I honestly was going to table the posts about Ozzy but I changed my mind bc i think this is important stuff to write about. It was not easy being called a bad mom by complete strangers after my blog post about Ozzy but I put it all out there so I suppose I better be able to take any “feedback” with a stiff upper lip. It is important to me to be authentic in my writing. But I want to try to be considerate too. In my original post about Ozzy I was honest about his actions and about how hard it is on our family but I was also clear that I wanted to find the help for him and all of us. What I lack in aplomb I make up in determination and when you love your kids you want to see them turn into people that can live a good life and take care of themselves. Sometimes with teens you wonder how they will ever get there.
My kids came to us through adoption and two of them were a bit older when we adopted them -ages 2.5 and 4. In my first post I didn’t want to imply that all of Ozzy’s issues were adoption issues so perhaps I downplayed the adoption part and maybe I did not give it the credence that it deserves. Many bio kids have Ozzy’s issues so I didn’t want to set apart his issues as existing only being because he’s adopted. But the fact is some of his issues are adoption related. Early development is dependent on many things and sitting in an orphanage for over 2 years with very little nurturing (passive neglect- too few caretakers for many babies) causes the brain to develop differently than a child that is nurtured properly from birth. I don’t believe this caused his ADHD but it has caused other issues that make up part of the person that is Ozzy. Early neglect can cause lifelong issues if they aren’t acknowledged and properly addressed. Our family had been in family therapy for years – sadly we lost our wonderful therapist to cancer a little over a year ago. It has taken a while to get a new therapist and then getting used to her. I am finding that the new one does know her stuff- I was slow to get on board but I am liking her more.
I noted before that when I shared my blog post about Ozzy what came was some flames for the post but also came many offers to help and many good suggestions. I had people share with me that they live with a challenging child- some never had shared it openly because of the scorn they feared. That made me sad. It does not serve us to keep things quiet- we must respect privacy but in times of crisis reaching out our hand often gets a handhold back in return .It is easy for others who have not walked in our shoes to judge- but perhaps judgement can be replaced with care and concern – it is certainly more helpful than throwing barbs at someone will ever be.
Before I posted that blog about our family in crisis I was feeling very low and I was losing hope. Since my post I have had a change in heart. Through the kindness of others I been made more aware of attachment disorders. I have been sent articles on anxiety, I have read more on ADHD, and reminder reads on early development neglect. I have also done some soul searching about the way I want to parent my child – and how I can adjust my sails so I can come through this in one piece- with peace.
Last week Ozzy, my husband, and myself went to the therapist’s office. The session ended up being more for my husband and I and less for Ozzy who saw her at the very end. We really needed to sit down and talk to her about our concerns. The good news? He is probably not a sociopath..I never thought he was really – he loves animals too much – but so many of his behaviors had me worried. Without getting into too much detail I will say we discussed much and I learned that with ADHD alone kids typically have a 30% delay emotionally. So he is 10 years old emotionally and probably younger when the fact of early neglect in an orphanage is taken into consideration. So we could be dealing with a child who is 7-10 yrs old in a 14 year old body. The other item to add to that is that he is a 10 yr old in a teen body with very little impulse control. So it is not realistic to think just because a 10 year old might understand that it is not ok to take someone else’s Kindle and be able to stop themselves from doing it- that Ozzy should do that -a kid like Ozzy has impulse control issues and might be able to verbally tell you he should not take it but he has much trouble stopping himself from doing it. So that scares me a lot from the standpoint of drugs and alcohol and his ability to say no..will he?
We also addressed the issue of attachment disorder and the therapist agreed he probably has some attachment issues. And she corroborated what others had said to me that once a child is in his teens it is hard to “fix” attachment issues. While I do see some of his behavior as attachment related I think there is some attachment there. Ozzy can be very giving. When we were at the beach last weekend he spent hours looking for shells. He and I share a love of shells and he kept showing me each one he found. Sunday he found a lovely piece of sea glass and when we arrived home he walked over to me with the sea glass in hand and told me he wanted me to have it. And there was no “can I do this” or “have that” following the gift (that would be my other son “L”!) Ozzy just wanted me to have the piece of glass.
Perhaps it is hard for me to think he might not have attachment to us. As mad as he makes me I know I am attached to him and I love him. I recall in the early years trying to do some at-home therapies that involved holding your child like an infant and looking into their eyes trying to hold eye contact with them- you could even offer them a bottle- I couldn’t go that far but we tried the infant holding and mostly they just laughed. I also recall a particular holding therapy that was supposed to increase attachment but seemed to upset my kids more than anything- so we stopped that after one or two tries. Did I not try hard enough? Is he really detached from us? Will he attach to a spouse, have healthy friendships? I don’t have the answers- and I wish I did but all we can do is try to give him help and the tools he needs to lead a productive -and hopefully- love filled life.
Ozzy is a combination of many things. He has many, many great qualities and he also has a number of not so great ones. We all are peppered with multiple facets to our personalities but as parents we have to try to bring out the best in our kids and get them ready for adulthood- it is a daunting task at times. It can be very challenging when you have a child with special needs and behavioral issues like mine does.
The therapist has given us suggestions for Ozzy. It was made clear that he needs to have very strict boundaries and very clear goals and rewards so he understands what is expected of him- and we have to stick to those boundaries.The rewards are based on things that really mean something to him. His first reward will be earning his ipod shuffle back, and then earning time on the Xbox/laptop/kindle. His goals to get these rewards will start out basic – Clean room, no calls/emails from school, no taking any electronics- reward after one week will be the iPod…after that, rewards will come more frequently and will include Xbox time and laptop time this will be for controlling temper, not stealing, bathing, clean room etc. I want him to succeed and I find having long-term goals are very hard for him. So we will try to go 3-4 days to reach a reward.
I was not for the rewards system at first- I felt like he is too old for stuff like that – but I realized a couple things-A) if we are dealing with a ten year old – which if you spent any time with Ozzy you could tell he is immature (but Lord he is super smart- ergo why he can be manipulative)- ten year olds will most likely respond to rewards. and B) I have no way to punish him because he never adheres to a punishment. So clear goals = clear rewards. I like it. I am not saying that I like having a 14 year old that is highly smart but has the maturity of an 8-10 yr old and lacks impulse control. Its not easy –but it is what it is. And I have to step up.
So then there is me. How can I keep from going nuts with a challenging child? How do I hold it together so I am not stressed to the max all the time- worrying about every little thing he might do? How do I keep positive? How can I be a decent mom to him and the other two- and a decent wife to my husband- when I am so stressed out? I am working on this. I decided to change my attitude about how I look at this. I don’t have to take every bad thing that happens and make everything become bad and negative. Negativity breeds negativity. He is going to mess up- I know this. My kids are all going to mess up- and they do- but with Ozzy it is likely going to be something just a little more over the top. If I don’t change it is only going to hurt me. Ozzy will be Ozzy and his actions are his own. I know I am going to get mad at him in the future but I am hoping that I can hold my tongue better and let the anger go a little faster. I know there will be days where I want to pull my hair out and just give up. I know this. And it is okay. I just have to remember that I don’t have to own Ozzy’s behavior – he does.
We all know as parents that we have to try to guide our kids through the twists and turns of life but we only have so much control. Ultimately, they will make their own choices and they will have rewards and consequences depending on those choices. We so want them to succeed and it can tear at our hearts when they don’t. For Ozzy he is high risk for some crazy stuff. It is hard to think of his future without worrying- but I will try to picture it the way i want it to be for him – perhaps that will make it so. For me with Ozzy it is really about giving him the help and letting him figure out which way he wants to go. God has a plan for Ozzy- and I was supposed to be a part of it. Even if Ozzy doesn’t change – he surely has changed me.
Thanks for reading–