When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

March 30, 2010

Easter/Spring Break 2006

March 30, 2010.  Spring Break has always been a dangerous terrain for Peter but I was hopeful this year would be different.  I’m sure parents of other special needs kids feel the same.  There’s no school and therefore no schedule.  Although some camps spring up to fill the void for working parents or vacation-less families – like the horse camp Sophie’s attending – 5 days aren’t enough for Peter to acclimate to an unfamiliar environment.  So he languishes with too much time on his hands and little to nourish his fleeting, limited attention.  Arranging a four-hour play date with a school chum does nothing to quell his unease yesterday.  He’s like Tigger, bouncing around directionless until he collides with someone, something or more frequently, some rule.  He’s not allowed to say words like stupid, idiot, butthead or moron, but I could hear him listing off the litany in the playroom because he thought I was out of earshot.  The funny part is that no one’s ever out of earshot when it comes to Peter; he has great difficulty modulating the volume of his voice and almost always errs on the side of amplification.  “Stupid, stupid, Sophie you’re stupid.  Butthead boy, stupid Sophie, stupid butthead Sophie boy.”  It’s unrelenting, really, and not something anyone should have to endure.  I made him come upstairs, first once and then again and yet again and again, to calm down.  If it wasn’t echolaic attacks on Sophie, it was hitting and spitting and screams of “no don’t” as Sophie ran upstairs to tell.  “I hate this day!” he implored, banging his fist against the side of his head.  I’m sympathetic but I know I can’t show it.  Later maybe, but never in the moment.  Sympathy, when he’s not in a place to receive it, is easily used to manipulate and almost always flung in my face.  To pierce the chaos of his mind, I have to be hard and firm so that he feels, almost anatomically, my unshakable resolve and ability to maintain control.  I don’t like disciplining him in front of other children but experience has taught me to recognize the brief window in which I have to act before the situation deteriorates beyond recovery.  “You have ten quiet minutes in your room,” I said, pulling him to me so I could whisper in his ear, “and if you slam the door, throw you body around, or pull any other tricks, it’ll be twenty.”  He knew I meant it but I wonder whether he knew how much I too hated that day for him.  His “friend”, who is really my friend’s son, gave me a knowing nod and ambled off to join Sophie and his sister in the bounce house we keep in the playroom.  The weather was cool and drippy and unsuitable for playing outside, where Peter would have felt less claustrophobic and boxed-in.  There’s no doubt he’s felt the stress of the last week.  Sophie has too.  The hushed discussions and whispered phone calls, the poorly disguised outrage, the red swollen eyes, and the conspicuous tension.  Stress, outrage, grief – these should not be the emotions that hang heavily like smog over the ambiance of childhood.  In addition to the lack of schedule, I’m sure the situation with the school is contributing to Peter’s rapid decompensation.  Today, and for the rest of this week, I have to do better.  I can’t let our troubles with the “we know Peter better than you do people” pollute our children and color my outlook a minute longer.  I need to treat them and this manufactured incident like the insignificant blips that they are.  So today I pledge to give Peter a better day, to guard his equilibrium more fiercely and to encourage both my children to fill this annual stint of free time happily and productively.  They’ll be up in just two short hours.  I better get planning!



  1. hi mary, i actually, reluctantly (but surprisingly rewardingly!) decided to homeschool my FAS kids… it has made a night and day difference in our world. i am a nurse (labor and delivery) by training and i coveted those hours in the day when they were schooled at our local Catholic school… but, it didn’t take long for me to surrender to the angst of the school vs. grayson daily ordeal. we’ve homeschooled for 4 1/2 years and what a decision. i’m grateful to control his schedule, our days, our accomplishments, our battles… it’s the best thing i’ve ever done— and, the most daunting.

    blessings to you and peter! you are in my thoughts daily!!!

    Comment by Amy Dorsey — March 31, 2010 @ 1:25 am | Reply

  2. Mary – I pray this becomes a book one day for all those dealing with FAS and for those not dealing with it to better understand what it’s really like to have an FAS child. Our daughter is from Russia and her birthmother drank during pregnancy. Today she shows no signs of FAS but the future is always uncertain. I am constantly amazed, as I read your story, at your abilities to manage Peter and your unconditional love for him. God bless you for all you’ve done.

    Comment by Bobbi — March 31, 2010 @ 10:07 am | Reply

  3. Dear Mary, I have devoured every page of your book-in-progress and your journals, and only now do I begin to have an inkling of understanding of what living with FAS really means. I’d read about sensory processing disorders, and lack of cause-and-effect and so on, but only when you describe how this manifests itself in Peter’s behaviour, and how it affects your family on a daily basis, do I begin to realise what this means in practice, and am I able to consider the impact it could potentially have on me, my marriage and the rest of our lives. Your writings should be obligatory reading for prospective adoptive parents, as my husband and I are, and they are a truly welcome addition to the reams of sugar-coated fairy tales I have read to date. I am in awe of your strength and patience, your ability to find hope (and humour!) in what sound like the most exasperating of situations. I also have huge admiration for your gift of being able to put this into words so clearly, concisely, generously and eloquently, even when emotions must still be running high. I feel like I know you and Pat and Peter and Sophie – even though I’ve never met you and I live over 3000 miles away! You are very much in my thoughts, and I wish you continued strength and patience to deal with what you have taken on, albeit unknowingly, and may Peter continue to make the steady progress he is clearly making in your close-knit, loving family. Kindest regards, Rosalind.

    Comment by Rosalind — April 1, 2010 @ 5:07 am | Reply

  4. I do so hope you write a book. And, I do so hope you publish and distribute so that all US adoption agencies and other interested parties to these children have access to your brilliance.

    One thing I might mention, and it’s just ‘my way’, and I’m not a big crier but when we went through our CPS run (as I call it), we didn’t know that it was fairly typical occurrence until my daughter’s psychiatrist shared the information. My opinion is that many in the US still view adoptive children as essentially public, and thus there is an overreaction to what they perceive of these children.

    My kiddo has been referred to by her counselors as highly manipulative. I tended not to share my feelings with her when she was outright and beyond all types of behaviors one might imagine. I did the time out. I did the attachment training. It seemed she felt nothing.

    Then, during the CPS run, I actually sat in the center of the living room floor and just cried – hard. I didn’t tell her why. She did ask, which was a surprise at the time. Since then, my kiddo now understands that manipulation not only has a reaction toward her from myself, or her teachers, or whomever. She now understand that her manipulation of others can affect me… That was a major turning point for us. I didn’t know my losing it would actually help. That was not my intent. I was overwhelmed with the angst of the CPS situation, and their lack of understanding of my daughter’s issues…

    So, be kind to yourself, as best as can be.

    Comment by Lori — April 2, 2010 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

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