When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

January 7, 2011

January 7, 2011

An artist's eye (Dec. 2010)

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.



  1. Please, please, PLEASE do not think that you are failing your children simply by not being enough of a super-mom! I don’t mean that at all sarcastically – I think you are a super terrific mom, but I also suspect you (and Pat) are truly in need of some time to recharge without having to be in charge at the same time. If I were closer I’d offer 😦

    And I can totally understand the feeling that you are somehow ‘paying’ for having dared to dream about being a parent. We recently went through some problems which, while so far less severe than yours, reminded me that *any* post-institutionalized child will have issues which may crop up in the most unlikely of ways. And at the worst of it, I remember crying almost as much as I did those years ago when I got negative results on pregnancy tests…the feeling was along the lines of ‘why is it so wrong to want that dream?’ But let me share what my therapist reminded me of: The dream is only ever that, and the very fact that you think you’re failing your child means that you care enough to do your best for them – which will definitely be better than the alternative.

    Comment by Nan — January 7, 2011 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

    • You’re right Nan. I do care. And I guess that is a plus. Thank you so much for reminding me. And I also agree that we’re in need of some
      respite and recharging. I see it myself but we have little opportunity so I’m not sure how that’s going to happen. Take care and thanks again
      for your sage advice – Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — January 8, 2011 @ 7:02 pm | Reply

  2. Just wanted to send warm thoughts your way. We’ve not met, but I’ve read your blog for some time, now, and while, as you know, there are no easy solutions, you’re not alone.

    I’m an adoptive mom of two boys (ages 17 and 9). We adopted our older son out of foster care at age 2, and our younger boy at birth. We were also foster parents for about five years to about 20 kids. I believe our younger boy has FAS. He has already been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, apraxia of speech, ADHD, etc. He seems to be nearly exactly the same age as your Peter. We have in-home therapists working with him 20+ hours per week, plus he gets speech and occupational therapy besides, and he is on a number of medications that require frequent visits to the pediatritian. Our older son has struggled with attachment issues, ADHD and ODD.

    Let’s face it – invisible disabilities that cause children to act out against the very people they love the most and who love them the most, are extremely exhausting with which to cope. And it is OKAY to feel overwhelmed and share those feelings. In fact, if you’re feeling that way, that means you are working hard and involved with your kids. It means that you’re giving your all.

    If you have few moments of peace, fewer friends, and nothing left to give, you know you are giving 110%. Or maybe you don’t because of the way we’re taught that families are supposed to be; the blissfully fulfilling experience of raising children – PTA, birthday parties, soccer and gymnastics, and homecoming and graduation. Somehow we feel so far away from that ideal which families with neurotypical children enjoy. We grieve the loss of our hopes for those things.

    But, in all of this, I think we are blessed with a truly meaningful purpose in life. Anyone can love their own flesh and blood; well behaved, children who love to please. It takes special people, though, to share their homes and hearts with children who can’t easily show love or a desire to be loved. They deserve unconditional love, but for them, it is not easy to find. Your children have that.

    You are an exceptional person, and your children are so lucky to have a mom like you. Even though their issues may prevent them from communicating to you that they know they are loved, I bet they do know it, and in a deeply special way that can only happen in the presence of the extraordinary circumstances you face every day. Now, that, my dear, is real success as a parent.

    I know it’s SO hard and that most people couldn’t imagine the stress, but I’m someone who does, and I promise I’ll pray for little Peter, and Sophie too.

    Comment by Jan — January 7, 2011 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

    • What beautiful and eloquent words. Thank you, Jan. I agree wholeheartedly re what you write in terms of giving our children the opportunity to
      experience, and believe in the reality of, unconditional love. And you’re right: its a gift for us as well as them. Good luck as you continue your journey with both boys. You must be an incredible person to be able to foster (and love) so many. Thanks again. You lifted my spirits considerably – Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — January 8, 2011 @ 6:58 pm | Reply

      • So very glad to hear your spirits were lifted in some way. When I found your blog, I read practically the whole thing all at once. I was so taken by your experiences and candid, articulate ability to communicate them. Your honesty and genuine approach to life is incredible. I have thought the same thoughts and felt the same feelings as you describe. I finally found a site with true understanding about the complexities of disorders affecting adoptive children, i.e. FAS and attachment issues.

        It’s an incredibly challenging life, as you said, and since we can’t fix everything, our goal shifts toward meeting the challenge. Some days are really, really hard. It’s isolating in that most other people can’t grasp the tremendous stress and daily mountains climbed.

        Please know that you have captivated the hearts of many, supporting you across the distance, through the wonders of technology.

        Comment by Jan — January 8, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  3. I can’t offer advice as I have none. But here is a HUG and please know that we’re thinking of you and your family and asking the universe to give you the strength, tools and assistance you need.

    Comment by kerrie — January 8, 2011 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  4. Dear Mary,

    I know something about what you are feeling. I just wanted a family. And yet bi polar disorder, attachment disorder, learning disabilities, our daughter acting out in ways no one would want their then 13 year old to act out were, and are, ENORMOUS hills to continually climb.

    I don’t know whether you can hear this yet, or need to hear this yet, but at one point I was taking our daughter to yet another evaluation and she refused to get out of the car. When I called the evaluator, from the car, he said, “There is a limit to what you can do.” For whatever reason I HEARD that. It is trite to say “It takes a village to raise a child.” However, it is true to say that it takes more than a village to raise an emotionally disturbed child, who becomes a teen, who becomes and adult.

    It is excellent parenting to know what you (and Pat) can and can’t do. It is excellent parenting to know when you (and Pat) need help. Clearly you are excellent parents. In our case, at some point my wife and I came to see that Katie was not going to become an independent adult while living at home. It took us more than two years to then come to the point where a five day a week residential therapeutic program was the right next step. (A step which at the time was terribly painful for my wife and a step which continues, a year a half later to be painful)

    You and I have each created a family in all the important meanings of that word. The emotional connections are there and very much alive. You, Pat, Sophie, and Peter each clearly love each other and care for each other. This is true in my family as well. Now my family looks nothing like and behaves very little like the families that my wife and I were raised in. It is also unlike any family I had in mind for my own family. However, I have a family. You and Pat and Sophie and Peter have a family. And, although it is different, it is wonderful. Decidedly not easy, but still wonderful.


    Comment by Christopher Duncan — January 9, 2011 @ 8:36 am | Reply

  5. Mary,
    I think one of the hardest things to do is not take the actions of our children personal. One of the hardest concepts to digest is it’s not about you, or I, but about their special needs. YOU are doing an absolutely amazing job, showing absolute incomprehensible unconditional love. I know you are a bit weary, a bit discouraged, so let me just say: “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time (season) you shall reap a harvest if you do not give up!” I know, easier said than done, and what we have to remember is we never reap in the same season we’ve sown…. Thank you for being so honest, such an encouragement to others out there, especially parents with children with special needs…
    Admiration and blessings

    Comment by Evinda (Kim) Lepins — January 9, 2011 @ 6:23 pm | Reply

  6. Corey at Watching the Waters is organizing a RAD mom get-together in Orlando. She just posted two vacancies. It might be a really good experience for you.

    Comment by MM — January 9, 2011 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  7. I am so sorry for all the challenges you have faced with your adoption. I have been following your blog for months now and fail to find the words to express my sympathies to you and your family. I wonder as I read another chapter “how much worse can it get?” and for some sad twist of fate, it does get worse.
    I am a mother of an adopted son from Russia and have an experience that couldn’t be more opposite on the spectrum. We do know how truly blessed we are, and realized the risks when we signed on.
    I am also a dog owner and lover, work full time with animals and am so concerned for your new puppy. A truly innocent dog that is exposed to kids who are abusive with no empathy (your words).
    I must ask you, why would you subject an innocent animal to that torture? What has Sophie done to be labeled as an abuser of animals? I hope this is not the case. I am not sure how you find the energy to protect another living creature under your roof.

    Comment by Pam Tewes — February 27, 2011 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

    • Pam – please understand that this blog is part of a book project, and the journal entries are meant as snapshots to preface each narrative chapter
      of our journey. I write journal entries as I’m experiencing a particular day – they are as true to my emotions, fears and hopes as I know how to make
      them be. Yes, we have had concerns about our daughter’s treatment of our pets, especially our cats, but we have consistently and patiently worked
      on that and I am glad to report she is making great progress. Both our kids are wonderful and we are absolutely in love with them, but our son in particular
      has unbelievable challenges, and our daughter’s ability to heal from her own trauma is substantially impacted by the chaos he causes in our home (which is
      not his fault or even of his own volition). But I do struggle – both as a parent and a woman, with the demands of one very impaired child and one
      healthy but traumatized child. If you read other journal entries, you will see that on more days than not, our daughter brings great joy, comfort and humor
      to our lives. And as for the animals: all are well and happy. Our “puppy” is now 60 lbs @ 6 months old and snuggles with Sophie daily; Peter doesn’t
      want much to do with her but he doesn’t seriously bother her either. I’ve seen a lot of “typical” rough and tumble kids who are a whole lot tougher on
      family pets over time than our two are on occasion. So if I express concern and worry on another day, then so be it. It’s what I’m feeling, its what I’m concerned
      about and its what professionals in our lives tell us we should concern ourselves with. It doesn’t mean we make these problems our daily lives or that our
      home is a constant war zone, because it isn’t. I’m glad to hear you’ve had little if any post-adoption issues. I think your case is probably as extreme in its lack
      of issues as ours is in terms of the amount of issues. But your’e right, risks were always present and we do the best that we can with what we’re given.

      Thanks for writing – and reading. Mary

      PS: Friends and family often ask how we have the energy for the pets, but honestly, they give more back to us then they require, at least that’s how I feel. They are good for the soul.

      Comment by whenrainhurts — February 28, 2011 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

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