Tuesday 26 August 2014


Tomorrow, Jay and I will have been married for ten years. Ten years! I could write something meaningful - or attempt to write something meaningful - about marriage and love and family, but I'm far too tired for that. Instead I'll give you this Spot-The-Difference: Jay-And-Claudia-Have-Been-Married-For-A-Decade-Edition. 



Can you tell what's changed? Just in case you need a little help: 

I could never, ever have guessed what the last decade would hold. I can't imagine what might happen in the decade ahead. But - excuse me while I get sentimental for a moment - there is nobody on earth I would rather have with me through all this - for better; for worse. Here's to the next ten, baby. 

Friday 1 August 2014

For the first time ever, and somewhat against my better judgement

For the first time ever, and somewhat against my better judgement, I'm going to post and respond to a comment I got yesterday. Here is the comment and then here are the things that I wanted to say. 

But no boundaries, let the kid get away with murder, claiming you've somehow acquired "secondary trauma" from the horrors of parenting kids you spent years and years and countless thousands if dollars to acquire from overseas?
As opposed to actually setting boundaries + dealing with it you've managed to pathologise your kid's behavior.
And other upper middle class white women with no backbone and expensive foreign kids praise you for your "bravery"? 
It might just be worth doing a quick google search regarding folks who TRULY survived trauma (worse than letting their bratty kid get away with murder) and came out the other side without need of "post adoption therapists". You know, Holocost survivors. Folks who escaped civil wars. Military vets. Folks who don't have the luxury of falling apart -- with the expectation that others exist to help put you back together! 

Thing the zeroth: 

I'm not actually particularly upset or offended by this comment. I already knew that some people thought this way, so I'm going to use this as a chance to respond frankly to a very, errr, frank comment. So. 

Thing the first: 

My kids have boundaries; a ton of boundaries actually. I totally laughed my head off at the idea that my kids might not have boundaries. There are so many boundaries in our house that it might as well be an atlas. I'm far from a perfect parent, but believe me, we have boundaries. Also, to the best of my knowledge, my kids have not yet tried to murder anybody. 

Okay, that one was easy. Next. 

Thing the second: 

It's interesting that you see a contradiction between spending years and years in the adoption process and then struggling post-adoption. You're not alone! It's funny (except, obviously, not) how commonly the 'you picked this, so shut up' attitude surfaces in talking about the hard parts of adoption.  Are only the parents who got there biologically allowed to struggle with parenting? Because that doesn't seem like it makes sense to me, not at all. Parenting my kids is not 'horror', no way, but it is pretty tough sometimes and that isn't magically untrue because the adoption process was also tough. 

Seriously, I hate it when people expect adopted kids to 'shut up and be grateful'. Family is hard, right? And sometimes it's harder for families who weren't formed the easy way. So it doesn't make any sense to just expect adoptive parents to shut up and be grateful either. Okay, moving on. 

Thing the third: 

I totally agree that pathologising kids' behaviour is not cool. In fact, that's the very question I kept asking myself for months- are we just pathologising this? That's probably one of the reasons why it took us quite a while to seek any kind of professional help. I hated the idea of getting some kind of unnecessary label on my kid. Nobody (okay, almost nobody) wants to get their kids a diagnosis that they don't need, or isn't warranted. We went to seek help after getting opinions from people like teachers and nurses and a speech pathologist - yep, they all said, you should definitely get some support. So we did - that's not pathologising. 

And hey - there's plenty of shame out there for those of us who need to get help for our kids - totally inappropriate shame, in my opinion. Maybe, sometimes, there are parents who are looking for 'help' when what they actually need is a kick in the pants. But I don't think that's me and Jay, and I don't think that's the majority of people who find themselves  asking for post-adoption support. After all, I kind of hated being scrutinised when we were in the middle of our homestudy; there is no way on earth I would voluntarily put myself back through that kind of thing if I didn't think it was something that would really help our precious kids. It was a big deal to swallow my pride and go there, to say hey, we could benefit from some outside help. I would hate to think that other people who need help would come up against attitudes like this and feel shamed into putting the phone back down and not making that call. Pathologising is not cool, but shaming people is not cool either, just so you know. 

Thing the fourth: 

I totally take your point about me and my upper middle class white friends reinforcing each other's choices. In fact, I think that's one of the biggest things that those of us in these kind of situations need to be really, really wary of. After all, if I decided that what my kids really needed was chicken therapy, or trapeze therapy, I'm sure I'd be able to find a group of women, somewhere, who would applaud my choices and suck me into spending hours on whether bantam hens are more or less therapeutic than fancy ornamentals.

(I'd say go for the ornamentals, wouldn't you? These upper middle class white chickens could totally kick trauma in the butt). 
I am aware that the internet is not the only - and probably should not be the primary - source of information on how to parent kids from hard places.  That's why I think that getting help - or at least advice - from professionals is actually a really good idea, if you think you might need it. Diagnosing our own kids at home is probably not an entirely brilliant plan, and while I value (more than I can say) the support I get from my friends on the internet, a facebook group is no substitute for six years of training in clinical psychology. Although it is a lot cheaper. 

While I'm on this topic, I've been thinking a lot recently about how the whole 'adoption trauma' thing is such a very closed system, if that is the right word. You know - a 'theory of everything'. I've been thinking about the way that it really can be used to explain absolutely everything, and if we aren't careful it's definitely a risk that we as parents can miss the wood for the trees occasionally. As in - sometimes it's trauma, sometimes it's a bad night's sleep. (And then sometimes it's a bad nights' sleep BECAUSE of trauma anxiety and then which one is the chicken and which one is the egg in that little situation, hmmmm?) 

I've been thinking about this because I've been connecting a lot with friends - real life friends-  who have kids with various special needs, and when they describe some of the behaviour challenges they face, I think I could totally come up with a trauma explanation for that behaviour. Even though, obviously, that's not the issue in their case. We definitely do need to be careful that we don't see the world so much through one lens that we ignore all the other factors. There are more lenses than just trauma that all sorts of parents use to explain / modify behaviour, obviously - some parents get very focused on nutrition / lifestyle / food dyes, some people focus on sleep, some on exercise, some on particular types of schooling. Some people (not naming any names, cough cough) think everything comes down to how the parents parent. And once you are committed to one 'thing' as your explanation for everything, it's very easy to forget that there are other factors at play too. 

Just so you're aware, I haven't forgotten. Have you? 

Thing the fifth: 

I'm going to pass on over the 'no backbone' thing, because seriously, whatever, and I'm trying to talk about this like adults. Same goes for the bit about not having the luxury of falling apart. I have a job and two kids and no childcare. Believe me, I don't have that luxury either. So let's move on. 

Thing the sixth: 

Here's the biggie, I think. All that stuff about what constitutes 'real trauma.' Well, you know what? Life is not the pain olympics. Not even a little bit. I'm not saying that what my kids have experienced is as bad as the holocaust - obviously it's not - but it's not nothing, either. I don't talk about details here because woah - privacy - but believe me, it's not nothing. 

I guess what I mean is: If you had, say a broken ankle, and I had a broken leg, then my broken leg wouldn't stop your broken ankle being real. And if you were saying hey! I have a broken ankle, and it really hurts! I hope that nobody would say to you I spit upon your broken ankle. Don't talk to me about broken ankles when Claudia over there has a broken leg. That's what a REAL broken bone looks like, lady. What I hope they would say is this: so sorry about your broken ankle. I know it's not the same thing, but my friend Claudia had a broken leg once. Maybe she has some good tips for walking on crutches. Want me to put you in touch?  And I would totally share my tips with you because hey, pain is pain, whichever one of us is suffering the most. 

On a  related note, thing the seventh (and finalth): 

You sound really angry and upset, and I'm sorry if anything that I've written makes you feel that way. (Although something else I read recently makes me think that you're leaving this comment for more people than just me). I don't know what your background is - but I'm guessing that this kind of anger at someone you don't know is probably because you're hurting in some way.  I'm sorry about that, but even when you're hurting, it's not okay to be mean. (See? Boundaries). 

The internet is a funny place, right? Sometimes it seems like everyone is crazy. But it can be wonderful, too, so let's keep it that way. I really am sorry if anything I've written makes you sad. But in the future, I'd be grateful if you could extend a little compassion to people whose struggles are different from yours. Goodness knows there's little enough to go around, most days. Here, I'll give you a little of mine - in fact, I think I just did. And next time you want to say something unkind to someone, perhaps you can take it out of your pocket and give a little back.