TRC was a doozy. P was totally dysregulated from early April through mid-May, no matter what we did to try to help him regulate or to head off any escalating dysregulation before it started. Tapping, hugging, rocking, rubbing, physical exertion, talking, discussing, breathing, bottle feeding; you name it we tried it. All things that have worked to varying degrees in the past just seemed powerless this time around. But it went way beyond that. Baby talk, food stealing (from teachers' refrigerator at school and from a store while grocery shopping with me), insomnia, extreme battles for control, constant low-grade defiance all returned. And it went on and on and felt endless. As I've posted before, we have noticed that at about six month intervals throughout P's healing, the regressions are noticably less frequent, shorter lived, and milder. There has been a steady observable progression in this manner over time. But TRC defied the pattern, and reminded us in a big way how non-linear healing from RAD and PTSD is.
Not surprisingly, TRC was bookended by some pretty significant events: five-years since landing in North America on the front end, and Mother's Day on the back end, although TRC extended beyond Mother's Day by about a week-and-a-half, I think because P's class was starting their "family life" unit the week after Mother's Day. In past years, when his class has covered family stuff, it has always been along the lines of bring in a baby picture of yourself. So P was extremely (and understandably; I know that other parents of international adoptees know how hard/sad it is that our kids so seldom have baby pictures of themselves) sad/worried/freaked out about the upcoming family life unit. For days, it was all he could talk about. Once it got going, it became clear that it was going to be fundamentally different than in past years because it was all about two main themes: division of household labour among family members; and human reproducation. P finds both these topics interesting, so once the unit got over the initial short-lived topic of all the ways in which families can be formed ("what is a family?"), he was okay. Seriously. TRC ended as though with a flick of a switch.
The school cracked down on P pretty hard (for them) for the food stealing this time around. (It was the third time he's been caught at school stealing food in five years, and the first time from teachers.) M and I were happy about that, as it really meant that we could leave the legal/ethical/moral issue of it between P and the school, which we have always thought was important so that P would view the school officials as solid authority figures. That freed us up to be focussing on the root causes with him at home, rather than putting us in the position of doing that while simultaneously consequencing. So that was good.
At one point in the middle of a very calm, regulated talk about the stealing and what hurts he might be feeling inside, P flew from very calm to extremely agitated the fastest I have ever seen him go. It took about half a second, and then he screamed at us "at least my birth mother cared about me." It was so out of the blue. And it connoted so much pain, especially when you factored in his look of utter anguish as he screamed it at us. It makes me think that TRC was a period of him really working through (struggling with?) some huge things that he's trying to reconcile in/about himself. We have since had many many very good talks about the relationship between loving someone, caring about someone, and treating the person in a caring and loving manner. These are difficult for me to talk definitively about because I am not totally convinced that you actually love someone -- even if you say you do -- if you routinely treat them unkindly or uncaringly. But I hesitate to be too "gray area" with this for P right now because I don't want him to feel that I am suggesting that his birth mother didn't/doesn't love him because I honestly don't see how she couldn't love these boys and think of them and wonder about them and want the best for them. Fortunately, P is a bright enough kid and intellectually old enough to understand that I seem to be struggling with this a bit, and to understand why (after I explain it a bit), and to understand that I want these talks to nourish his soul rather than chip away at his developing but still-new-enough-to-be-very-fragile self-worth.
Almost exactly since screaming that at us, P has been regulated and chipper. But more than that, he seems to have leap-frogged forward in some huge ways. He is articulating his feelings in much more mature ways, noticing his own dysregulation much more, taking responsibility when he screws something up (instead of the constant deflection of blame of the past). I am not doing a good job of describing it. It is this all-encompassing change in him that makes him seem developmentally on-track in ways he hasn't ever before. Not across the board, but in some really wonderful areas. And this has held for nearly two months now. It has been glorious. We have been able to grant him more freedoms (though in baby steps) and more privileges (again, baby steps), and maybe the best part of all, for me, is that I am finding myself becoming able to do these things with less and less of that nagging worry that stems from an assumption that these grants of privileges and freedoms will come back to burn me. This is such a liberating and fresh feeling, and I haven't experienced it before in parenting this particular kid, which doesn't really seem fair to either him or me, so it is a really welcome development. It has been so long that I've been so distrustful of P's ability to handle much of anything that I had not realized exactly how exhausting it was for me to have been in that mind-space all this time. It had become normal. I knew it was different from parents of other 10 year olds, but I didn't realize how tired I was. Now that we've evolved, I am getting a big sense of how tired I was. Again, I don't feel like I am describing this well.
In late April, B passed his belt promotion test at taekwondo and became a yellow stripe belt. He was so thrilled, and continues to be. Here he is with his instructors.
Sometime around that time, P got glasses. There is a long story of shame for M and me related to this that I will skip (for reasons of time and post length rather than shame, ha ha), but suffice it to say that we may have set a new record for the length of time parents manage to ignore their child's assertions that his eyes are worsening and he now needs glasses. Doesn't he wear them well, though, now that we got our act together?
Both boys gave very good piano recitals in early June. And P pulled off a first-class honours score in his grade 1 national piano exam. We were all thrilled by that. He has, at the age of 10, surpassed my level of musical knowledge (ever heard of a A- tonic scale? I hadn't!). Kudos to M for this, because he is the one who oversees piano practices at our house. P, to his credit, is mostly manageable about piano, and says that's because he likes it a lot and wants to go as far as he can with it. But it wasn't always like this and let me tell you: piano practices with parental supervision is a area that is ripe with RAD nonsense potential, as we have learned well over the years! So, again, kudos to M!
Sometime in the midst of things, P expressed once again a strong interest in cooking and baking. He has been (along with me and B) a bit of a foodie for a few years now, but until now he has stated that he wants to learn to cook and bake but then continues to just relish the reading of recipes. He is a subscriber to C*nadian Living, a magazine that is kind of like L*dies H*ome Journal, for the recipes, and pores over any recipes he comes across in any source. And he is a very adventurous eater. This time, when he mentioned learning to cook and bake, I jumped on it and offered to let him bake muffins. And that got a great thing started. Every weekend for about six weeks now, he has made a batch of muffins. (Note: I have built up the boys' kitchen skills over the years, so P ws starting from a pretty good base of knowledge in terms of where things are in the kitchen, kitchen safety, measuring ingredients, and so on.) This experience has been an interesting thing RAD-wise, as I decided to be very peripheral because I really didn't want the whole thing to become a low-grade RAD experience of control battle or self-sabotage or any unpleasantness between us. So I told P that I would be on hand to help or answer questions or whatever. The first batch was somewhat comical. P asked for no help whatsoever until he had the batter ready to go into the pans. That was when I got to see how runny the batter was! Below is a picture of that first batch of muffins. I commented that the batter looked runnier than muffin batter usually looks, but left it at that. The first batch, as you can see in the picture, surprised me by mostly turning out. But they were very very oily. P and B snarfed them down anyway. The next batch is where things got RAD interesting. P came to me and asked for help. This is a huge thing for him, so I was rejoicing internally when it happened. I just answered his question and left him to it once again. He asked for help and clarification several times throughout the process, and that second batch turned out fantastic, as have all subsequent batches. He is trying to get to 15 successful batches before he chooses another thing to learn. I am thinking a basic cake might be next but I will let him have input in the decision.
As I mentioned at the outset, this is my last day in the office for a month. !!!! We are headed to points south. First to my brother's home in Illinois. While there we will go to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. Then onward to NC for two weeks at the beach. It has been years since I've been to the beach, and P and B have never been, and M has never really spent much time there. I grew up in the US south going to the beach every summer, and I cannot wait to be there. It has been calling to me for a few years now. P, B, and M are also beside themselves with excitement. We will, of course, be doing lots of interventionist strategies to control for all the changes that lie ahead, but I am predicting things are going to go swimmingly (so to speak!).