A Bit of History – or How We Got Here (Part 1)
Ric and I met in college at the beginning of my sophomore year and his freshman year, during orientation. We then proceeded to have approximately nothing to do with each other for the next four years. [grin] We would run across each other at the In Town Students’ Lounge at Washington University in St. Louis at times, but I spent most of my time in the Study lounge, while he was usually to be found in the Social lounge. Ric would catch up on studying at night. I, on the other hand, would sleep. [grin]
We ran into each other again at a post-graduation party and realized how compatible we really were on the things that mattered, and about fourteen months later, we were married. Less than two years later, we were blessed with a big surprise – our first child. Having one child already – and of course, she was a model first-born – we thought we’d have more and complete our family. But, it was five years before our son was born. As is often the case, the second-born is not so easy or compliant as the first. However, we still continued to congratulate ourselves on our superior parenting skills, and we thought it would be a great idea to have a bigger family, but we didn’t really want to start all over again with bottles and diapers. And, since there were and are so many children in need of families, we decided to adopt.
Growing our family by adoption
We started the process when our daughter was 9 and our son 4. Nine months later, in 1999, we welcomed a sibling group of four children from Texas into the family. For a long time, it seemed like things were going to be OK. Certainly the kids had a lot of emotional baggage (and displayed RAD symptoms, but we did not know what that was at the time… habitual lying, freezing, hoarding, etc), and they definitely presented some learning issues (3 to 4 years behind), but life seemed do-able, and there were lots of good times. We had taken the kids to a “traditional” psychotherapist at the beginning, but were told that our kids did not really have any issues so we discontinued going. We switched to home schooling so there would be more time to bond the family together and also to try to get our new kids caught up in school. But we definitely had issues with trying to maintain rules.
What happened? (and out of home placements)
Puberty came along and there were more issues.
Then came the five year anniversary of the kids’ placement with us. And all “H” broke loose.
Five years was longer than the children had lived with their birth family. Five years was longer than they’d lived with their foster family (four years there). Five years was S.E.R.I.O.U.S. Like maybe forever. Like maybe disloyal. Like… who knows? But in the last months leading up to and following that five year anniversary, one child went into self-destruct mode, and our home slowly turned into a war zone and family life became almost impossible. When this child erupted, the rest of the children disappeared.
We tried all the “normal” parenting methods of rewards for positive behavior and consequences for negative behavior. But the frequency of eruptions, dishonesty, stealing, sneaking out, etc. increased until it was almost constant and unbearable. We tried ”traditional” psychotherapists again, but they did not improve the situation at all… other than prescriptions for ADHD medications, which seemed to help school behavior (by this point we had transitioned the kids back into public school).
We had a suicide threat which lead to a brief psychiatric placement, then a much longer residential placement. After being kicked out of that placement after ten months, there was another residential placement, then a National Guard Youth Challenge program (kicked out), and a youth / group home placement closer to home.
While this was going on, the youngest child was falling apart due to losing an older sibling. (Another traumatic loss.) And the other teenagers were getting older and finding new ways to get into trouble (fighting, drugs, etc). They were also gone from home for periods of time.
Everyone was traumatized by the situation, including the birth children and ourselves. Having the loving close family that we originally had, seemed impossible to achieve again.
The road back…
And then in 2008, when we were feeling like failures at parenting and were considering placing our youngest child out of the home (RAD, ODD, rages, school suspensions, lying, stealing, etc.), we attended a Heather Forbes Beyond Consequences Live event.
And the world turned over for all of us.
A year and a half later, not only is the youngest still at home (doing well at school, and reasonably compliant at home), home is mostly peaceful, and the older child who had been gone from home from age 16 to 20 is back home as well, and compliant regarding rules (naturally, the rules are fewer for an adult than for a minor), scrupulously honest, and genuinely pleasant to be around. The other two also want to be around us again and be a closer family.
There are still issues to be worked out – but now the relationships are solid, which makes it possible to work on the issues.
Read Part 2