Sunday, September 27, 2009

Snatch the pebble, Cricket ....

James and Daniel started Kung Fu lessons last week. They both love it and I think it's going to be a big help for James with the behavior/attitude problems we've had of late. Good physical outlet, discipline, respect, all rolled up in one tidy little package.
Of course, now he'll learn how to sneak up Ninja-style on his siblings more effectively. And he'll learn how to wield swords and spears.
Oh my. What have I done ....?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Loophole Master

I wrote earlier that we had figured out a primitive, yet tried-n-true sticker chart to help James modify his behavior to more closely resemble a boy who lives in a family than with a pack of wolves. Long-term he's working to earn his visit with his friend Madiyar. Short-term, he has to get a star six days out of seven to earn a trip to the drug store or dollar store so he can buy a little something for himself, such as a pack of gum or small toy.
Well the little so-n-so loopholed me the very first week out of the gate.
He had been doing great and had earned a star every day, Saturday through Thursday. Six stars out of seven. So Friday afternoon what does he do? He starts irritating all his siblings by teasing, mimicking, making faces, basically pushing every button he can find. All the kids are in an uproar and I told him to cut it out. His response? When are we going to the drugstore? I told him I couldn't take him out when he's acting like that. He got very indignant and pointed out he had earned his six stars, as agreed on, so I needed to take him to the store, as agreed on.
Damned if his logic wasn't sound.
I sat there stunned for a moment trying to figure out a rational response. All I could think to tell him was that I couldn't in good conscience take him out for his reward in the middle of him acting so poorly towards everyone. If he could pull it together and treat everyone respectfully, I would take him out for his reward the next morning.
Well, he shaped up and I did take him the next day and he looked over all the toys and ended up buying himself a pack of Starbursts. I tried to explain to him why the reward trip needed to be delayed and he seemed to get it. But I'm still shaking my head over how he managed to find that loophole. The kid's too smart for his own good.
And mine.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Figuring it out ....

After my last post I received many positive and supportive comments from concerned family and friends. Thank you.

I'd like to answer each of you personally, but time has been short lately, so maybe just a quick update right here in blogworld.

First, I was able to get the name of a good therapist who specializes in adoption issues and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). Not that I'm saying James has RAD, but neither am I saying I'm ready to rule that out at this time, either. So I'll touch base with her next week.

I have worked out a positive motivator for James so we can work on a behavior chart to try to shape some of the behaviors we need him to work toward. Many of you will remember that he had a good friend, Madiyar, that he knew from his orphanage that was adopted and brought home to Mass around the same time James came home to us. His Mom and I have decided to arrange a visit between the two boys and James is just thrilled at the prospect. Dee and I are both prepared that if the boys don't earn this trip, it will need to be cancelled so we can stay consistent with what what we're trying to accomplish. So we will work long-term towards that, with probably smaller, weekly rewards for proper behavior, like running him to the dollar store on the w/e to let him buy a candy bar with his allowance money.

I have also tried to put in writing for him a list of his rights (like a bed, meals, being a member of our family) vs his privileges (like a lock on his door, snacks/desserts, favors from Mom) and our expectations (treating people respectfully, obeying parents, doing assigned chores, etc). What has always seemed common-sensical and just a given may not seem so to James, who has not been a member of a family in a very long time. Shoot, even when he was part of a family it was pretty dysfunctional, so it's no wonder he's fumbling the ball a bit here.

Anyway, I feel that with love, consistency, and support we will be able to get the good family behavior/attitudes that we need. It's just a matter of time. And patience. And a good bottle of wine now and then.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dark Times with James

I guess the honeymoon phase is officially over with James. Where in the beginning we had a sweet, helpful, affectionate boy, we now have a brooding, sulking, dirsespectful teenager. We've had squabbles with his brother over X-Box end in a punch thrown. We've had my requests/directives to him answered with ignoring silences or a flat out no. We've witnessed him meld with the couch for days when he feels like sulking.
This morning he ripped himself off the sofa like a Band-Aid off a scraped knee and started getting busy packing up a backpack. In it he had a water bottle, a fishing rod, and a few toys he had made over the past few months. Was he running away? I kept an eye on him as I went about my business, and sure enough, down the road he went after a spell. I gave him some time and then went after him in my car. I found him not far from home, up where the RR tracks cross over the road and a creek. I parked my car on the side of the road and walked up the embankment. There he was, squatted over a little fire ring he had made, feeding the small flames with twigs and pine needles. Over his fire he had a hobo sack of an an aluminum foil ball suspended by a coathanger and taped to the tracks with masking tape. I had to bite my cheeks to keep the grin down. He just looked like such a little pathetic vagabond, though he was only about a mile from home and had been gone all of 15 minutes. I told him he was not allowed to have a fire and he quickly put it out with his water bottle. I told him to come home and he took his backpack and got back on his bike without another word. I noticed he was wearing his helmet, so he wasn't such a rebel.

So Fred and I talked to him tonight and told him that he doesn't have to love us, and he doesn't even have to respect us, but he at least has to ACT like he he respects us. Told him we will always love him no matter what, and he will always be our son no matter what. He sat with head hung and barely said a word and all but ran back inside as soon as he was released. I told Fred all I need from the boy right now is for at least the facade of respect, following house rules, and for me to have a feeling of safety for all concerned. In an ideal world he would also love me, like me, and fall over backwards trying to be helpful.

I'm tempted to sweep all this under the rug and put on a happy face and say we're all living happily ever after. But I try hard to keep it real. To write about our downs as well as our ups. To shout out when I'm happy and proud but also air out when I'm feeling frustrated or at my wits' end.

I know that many boys his age will go through periods like this even if they are genetically linked to their parents and have lived with them since infancy. And that many adopted kids, especially older ones, will go through a phase whereby they test their parents, push all their buttons. They figure they will be abandoned once again sooner or later, so they do all they can to expose their parents' true colors.
If I push hard enough, I'll get them to tell me they hate me/send me back/hit me.
Well, James, I hate to disappoint, but that ain't gonna happen. No matter what you do, you will be loved. You will have food. You will have a bed to sleep in. I will never strike you.
So keep pushin, hon. And then realize that we are a family for keeps.

Guess who just came in and said sorry? Guess who just gave me the biggest hug ......

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Without a Hitch

So the kids have officially finished their first week of school, and it all went off without a hitch. For the most part the kids seemed to like their teachers and have some friends in their classes. They never once missed the bus or forgot a lunch, and both the morning routines and the bedtime routines went pretty smoothly. They now have a four day weekend stretched before them, promising beautiful weather to boot. In fact this afternoon we've all been outside for hours riding bikes, playing Frisbee, and drawing hopscotch boards in the driveway.

Next week, on the other hand, the back-to-school honeymoon will be over. Looking at my calendar, I see we have an orthodontist appt, 2 drs appts, 2 back-to-school nights, 2 soccer practices, CCD starting, and more.

Ah well. It was nice while it lasted.


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