Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bringing up big boy

Here's a peek into our lives that probably doesn't match just about anybody else's life out there.  I've tried to write posts about buying groceries, fixing things, disciplining children . . . you know, sort of ordinary stuff.  But bringing C-son into my home makes my life a whole new kind of weird.  Not always bad, but definitely not the kind of life where most of my friends say, "oh, yeah, that happens to me all the time".

To whit:  medications has been a huge, on-going battle.  C-son moved into my home taking 6 different kinds of drugs, purpose unspecified.  First hurdle came about because one of the 6 bottles he moved in with was nearly empty.  The insurance company balked at refilling it because "that prescription had just been filled" (yes, but by a foster mother 3 hours away, not by me).  Since an internet search revealed that the drug was used to treat schizophrenia, I wasn't really excited about finding out what happened if he discontinued the meds, so I spent several hours running around to pharmacies, calling my social workers, and working with the insurance companies.  Yoicks.  It took about 7 trips to the pharmacy, but we finally got his prescription filled.

This bought us 25 days.  Several of C-son's medications are psychotropic, meaning we need to see a psychiatrist to get the prescriptions either filled or changed.  But child psychiatrists are few and far between.  Of the dozen or so counseling services in our area who take his kind of insurance, only one of these is actually taking child patients.  And that one, it took us a month-and-a-half to get a appointment with her.  Thank God our family physician was willing to refill the current prescriptions, one time only.  The insurance company balked here and there, but after only three trips to the pharmacy, we got his prescriptions refilled just 2 days before they ran out.

Then we finally got to meet the one-and-only psychiatrist who takes both children and their insurance.  And she, unlike the kindly shrinks you see on TV, was a rude, terrifying witch of a woman.  Hauled him over the coals.  Asked personal questions about physical abuse, incarceration, misdeeds, in front of his new mom and his social worker both, with neither tact nor discretion.  Told us to shut up when we tried to explain anything beyond what she saw as the scope of her questions.  Railed at him for his past misdeeds.  Told him it was all up to him to turn over a new leaf.  For goodness sakes, he's 15 years old and has lived in 20 different foster homes in his life.  And this is a kid who, since he's moved in with us, has responded to perceived threats from adults by hiding in the closet, not by lashing out or stealing or breaking things.  He's terrified, and she was yet another terrify-er.

So I've fired her.  She helped us by getting him down from 6 meds to 3, and so far he seems to be doing okay.  So I admit she did her job as far as the purveyor of prescriptions goes.  But I fired her  nonetheless, and I have no idea what happens when the magic 30 days come around again, and we need to get another round of meds.  We're working on that, even as I write this.

The other thing that has been occupying a lot of my mind (and even, truth be told, interfering with my digestion) is figuring out how to help the boys get along.  Because although he hides from threats from adults, he seems to feel the need to be the alpha dog around his brothers.  Before C-son moved in, N-son was always the odd man out, and J-son was the charmer surrounded by friends and admirers.  And at first, this pattern continued.  But lately, C-son has ganged up with N-son, and the pair of them just sort of nibble away at J-son, who is suddenly, strangely, in the outer circles.  Picked on, persistently, the way that goldfish or beta fish pick at the one sickly fish in the tank.

I don't want to see my child bullied, not even by his brothers.  There's no real violence, but by the time evening rolls around, there's name calling, pinching, and persistent in-your-face-ness.  (Does the timing mean that meds are wearing low, or just energy levels?).   J-son has responded by withdrawing, or else (paradoxically) by baiting his brothers.  Most of my friends who are parents of teenage brothers tell me this kind of fighting and snipping is normal . . . but in our family, it's not normal; it's new.  And it's troubling to me, just because it is so new and also -- frankly -- so unpleasant.

Nagging doesn't work, and it's unpleasant, too.  Severe talkings-to just send C-son into his closet or under the covers.  So I've been spending a lot of my time lately working on positive reinforcement, on removing the triggers that cause the nasty behavior, on careful monitoring (hard to do without hovering so much that I'm running the whole show).

For what it's worth, N-son and J-son went through a much more severe trying-to-kill-each-other phase about 3 months after J-son joined the home.  This phase of oh-brotherhood, I've survived before and emerged triumphant on the other side.  I'm not worried about the long-term.  I'm just hoping I can make it through the next month.

My reading lists have changed lately.  Gone are the days of Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class.  I've been clutching at Don't Shoot the Dog, sucking up Your Defiant Child, wallowing in Can this Child be Saved?  Math?  Not much.  Blogging, not much either.  I'm believing we'll get through this and become the family he's always wanted, a family that will learn to love one another and get along.  But right now, we're spending a lot of time building.  A lot of time monitoring.  A lot of time praising, and carefully redirecting, and reassuring.  Stitching this family together, one thread at a time.


  1. Wow, thanks for sharing; you do have some challenges. I believe you will make it through this one too. My experience has been that I have to be patient (hardest thing ever) as my children learn, internalize, and then practice what I'm trying to teach them to help them be productive, civil adults. We have said that our children are on a nineteen year training program-so anytime they aren't what we expect we chalk it up to the fact that they're still in training. You are earning a crown in heaven for taking in and loving those boys! And those boys will love you forever too! Keep up the good work, and vent when you need to, I have broad shoulders and a listening ear.

    1. Thanks, Rozy. Every little bit of encouragement helps! - MM