Friday, June 4, 2010

MASSIVE Meltdown

WOW, that's all I can say is Wow! FS#2 had a MASSIVE meltdown yesterday. So massive I need to make a bunch of phone calls this morning to inform all interested parties of the meltdown, including the social workers (especially the social workers, I kept excepting to have a visit from the police last night, would not be surprised if some concern citizen filed a police report). So I'm blogging about it first, :)

The meltdown had been brewing for weeks, I could see it coming. The last straw was yesterday's IEP meeting. FS#2 mood mimicked the approach major thunderstorm. Everything started off nice and blue and sunny. Then slowly both his face and the sky got darker as the clouds rolled in. Then BOOM, rumbling, thunder, lightening, rain, chaos, shouting, dramatics, tears, running for the hills (oh wait, that was me!). Oh and why am I worried about the police showing up? The thunderstorm hit on the drive home from school. As FS#2 escalated his fight or flight response kicked in. Car, not a good place for this to happen. He twice (three times?) tried to jump out of the car while it was moving! At that time on a country road with no shoulders so no good place to stop. As I was passing roadside memorials to two high school kids who died in fatal crashes on this road, I thought that there would be one more. It would not surprise me if the folks in the cars behind be called 911. I mean I would if I saw a car door open repeatedly and a leg pop out as if someone was going to leap from the moving car! Finally got to a place on the road where could pull over and get the situation de-escalated enough so that could drive home safely.

And what caused this meltdown? In this case the meltdown was not because he is not attached, but because he IS attached and he is feeling abandoned. Add that abandonment issue to being made to feel inadequate and inferior at the IEP meeting and you have a recipe for disaster. First of all, FS#1 is home from college. FS#1 came home 3 weeks ago. FS#1 bought me a big ass TV for Mother's day and big fuss was made over FS#1 by myself and the village. My first sign things were not right in river city, FS#2 started spending his evenings downstairs with me instead of up in his room. At first, I thought it was the novelty of the big-ass TV but after a week or so I realized it wasn't the TV is wanted to spend time with, it be me. FS#2 and I went shopping for summer clothes, he let me pick out many of the outfits. Which was a new and unexpected event. In the past, he picked out all of his clothes, my job was to be ready with the credit card and sometimes comment on clothes he was unsure about (rare!). I was so pleased with this unexpected shopping pleasure I shared it with the village. As I was sharing the story, I could see FS#2 not happy, but me in my clueless bliss, did not know why. Later, after the storm passed, I found out why. He felt that I was excluding him from the process. That it was all about me and he played no role in the shopping trip. Then he got an unfortunate life lesson in that there are cruel and mean people in the world. And the last straw, the IEP meeting. FS#2 has made amazing strides academically this year, he passed two state standardized tests that he had been struggling with, he has maintained a B average and his disciplinary incidents have gone way down. He had been told that he would be able to graduate with a standard diploma, instead of a modified standard diploma, which thrilled him to no end. He does not like to think of himself as different from anyone else. Then the IEP meeting, where labels were throw around like water. Labels such as emotionally disturbed, and the one that broke the camel's back, disability. As in learning disability, emotional disability, special accommodations that need to made in the classroom for his disability, that he was on track to graduate with modified standard diploma because of his disability and on and on and on. The word disability was mentioned one time to many and the storm clouds started forming. First, he objected to his goal being modified standard diploma when he is catching up on his state standardized tests and someone (in administration) told him he now can pursue the standard diploma. He didn't think they were giving him appropriate credit for all the changes he has made behaviorally and academically. That they did not take his life goals of nursing seriously and furthermore had no faith that he could achieve them. All of these things and a few other came together to create the perfect storm last night.

Now the upside of this story is that once we got home from the car trip from hell, he could process what happen with me within 10 minutes of getting home. Of course it help when in the middle of his raging I realized that he misunderstood my version of the shopping trip and I apologized to him. The way I told the story was not intended to EXclude him, but actually was my way of INcluding him. I think my apology made it easier for him to come back and process the rage. The upshot of most of his rage was that he feels very attached to me and because of certain incidents he felt as if I wasn't attached to him. Once again, he thinks of us as a team and lately, he has been feeling as if not only have I benched him, but he is at the very end of the bench.

Once again my child has taught me that attachment is a fragile beast. The work does not stop just because my child is attached, it has just progressed to a different stage, but the work still needs to continue and it is just as hard.

Now to make those phone calls...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

I almost feel guilty posting about my Mother's Day since for many Moms in the foster/adopt blog world Mother's Day is not exactly a Hallmark moment. But, notice I said "almost". This is my second Mother's Day and I thought the first one was good, this one was even better! No breakfast in bed, no Mother's Day cards, but a good day all the same. I got up and got to spend the morning in the garden. The peace and quiet was momentarily broken by FS#2 skipping out to wish me a "Happy Mother's Day". As I was watering, planting and harvesting vegetables in the garden, I spied the Mother's Day gift FS#2 gave me on Friday. Now, he didn't classify it as a Mother's Day gift, he just said, as I was picking up from school, "I got something for you". The 'something' was a begonia planted in a pot that he had painted himself. The begonia has a prized spot in the serenity place that is my garden.

In the afternoon, I drove to College to pick up FS#1. When I got there, he wouldn't let me help load the car, instead he got 3 of his friends to do it. Boy are they fast, not neat and being a mover should be crossed off their job list, but they are fast. Maybe they can get a job as baggage handlers for the airlines! He drove us home and we had great conversations on the way home. During the drive, he informed me that he and his best friend were going to get my Mother's Day present on Monday. He is getting me a big-ass TV! When we got home, he and FS#2 emptied the car, again not letting me help. I had a long week and didn't want to go out to dinner so FS#1 ordered dinner for pickup from one of the chain restaurants. His treat!

Yep, I'm truly fortunate. Happy Mother's Day to all who parent other people's children.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I've Got My Perfect Child Back!

Yep, he's back, FS#2 is behaving as the perfect child. He is buzzing around the house doing all his chores; he took the trash can out a day early. He is even doing things without being asked such as cleaning out the car, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning, organizing, etc... Of course I am very amused by all of this. This spate of perfection is temporary. It is occurring as a direct result of the 'bad' week we had last week. He is hoping that if he is perfect a) that I won't send him away because of the 'bad' things he did, b) I will overlook the 'bad' things he did last week and still get him his own computer and c) that we are still 'all-right'. But in addition to all the anxiety he is displaying being the perfect child, there is also an attitude of relief, the-weight-of-the-world-just-got-lifted-of-my-shoulders-giddy-as-a-school-girl type of relief. He had a bad week that in the past would have disrupted his placement and yet he is still here, in HIS room, with HIS cats in HIS home. Yes, he is quite giddy with relief.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the 'bad' week involved inappropriate use of the cell phone, and the computer. Once I investigated further, I found that the picture were just the tip of the iceberg. I found evidence that lead me to believe that there could be potential legal and safety issues involved, which is why I called a team meeting. So perhaps you are wondering what I did about all of this. Well actually, I did very little. I did not ground him, I did not confiscate his cell phone nor did I restrict or eliminate his computer privileges. So what did I do???? I calmly had a conversation with him. I told him I was worried about those pictures and I hoped that those pictures were not stored on my computer because that would be terribly inappropriate. He assured be that there was only 1 picture (little lie) and that were not stored on the computer, he wouldn't do that (another little lie). I told him I was glad that they were not on the computer (so I lied too), because I liked our relationship the way it is and I would hate it if I felt I couldn't trust him and had to invade his privacy to check up on him. He insisted that wouldn't be necessary that he hasn't done anything wrong and he is trustworthy. I told him "Good" cause I like being able to trust him. As far as I was concerned the topic was closed. Not for him! He proceed to claim his innocence and trustworthiness and that he never gave me any reason not to trust him and he didn't understand why I was doing this to him. The only thing I said was "I do trust you and I'm not doing anything to you".

So why did I do very little in the way of providing consequences? Because for this kid, it seem to me to be the best way to go. In part because much of what he was doing is developmentally appropriate. OK in bad taste, in bad judgement, but developmentally appropriate. The problem is that his behavior may be developmentally appropriate but he does not have the social or emotional skills to handle this particular developmentally appropriate behavior. In his previous placements he was expected to be perfect and when he wasn't, he was punished and if that didn't work he was removed. I felt that punitive action for something that is developmentally appropriate and is being done by all the other kids he knows could break his spirit. And I have worked very hard to earn this kid's trust and convince him that we could work out anything no matter what, as long as we were willing to talk about it. Coming in and cracking down and removing all of his privileges I felt would do more harm than good.

The other reason I did very little is that I went back and reviewed the boundaries that I had set up for cell phone and computer use. And I realized that there was nothing wrong with the boundaries that I set up, the problem came in the implementation. He was doing so well. He had progressed so far. He gave me no cause for concern and perhaps I got a little lax in monitoring his use... ok so I got very lax in monitoring. So, I have to take some responsibility for what occurred during the 'bad' week. By having that conversation with him, I was giving him the opportunity to correct one of his bad decisions which I thought would be much more effective then having me go in and remove the inappropriate material.

In addition to that short conversation, I am in the process of writing down the 'house rules'. Rules, curfews, chores, expectations, consequences and rewards will be clearly outlined. These 'house rules' will be generated in collaboration with FS#2 so that that I have his buy in. This will hopefully avoided in confusion or miscommunication. Also, it will help to keep me honest.
I'm not suggesting that this will work for every kid; FS#2 and I are bonded, he doesn't like to disappoint me, he likes to please me and feels guilt when does disappoint me.

Oh and if anyone is interested, when I went and checked the inappropriate material had been removed and he came to me and told me that I had permission to look at his account anytime I wanted, now and even when he gets his own computer. [He is still holding out hope, though I think a little bit more demonstration of responsibility and better decision making skills are in order first]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Surprise!

Got a text message from FS#1. He told me to keep an eye out for a package he is sending me. He hopes I like the present. Oh little does he know...the fact that he even thought to send me a present and it not being my birthday, mother's day, or any holiday, pretty much assures I will like it no matter what.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ah Springtime

I haven't abandon my blog...spring is a busy time in the Boot household. To give you an example, since Monday (it is now sun.) I have officiated in 9 high school soccer games. 2 on Monday, 2 on Tuesday, 2 on Thursday, 1 on Friday and 2 on sat. On wed I was volunteering at a high school track meet. On Monday and Tuesday I had to drive 70 miles one way to get to the schools hosting the games. On Thursday, I thought I was going to have a break with a lawn chair game (a lawn chair game is a game where I can officiate the entire game sitting in a lawn chair at midfield) but 3 pm enroute to the game the assignor called and asked if I could do another game at 6:30! This second game was a game between two of the top teams in the district. There is no love lost between these two teams so I had to stay on top of the play. Did I mention I was the center ref for that game? You try to keep up with 16, 17 yo girls. The last 20 minutes of the game my calves started to cramp. So of course the game end in a tie and I had to get through 10 minutes of overtime. I could barely walk on Friday, forget running! Did I mention I had a game on Friday too? Sat was fun, got to do a girls and a boys game. Oh and later today I get to play in a soccer game. I would bag out but since we have someone on the team who is 63, I don't have much of an excuse!

People always ask me where did I learn to handle difficult teenagers? Well it comes from my experience of working with drunks (and other substance abusers) and officiating high school sports. Don't believe me? You imagine yourself in the middle of a field surrounded by 22 hormonally charged teenagers, with screaming biased coaches on the sidelines and surrounding by rabid parents fans! Now imagine if you lose control of the game and everyone is unhappy with you (and letting you know using very colorful language shouted at the tops of their lungs) and those hormonally charged teenagers are running amok on the field, sometimes violently. That one cop they have at the game will not be able to save you. And you always have in the back of your mind that youth sports officials have been assaulted. So a raging foster problem

All of this occur at the same time that FS#2 was having a bad week. Let's see I got two phone calls from school and on the same day I may add. He went to the mall without permission, and conned a member of the village to take him. He got busted at school because of naked pictures of himself on his email account (phone call # 1, phone call #2 was to tell me he had to serve an in-school suspension for a completely different matter!). Which resulted in me spending a lovely morning reading every email, looking through every file, reading every chat and scrolling through every web page he went to. Part of the result of this was I requested a meeting with FS#2 team (mental health counselor, social worker and foster care worker) and got it the very next day! Where we planned out a safety plan to deal with a child who is emotional and socially 12 but is trapped in the body of a 16 yo, with a 16 yo sexuality. Ah springtime when a child's mind turns to sex love!

In addition, I am trying to get my garden in. I got one 4' by 4' bed planted with cool weather crops, but I still need to get a second 4' x 4' bed constructed and prepared for the first of the summer crops.

I think my next blog I'll talk bout how foster care is handled around these parts 'cause compared to some of the blogs I read I got it pretty good here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Love Story

Got an email today from FS#1. It was a short email, only 4 lines, but he said 'I love you' or 'I miss you' like 5 times in this short email. And everytime I read 'I love you' or 'I miss you' my heart broke just a little.

I've read enough adoption/foster care blogs to know that some Mom's out there in blogsphere would jump for joy to hear those words uttered by their child. And yet these words are breaking my heart. And why? First of all he is saying so much more than 'I love you I miss you'. He is seeking/needing reassurance, he is saying 'I love you I miss you', I need you. Do you love me? Do you miss me? Do you need me? Without you I am not sure I know who I am. I trust you. I can be me with you. I feel safe with you. I can only sleep well when I am at home. Don't leave me. Ever. Please.

Second of all, this is new behavior. Since Feb. every email, every text contains multiple 'I love you I miss you'. Sometimes the only thing he says in the text is 'I love you I miss you'. During his first semester of college I received lots of texts, but they were mostly about college life and classes and people he met and how college wasn't anything like high school. His communications were relaxed, joyful and carefree. Now, they seem clingy, desperate and needy. So what changed? What happened? I don't think it is a coincidence that these 'I love you I miss you' emails started about the same time as the sudden contact with relatives of his birth mother. Out of the blue his aunts contacted him through FB. Why now? He hasn't seen or heard from them since he 3. What do they want? Does this change who he is? Do they want to be part of his life? Should he, can he, let them be part of his life? How does this affect my relationship with TT? These are the questions he asked me during a 90 minute phone call. This contact has shaken him to his very core. It has made him uncertain. It has made him question who he is.

For the last 18 months, every since he moved in, FS#1 has been happy. He has told me he does not remember the last time he felt happy and certainly not the happiness he feels now. He belongs. He has a family. He has a Mom. He chose me to be his mom and I chose him to be my son. He has a home. He has a safe place to come back to. He has an anchor. And this anchor gives him the freedom to fly, to freely explore all that is out there, to be able to take chances, to have enough time, space and safety to figure out who he is. And all because I chose him to be my son and he chose me to be his mom. As more months pass he tells me he finds it harder and harder to remember the bad times. The time before. He used going away to college as an opportunity to choose his identity, to define who he is and what type of person he wants to be. At college, he no longer was just a foster child, he no longer was defined by his traumatic past. Oh he does not deny who he is or what is past is but he gets to choose who knows what. He has a parent to come to parent's weekend, he has a mom whom he can talk about, talk to. He gets to tell stories about family vacations and all the stupid, wonderful things that families do. He does not deny he is a foster kid, but he no longer has to be defined by it, he now has the opportunity to be so much more. I am proud of the young man he is becoming and yes, I tell him that at every opportunity. But now, he is uncertain, now he is unsure, now he is insecure, now he is not sure what or where his foundation is. And the gates of hell are prevailing.

And so my heart breaks.

But I realize I do have one gift I can give him that may help him feel more secure in his foundation. I can adopt him. He knows that I am committed to him, that I love him, that I will always be there for him, that no matter what he does he will always be my son. But like committed unmarried couples who have stated that getting that of paper does make a difference in the relationship, he has no tangible symbol of my commitment to him. An adoption decree would give him that tangible symbol. It would mean that I am his mom and he is my son, we are a family, permanently, legally. What God has brought together, let no one tear asunder.

And so I proposed to him that I adopt him. He has not given me his answer yet, but I overheard him telling friends that he will probably be changing his last name to 'Boot'. So I'm thinking that his answer will be yes when he finally gets around to telling me. And I'm also hoping that once FS#1 has a permanent, legal foundation, he will have the confidence and security to explore his roots, to contact his mom's relatives, to incorporate that part of him into his identity.

So, and this may sound strange, I hope that upon his adoption there will be fewer 'I love you I miss you', that he can go back to taking things for granted. That he will no longer need to say 'I love you I miss you' because he needs reassurance. Oh, I hope he will still say 'I love you' to me, but it will be as he takes the $20 from my hand as he flies out the door to hang out with his friends.

I hope that upon his adoption when I do read 'I love you I miss you' my heart will swell not break because he is certain, he is secure, he knows what, where and whom his foundation is. And hell will no longer prevail.

Upon this rock
I chose you to be my son
You chose me to be your mom
Mom, I love you, I miss you, Son

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interlude #4

Conversation I had with FS#1 this week.

FS#1: I have a bump on my back

Me: A pimple?

FS#1: No! A bump!

Me: Did you fall?

FS#1: No, it's a bump, kinda like a pimple but bigger!

Me: [thinking for a bit] When was the last time you showered?

FS#2: Night before I started going back to track practice (issues with shin splints)

Me: You mean Sunday? (it is now wed)

FS#2: No! the night before I went back to track practice. Didn't I go back on Friday...what day did I start back up?

Me: [thinking if it was Friday, that is even worse] No you started back on Monday.

FS#2: oh

Me: The reason I asked is sometimes your pores can get clogged with dirt and cause bumps.

FS#2: oh

At this point he got up and went and took a shower. I am so proud of myself. I managed to have this entire conversation without saying eeewh, gross, without making faces and not telling him what to do, well directly anyway!