But if you're looking for Total Transformation stuff, you're in the right place. Years ago right before Christmas I wrote about our daughter and our story. I sat in bed with a laptop and cried my eyes out as I typed about what it had really been like in our family. I've written a few more posts, but not a lot.
Generally I like to write stuff that's positive. Or funny. Or at least has a happy ending. And years later, we're not there yet. But I want to write something more current anyway, because I'm having trouble keeping up with all the emails asking about our situation and asking about Total Transformation. You parents who email and we talk and cry and share details? You break my heart regularly, and it's okay. I've been there, and often you can't even believe that you found someone who gets it and who gets YOU. You're not in a horrible situation because you're a bad parent. And yet you're there anyway. You're who I'm writing this for. I feel like I know you, as I've gotten to know SO many of you over the last years through this site.
So. Our story, briefly. (If the following doesn't make sense, you may want the longer version. go here.)
I adopted my husband's biological child, who was two. All was well until preteen years, and then attachment issues and ODD and all sorts of bad behavior ruled our world. Life was hell. For two years. Every last bit of me slowly drained away. Parenting her and surviving her and loving her and trying to last through each day and each week wore me down. At the end of two years, little remained of whoever I'd been before. No personality, sense of humor, patience, creativity. It had all been sucked into the problem, right along with any energy that I may have previously had. It was a DARK time.
I feel for the moms and dads and aunts and grandmothers in this same position who write to me. The frustration and helplessness grated on my nerves, but after awhile there weren't any left anyway. If you're there now, HANG IN THERE. It's okay. You're not nearly as alone as you feel. There is life after this, and if you can just hang in there and take care of yourself, then you will live to see it and it is worth far more than you can imagine.
The day I realized I was on the other side of this experience - and that I had survived - and that I was never going back...? That was a GREAT day. I started living again that day, and not just like I had lived before. Better. More grateful, more adventurous, more daring, more loving. Life got really good. If you're not there yet - not seeing your way out of it - hang in there. I say that to all of you who email! There's a very good reason! Please, do not give up. I didn't see how our situation was ever changing either. God can be like that. Just. keep. going.
When things got completely dangerous and unacceptable, we tried a residential treatment facility in New Mexico. I do not recommend the one we went with. (The parts of it that were good were due to a particular therapist who is no longer there.) After that, we hired an educational consultant and she suggested a school in Utah. Kim-15yr has been there for a year and a half. She has been away from home (except for one brief visit) for three and a half years.
That's a long time.
She isn't sure she wants to return. I'm still here, and this family as structured before her departure - is the same. We're older, wiser, and far better parents than we were then. But I'm still here, and that was always a problem for her. On some level at least, it still is. We're a GREAT family. Mike is a wonderful dad. Kim-15yr's three little brothers are awesome kids. I'm not the best mother to ever live, but I do love all four of them dearly and try VERY hard to parent each kid in exactly the best way. Being a great family takes a lot of work - and we do that work. What I'm saying is that we are good enough, just as we are. We SHOULD be good enough for KIm-15yr. But that's her call, and so far she hasn't been interested.
What I've learned since I first started writing these posts is to try very hard to totally separate my stuff from her stuff. And that's way harder than it sounds. Before I wouldn't have dreamed of taking her into a store. She would have stolen! Why would I knowingly put us in that situation?! Now... if I could go back... I'd take her into a store. Why? Because normal people go into stores. And I gave that up in order to try to control her behavior and limit her consequences.
If I could go back (and praise God that I cannot!), I would take her to the store as often as I needed or wanted to and just say, "I need (or want) to go in here. If you steal something, that is a reflection on YOU and ONLY you. I will request that the store call the police and I will make sure your actions are known and dealt with in whatever form the store or the police see fit. I have NEVER raised you to steal or to think it's okay, and if you do so today - the blame and the consequences are ALL. ON. YOU."
Also valuable is the message it sends. When I wouldn't take her to a store, I was really saying "you can't be trusted to make the right decision in here so I won't give you the chance." Which was TOTALLY how I felt and accurate! But if instead I'd taken her into a store, the message she would have gotten would be, "you can steal and choose the consequences. Or you can choose not to, and have the opportunity to make the right decision. Either way it's all on you and not me."
When you live that way - making a million sacrifices and compromises in order to try to damage-control your world - it's miserable. And it isn't worth it. If you're doing that - reconsider. It would have been impossible for me to even HEAR those words back then. So don't think I'm oversimplifying or that I don't understand. I DO. I was there. And now I'm not. And I get it.
If you relate to this at all, I strongly recommend Total Transformation Program. I really do. How can I say this...? My kid has been gone for 3 1/2 years...? Right. Because I have 4 kids, and this program will make you a better parent. What happens when you are a better parent? Your kids respond. And that changes EVERYTHING.
I know! You're like, 'hello? My kid needs to be a better kid! I'm a great parent!' And you know what? I believe you. Total Transformation is not for bad parents. Bad parents wouldn't bother. It's time consuming, not cheap, and it takes effort and practice. But it'll change the way you interact with your kids, the way you view your self and your home, and it will HELP immeasurably. Will it fix a situation as broken as ours with Kim-15yr? No. Not a chance. But will it help you hang in there and remain sane and remain in control of your home while you seek professionals and answers that WILL help a situation that bleak.
You can do it. My belief is that I am Kim-15yr's mom (whether she likes it or not), because it was a God plan. I will not give up on it or on her. I'm a good mom. And she's a good kid.
Whoever this kid is, that has you caring so much that you'd read all this...? That kid is worth it, too.
It's far easier now, but I'm hanging in there. You can, too.
Other, older posts which are relevant to this one:
*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.