(It's long. Don't feel obligated.)
I have four kids, three of which I mention often. The fourth one, not so much. Kim-12yr is a topic i tend to leave off-blog. You may have noticed i don't put much effort into pretending things are rosier than they are. That isn't it. It's more that I thought her privacy should be given more consideration than my blogging might provide. And I did think that.
Why? She could read all of this one day, years from now. Yes. She could. And still, I don't mind sharing details of our lives I haven't before shared. The main reason for this is that parents are coming from all over the internet to find this blog because just once - ages ago - I mentioned the Total Transformation Program by Dr. James Lehman. Parents are troubled by their kids, looking for answers, and then looking to me for a second opinion on the program before shelling out the big bucks. This post gets a minimum of 150 hits a DAY from those searching "Total Transformation." My heart goes out to those parents, because I've been there. It stinks. It especially stinks when the kids are out of school, and the web search hits multiply exponentially then.
So here is a little of my experience. This is for those who wonder why i only talk about 3 of my kids. It's for me. It's for those other parents, performing search after search for answers and for help. (Hang in there, you guys.)
Ten years ago, I married a wonderful man with a two year old. He had sole custody. His first wife had made some unfortunate parenting choices, including neglect. Mike was working lots of hours, trying to keep up with his wife's out of control spending. He took his daughter and left, taking only her belongings. I met the two of them when Kim was almost 2. We married right away. She stole my heart before he did. Her big brown eyes and easygoing nature won me over completely. She laughed often. Her smile was sweet, and frequent, and she was charming and endearing in ways I can recall but am having trouble naming. When I married her dad, she walked me down the aisle. I was the only Mom she ever remembered. I adopted her as soon as we could afford it.
Before I came along there should have been some critical mom-baby developmental milestones. Basic bonding. In the absence of that, attachment issues can develop. Without a strong mom-baby bond, the child can become developmentally stunted in ways that don't necessarily show up right away. This was the case with Kim. She's so smart, and a quick study. She had no trouble developing the skills to appear just as the other kids her age. And yet, she wasn't. There was a total lack of empathy. Later, there was stealing, defiance, lying, and a delight in other people's (and animals') pain. Her fantasies were graphic, numerous, and violent. She convinced herself that if I were not in her life, her 'real' mom would miraculously return. She had somehow decided she was Mike's true - first - love, since I came along later... and wanted to take over my role. She tried to get me to leave. Lots of energy and thought went into the best way to 'eliminate' me. When I didn't leave, those thoughts and fantasies went to a more violent nature. I needed to be gone. In her mind, there was nothing wrong with this. She'd been so mistreated by the world, and life was so unfair, that it was all right for her to be so extreme. Killing me would solve a lot of problems.
I know what some of you are thinking. She wasn't raised 'right.' She wasn't raised with enough God, or enough church, or enough scripture in her. And you'd be wrong. She can probably quote circles around you, and yet it didn't matter. Kim got her school to believe WE were the problem. She's really good at that, as are a lot of attachment disordered kids.
We've prayed. We've done counseling with lots of professionals of who didn't have a clue what was wrong. And a few did. And it didn't matter. There's a spiritual side to what is going on with her, a side that must be approached from a spiritual perspective. And then there's the psychological, and emotional sides that can be approached from professionals who know how to do that best. (that last part is a quote from my pastor - nicely put, huh?)
There isn't a whole lot that can be done - spiritually or otherwise - as long as HER attitude is 'i'm fine this way and you're wrong for asking me to change.' She very much believes she is entitled to lie, to steal, to kill, to do whatever to whomever as long as it suits her. She is 'above' rules and laws.
We placed her in residential treatment six months ago. The staff there are wonderful people who specialize in this particular disorder. They are the best at what they do, and I am forever grateful to these professionals for even understanding my child, and for caring about her anyway. For understanding me, and the utter hell that was our family life before she went away. Their experience and training lends them an ability to see our family for how it is - and not how she pretends it is. I'm most grateful for them, for they are truly God-sent.
It's an 18 month program. No progress.
All of this to say that ours is an extreme case. Total Transformation wasn't going to 'work' for us, and for this one child. I still believe in it wholly, though. Dr Lehman shows you how and why your kids misbehave. He tells you quite specifically why it works on you, and how your kid uses different methods with you and with your spouse. The program is the Parenting Instruction Manual that all parents should get when they leave the hospital with their newborn. Yes. Really. It helped us understand Kim's manipulations greatly, and see them more clearly. It was eye opening. It will be invaluable as we parent our three other children. You should buy it. One drawback: It takes time and commitment to do the workbook, watch the dvds, and listen to the cds. Quite a bit of time, really. Don't buy it if you aren't willing to put in the time.
It will NOT touch the big issues - if any - beneath the behavior. You can treat the symptoms of your kid with this program VERY effectively. However, if your kid has deep problems that are the root of the problems, have those addressed by someone else AND try the program. Does your kid have ADHD, ODD, or other stuff? Give it a try.
I'm talking about this now, because it's apparently not a shortlived phase one of our kids is going through. It's a huge part of our life. And this is my blog, and I talk about my life. We go visit her once a month, stay a few days or a week and have big, stressful therapy. We spent a week there for Thanksgiving, and will again for Christmas.
Life is better now. My mom has noticed that Ethan-6yr is much calmer than he's ever been. He isn't constantly wondering where his sister is, what she's doing, and how to behave accordingly. Neither am I. We're learning how to be safe in our home, and all that that means. How to have fun, be spontaneous, and relate to each other without all of the unhealthy undercurrents.
We're trying to be a normal family, and enjoying it.
If you're one of the parents who found this blog by searching for information, i hope you'll bookmark and stay awhile. (I'm normally much more fun. Swear.) It can be rare to find people who understand what it's like to have your family and home terrorized by a child who appears perfect to the rest of the world. If you're one of those, I'm especially glad of your perspective on this and other posts, so feel free to comment. No - not one of those blogs where everyone has to 'agree' or be super nice in the comments section.
(Merry Christmas. Sorry so... um. not merry.)
Updates can be found here!
*These posts were written long before a day when the Total Transformation people contacted me and said they wanted to offer me payment for endorsing their program. This seemed odd, since those posts were already written and certainly weren't done then (or at any later time) at their request. But I agreed. In the interest of full disclosure, they DO send me money from time to time and I do not generally return it. I might lose it, but that's just because my kitchen is a mess and that's another story altogether. Of all the companies that have requested me to endorse them, buy ad space, or send me a year's supply of their product in return for reviews... this is the only one I ever agreed to. Partly because I don't WANT a year's supply of mayonnaise and all that other stuff, and partly because these are unsolicited, heartfelt posts that mention a program I strongly believe in. If they want to throw money at me for it, I'm okay with that. If you're not, I can respect that, too.