Thursday, August 26, 2010

From bad to worse.

I love this kiddo so much. But we are this close to giving up. We feel like we're in way over our heads right now. I feel resentful at The Agency for putting a kid who needed a therapeutic foster home in with non-therapeutic first time foster parents. I am angry at the people who caused this beautiful little boy to have all these problems. I am sad that we have to worry that we can't do this any more. The bottom line is, we cannot keep missing this much work. This child requires two adults to keep him (and the house, and us) safe when he is having a tantrum, and we cannot provide that when we both go back to work. I am so terrified. I love him more than I've ever loved anyone, in a way I've never loved anything. I want the best for him, he deserves only good things in life. But this child's violent rages are so much beyond what we "signed up for" (a joke of a phrase in the foster world) and are putting our jobs, our home, and our bodies in danger. I called The Agency today and said they needed to find a way to provide more supports if they want this placement not to disrupt. I never dreamed I would even be saying the word "disrupt." But if we cannot keep him safe, then we are not the right foster family for him. We are not giving up - We are keeping trying. We are giving all the professionals and opportunity to put a better support system in place for us. I just don't know if they can.

In the past few days:
-I got punched in the eye (thank G-d for glasses, and 70-pound weaklings), on purpose but I don't think he really wanted to hurt me
-I got kicked in the shin, on purpose
-I got hit repeatedly with pieces of plastic, on purpose
-The crib and the changing table have almost been broken, on purpose
-The fan and overhead light have almost been broken, on purpose
-A lightbulb was shattered, on purpose
-The screen in his window was almost pushed out
-Dents were made all over his walls, using the plastic top of a humidifier
-Sarah's been hit hard in the middle of the head with a piece of metal
-Sarah's been cursed at over and over and over
-I've hurt my (already bad) back trying to drag him into his room when he's refusing to stop breaking things
-We've had him threaten to tell The Agency we're abusing him, over and over

And so on, and so forth. This is just a part of the list. The hardest part to wrap my head around is the sweet, angelic, lovely child he is when he's not raging.

I want this to work.

I want this to work.

I want this to work.

But I don't know if this can work.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When foster kids threaten false abuse allegations

This one's to throw out there to the foster-blogosphere: What do you do when your foster kids threaten to make false abuse allegations against you? It seems to come with the territory with older foster kids, from what I hear. I want to hear how you deal with this.

I have to say that it really freaks me out when, during tantrums, Big Guy threatens to tell CPS we're abusing him. This only happens when he gets mad at us and has a massive tantrum (he becomes like a totally different kid during these tantrums). He learned some time before he entered foster care that you could theaten someone by saying you'd report them for abuse. He seems to understand that CPS is who you should tell. He's so naive and immature, and didn't come into care due to an abuse allegation, so it's pretty clear to us that someone must have told him that he could get grownups in trouble this way. Being a foster parent to an older kid is scary. It's scary partly because you hear warning stories about how it's a matter of when you'll get an allegation made against you, not if.

As much as I know that Big Guy's therapist, caseworker, etc. think we're doing a great job and respect us and don't suspect us of abusing him... if he made an allegation they'd be obligated to investigate, and that investigation alone could be very traumatic for all of us. I know people it's happened to, and even when they discover that the allegation was BS, it turns peoples' lives upside down. We had to have a conversation tonight with Big Guy about how lying is not okay, and I finally let him know that if he lied and told someone we were hurting him, he might be removed and never allowed to see us again... and reminded him he wouldn't be sent back to mommy, which when he's mad at us is probably what he'd like. I had tried for so long to not say anything like that, but I think it's time he understand how serious it is for him to lie about something like this. He is not a liar. This kid really can't seem to lie. But you never know what he might say when he gets mad enough at us, and it's just so scary to think that not only we would pay the price... he would pay the price. We reiterated the importance of honesty. We emphasized that we would never hurt him and we don't believe in hitting children (and reminded him of our anger that he was beaten by relatives) and told him if we ever did hit him he should tell somebody, so that he'd understand that we're serious about kids being safe. I hope we dealt with this the right way. I can't ignore it any more. As usual, we are writing e-mails to caseworkers and therapists to let them know what he said - I make sure to constantly have them document his threats.

By the way, when did Big Guy make the most recent and by far the most serious threat of making a false allegation? Mere hours after he told us for the first time, out of the blue, "I want to stay with y'all forever. I don't want to have to leave."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Yup, that just about sums things up

After Big Guy calmed down from a horrific tantrum this evening during which I got kicked in the shin and both Sarah and I had various items thrown at us, he sweetly pointed out "But I didn't break anything during my tantrum. I tried really hard not to break anything." He clearly wanted a pat on the back, which Sarah had to give him because my shin still hurt too much for me to feel charitable. We suggested that maybe now that he's had a tantrum that didn't involve breaking furniture or lamps, we could try stopping hurting people during tantrums.

That basically encapsulates how things are right now. Tantrums are still intense and violent, but progress is being made with the help of a wonderful behavioral therapist. We have adopted a zero tolerance policy towards whining, which is helping us get him to use his words (and a non-whiny tone of voice) to ask for what he wants and teaching him that when he asks nicely, he often gets what he desires. We have been much more "tough love" (not in a mean way, but in a boundary-setting way where we don't give him attention if he's doing undesirable behaviors and we don't try to over-explain why we're saying no when we say no). It seems like a little progress may be happening. Then again maybe I'm being overly optimistic because he's only been home for a few days so I'm not exhausted from his constant tantrums yet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In which I become a complete hypocrite

We are big on scrapbooking in this family. While Big Guy was in the hospital we printed extra photos of Little Guy and Big Guy that we've taken over the past two months so that we can help Big Guy make a scrapbook of his own when he comes home - Before he went to the hospital we took him to pick out a scrapbook and he picked one that is light pink with roses all over it!

I felt a little uncomfortable. A small, hypocritical part of me wanted to steer him towards something less girly. I thought to myself: What will mom think? What will other people think? What does this mean? And then I realized how ridiculous I was being. Who am I to be the gender police, after all? I'm a tomboyish, queer woman who likes boy things much more than girl things (generally speaking). Though I follow a religion that is highly binary in terms of gender, and I'm comfortable with that for the most part, I do not believe in overly enforcing gender roles in young children. Yet maybe it's partly because I'm gay that I feared him buying the pink flowery scrapbook. Same-sex parents are under much more scrutiny in terms of our childrens' "gender performance." If your boy is too girly, it's probably because you're a "man-hating lesbian" or you're trying to "turn him gay." If your girl is too boyish, it's probably because you "hate all things feminine" or she's "confused about gender roles". Much as I know these things to be false (the majority of gender non-conforming children have straight parents, after all) I still fear making Patty uncomfortable, making The Agency question our judgment, etc. 

Ultimately, I said "screw it" (in my head, that is) and chose to not care. Big Guy needs to feel proud of his things, to feel ownership, to express himself creatively. If a tacky rose-covered scrapbook is going to help him with this, then more power to him. When he was first with us he asked us, "Can I take dance classes? And would they let me wear purple lipstick there?" One of the things I've missed most while he's been in the hospital is all the ways he makes me laugh.

By the way, I printed some extra photos for Patty but now I'm actually thinking I'd like to just print out one of those photo books they sell at W@lgreens and Sn@pfish and the like, when I see a coupon for one again.

My baby's coming home!

Hoo-boy. I haven't been updating because life events have felt so overwhelming and huge and I've needed a break from being submerged in Emergency Management Parenting (I should trademark that) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week... a break I've had because Big Guy's been in the hospital. That hospital stay they said would probably be 3 days? Well, it turned into 2 weeks. Baruch HaShem, he's coming home tomorrow. I think they probably kept him there longer than they needed to, but ultimately I think he did really well there and the psychiatrist and other staff seemed really good. He's had a med adjustment and everyone feels he's ready to come home. I'm finding that I'm nervous about him coming home - Will he be angry with us? Will his behavior revert? Will the bonding that was happening before he left be erased and we have to start from scratch? But we've stayed a very active presence in his life, visiting whenever we can, talking to him about what fun things we want to do with him when he comes home, telling him how much we miss him and trying to get him to acknowledge the behaviors that led to his hospitalization since he still seems to be in denial about them. We've done everything we could to reassure him that hospitalization wasn't a punishment for bad behavior, and that we were eager to have him home with us again.

I've missed Big Guy so much and I'm glad he's coming home despite a little bit of fear. The plan is to pick him up tomorrow evening and then take him out to dinner, then come home and do the bed routine. We'll see how that works. Often he does better in environments that are not our home, so going out to dinner seems like a good way to ease him into being with us and being out of the hospital. Friday we're going to the beach with my sister, her girlfriend, and my parents. I'm really looking forward to that. I tend to hesitate to tell Big Guy what we're doing the next day in case he a) sabotages it purposely or b) unintentionally acts out to an extent where we can't take him to do that particular activity. So most plans remain a surprise until the last minute. However, I think tomorrow night I'll let him know we're going to the beach Friday because he's been looking forward to it all summer. He's never been to the beach! Besides, it's not a "privilege" that I would take away from him - It's something we've already planned to do, and he behaves really well around my parents, who he adores. So (famous last words) I can't imagine anything happening that would get in the way of us going. 

Things we've done while Big Guy has been gone:

  • Scrapbooked all day with Sarah - What a gift! I thought I'd never scrapbook again after the insanity of the last 2 months
  • Taken a late-night trip to the huge WalMart that recently opened near us (I hate WalMart as a company and dislike giving them my money, but being broke will make you do crazy things sometimes)
  • Cooked tasty food from scratch
  • Slept late... sometimes very late
  • Gone pee without worrying about closing the bathroom door at night - Funny how one notices the littlest things!
  • Went through the house getting rid of books and other stuff in order to make the house look neater and to make more room for Big Guy's toys
  • Lots of cleaning
  • Paid a lot of bills and done a lot of paperwork that I wasn't getting done when Big Guy was home
  • Did a lot more work (for pay) than I got done during the entire rest of the summer
  • Bought Big Guy some cute clothes for school
  • Slept in some more
  • Did those things that couples struggle to find time to do when there's high-intensity kids around
  • Got taken out on a really lovely date for my birthday

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In praise of good caseworkers.

There is nothing like a good caseworker. Seriously. I just told our caseworker, Angel, how fantastic she is when she called me... because it's true. I had feared the worst, based on friends' experiences with being foster parents and hearing about the lousy caseworkers they had. Instead, we got an experienced and truly caring caseworker who not only cares about our foster son but also cares about his mom. I appreciate her so much right now, her support is helping us feel like we can get through this.

We have been really lucky that all the professionals we've worked with so far are really competent and caring and respect us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Big Mama & Fat Mama

Remember this post about how Big Guy couldn't decide what to call us? Well, I just remembered I hadn't shared here about his most recent idea of what to call us. A few days before he went to the hospital, he asked me, completely seriously... "Can I call you Big Mama and Fat Mama?" He wasn't joking, nor was he attempting to be offensive. I burst out laughing. No, honey, you cannot call us Big Mama & Fat Mama.

I asked him which one of us would be which, but he couldn't decide. And I'll readily admit, after all, we are both big and fat.

One of Big Guy's biggest obsessions when he was first with us was talking about how we were fat. We taught him the word chubby, which he didn't know (he's 9 but has a very limited vocabulary for a child of his age and intelligence level). We tried to teach him that fat is not a bad word, just like gay (another word he used as a pejorative) is not a bad word. It's just an observation, and though we shouldn't tell someone they're fat because it might hurt their feelings, it's not really an insult. We made it clear it doesn't hurt our feelings and that we're comfortable talking about the fact that we're fat and he's skinny, which is a topic of serious fascination to him. He loves science so we've talked about what calories are, why peoples' bodies are different, etc. Sometimes it's just as simple as saying "G-d makes people with all different kinds of bodies, isn't that cool?" Other times he wants a science-based explanation of why he's not fat. Good thing I'm in the healthcare field!

Signing off,

Big Fat Mama

This love.

The love I have for this boy is so overwhelming sometimes. We've been bringing Big Guy food from (blech) McD*nald's or B*rger King when we visit. He knows that we don't eat at McD*nalds or B*rger King because we keep kosher, and we don't take him there. We take him to a kosher fast food place sometimes, and we have our relatives and his mentor take him to eat non-kosher fast food now and then. So when I brought him a Kids' Me@l from BK at the hospital, he was shocked. He said "But you're not allowed to go there!" He was horrified at the thought I had gone there - LOL! I didn't want to tell him I had actually bought the food for him, because I had a feeling that would mean when he got home he'd expect us to take him there. So we told him his grandma and grandpa (Sarah's parents) bought it for him. This made him very happy. He was equally thrilled when I told him his other grandma and grandpa (my parents) missed him a lot. "They miss me a lot?" he repeated, with an eager look in his eyes. "Yes, baby, of course they miss you! They love you!"  He is so impacted by the unrelenting love and positivity he's been getting since moving in with us. His self-esteem is very low and he doesn't really believe he deserves to be loved, but when we deliver a hand-written note from one of our friends or relatives each time we visit, telling him how much they miss him... you can see how happy it makes him. When we tell him how much we love him, or that grandma and grandpa can't wait 'til he comes home so we can go to the beach... his eyes light up. He's just so, so lovable. I pray one day he will know that and feel that.

Yesterday's visit went swimmingly. Big Guy was hilarious, sweet and funny the whole time. He made us laugh so hard with his running commentary while we played cards. We called my dad and he spoke to him for a little while. He let me stroke his back while we talked, whereas last time he wouldn't let us touch him at all. He even let us hug him goodbye, though he was constantly worried someone was looking through the window and would see him hugging us (horrors!)  He seemed happy and calm. It doesn't feel as scary to have him in the hospital now that he's telling us he's happy there, now that I see that he's doing well, now that we've talked to the psychiatrist and feel that he's sensitive and competent. The gut-wrenching fear I had on Thursday night when we brought him to the hospital has been replaced with something calmer and more hopeful. But I miss him. I miss him so much. Who knew that after two months you could be so in love with a child that it hurts to be away from them and all you want is for them to come home, even though the day you brought them to the hospital they'd hit you hard with a wiffle ball bat?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The good bad news

Today's "good bad news":

The psychiatrist finally returned our phone calls. Sarah spoke with him and said he sounds good, was respectful, took our concerns seriously, and said that he is absolutely not discharging Big Guy this week and without any med changes, contrary to what the social worker had told us yesterday. He thinks Big Guy will probably come home towards the end of next week. This makes me really sad because I miss him and don't want him to have to be away from us for that long. But it is also a HUGE relief because the idea of them sending him back home with nothing having changed whatsoever was terrifying, and I couldn't believe they weren't taking seriously our concerns about his depression (which he's not being treated for currently), his dissociation, etc. Sounds like they are now taking those concerns more seriously, and they do indeed plan to start med changes today or tomorrow. Some of what happened yesterday was likely miscommunication - Social workers are often not filled in by psychiatrists on what their plans are. But some of it may also be the additional info we provided the social worker yesterday about the abuse history that Big Guy has been talking about increasingly, the dissociative-seeming episodes he has after some of his meltdowns, etc.

I'm sad Big Guy will be in the hospital for so long, but I'm glad there's some hope that some change can happen while he's there. In particular, they'll have time to see if med changes make any difference for him. Explaining to him each time we visit why he's not home yet despite his good behavior is going to be hard.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Compounding my frustration with the psych hospitalization seeming like a totally pointless waste of time, is today's interactions with "Patty", Big Guy's birth mom. She was at the meeting with the social worker at the psych hospital. She brought Little Guy (her other son, our former foster baby) and it was really nice to see him and make him laugh. We were warm and friendly to her, as usual. But I wanted to throttle her when we were informing the social worker about the fact that Big Guy been talking a lot about physical abuse he'd experienced at the hands of another family member... and the first thing she asked was "did he say if I was there when it happened?" Um, yes he did. He said you were there and you were laughing while she beat him. Seriously, you care more about whether you were implicated than knowing what happened and how it's affected him?

I am struggling with my patience with her. I have generally had a lot of empathy for her and wanted to support her in any way we can. We got into foster parenting hoping we'd have the opportunity to mentor birth parents to help them attain reunification (though CPS has gotten in the way of this at every turn.) We believe strongly in supporting reunification and helping first families/birth families get the help they need to be able to parent, yet since all the abuse stuff has come out, I'm finding myself feeling less patience for her cluelessness, her bad judgment, and the way she's more concerned about whether Big Guy's mad at her than dealing with what she did wrong that led to her no longer being able to parent him.

Patty is sweet, and she loves Big Guy. But not only is she unable to parent Big Guy, I'm also starting to doubt that she could ever parent him no matter what support is provided to her, and I'm worrying increasingly about whether she can keep Little Guy, her baby, physically and emotionally safe. Her judgment is so poor and due to her cognitive disabilities and mental illness, it's unlikely to change significantly. I would love to see her get parenting services that are available for people with developmental disabilities (DD) but because she didn't get DD services when she was young, she's not eligible for them. She's gotten more services than CPS has ever provided, though... all to keep the family intact and avoid having to remove the children. Now that she's lost her older son (she called CPS to take him) the court isn't even sure what services are left to give her. She's had intensive parenting training and so much more, and is unable to assimilate the information. It's so frustrating. I want her to have the best possible chance to parent her kids, and she is compliant with showing up to classes and appointments... but is unable to process any of the information in a meaningful way.

I could tell many more stories about the things she said today, but I won't. I really am trying to access my empathy for her. I can totally understand why she couldn't handle Big Guy's outbursts - We barely can, and there are two of us with above-average intelligence and more family support than she has. But I still feel so angry that she stood by and let him be hurt by her sister.


Big Guy is still in the psych hospital. We made peace with our decision once we saw that the unit is really quite fine and the staff is really nice, and though Big Guy refused to see us the first time we visited (he was really angry), he's seen us each subsequent time and seems to be doing well. Yesterday he said "it's fun here." Um, psych hospital FAIL. It's not supposed to be fun, buddy! But I'm glad he's not miserable, I certainly don't want him to be suffering.

So Big Guy is okay, but I still have steam coming out of my ears right now. They are refusing to alter his meds because they haven't seen the behaviors that we hospitalized him for yet. They say "we don't want to rush things, it might take a while for us to see them" but when we asked them how long they keep most kids for they said "7 days." Um, it's already been 4 days. So basically they are making it sounds like they're going to discharge him on Thursday, with no med changes, no aggressive or self-destructive behaviors observed, and basically it'll just return to business as usual at our house. They said something like "Well, a lot of times it's behavioral issues that need to be dealt with in the home, not psychiatric issues." Seriously? So in the meantime, while we deal with the "behaviors", it's totally normal that we spend hours wrestling him to keep him safe? It's totally acceptable that he's trying to run into traffic, and that he sobs for hours on end, that he can't stop his outbursts and then feels horrible about himself and asks us to beat him, and that he becomes dissociated after his tantrums? We can fix all of this with good parenting?

Even if we could fix all of this with good parenting, we need to keep ourselves and our belongings and this sweet little kid SAFE while we get more services in place to help with behavioral interventions in the home. We are approved for 2 hours of therapy and 2 hours of behavioral assistance each week, but he couldn't even make it to his next appointment last week! The neurologist said he needs to be under the care of a psychiatrist, but he couldn't even make it until his psychiatrist appointment! Even if these issues were more behavioral than psychiatric, if he can't behave safely while we continue our behavioral interventions, nothing is going to change.

BTW, the psychiatrist hasn't returned our calls and didn't show up to the meeting. So the only info we have is filtered through a social worker, who's not the one who makes any of these decisions. I've had it up to here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How we ended up in the psych ER

Yesterday neither Sarah nor I could work because it took two of us to keep Big Guy safe, and even then he was hitting and trying to jump out the 2nd story window, and things like that. This is after a week that included him running into the street and refusing to come back to us (once on a street that had little traffic, once on a street that has a lot of speeding traffic)... Having tantrums every day... and saying things like "Do you hate me? Do you want me to die?" in a sad little voice while in the bathtub. His tantrums just escalated and escalated. He broke a lamp and threw a lot of our (and his) belongings across the house. He cried, he yelled, he threatened. He refused to leave the house every morning. But the worst part was that he is so, so sad. And so, so frustrated with himself.

For a kid with ODD it can take a LOT of sadness for it to come out as child-like (i.e. appropriate) tears and sobs rather than just angry wild-animal tantrums. But we've had a lot of both recently, and we knew something was not right. Obviously we don't know what "right" is with this boy, since he's only been with us 2 months so far. But we knew something was different than usual in the way he was acting. The difference was that he was excessively sad and even his acting out seemed to stem from that instead of just from testing. In addition, he was unable to stop his tantrums, or recover from them. Instead, I think as he'd start to come down from them he'd start to realize what he'd done (in other words he'd perceive that he had physically hurt the people he loves, destroyed his room, made us upset, exhausted himself, etc) and then feel so bad about himself that he thought he deserved to be punished... So he'd act out even more, seemingly trying to get us to punish him. We have gathered that he thinks he deserves to be beaten, kicked out, or have the cops called on him. So "punishment" means one of these extremes, which are the things he is accustomed to. When I have told him during his tantrums, "Baby, you deserve to feel good. You deserve to be happy. Please stop punishing yourself,"... his response is things like "No, I deserve to feel bad. I deserve to lose all my privileges. I deserve bad things."

I called Big Guy's care manager, and said that our rope was really fraying and we needed help, pronto. I explained that being held hostage by this child, and having him continue to try to harm himself or us, was not an option for us... but that we did NOT want to give up on him, and didn't want him to think we were going to abandon him when the going got tough. I said I didn't know what to do. She quickly recommended that we take him to the psych ER for an evaluation. He hasn't had a psychiatric evaluation in quite a while and when we tried to make an appointment, we couldn't get one until the end of September. We have tried to convince his doctors to tweak his meds, but they hemmed and hawed over it. What the care manager explained is that in the psych hospital he can stay for a few days while they change his meds. It's easier and safer than going through med changes while living with us, as they can observe him carefully.

I really didn't want to do this. I was so fearful he would hate us, that it would set him back in terms of his progress emotionally, that it would undermine his trust in us, that things would be worse when he got back to us instead of better. But I called all the people I know who have professional and personal experience with this stuff, and they all reassured me that it was the right thing. As I said to the caseworker "This really isn't about his behaviors. His behaviors are unmanageable right now. But it's really about the fact that he deserves to feel better than this." It is physically painful to see your child hurting and unable to talk about it, and unable to stop themselves from acting in ways that get them further into trouble emotionally and in terms of family consequences.

The horrible part is they don't have visiting hours today, so our boy is going to think even more that we're abandoning him. We're trying to get through to the psychiatrist to fight for an exception to the rules due to his history of abandonment issues and his being in foster care for only 2 months with us, because we think not seeing us every day would be very damaging for him. But they haven't returned our calls.

I wish I could stop feeling like I've failed him somehow by needing to take him to psych hospital. I wish I could stop feeling like a bad mom because I couldn't magically handle his behaviors and help him feel better. I know better than this. But my brain hasn't yet convinced my heart that we did the right thing and that he'll be okay, largely because he has two dedicated foster moms who can't wait for him to get out, who will advocate for him to no end, and who would do almost anything to help him continue to heal and grow.

I broke my own heart last night.

The hardest thing I've ever had to do was to leave my screaming, sobbing, scared, sad little boy at the psychiatric hospital.

We spent 9.5 hours in the psych ER last night, listening to mentally ill and drug-withdrawing folks screaming and talking delusionally (the guy in the next stall kept yelling things like "Why does everyone keep ignoring me? What am I, a criminal? Did I murder someone? I don't remember!") Oy. Anyway, they ended up admitting him. The psychiatrist was very nice and explained that she really felt that he needed to be there for a few days and they needed to look at his meds. She agreed with our suspicions that he is on too much ADHD medication which is making him more aggressive than he would be otherwise, and that it might not be good that he's not being treated at all for depression. We'll see what the child psychiatrist thinks.

I am so, so sad. I miss him terribly. This hurts so bad. I feel like I betrayed him somehow. I will never forget his despair when we left him last night. I pray that he can get some help feeling better. As I will continue to remind him, we cannot wait until he is home. We are not abandoning him, though I'm sure it feels that way to him because of his life experience. But we cannot allow him to be in danger and putting us in danger, and he needs professional help in feeling less out of control.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Feeling like I'm failing

I really feel at this moment in time like I can't do this. I cannot physically wrestle with a defiant, oppositional child all morning who refuses to go to camp which means I am unable to work or go to school. I can't have my partner, "Sarah", missing work so much that she is worried her job is in jeopardy, because our boy refuses to leave in the morning. I cannot have everything in my house broken, though that seems like the least of our problems right now. I cannot allow myself to be bitten, spat upon, hit with a wiffle ball bat, and sweared at. Sarah is being amazing right now and trying to keep him safe while I have a few minutes to lock myself in the bedroom. Bless her. She had to leave work because I called her today, sobbing that I just can't do this anymore.

And yet I am doing it. I have no choice. The only option available right now is respite, which I fear would set Big Guy back a lot because of his abandonment issues (mom kicked him out because she couldn't handle his behavioral issues). I cannot screw this child over. I really don't want to cause more disruption and more issues for him. But how can I keep going? How?

Times like this I really don't know how we do it. And I really laugh at all the people who talk about how much progress Big Guy's made since he's been with us... because at times like this, I think they must be hallucinating.

Where is my sweet, kind, adorable boy? He disappears behind this mask of an angry, self-hating, wild animal child. It is so hard to remember that the sweet boy is still in there. But he is. And that sweet boy deserves to have a chance to learn how to feel more comfortable living without that mask. Which is going to take a LONG time, and a lot of work. I just really really hope we can make it. I prayed so hard last night after I said the bedtime she'ma that G-d will help him love himself and learn that it's okay to feel good. He is so incapable of allowing himself to feel loved or to feel good, and so he sabotages everything. Aggressively. We are so committed to him, but we also have to keep ourselves safe and we have to keep ourselves employed and functional in the world - Those are non-negotiables.

It is so hard loving someone who feels horrible about themselves... They will push you away in any way they can. This is true of adults, too, but with kids it's so much more intense.