When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

May 11, 2010

Spring 2009

May 11, 2010.  My darling girl wants to live at someone else’s house, and though painful to hear, its hardly breaking news.  She’s been saying this kind of thing for years.  Right now it’s my friend Debbie, last year it was Sue and the year before that it was Jess.  They all have daughters Sophie’s age and apparently she thinks life in their households would be easier, happier, and somehow more respectful of her need to control, absolutely, both her environment and the people in it.  I’ve been in denial about this, but the truth is Sophie, like Peter, also has significant attachment issues.  But in many ways, hers are more complex, and certainly more emotionally difficult to address.  Peter has brain damage.  Retrain the brain and the problem diminishes.  Though I’m sure he thinks about his birth parents, to my knowledge the issue has only arisen once.  He is happy when his world feels organized, when expectations are clear, and when we successfully keep his impulses in check.  He doesn’t seek out physical affection, nor does he often accept it, but he knows we’re his parents, he understands that our job is to protect and encourage him to move, whether by inches or feet, further and further into the larger world.  Don’t get me wrong, we waged a painfully long, primal battle getting him to this point, and constant vigilance will always be needed to guard against relapse, but our daughter’s problems are more emotional than neurological, and therefore more intimately personal.  Sophie’s need for power and control supersedes almost every other drive, good and bad, which might otherwise occupy her mind, body, and spirit.  She understands, on some level, that she’s like this but at 7 she has no clue how to alter this pattern of thinking, a pattern that helped her survive in the orphanage but is maladaptive, even self-destructive, to the interior health of a family.  The worst part is that I don’t know how to help her.  All I can say is that I know she’s hurting, that I know her start in life was unfair, that I realize she may never see a picture of her birth mother’s face much less know the biological comfort of peering into her eyes.  I’m merely a substitute, and right now, its not good enough.  She knows I love her, and that Pat does too, but she wants more, and more I can’t give.  I can’t be her birth mom.  Try as I have, I can’t even locate a picture of the woman, who died when Sophie was still an infant.  I hold her and whisper in her ear that I wish she had grown in my tummy so that I could have cradled her and rocked her and fed her and tickled her toes from the moment she was born.  I tell her this not only to make her feel better, though I pray it does, but also because it’s the absolute truth.  I wish with all my heart I’d been able to carry a pregnancy to term, and if I had, that the newborns I held in my arms, sticky and squiggly, were Peter and Sophie; safe, whole, and peering, maybe fuzzily at first, into the endlessly loving soul of my eyes.  How they so deserve that.



  1. Do you think she might want to live elsewhere because of the chaos in your house from Peter or think that she’s not getting enough attention compared to Peter? 😦

    Also, you’ve mentioned Peter being in therapy. Has Sophie been in individual therapy? It might be helpful for her.

    Comment by MM — May 11, 2010 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

  2. She does see a play therapist, who also feels she has some attachment issues, and she sees a wonderful social worker at school for social skills (where they work on control issues with her!). It’s impossible to say the role Peter is playing in her problems, but we saw the control and power struggles from the minute we met her – of course, it was funny in a 2 year old, just not so much any more. She’s a fantastic kid – and I’m head over heals in love with her – but I do worry. She’s constantly thinking that because my friends don’t impose limits on her (duh – who does? its not their job) that she could get her way more easily somewhere else. Its all about control. But its scary because sometimes I worry that she would trade us for control, its that important to her. I know she loves us, but its a problem – and one that’s going to interfere with everything she does, for the rest of her life, if we don’t help her get it straightened out.

    Anyway, thanks for writing – and thanks also for caring. Best – Mary

    Comment by whenrainhurts — May 11, 2010 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for writing. Your blog is so beautifully and candidly written that all your readers have come to see your family as real feeling human beings. (Sounds obvious, but a lot of blogs don’t do that, perhaps by the writer’s choice.) And naturally, we care about you and your family.

      I wasn’t thinking play therapy or social skills help, but grief therapy and other perhaps other therapies that try to change her way of seeing the world and getting her to accept unpredictability and lack of control. I don’t know how many therapists do this “adult”-type therapy on children, but her issues are very “adult”, which makes it all the more sad that it’s happening at such a young age.

      Comment by MM — May 11, 2010 @ 2:56 pm | Reply

  3. Again, I keep thinking of more things to say. In your previous post, it’s clear you’re still grieving the death of your mother and never stop grieving. It’s even more difficult for a child.

    A friend of mine lost his father when he was only a year old. He has no recollection of his father, but he still grieved. He grieved the life he would have had. He was angry, sad, and confused about why a good young man’s life was cut so short. He was filled with anxiety that the same would happen to him. That may have contributed to his need to have everything predictable and in control. It’s possible he would have had those personality characteristics even without his father’s death, but I think it no doubt exacerbated them.

    But at least my friend had the young widow his father left behind.

    Sophie might be feeling a loss of absolutely everything from her birth mother. Have you considered amending her name to include her birth name (Katya?) as a middle name? It’s the one gift from her birth mother she would be able to have forever. Plus, it’s a pretty name that would go well with her current name.

    Comment by MM — May 11, 2010 @ 2:49 pm | Reply

  4. Just a thought..is it possible that Sophie is saying she wants to live with others to test the permanence of your bond with her – i.e. would you LET her go ? And, Mary, you are NOT “merely a substitute”…it broke my heart to hear you say that. YOU are her mom, her mommy, her mother. I am keeping you guys in my prayers.

    Comment by SLS — May 11, 2010 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

    • THanks – just a bad day (or string of them) I guess. I know I’m her mom, its just hard when she’s constantly challenging the status.

      Comment by whenrainhurts — May 12, 2010 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  5. Mary,
    Lynn with ATTACh in Chicago was the one who referred us to Dr. Rila here in DFW area. Dr. Rila is an expert in the types of behaviors Sophie, and my daughter Anna, display. Yes, it’s emotional. Maybe neurological… Some of these issues are so deep down, it takes quite a bit of testing to find them. I am assuming ATTACh might have some referrals for you for Sophie. Yes, I’m thinking of the cost here. Once diagnosed, and I know this is a degrading option, but SSI is sometimes set up for helping with funding of these types of issues, so that the children can be contributing members of society as adults, as best as can be. Also, recently Scottish Rite Hospital has a neurological/emotional center that is absolutely free. I’m still researching whether it’s a fit for my daughter. The cost of bringing these kiddos to as healthy as can be is overwhelming for most adoptive parents, married or single. So, I’ve learned to swallow my pride, and look into all options. These are just suggestions but I know anyone with ATTACh would have cost effective solutions, that are also the right types of interventions for these kiddos. Take care.

    Comment by Lori — May 12, 2010 @ 10:06 am | Reply

    • Thanks Lori – it sounds like we have so much in common – and I love your sense of humor too. I do need to l look into all these things for her, but its tough (tho not an excuse) cuz Peter’s needs scream in our faces on a minute to minute basis. You say YOW – I say YOUSA! But I will check it out – thanks for the info. And support. And reading . . . . and just everything! Mary 🙂

      Comment by whenrainhurts — May 12, 2010 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

  6. Sophie sounds just like my biological daughter who is 7. Your mother’s day post with her attitude statements… she also does. I hate the “What the…” and the “Oh come on…” LOL. My daugher uses those exact phrases.

    My daughter also longs to have a sister. When she was younger she would easily say I want to go live at ‘susie’s’ house so I can have a sister, etc. That is perfectly normal so don’t take it as rejection to you. What finally cured my daughter of this was when my brother came for nearly 1.5 weeks vacation with his daughter who is 2 months older than mine. Typically during short visits at grandma’s they are inseperatable and best friends. But after 4 days they were so tired of each other! My daughter was like, when is Danielle leaving? She wanted her personal space back as she was use to her room being her room.

    I should mention that I also have 3 sons ages 8, 16, and 17. I gave birth to all 4. Now when my second son once told me he wanted to go live with his dad, I was very upset. I even packed his suitcase and called his dad to come get him. Of course he had to bring him back at the end of the weekend but I didn’t tell my son that! I was very angry. And the many times my son’s have told me they didn’t like me, I was ruining their life because I wouldn’t let them do or have something. Yes, it hurts… the first few times… then I got over it and know that it is part of being a parent. Kids don’t always like their parents when they don’t get their way. But it’s the parents who make the decisions and the kids who have to deal with it.

    I just wanted to let you know that even if Sophie was your biologica child, that you would probably have the same attitude. Some may say when I child has the ability to speak back to a parent like that, it actually shows how comfortable they are with the parent.

    My daughter’s attitude continues, but it mostly directed at her dad or brothers. Mainly because she knows I won’t put up with it and will immediately disclipline her. My husband will just tell me to deal with her attitude and talk to her. It’s frustrating for my husband to do something for her but not do it the way she thinks it was suppose to be done and her repond, “Great dad, that is just great, you ruined it!” when he was being nice and doing something for her. Me… I say fine, and toss it in the garbage and walk away. Only takes once or twice before she stopped saying that to me. After the older 2, the younger 2 don’t hurt my feelings anymore. 😉 My daughter loves using the computer, and got grounded from it for the first time for not doing her homework and turning it in. So now I have ‘ruined her life’ at the age of 7… but she is still not on the computer until she can go a full week without missing a homework assignment.

    Comment by 4Kids4Karen — May 13, 2010 @ 8:00 am | Reply

  7. Thank you Mary!

    Yes, some days…it is so difficult just to find the time to just well, brush one’s teeth…or something like…lol These kiddos are angels, but it’s true – they ‘need’ so much. I’ve had to check my own ‘stuff’ and learn to be just right there, as much as possible, when kiddo needs something. I’m very independent by nature, but my child has sure taught me the true meaning of love and life. It was something that my career chickee stuff didn’t show, or any other part of my life. As I find out more about these programs for kiddos, I’ll keep you posted. Today I’m working up against a deadline for my school stuff. So, like you, it will happen when it will. I’ve learned also that not everything happens on what used to be my time-frame. Learning to live in the moment, or for the day, or the way most can say it…lol Smiling about how your blog has so helped with diagnosis of my kiddo, and how to articulate better to others exactly what it is like to parent my child, and everything else. You’re a godsend. 🙂

    Comment by Lori — May 13, 2010 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

  8. Have you attempted to search for Sophie’s family in Russia? Even if her mother is gone, possibly they could find other relatives who may have pictures or be willing to share some details of Sophie’s life pre-orphanage. There is a group on Yahoo where you can view other’s results and contact a searcher. We used them and it has really helped our daughter come to grips with her past.

    Comment by Loraine — May 18, 2010 @ 11:06 am | Reply

    • Yes, thank you for the suggestion. I had tried one person but he was from the Ukraine and didn’t want to travel all the way to Biro. But I have recently gotten
      to other names from a yahoo list serv – probably the same one you are referring to. I’m glad the info has helped your daughter – I hope, if we’re successful, it helps Sophie too. Be well and thanks so much for reading and caring – Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — May 18, 2010 @ 11:20 am | Reply

  9. I have been reading your blog almost nonstop since last night. I have been waiting to see if Sophie was in therapy before I said anything.

    I lost both of my parents, my dad when I was almost 2 and my mom when I was almost 16. My older brother is the only one who remembers my dad and he had a tough time dealing. My mom tried to take him to therapy once, but for some reason the Dr. never showed. I remember even at age 7 thinking, “Thank God, we need to be in therapy.” My brother never got help for his emotional issues and he has a lot of built up anger, frustration, and self-hate. Now that he is 30 I see some sign of him pulling himself together, but who knows if he will. My younger brother is very similar in regards to those negative emotions as well as what I think is undiagnosed ADHD.

    When I was 17 I put myself in therapy because I knew I did not want to live life being as unhappy as I was. After my mom died I went from being a confident, if not emotional kid who loved learning, reading, and riding to a kid who did not miss one day of school in 2 years that was withdrawn, completely self-conscious, missing 40 days in year and not one teacher showed any amount of concern. Of course there were other things going on at this time that in my family and with the superintendent of the school as well as my soccer coach etc.

    With therapy I was able to move from a town of 150 people to Chicago with out knowing any one, I was able to graduate college and learn so much about myself and why I do certain things. I am constantly struggling with my attachment and abandonment issues, but I can now, even if it is only after, see why I reacted a certain way and cope with the outcome. I am so much more confident in myself and I can actually walk away from toxic people when 9 years ago that would have been impossible. I have had to learn to stand up for myself again and trust my decisions. I have not had anyone to stand in my corner and fight for me, except myself. That’s really hard for a kid and even though you are there for your daughter, it seems like perhaps she feels that way. Also, I had to be shown that the way I felt, the way that I was raised, was not the only way I could feel or the only way I could react to things or the only way to do things. It was a shock, but changed my life.

    I have been able to decide what I want for my life and work towards my goals with confidence and perseverance that only people with tough beginnings can. I think your daughter would blossom even more if she could work through those feelings of loss and grief and find a way to move passed them and towards what she may not know she can have.

    But that is just the humble opinion of someone who has only briefly known about your family. I came across your blog/book because I am looking at domestic adoption and fostering and I could not stop reading.

    Comment by Elisha — June 19, 2010 @ 5:25 pm | Reply

    • Elisha, I am so glad you wrote – and what a success story you are. And yes, Sophie is in therapy. We take her to a wonderful play therapist and we
      are trying hard to help her resolve issues she has resulting from her early experiences as well as the ongoing difficulties she unfortunately has to bear
      because of Peter. I only hope that she will heal and learn what I hear so many kids of disabled siblings learn: heightened compassion, understanding,
      kindness, etc. It is certainly our goal. But let me tell you, she is one heck of a kid. Problems aside, she’s phenomenal and I know she will land on
      her feet, just as you have. Thanks again – Mary

      Comment by whenrainhurts — June 19, 2010 @ 8:43 pm | Reply

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