smiley and happy!
He seems to be doing just great!
It was so touching the way he was sitting on your lap and hugging you in church!
It’s obvious he just loves you guys!
He is so adorable!
You can just tell he’s happy being in a good family!
Well, first of all, he is adorable. He really is. The fact that he is the size of a six-year-old helps with that, but he doesn’t really appreciate it. Second of all? He wasn’t in a bad family before. I mean, things didn’t work out the way we’d all have liked to see them work out, but they weren’t a bad family. There were no swastikas tattooed on foreheads or used needles lying around the house. They were and are, actually, very nice, very likable people. I know that’s hard for some people to digest — how does one reconcile giving away one’s child with being good, or at least not bad, people? All I can say is that we’ve met them, and they are. They did their best. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything they did, every choice they made, but I can still see the good in them.
Anyhoo . . .
I tell people that Spuds really is doing great so far, because he is for all intents and purposes. Except? Anyone who knows anything about adoption, and specifically older child adoption, knows that what is happening so far is likely meaningless. Okay, meaningless is probably too strong of a word. The fact that he hugs us and sits on our laps and plays with other kids and smiles and all that is . . . promising. But? It’s also, to one degree or another, an act. He’s trying, right? He’s trying to fit in, trying to adapt, trying to do what he thinks is expected of him, which is good to a point. It means, in my mind anyway, that he’s not totally off the deep end of RAD (I won’t dwell on the diagnosis right now, but it’s there) and he knows what good behavior is and can behave.
So he’s trying, and trying is good, but I know that the chances of it lasting more than three or four months before the reality of his situation really sinks in and it all becomes just. too. much! for him are slim. It happened with Tank Boy, and he was a baby when he came home. It was almost three months to the day, and BAM! All hell broke lose. The biting, the screaming, the throwing of things — anything — the head butting . . . it was not pleasant. At the time, I talked to an acquaintance who is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with children, and she told me that the three to four month time frame before implosion was very, very normal. I keep this in mind every day with Spuds. I see him doing so well, and I praise him for behaving and cooperating and all that stuff, but in the back of my mind I remind myself not to grow to expect it to last. I pray it will, but I don’t expect it to.
Shoot. I just ended that sentence with a preposition. Oh well.
But all the people who tell me how great he’s doing? They look at me like the people around here always look at me — like I’m from some weird planet where people refuse to be happy and optimistic, like I am the queen of gloom and doom, like I, personally, am trying to administer the Dementors’ Kiss. Or? Maybe I’m overreacting and they just look at me like they are really confused when I tell them, “Yeah, he’s doing great now, but chances are good that he will totally fall apart sometime around the end of the summer.”
People around here don’t like to hear reality unless it involves sunshine and daisies with a splash of glitter and a free buffet, but I don’t know how to not tell them the reality of the situation. He’s turning up at church and social functions and being all functional now, but his reality is too devoid of sunshine, daisies, and glitter to expect it to last (I do not tell them details about this). I’ve felt compelled to explain the concept of indiscriminate affection to a woman who literally had tears in her eyes because she was so touched by the way Spuds was snuggling on my lap at church a week after he came home. I have explained the concept of triangulation to people, I have given surface, mini-lessons on attachment problems and what that means in the context of hurt children who can charm the kiddies back from the Pied Piper. I keep telling people that, as much as we are enjoying the Spuds we are seeing right now, we are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
They keep looking at me like I need chocolate and a therapist.
I want to feel as hopeful and optimistic about it all as everyone else does, but I know, you know? And in three or four months, if things do go crazy? I don’t want people to be saying to each other, “He was such an awesome kid when they got him! What on earth did she do to cause all of THIS???” So now I’m just raining acid on the glitter parade, and in three or four months, if things do go crazy? I’m sure everyone will be muttering things behind my back about self-fulfilling prophecies.
It almost makes me wish I had video of him helping McH pack his stuff up in our car just minutes after his last mother told him that he was going to live with us. That was an experience I never expected to have. I didn’t even want to go to their house to pick him up — I wanted them to bring him to our hotel so that they would be the ones walking away rather than us being the ones taking him away, but that’s not how it ultimately happened. They didn’t tell him he was going until we were there. I walked in knowing that’s what was going to happen, but I didn’t know what I could possibly do about it because, until he was ours? He wasn’t. I couldn’t call the shots and make those decisions. But the point is, when they did tell him? He was like, “Okay! Let’s start packing!” He gave those parents each a big hug, then ran out the door to load up and buckle up. Maybe if people here could have seen that, they’d understand the reality I keep gently trying to explain without betraying Spuds by explaining too much.
So, yeah. Attachment issues for sure. On the up side (as if there really can be an up side in this ugly game of hot potato/child), he does ask about his previous family. He asks when we can go to visit. His eyes “itch.” My heart breaks for him and all the change and loss he’s going through, but my heart sings and hopes for him because there was and is some attachment there, and some is far, far better than none.
How is he adjusting? He is adjusting in his own way, at his own pace, and in his own time, and it will last for years.
Tewt the Newt thinks that is the best anyone can or should expect.