It's 6 AM on a Saturday; I've been up for one hour. Nate has been up for three. J woke up at 3:00 asking if he could get up and play. When I conceded to the fact I wouldn't be sleeping any later, I stumbled into the kitchen to make my morning coffee nearly tripping on the dog who looked up at me as if to say, Remember when we slept until 8 on Saturdays?
Like any new parent, I catch myself mid-J's super tantrums reminiscing about the way things were BK (before kids). Sometimes, I'm sure other adoptive parents can relate, I slip up and think, This would be easier if it were my biological child...I know easier isn't the correct term; I know different would be a more applicable word. It's just hard to think this way when J does things that are completely antithetical to our own tendencies. Because I'm parenting a child who doesn't have my incredible genetic makeup (she says with sarcasm dripping from her lips) I find myself in compromising positions at times: things I never thought I'd do as a parent, I'm doing now as a parent.
Allow me to articulate.
J's been experiencing some difficulties at school. He is hyperactive and defiant. A lethal combination for any classroom. I've worked with kids long enough to know that sometimes kids don't choose to by hyperactive and defiant...sometimes it's a part of their make-up---whether biological or by the environment they're caretakers have created. Of course, kids need to be taught how to control their defiance and exercise it appropriately (there is a time and place for defiance!) as well as how to manage their hyperactivity--but teaching this to a five year old who has just warmed up to the idea of us being his forever-parents, is no easy task. Per his therapist's recommendation, I issue him clear rewards/consequences each day on the way to school. We discuss ways to deal with stressful situations and we each pray asking God to give us strength to make the right choices and to be a good friend. After a while, a reward and consequence ends up losing its impact forcing a parent to think of new ways to enforce good behavior in his/her brood. This particular morning, I was tired beyond belief and frustrated from one of J's super fun morning tantrums where he screams and cries and throws things for no apparent reason at 6:00 in the morning before I've had my morning coffee. At a loss for a new reward or consequence, "Buddy," I blurted, "if you have a good day today, we can have donuts tomorrow morning." I may as well have said, "Hey kid--have a good day, and I 'll hand you some sugar cubes to suck on." Fortunately (or unfortunately?), J did not earn the donuts that day.
Believing J's struggles are primarily biological, a psychiatrist has recommended we put little J on meds to help balance out this hyperactivity and defiance. Both Nate and I worry about meds. I've seen kids on meds turn into zombies with no personality. I've also seen meds take what seems like an unbearable kid and turn him into a pleasant child who is able to focus. I know some people need medications. I just don't want to jump to meds too soon. While we do research on different meds, we're conducting the Mountain Dew experiment with J. Doctors suggested this to my own parents who were exasperated at my hyperactivity as a child. Give a hyperactive child a high concentration of caffeine, and it will slow the kid down enough so they can focus more clearly. I'm not convinced this is a scientific experiment, and I cringe at the idea of giving a five year old soda (I don't even drink soda), but I will be pouring him a glass this morning and again in the afternoon.
I can see this compromising in two ways: I'm a failure parent who has given into pure bribery to reach her child, or I'm doing the best I can at meeting this kid where he's at. Frankly, it takes a lot of work to believe the second view. Being a foster-adoptive parent feels incredibly isolating. When J is around our friends and family, he is an absolute charmer. Of our support system, we are the only people who see him in his true form. Each day is a struggle to do what's right and fight the deprecating thoughts that lurk in the cobwebs...a battle every parent can relate to.