When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

January 23, 2011

January 23, 2011

Poet's Walk (January 22, 2011)

September 23, 2011.  My second interview with the nonprofit went well enough, at least I think, but I won’t learn the outcome for another few days.  In the meantime, I have my niece Erin’s visit to look forward to, and distract me.  A junior at Boston College, she’s been my “little cabbage” from the day she was born.  In a few more weeks, she heads to Australia for a semester abroad.  A somewhat timid little girl, she now possesses the quiet self-confidence and adventurous spirit to venture halfway around the world without knowing a single soul.  We pick her up from the train station later this afternoon, a fact that has Peter spiraling toward self-destruction.  Anticipation is one of the hardest emotions with which he copes, largely, I think, due to his inability to place himself or events in time.  To Peter, a relatively casual thing like a cousin’s visit must feel how I might feel if someone told me I was going to the moon, without benefit of training or advance notice, sometime within the next one hundred and eighty days.  In other words, he’s completely freaked.  “Coming Erin today?” he asks.  I’m so glad I’m finally able to tell him, yes, today is the day.  When they were younger, Pat and I kept exciting news from both kids until the last possible moment but we can’t do that anymore, not with Sophie’s sophisticated eight-year-old eyes and ears keeping watch for things good and bad at all times.  But even though we can attribute Peter’s recent burst of unmanageability to his cousin’s visit, the sad truth is that he seems less, not more, able to cope as he gets older, stronger, and bigger.  His tantrums and outbursts are happening more frequently, and even more alarming, they’re being triggered by events so small they almost never can be anticipated.  For instance, Peter spent twenty minutes or so building a Lego racecar in the playroom late yesterday afternoon.  We’d spent a few glorious hours snow shoeing with our puppy and everyone was tired but happy.  Peter normally can’t follow the directions or sustain his attention long enough to put together something like a Lego car, but yesterday he did, and he was mighty proud.  So were the rest of us.  It’s the first time he’s accomplished something so intricate on his own.  “I wasn’t good for doing this before, Mom,” he beamed, “but now I’m ready!”  We urged him to put it on the mantel or some other safe place, to treat it like a decoration, so it wouldn’t fall apart.  But he couldn’t resist the temptation.  A few minutes later, around dinnertime, Sophie came up from the playroom shaking her head, a mixture of frustration and pity flooding her face.  “It fell apart,” she said, biting her lower lip, “and he’s not in good shape.”  Within seconds we heard him stomping up the stairs, then the door to the basement swung open and I watched, helpless, as he burst into tears and undecipherable raging that deteriorated into his throwing his dirty diaper around and Pat having to put him in his room.  By the time he was in control enough to come down for dinner, we learned that only a single piece of the car fell off and all he would have had to do was snap it back into place.  But the disappointment, the frustration, the flood of emotions he experiences over the most trivial problem, were more than he could handle.  And because this is happening more and more frequently, often several times a day, his issues once again are holding us hostage.  In fact, after significant nudging from our family therapist, we’ve allowed a crisis team into our home, to help us sort out what can be changed and what can’t, and to help us plan for our family’s future, its safety and well-being.  The first night the two crisis intervention women came to our home, I found myself bragging somewhat about how much progress we’d made with our son, at least in terms of attachment, trust, and bonding.  But then Peter being Peter, he did the unexpected when one of the women asked him a series of questions, 95% of which he wasn’t processing.  But when she pared her words down, and asked a single pertinent question, he had his answer ready.  “If you could have one wish,” she asked, “what would it be?”  Without pause, and certainly without apology, he looked Pat and I squarely in the eyes and said “to not have a mom and dad.”



  1. Mary,
    Congratulations on getting the Crisis Intervention Team into your house. We did that at the insistence of a school social worker (or all people!) and for me having someone inside twice a week experiencing what we experiencing as a family made all the difference.

    I do have a thought on what Peter said at the end of your post. I learned this with Katie. Very often the words that are said by the child with the emotional disturbance (and bipolar, which is among Katie’s diagnoses, is biologically based) , any way the words that the kid says do not mean what we more neurologically typical adults think they mean. Katie was emotion driven and she would say things like what Peter said that at the moment were the best she could do to express a feeling – a feeling that was overwhelming to her.

    Can yoy imagine the neurologocal complexity of feeling an overhelming feeling, attempting to control the expression of that feeling without strong neurological constraints and impulse control, struggling to translate the feeling into language, wanting to be understood, and having great difficulty maintaining attention to what you are thinking and processing. It should be no surprise the words that come out will not mean what the neurologically typical think they mean. Which will add to the frustration felt by the child.

    Phew! I

    Comment by Christopher Duncan — January 23, 2011 @ 1:10 pm | Reply

  2. Let me continue where my from where my fingers seem to have hit the wrong keys or my computer when kerphlooey…

    Phew! It must be exhausting neurologically to be Peter.

    At about the age of 13 Katie snuck out of the house one afternoon to meet a boy at a store about a half mile walk from our home. Luckily we figured this out, caught her in the store parking lot, and we finally needed the police to come get her. However, I tell this because the next day in talking this event, Katie was able to say that while she was walking to the store, she had the thought she did not want to do this, but she did not know how to stop herself. Aside from this insight of hers being an opening for future therapy, I think it points directly to the emotional, neurological, and biological complexity she experienced in knowing what she wanted, in expressing what she wanted, and in acting on it.

    I hope some of this helps in some way.


    Comment by Christopher Duncan — January 23, 2011 @ 1:15 pm | Reply

  3. Mary,

    I don’t have first-hand familiarity with such a child. But the way I interpret his remark is that he sees he is causing pain and trouble for the both of you and wishes he did not have a mom and dad so that he would not be causing you this pain. Could that be what he meant?


    Comment by Laurence S. Kirsch — January 23, 2011 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  4. My heart fell into my stomach when I read your last words. I want to thank Chris for bringing it into perspective. I hope what Chris explained helps you.

    Comment by Kristine — January 23, 2011 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  5. The first thing i thought when i read those last words of Peter’s were “I wish I didn’t have a mom and dad ” Could it be that?

    My son feels bad about himself–a lot of the time. When my son has said similar things, it is usually shame running rampant.

    It’s hard when you have two, I imagine, to try to build on successes. The car that was put together was a success! If only it could have remained a positive experience. Lesson learned. Anything built, drawn, created, needs to be put away pronto! In our case, my son would intentionally break it. The stress of him worrying about “when” it would break would be too much for him. Very rarely are things displayed. All too often they are destroyed in the next tantrum.

    For us, when our son was in school, we foolishly thought he was handling it. But really, he wasn’t. Our son is home now too, after a breakdown of sorts. And I am realizing now just how little he can handle. And just how much covering up he was doing with his feelings at school-to get through the day.

    Our next thing to try is RDI. Have you tried that yet? Relationship Development Intervention. I have heard good things with our kids so we are exploring.

    Glad you’re finding help with crisis. People helping is always a good thing.

    Comment by Elizabeth — January 23, 2011 @ 9:56 pm | Reply

  6. Sorry, what i meant to say was “wish i didn’t have a mom and dad ” I wondered if that is the feeling?

    Comment by Elizabeth — January 23, 2011 @ 9:58 pm | Reply

  7. So…when are you just going to come out and say “We’re trying to have Peter sent to a residential institution.”? You’re so transparent, and so is this blog. You adopted these children, from Russia. And now you’re using their problems (that you’re causing), to write this blog. Keep in mind, that all of your readers are assuming everything you write is true…which it probably isn’t. I hope that someday, somehow, Peter gets a copy of this blog. Then he will see what kind of mother you really have been to him. How many hours have you put into this blog? When you should have been taking care of your children? Instead of posting their private, and embarassing business on the internet for the world to see? I hope that this blog is worth it to you…at poor Peter’s expense. The best thing that could happen to him, is that he gets away from you and your craziness. So here’s to hoping that he is sent away, where his private life won’t be posted on a blog… isn’t that an awful thing to say? But really, it beats the alternative. I can’t keep reading this blog that I’ve stumbled upon, I’m yawning already at the anticipated future and continuing embarassment you are selfishly imposing on your poor children. Good luck to you.

    Comment by Kim — January 24, 2011 @ 9:59 am | Reply

  8. Dearest Mary,

    I am so sorry for Peter’s words. It would be heart-breaking, even though you know he didn’t mean it.


    Comment by Nancy Crenshaw — January 24, 2011 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  9. I am so sorry Mary. How painful that must have been for you.

    Comment by Errin Weigel — January 24, 2011 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

  10. Mary, Remembering you all daily. Take a deep breath, in and out, in and out…and try again tomorrow. Peter is trying, Bless his heart, I cannot imagine how difficult all this world is to him…And your Daughter is an amazing child also…she really seems to try to help, in the best way she knows how. Hang in there and thank you so much for sharing with us your life. Hugs, cindy in NC

    Comment by Cindy — January 25, 2011 @ 2:22 am | Reply

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