Heading into month three of full-time pre-adoptive "placement" as the county likes to call it - which just means "parenting", really. And we're doing pretty good...depending how you look at it.
On the one hand, T. got caught (by us) getting high at school last week. His behavior tipped us off, but we had to insist on searching his backpack and school clothes in order to catch him out in the open so we could deliver a consequence. He was extremely upset and angry for about twenty-four hours. (As a quick aside: although we were upset that he'd lied to us and used drugs at school, we weren't too shocked, as we've been working with him on his marijuana habit all along, and we were more or less ready to respond.)
When he's upset, he often stares into my eyes with an incredibly mournful expression as if to transfer his feelings to me. The day after our confrontation, he was doing that and he looked utterly heartbroken. I took a guess and said something to the effect of: "I know right now you dislike our rules and the consequences. But I want you to know that even though we're arguing, we NEVER, EVER feel differently about you, and you are very dear to us." After that, his grief and rage started to subside. I find every act of discipline needs to be accompanied by an expression of commitment or he thinks his world is coming to an end.
Oddly, it turns out that he adores being grounded. He lost all priveleges for two weeks, including: going out without us, having friends over, playing x-box, using the computer, and using his cell phone. And we've never seen him happier.
My mom nailed it. She observed that he's overwhelmed by his social life right now. Deciding what to do and with whom every weekend means choosing between old friends and new friends, and between following our rules or reverting to old behaviors. He's got a crush on a girl and she's reciprocating, which means managing a host of expectations around what comes next. All of this makes him anxious, and being grounded simplifies his life and gives him a reason to hang around the house with us contemplating but not acting upon his options.
In addition to the security of being sequestered and secluded, I have a hunch that his happiness in the midst of discipline has another dimension: we didn't tell his social worker what happened. She visited a couple days later and we didn't lie, but we didn't offer the story either. He noticed. Our feeling is that we're the parents and we've delivered a consequence and discussed our expectations with him and that's the end of it. Now he gets a chance to try to meet those expectations without an atmosphere of lingering resentment.
T. hates his primary caseworker. She took him out of more than one home over the years, moving him from place to place without warning. She has a tendency to belittle and berate him, and to say disparaging things about his mother. (His adoption worker is a different story, and we tell her pretty much everything.) Usually, in her wake, we experience a prolonged bout of sullen angry behavior because she insults him so deeply. Not this time. He bounced back immediately after she left, chatting and playing with us.
He was utterly loving all weekend. He voluntarily cleaned the bathroom for me. He opened his arms on Sunday night and gave me a huge unprompted hug - something he's never done before. He confided in us about some problems some of his friends are facing right now. Yesterday he told me proudly that he's not getting high at school anymore. He did decide to sit out his PE class "instead" which I don't love, but I'll take a failing grade in PE (he gets Bs in everything else) over drug use at school.
T. struggles with symptoms you might call PTSD - he's overwhelmed by noise, crowds, physical proximity - and I understand why he tries in his own immature way to regulate his experience so he can get through the day. We'll grapple with these issues for as long as he's with us.
So as unpleasant as busting him was, it's been a good couple weeks. Finally he has evidence that we truly will not "give him away" when he misbehaves, that he has one set of rules and one pair of adults who offer both discipline and unconditional love, instead of a committee of bureaucrats who tear apart his entire life for infractions real and imagined. He's somehow managed to remain receptive - to love, stability, reason, and hope - and it's when he's made a mistake or misbehaved that his receptivity is most evident.
12 hours ago