Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another birthday already?

Yesterday our Dandy dude turned SEVEN! I can't believe it has been five years since I saw his tiny little sleeping face and immediately went squishy with love. He was our first foster child and a complete answer to prayer as we had been hoping to adopt but felt God was leading us toward fostering through the state.

Shortly after arriving in our care at not quite two, he needed two separate surgical procedures done to correct hearing and vision problems so he was placed on the extreme makeover circuit to get him caught up. It was an all consuming stressful but joyous time for all of us. Getting to know him and seeing him heal physically and mentally, were our main focus that first year before he became ours officially. We tried not to give in to our trepidation about his future as to whether he'd remain with us or go back to his father who gave us little hope of rehabilitation or parental competency. And instead tried to do all we could to further his future either way. Of course once we met him, we could never imagine life without him!

And now we're here. Still discovering, still healing and growing together as a family.

The learning curve continues. One of the things that we now understand more clearly is just how affected the bonding process is when a child has had a rough start in life. The brain actually forms differently in children who aren't cared for properly and they become practically hard wired with defensive mechanisms that keep them going in a state of self preservation, preventing them from feeling too deeply and therefore detaching themselves from true pain. It's an incredibly helpful AND hurtful dose of denial built right into the newly forming brain chemistry.

As an adopted person myself, I've not had any understanding of Attachment Disorder having gone home from the hospital and fully bonded with my "forever" family.

It was not until we planned on adopting a nearly three year old that attachment concerns even came to my attention. Even then to me it seemed pretty black and white. They get to know you and trust you, then you have attached. Check mark on steps 1,2,and 3. Nurture wins every time!

Of course this is not the case. And now I've even come to learn that some kids have it way worse than most people could ever imagine. This is called Reactive Attachment Disorder(RAD). Having a challenging child such as Dandy, I've tried to educate myself on this and many other possibilities that have come to mind when attempting to understand our own little complex guy.

As no two children are the same, we've found that our Dandy especially follows no previous pattern or rule book. He is wonderfully unique in the way that each fine human piece of art created by God is. But, he IS an abstract creation and a head scratcher to be sure.

He is diagnosed with Mixed Developmental Disorder, which we are told is sort of a blanket label to allow him to receive all the services available to him from which he might benefit. If they put him in the spectrum of Autism, then he would receive only specific help in that direction. And he's not entirely Autistic but more a mix of that,Oppositional Defiance, Cerebral Palsy, Microcephaly, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, developmental delays,Failure to thrive, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Attachment Disorder, all in a colorful candy shell.

Yes, he has some challenges and therefore so do we. I'm of course not saying he's the most difficult child in the world. I've met and read about much more medically and emotionally challenged children. He is just such a mixture of issues, we never quite know what needs to be done to help him deal with things easier.

He hasn't been doing well with the school setting since he began kindergarten and though we even have him in a special school to handle this, he seems to be doing the same or even worse. He never integrates in with the other children and even disrupts the class so much with noise or destructive behavior, he has to be removed several times per day.

About a month ago he decided, by pitching huge fits and unbuckling his seatbelt, not to ride home in the transport vehicle. So I've had to pick him up myself which usually takes more than an hours worth of driving time at the same time Ratchet is getting out of school in our town each afternoon. This just doesn't work for us at all.

Every time something new comes up we can't help but wonder if the experts know what their doing. Is our child in capable hands or are they putty in his? Why does he seem to confuse them on a daily basis? Aren't they trained in every possible situation? Should we let our instincts override the conflicting voices in our ears or trust the people who schooled specifically for these things? I'm not really sure.

I am sure that he is going to keep surprising us in good and bad ways. Just as we expect a certain behavior from him, he totally throws us an opposite. For instance, he potty trained in less than four days. He quit a major six year thumb sucking habit in two. He can't put his own socks on or take his shirt off by himself but can read an entire book to you if he so chooses. He is a wonder not to be underestimated.

What a wily little coyote we have in that kid! He is so adorable, creative, and focused one minute and so donkey stubborn, destructive, repetitive, and manipulative the next. He wants to please, but also has a strong voice inside him working to sabotage any good rapport he's formed with someone.

We have gained so much ground with him over the years though. SO much. (I repeat for myself). We definitely go backwards occasionally too, but are trying to keep the wheels pointed forward and the positives accentuated when he's having them.

I ache to keep him home from school at times when I'm most frustrated with his behavior there. He would never throw a chair or peel up a floor at my house and know he could get away with it. We do let him make his quirky noises more at home because he doesn't have to sit in a classroom without disturbing other children.

But, "they" keep telling me he needs to deal with this now. He needs to be able to be around people and interact with them properly. And he does. But he also needs the physical, speech, occupational therapies and psychiatric care he is receiving at this school. He just wouldn't get those things at home without us breaking the bank entirely.

So we are tightly squeezed between the rock and hard place doing what we are told is best for our child. I am claustrophobic in here, but with the help of medicine for Dandy(and ok, myself too ;), we are learning to deal with the anxiety and sometimes debilitating daily challenges that swoop in and try to steal our confidence and joy. It is an endurance thing not a quick fix.

Still we wonder what next year will bring. And the next. And the next. It is scary raising an oppositional child that doesn't respond much to consequence and has trouble forming bonds with people. I know many parents with kids like this struggle with thoughts of the future when it's hard enough to deal with life's pressures on a child without any challenges.

I pray daily that we will grow stronger as a family in dealing with difficult periods in our Dandy's life. And that God will give him a supernatural wisdom that keeps him safe and able to make good decisions as he grows into adulthood and goes out into a dangerous world on his own.

In the meantime, I must remind myself that though wedged, I'm not completely confined in this hard place. I can still glorify God from this position and that is really all that is required of me. No excuses Shan. Stop that worry and get to the GLORY! God loves these wounded children more than any of us can comprehend.

Thank you for letting me spill. I guess I slipped into essay mode there. :}

I don't mind at all if you skipped to the part where I say "HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRECIOUS BOY!!!" We love our gift!


Trish said...

I think it might be that YOU and J are the gift!

Anonymous said...

what a sweet little guy! thanks for sharing your story, shan. many blessings, loads of joy, and gads of patience to all of you as you wind your way through life. :) whoa...that was, like, totally deep. you and j are amazing, shan!!!!!

Jamey Clayberg said...

Great post, lady, he's our awesome wiley coyote for sure. Time she flies, no?

AfricaBleu said...

That kid will know what blessings he has in you and Jamey, if ol' Aunt Becky has anything to say about it--I can't wait until he is old enough to hear about how much he was loved instantly by you two, and how much love he has poured into his little life every day. You're both amazing parents, your firstborn is an AWESOME gentle, patient, big brother, and that little guy of yours is just brimming with potential. Happy birthday, D!

Cari said...

amazing, Shan. Thanks for sharing the story of your special little guy! God must think you and Jamey are pretty special too, to give you a special boy like Dandy!

Blessings, love and peace to you!

dive said...

Wow, Shan! What an amazing journey you are taking. Your little guy could not be in better hands.
Happy Birthday, Dandy!

Missy said...

Shan, I'm in complete awe of you. :-)

Happy Birthday, Dandy!

Tabbitha said...

Amazing :) God's grace, mercy, redemptive power, strength, deliverance and goodness! A true testimony of his power demonstrated through love. I love you Clayberg family :)

Dana said...

You are an amazing mother to this little dandy of yours. Happy Birthday

Katie said...

What an amazing birthday story to read on Thanksgiving Eve. I stand (ok, sit actually) in awe of you and Jamey and all you've done (and continue to do) to share you love with such a special kid. Belated Birthday wishes to Dandy, and early Thanksgiving wishes to the whole Clayberg family!

Scout said...

I remember practically shouting at you to send the boy off to school—what did I know? I had no idea what issues you face.

But I am confident Dandy couldn't have found more perfect parents. I'm glad you posted this, Shan.

And happy birthday to Dandy.

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

W-o-w! Amazing child, amazing parents. You were gifts to each other.

And, Shan, pray and then go with what you think is best for him. Stating the obvious, right? And much easier said than done.

"Experts" can help sometimes, to be sure, but a mother knows what's best for her child. Each child is different and, like you said, cannot be labeled or categorized. What might be best for most Mixed Developmental Disorder kids, won't necessarily suit your Dandy.

He's something special!

Fifi said...

Yip I read it all..... couldn't stop! What a beautiful story of grace.... Shan I never knew about Dandy's unique situation..... thanx for sharing! Happy Belated B-Day Dandy!

MmeBenaut said...

Shan your instincts, not to mention your gift for analysing and articulating the problems, are what will help you all survive and grow as a family. This is an amazing story and a gift to us; as a reminder to always count our blessings!

Sharon Bever said...

Wow! Hope you don't mind me checking in on your blog. Your challenges are the same challenges we live everyday as well. Sounds like God has given you patience which is what I pray for each day with my little guy. Glad to know you sometimes question the "professionals" too. My mother used to sing "one day at a time, sweet Jesus". Thanks for sharing such a great post.
Sharon Bever