29 October 2010

Apology accepted, kid

Mimi started taking a very very small dose of Pr*zac two weeks ago. I think we are starting to see the effects, here and there. She finished her homework last night -- I was able to talk her through a difficult spot and help her understand the concept without a gigantic meltdown, which has been a rare thing this school year. She seems more cheerful. She has slept through the night in her own bed at least twice this week.

But she also is extremely excitable and distracted, even more so than usual. I have to ask her five or six times to put her shoes on or turn off the tv or settle down so that we can sit down to dinner. Getting ready for school in the mornings has been a nightmare this entire week. Boo feeds off Mimi and copies everything she does, so there have been several mornings where I have dragged both girls out of the house, screaming, teeth and hair unbrushed, to deliver them to school 15 minutes late and arrive at work half-an-hour late myself.

She's not on any sort of ADHD med right now. We stopped all meds about a month ago to see if her anxiety level diminished. It did, a little bit, but not as much as the psychiatrist would have liked. So, the anti-depressant, which has been shown to be effective in small doses for anxiety in kids. But we didn't want to start any other meds at the same time, because we needed to be able to judge how this was working. She goes back for follow-up on Monday and I guess we will discuss all of this then and decide if she needs yet another medicine, or, you know, just some restraints. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

I don't mean to imply that life with Mimi is always difficult, or always about her history of trauma. My lovely girl has a whole lot going for her and many qualities that make her lovable and fun to be around. At least half of my parenting with her is fairly, well, "normal" (whatever that is) -- did you brush your teeth, how was school, no, you can't have ice cream for breakfast, I love you too, no you can't have chocolate before dinner, thank you for helping set the table, stop bugging your sister, give me a hug, have a good day, listen to your teacher/dad/grandma. Etc. I don't think constantly about her adoption, and her life before that. Often, yes, but not all the damn time. More so lately, because it has clearly been on her mind more and she is definitely going through some processing of her history before she was adopted. And when she's processing, I know we are going to have a bad evening or night or following day.

The other morning the girls' dad came to take them to school so I could leave for work early. This did not happen, because the girls were being uncooperative screaming banshees, and I was frustrated and still needed to get ready for work myself. I made the poor decision to let M handle the getting-ready process so I could get ready myself. I got out of the shower and heard screaming. Poked my head out of the bathroom and saw Boo running around in her underwear, and Mimi eating breakfast in her pajamas. And M yelling at them both to hurry up. I got dressed and combed my hair and blow-dried and brushed my teeth and 20 minutes later, Mimi was still in her pjs, Boo was still in her underwear, and M was still yelling. I came into the living room to hear Mimi yell from the kitchen "I HATE THIS FAMILY! I HATE BEING IN THIS FAMILY! I WANT A DIFFERENT FAMILY! I AM GOING BACK TO CHINA!"

I've heard this before. I tend to take these outbursts with a grain of sale. Usually I say something like "Oooh, sorry to hear that. I would miss you if you went to China." It deflates her anger and makes her annoyed that I am not freaking out about her threats. M, however, doesn't always (or, to be honest, ever really) get that it's not personal, it's not really about hating us. It's just the only way she knows to express her frustrations and the way she knows will hurt us. It's the worst thing she can think of to say and every time she says it and I respond calmly and non-threateningly she feels that tiny bit more secure. M doesn't get this. He never has and I don't think he ever will. So he yelled something back at her like "Well I don't like this family very much right now EITHER."

Yeah, mature. I know. My point here is not to complain about M, although I could (that would be a whole other blog, with daily entries, footnotes, citations, etc.). It's to point out that despite Mimi's trauma, anger, rage, she feels safe enough at home with me to express it in words that have meaning and sense. She is processing her trauma and working through it and when calm is able to say things like "I bet my family in China misses me" and "Boo doesn't even have two moms. She just has one" (in tones of massive superiority) and "My brain is this way because this is how my mom and China made me." She's getting it. A little at a time, with lots of patience and discussion and moments of rage and everything else. If M could refrain from responding to her at a maturity level slightly lower than hers, we'd probably be making even more progress. Because she's starting to understand the things he says, too, and process them. And after she has outbursts, she is almost always sorry, and almost always apologize, unprompted. I can't say the same for M.

As we were leaving I calmly told M, "Don't come out in the mornings for a while." He snapped "I don't want to anyway." Later that night Mimi said to me "Dad doesn't want to come over because we weren't behaving." And I said, "well, Daddy and I both like when you girls listen to us and follow directions, and you definitely weren't doing that this morning. But it's not ok for Daddy to yell at you any more than it's ok for you to yell at us. And if he decides not to come see you then he's probably not making a good choice." We talk a lot about choices -- good, bad, difficult, etc. I want the kids to know they have control over some things (whether or not they lose tv privileges, for example, and if they choose to go to bed RIGHT NOW or in half an hour. Heh.)

Oh and the apology? Five minutes after her outburst, she said to me "I'm sorry I hate this family. I'm sorry I hate Dad." I started laughing. Tension diffused, just like that.

14 October 2010


Mimi has a weekly writing assignment for school. She knows about it on Monday but we usually end up doing it, of course, on Thursday. Before we could even get started on homework tonight, she had a massive meltdown that involved yanking my hair, which hurt badly, and hiding under a blanket on the couch screaming that she hated herself, that she didn't want to be her and that she didn't want to be from China.

She calmed down and, as she tends to do, went on to do her homework like we hadn't just had a 45 minute screaming fit at the thought of it. This week's topic was "write about a time you were surprised." After some thought, this is what she wrote.
I forgot my umbrella yesterday so I was surprised when it rained. Another time I was surprise when my mom and dad came to pick me in China! I was surprised because I was two and I never seen any body with blond hair before. And brown hair too!
It made me think of this picture, which Mimi's dad took in the elevator in our hotel. She screamed and screamed the first couple of times we went in the elevator (but we were on like the 12th floor, so, sorry babe, but we're taking the elevator) until she discovered the mirrored back wall. Then she loved it and wanted to go in the elevator all the time.

Oh, my baby. So tiny. So scared and surprised. I wish we could find a magic mirror for you again.


Fight Like a Girl

I made this treasury of awesome, inspiring girl-power stuff I found on etsy for a couple of reasons. I needed something to remind myself of my strength. And I needed reassurance that my daughters will grow up knowing their own power, strength and wisdom. I needed to remember that there are plenty of women who don't rely on others to solve their problems, and that even when things don't go quite right there are lots of reasons to go on.

And, of course, just because as women we are awesome, and our daughters are awesome, and it doesn't hurt to tell yourself that as often as possible.

01 October 2010

Make It Better

I kind of forgot to blog this week. Here's a picture instead. 

Ok, fine. I didn't actually forget. It's been a rough week all around and every time I thought about writing about it, I found something else I needed to urgently do ... You know, emergency Etsy Treasuries, complaining on Twitter about the use of the word "soda" on Detroit 1-8-7, and downloading free Tetris apps onto my fancy new phone (which was fairly cheap since I was due for an upgrade, and is PINK, which makes my daughters ecstatic).

I've spent most of the past couple of weeks dealing with Mimi and her needs. Not unusual for parents. Really not unusual for parents of special needs kids. (That link, by the way, goes to a wonderful site, essential reading for anyone parenting a child with special needs.) The thing is, see, it's really hard to write about your kid's special needs and biweekly doctor's visits when those needs are psychological and the visits are to a psychiatrist. It's hard to write about the bedtimes when when your kid says "I hate being me" and "I wish I wasn't born" and talks about the people in her head who make noise all the time and keep her from being able to sleep. Or how when asked about her biggest worry, your kid draws a picture of herself in jail. It's hard to think about putting your 7-year-old on Pro*zac, never mind write about it. Rit*alin, ok. Lots of kids take ADHD meds. We talk about ADHD a lot, and kids on the autism spectrum. These are things people are starting to understand in children. But a clinically depressed, chronically anxious 2nd grader? People start to look at you, as a parent, a little funny. What's this mom doing wrong that her kid is DEPRESSED? (Must be the divorce. Or you know, those adopted kids, you never know with them.) What does a 7-year-old have to be depressed about? 

Well, a lot, it turns out, and nothing that I did "wrong" made her this way, but it's what we're dealing with, and it sucks all around. It sucks for Mimi, of course, most of all. But it sucks for me, too, and for Boo. It is really hard to live, never mind talk or write about. I come home from work most days, and spend four to five hours dealing with Mimi's needs, meltdowns, behavior issues, and moods, while trying to love her as much as I can and make sure Boo isn't completely ignored in the process. The other day I spent nearly a full hour walking back and forth between the bathroom (where Boo was taking a bath) and the girls' bedroom (where Mimi was supposed to be doing homework -- one math sheet with four questions on it  -- but was actually screaming, throwing her pencil, spinning around and around in the desk chair, crying, whining, and tearing paper into teeny shreds), dealing with their needs in 3-minute bursts. Bathroom -  bedroom - bathroom - bedroom -- they are about nine steps apart, but I felt like I was running a marathon. Some nights it's homework, some nights it's whatever I made for dinner that she doesn't feel like eating, some nights it's when I say "no more tv" and turn off the set, some nights it's nothing at all that I can discern but something awful is happening in her head and that's enough.

It's not all bad, and I don't mean to suggest that what we're dealing with is any worse than what many other parents go through. There's still this stigma, however, to mental and mood disorders, and so often we still are too squeamish to discuss them openly. Especially when it comes to children. I struggled with whether to post this or not, because after all it's not my issue, it's Mimi's. She doesn't seem to mind talking about it -- in fact, recently, she's become quite verbal and open about it, and for the first time is really finding the words to describe what goes on in her head. I want her to be matter-of-fact about it, and so we say things like "some kids wear glasses because their eyes need help to work right. Some kids have leg braces or wheelchairs to help them get around because their legs aren't as strong. Some kids take medicine to help their brain figure things out a little bit easier, or help them feel better." But it's different, of course it's different and she knows it and so do I, because no one wants to think about a 2nd grader with crippling anxiety and mood disorder.

So I'm posting, so you know. It happens, kids DO get depressed, seriously, life-changingly so, and if we don't talk about and do something when they are little, or whenever things start to get bad, then
we raise people unable or unwilling to share the hard stuff, other people unable to deal with people who are not like them, people who can't cope with their own feelings never mind take into account what other people might be going through. And ultimately we get bullies, and kids afraid to go to school, and kids who won't talk to their parents, and parents who don't see their kids' emotional pain, and middle schoolers and college freshmen, beautiful young people who could change the world, we get these kids hanging themselves and jumping off bridges because they have no hope that things will ever get any better.

It will get better. Whatever I have to do to make it better for Mimi, I will do. And I hope that talking about it can help, a tiny bit, make it better for someone else.