Does anyone feel like this parenting thing is just one big series of guesses and faking it? I get comments on a regular basis saying things like “you are so great with him” or “they are so lucky to have you”, etc. Those are nice comments and I appreciate the sentiment. But, it is all crap. Here is a confession – I have no freaking clue what I am doing most of the time.
Parenting traumatized children isn’t always simple. Minnie doesn’t have any diagnosed issues, but she has nightmares – a lot of nightmares and short term memory struggles. Mickey has multiple diagnosis and trauma. Both kids were ripped away from two families before they were 4 & 6. Both had been abused and neglected. Minnie couldn’t bathe or swim because of her intense fear of water after somebody tried to drown her as a baby/young toddler. Mickey has a deathly fear of being locked in closets.
But, here is the truth – no matter that I spent 100+ hours in training classes before adopting, and I have read dozens and dozens of books on Autism, trauma and adoption in the last four years and we have spent hundreds of hour in therapy – most of the time I am guessing. I try to apply common sense, natural consequences, with a healthy dose of sunshine and physical activity, less natural consequences like groundings and sentences, rewards and sometimes even bribery. I listen to my kid because he can usually tell me what he wants or needs, though I often have to decode it. I am sarcastic and even my son with Autism now has learned how to decode that sarcasm (Minnie already speaks fluent sarcasm). I try to find the humor in the often ridiculous parts of our life. I am determined (sometimes too much so) to make up for the life they had before I met them and the fact that I missed out on so much before I met them. While Mickey has to work hard and we as a family work hard to help Mickey, I am determined that he won’t look back on a childhood that is nothing but being in trouble and sitting in therapies. We had to do that for 18 months at six days a week. That was necessary so that we could get to a place that allowed us to live life. Even after that 18 months we did at least 2 days of therapy a week, in addition to his speech and OT at school, for another couple of years. Now he sees a therapist once every two to three weeks and we increase during rough patches.
When people who have known and seen Mickey for the last four years, we get lots of compliments on his progress – which has been vast. When he is being difficult, which is often enough, I get those words of support – but in reality, I feel like a fraud. I get upset. I get frustrated. I have yelled at my kids, because I am not perfect. Some days I just want to chuck it all and go sip a cocktail on a beach somewhere. I do not have infinite patience – I HATE taking Mickey to a store, I detest cleaning bathrooms and I do not force my son who hates socks to wear them – in part because socks are the absolute bane of my existence with regard to laundry and in part because it isn’t important enough to battle over every single day. If his cold feet bothered him, he would wear them (plus, we live in GA so it isn’t as though frostbite is an issue or anything). We also love, hug, laugh, sing and dance, we do extra curricular activities, we try new things, we eat out – sometimes too often, we travel to visit family and to their happy place, Disney World. We keep a routine, which Mickey needs and then sometimes we break it, because he has to learn to deal with that too. We drive around and look at Christmas lights and we jam out to the radio at volumes that are probably not good for little kid ears and I absolutely indulge Mickey’s quirky taste in music and Minnie’s adoration of all things animals. As Mickey said – I won’t win any mother of the year awards and he is right.
I am just doing the best I can and it isn’t worthy of praise or compliments. In some ways I am incredibly lucky because Mickey is on the higher functioning end of the spectrum – though technically his diagnosis is moderate/severe. But, with a lot of work we have gotten him to a relatively high functioning place. I am lucky that Minnie escaped those early years and alcohol exposure relatively unscathed. Most of all, I wake up every single day glad to be their mom. I worked hard to build this family through adoption and I work hard to provide them the best life I can – just as my parents did for me. It isn’t praise worthy, because it just is. My reward is that I get to watch these two amazing kids growing into amazing people. But, it is a ton of luck and guessing to get them there. Will they someday tell their therapists or their spouses about all the ways I screwed up? Almost definitely. Because I am just doing the best I can and when in doubt? I fake it. The fact that I have fooled anyone into thinking I have a clue what I am doing is laughable.
Here is one sneak of our Christmas card photo shoot this weekend – these two are the reason that I try my best and fake it ’til we make it.