Sunday, September 14, 2008

As Good As It Gets

It is a school night and I am lying next to my youngest Alissa. It is tough getting her to go to sleep. One thing that seems to work is when I stay with her until she falls asleep, half the time I fall asleep before she does.

Tonight was tougher than usual; unfortunately these nights seem to be turning into the norm. Alissa’s mood swings are extreme, yelling, screaming, and crying one minute, laughing and singing the next. It is almost impossible to control her when she is on the wrong side of that pendulum.

I have come to the realization that she has bi-polar disorder and possibly reactive attachment disorder too.

How do I know this? From experience. In addition to the bi-polar and reactive attachment disorders, my oldest has also been diagnosed as a sociopath with a borderline personality. Combine that with a lifetime of neglect and abuse from her birthparents and you have one really messed up teenager.

When we adopted the kids we knew we would have problems with the oldest, we just didn’t know it would be this bad. The therapist we were seeing asked us if we had to take Sarah. (This was an option the county made available to us.) I will admit that it has been hard to bond with Sarah, but there was no way we were going to tell her, “We don’t want you, just your little brother and sister.”

So we tried our best to keep these three kids together. Unfortunately, we ended up putting Sarah in a residential treatment school when we couldn’t control her any more.

Sarah is 16 now (17 in January) and she has been gone for 2 years. We keep in touch with weekly phone calls and visits to the school periodically, but we can feel her becoming more distant. She still says that she wants to come home, but the thought of her coming back is frightening; it was that bad before we sent her away.

Is she better? Yes.

Will she be able to handle a public school? No.

Will she ever let us be the parent? Doubtful.

Is it time to bring her home because it probably isn’t going to get any better? Possibly.

Does that scare me shitless? Definitely.

That being said, we don’t want her to turn 18 in this school and then tell her she is on her own. She was dealt a crappy hand and deserves better from the family that she has always wanted, but doesn’t know how to live with. And to be fair, we didn’t know how to live with her either.

We hoped that Alissa, being the youngest (6 months old when we got her), would be less maintenance; this is beginning to look like wishful thinking. We thought most of Sarah’s problems were a result of the years of drug, physical, and sexual abuse from her biological mother. It now looks more like personality disorders passed on by her biological mother and father.

My kids have the same biological mother. Sarah and Alissa have the same biological father. Austin has a different biological father. Austin does not appear to have any of the personality disorders that the girls do; I guess there is something about that combination of DNA between Sarah and Alissa’s biological parents. We only have three of birthmother’s 6 children. Of the remaining 3, one was born retarded and given to the county because she couldn’t care for it. This was also a child from Sarah and Alissa’s father. Another child lives with his birthfather (father #3). And her newest addition (father #4) was born after Sarah, Austin, and Alissa were taken away from her. The county has let her keep this baby.

It is fair to say that I have bonded the most with my youngest Alissa. If you have read my blog with any kind of regularity you probably already know that. It tears me up inside when I see her in a rage that she can’t control. I try to stay calm because I love her and I understand that she can’t help it. I have not been as understanding or fair towards Sarah. It is for this reason that I am probably more willing to let Sarah come home, even when the chances of a happy ending are slim. Sarah knows Alissa is my little girl; I want to at least give her another chance to just be my daughter.

Alissa and I were driving around town the other day. While we were stopped at a signal I turned to look at her. She had her headphones on and was singing some Hannah Montana song. She smiled at me and continued to sing. I thought to myself, “I love this little girl so much, I’m going to write her a poem.” I don’t know where the hell that came from but that thought really popped into my head. Did Sarah ever have a parent feel that way about her? Did she ever have a parent look at her and melt inside like I do when I see Alissa run home to see me after school?

When Sarah does come home I will try to look at her with a different pair of eyes.





















Green eyes, red hair
Tiny freckles everywhere
Green eyes, red hair
Born with attitude to spare

Green eyes, red hair
Clean your room and make the bed
Green eyes, red hair
I'll probably cry the day you wed

Green eyes, red hair
I love the girl that drives me mad
Green eyes, red hair
I thank the lord that I'm her dad

14 comments:

VENTL8R said...

Very poignant, Tom....

Didn't know you had it in ya! ;-)

Chris said...

You are an awesome dad. These kids are lucky to have you. And so's Sherri. Heck, I'd marry you if it were legal. Just couldn't let the comment get too sappy...

Seriously, you're a great dad. Keep up the love and it will win out in the end.

Malathionman said...

I posted and forgot to check how it looked on the blog itself. It was tweeked, I hate that!

Kristi- This is like a regular mommy's blog huh? Next year I'm speaking at the BlogHer convention.

Chris- It is legal in California.

Stacy said...

What a wonderful poem. All three of those children are blessed to have you as their father.

You should frame that poem for her.

Dave said...

I’m just grateful that there are people like you in this world.

The poem got to me just a little bit. Goosebumps and a lump in my throat. Really lovely.

I sounds like you’ll end up doing the right thing – whatever you choose to resolve the situation with Sarah.

I haven’t been reading you long enough to know your backstory, but I’m hellishly impressed at your selfless and generous spirit.

Guinevere said...

You old softy!!! :o)

Tara@From Dawn Till Rusk said...

Dave has just taken the words right out of my mouth - thank heavens there are parents like you in this world.
I haven't been reading for long, but this post has revealed so much about you.
i have the utmost respect for anyone prepared to adopt, and despite everything you still remain hopeful and loving and I have the greatest admiration for you for that.
Don't lose heart with Alissa's behaviour. It could just be a girl thing and a phase and nothing at all to do with genetics.
We have been through a really tough year with my daughter, but that is just who she is. I know she is going to grow into a really tough and independant young woman.
I really do wish you the very best with your children. They are so lucky to have found you.
I'm just going to find my little girl and give her a hug now . . .

Tara@From Dawn Till Rusk said...

Dave has just taken the words right out of my mouth - thank heavens there are parents like you in this world.
I haven't been reading for long, but this post has revealed so much about you.
i have the utmost respect for anyone prepared to adopt, and despite everything you still remain hopeful and loving and I have the greatest admiration for you for that.
Don't lose heart with Alissa's behaviour. It could just be a girl thing and a phase and nothing at all to do with genetics.
We have been through a really tough year with my daughter, but that is just who she is. I know she is going to grow into a really tough and independant young woman.
I really do wish you the very best with your children. They are so lucky to have found you.
I'm just going to find my little girl and give her a hug now . . .

Malathionman said...

Stacy- Thanks, I was thinking about doing something like that.

Guinevere- I'm not old!

Dave- The Malathionman gives everyone goosebumps! Thanks for the kind words.

Tara- The Malathionman reveals himself to everyone! :) I hope it is just a girl thing. Girls, jeez.
Thanks you toooo for the kind words.

Writer Dad said...

I tip my hat, man. I thought I had a full plate, but alas, I do not. Good luck. I'm thinking good thoughts for you.

Rigel said...

Mal,
My heart goes out to you brother. A Daddy's love is unconditional, you just want to be able to keep everyone safe at the same time, which includes keeping children safe from themselves and one another. Do you have a support group with adoptive parents you can turn to? Is everyone getting the help they need? I applaud your courage and your strength. I'll be praying for you and your wife and kids.

Elizabeth said...

Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. I just love these little inspirations. :)

White Hot Magik said...

Excellent post, you made me tear up.

Last week as I took my cousin's adopted son from foster care out, and we got some looks because he is a little hyper and lacks some social skills. He climbed in my lap at one point and I had that thought about the first four years of his life, I wondered if he ever got the hugs and love and doting that my kids get. Breaks your heart. You guys are awesome!

Natalie said...

Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom...
This was lovely. I can relate with so much of it. Our oldest is now living with his biological dad. He's still struggling but we have hopes that he will do better. The other two boys are doing very well although they miss their brother.
No matter how they come to you... it can be hard to deal with kids.
Your heart is gold, buddy.
*hugs*