January 7, 2011. The snow outside the kitchen window falls like sprinkled baby powder, the whispery flakes fine and silent as they drift, almost apologetically, toward the ground. Sophie and Peter are outside playing, even though it’s eight thirty in the morning, because both schools cancelled in anticipation of a storm that appears to have lost purchase. I have so much to do today, including finishing up my syllabus for my Environmental Law class, but I hope to carve out a few hours for the children. It’s not been a barrel of fun around here lately, and I’d like to make some progress toward turning the situation around. The holidays have always been rough on Peter, for the usual reasons of lack of routine and schedule, but there’s something else going on too, though I can’t quite name it. It may have to do with his medication, or maybe it’s just the fact that he’s growing and his episodes and distorted thinking are increasing right along with his physical measurements. Regardless, it seems like every little change or provocation sets him off at a level higher, and with more frequency, than we’ve previously experienced. Plus, the issue of his increased urine output, coupled with his occasional inclination to weaponize his pee, has me ready to scream “surrender!”. Diaper, rubber pants, maximum doses of DDAVP, and no liquids after 6 pm have done little to curb the problem. Though the DDAVP gave me a few weeks reprieve from washing his sheets every day, the drug no longer seems to be working. What appears imminent, and his psychiatrist is speaking with a nephrologist today, is that we’re going to have to take him off the Lithium, which is messing with his thyroid and kidneys. After two years on the “miracle drug” that cleared and soothed his tortured mind, Peter’s body has begun screaming in revolt. The very thought of doing this terrifies me. He’s not even doing well right now and I shiver to think what will happen when and if we remove the most powerful weapon in his pharmaceutical arsenal. It’s times like this that take me to the brink of my strength, my reserves, and whatever sense of hope to which I still stubbornly cling. Peter’s favorite phrases right now are “I won’t do it” and “You are a damn pipsqueak.” The latter would be funny except for the venom spitting from his mouth. And while we’re on it, Sophie’s been less than charming too. Last night Pat took over the nighttime routine because he knew I hit my limit. Most days I can handle Peter, but when Sophie starts spiraling at the same time, when her attachment issues flair and her anxiety symptoms skyrocket, I have a hard time coping. This isn’t fair to her, of course. She shouldn’t have to time her setbacks so they occur opposite of Peter’s. But she’s been lying like a seasoned veteran, over things large and small, bringing home one poor grade after the other because she doesn’t feel anyone should tell her what to do (as in take a test), and she’s even begun abusing our animals again. How do I put out Peter’s fires all day long when Sophie is running behind, resetting them? It’s too much sometimes, it really is. Sophie is the child we believed was all right, the one we thought we could truly heal; a little girl whose crooked smile and mischievous eyes hold so much light and promise. But she is scarred too, maybe not physically, like Peter, but psychologically and emotionally. They are both unhappy children right now, I know that, and Pat and I are unhappy parents. But when I try to change the tone or steer us back in masse toward a more positive approach, one or both of them seem to purposely ambush the effort. I either catch one of them at something – like Peter taking apart the electrical outlets the other day, or they fall apart and start beating on each other the second I turn my back. It’s such a peaceful day outside, the light, steady snow blanketing the house and yard like a favorite worn quilt, and it saddens me to think that my parenting journey, the choices I’ve made and the paths I’ve taken, have lead to such a tumultuous, and at times hostile, environment inside the four corners of our home. I love my children, both of them, for vastly different reasons and in countless different ways. But they’re also robbing me of the best years of my life. It’s so hard, sometimes, to see beyond the blizzard of problems, doctors’ appointments, teacher conferences, placement battles, or therapists, and think back to why and how we wound up here in the first place. All I wanted was a family, a chance to mother children who desperately needed mothering. It seemed a simple concept, but it’s not. I can’t imagine anything else occurring in my lifetime that will offer a greater personal challenge than raising our two children, one impossibly damaged in utero by alcohol and the other wounded, maybe permanently, by the rigors of life itself. What’s clear is that I’m not meeting that challenge right now, and am therefore failing our kids. I have to get myself back on track, to a mindset where their problems and behaviors don’t feel like a personal affront, where I can make hot cocoa for Peter and Sophie and play board games and try to maneuver my feelings and thinking so that they align more naturally with the soundless beauty and tranquility that our snow day has so selflessly offered.
January 7, 2011
December 12, 2010
December 12, 2010. Nothing I’ve done to squelch the flow or urine at night, whether purposeful on Peter’s part or involuntary, has worked. I literally have zero idea how he’s outmaneuvering us, but I’m nonetheless giving in and raising the white flag in surrender. At this point, I have no idea how we’ll cope with the next ten years or so of nightly bed and pajama soaking; I only pray the output doesn’t rise to the level that it overflows the mattress, leaks onto the floor and eventually splatters the living room below. If that happens, my contingency plan is to design and install a self-cleaning waterproof bubble in which he can sleep, thereby allowing the four of us to continue cohabitating without the threat of ammonia asphyxiation. In the meantime, I need to turn my attention to Christmas and more pleasant preoccupations. We’re scheduled to go into the city on Tuesday to see the Nutcracker and visit Santa at Macy’s. I made the reservations six weeks ago, before Peter’s breakdown. His behavior, meaning his self-control and frustration tolerance, are still well below what we consider his “norm”, and his grip on reality, though not slipping any further, is nowhere near where it was before this happened. I hope he can endure the day’s events, and accompanying excitement, so that all of us, Peter included, can enjoy the experience. Though it’s my most recent, and fervent, Christmas wish, I must admit I’m a little apprehensive. On the way home from Sophie’s swim meet today, Peter asked why I didn’t just jump over all the icy puddles in the road when he heard that my car had slipped earlier that morning. “We’re Rudolph now, Mom. You can fly!”. Lindy gave us a Rudolph car kit for Christmas last year and though I dutifully installed the antlers on the front windows and red nose on the grill, we lost an antler the very first day. All that’s left to adorn our vehicle is the big, red nose on the front. “Really, Mom,” he persists after listening to me explain how tying a red-stuffed nose onto the front of the car doesn’t transform us into Rudolph. “We magic powers now.” At this juncture, I don’t dare argue with him or even try to restate my point – he’s been very combative lately when someone challenges his fanciful ideas, and so I let the matter slide and signal Sophie to do the same. She gets the message and stops trying to convince him of the folly of his thinking, but she resents the request and makes sure I’m looking as she roll her eyes and proffers an ominous, low growl. To de-escalate the mounting tension, I turn on the radio, hoping for a Christmas tune. Instead, Peter’s nemesis of a song is playing, and I find myself laughing over the sheer absurdity of what was about to unfold. “Mom,” he pipe’s up, exactly on cue. “That is not a nice song you are hearing.” He’s talking about “I Shot the Sheriff” by Eric Clapton. “I can see why you’d say that,” I respond, having heard this lament at least a hundred times before. My favorite radio station plays this song often. I’m seriously considering calling the manager and asking them to delete it from their playlist. “The sheriff would not like that,” he continues. “Oh come on,” Sophie bellows, unable to tolerate an iota more of this Who’s on First routine. “It’s not a REAL sheriff, Peter! It’s just a S-O-N-G, get it?” Despite her obnoxious tone, I can’t get mad at her. It bugs me, too. As in R-E-A-L-L-Y bugs me, but he can’t help it. He’s completely black and white right now – even more than usual, and as inflexible as a flagpole in his thinking. The other day he orchestrated the perfect storm in the playroom, throwing toys, furniture and other objects against the walls and across the room, all because Lindy wanted him to acknowledge that it doesn’t always snow at Christmastimes but every now and then it snows over the Thanksgiving holidays. This threw a wrench in his rigid construct regarding the seasons – “the leaves fall down at Thanksgiving, the snow comes at Christmas”, and that’s all it took. Lindy said she was about to “take him down” in one of her last resort restraints because Sophie was on the verge of getting hurt, but somehow this was avoided. Though licensed and certified to restrain a child who is in danger of harming self or others, Lindy’s as wary as we are of CPS after the school psychologist fabricated abuse charges back in the “Pre-Due Process Victory Era”. Despite Peter’s significant setbacks however, I’m still returning to good cheer, and I want to count my blessings. Peter was an angel today – a polite, model citizen during Sophie’s swim meet, and he kept himself nicely together for the rest of the afternoon, until dinnertime, when he fell apart again. It’s the best day we’ve had with him since early November. Pat’s upstairs, showering Peter, and Sophie’s dropping chocolate chip cookies on a cookie sheet. She’s handed her baby doll over to me to “babysit” as she works, and I can’t help but grin as I listen to her belt “Deck the house with balls of Howie”, more or less in time with the CD playing in the background. I’ll stop writing now because she needs me to put the cookies in the oven and we have a family date to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas in front of the fireplace together. I’ve always had a soft spot for Charlie Brown. Maybe because he was meant to remind me, even when I was a child, of the son I’d one day have. After all, except for the not so small matter of fetal alcohol, those two boys have a lot in common.