Monday, August 10, 2009

How it might have been, part 2

Okay, so that last post was actually prompted by thinking what this blog would have been like if it existed during those years. At one point I had a collection of emails I had written to a friend and the social worker (like the ones I had with Ann). There were lost in a tragic hard-drive failure.

Still, try to imagine him lying and me writing about it daily ... for over a year. Imagine posts in which I vented my frustrated. Admitted I was crying a lot. Imagine post and post about the consequence, that warning, this heart-to-heart conversation.

Let's see...there would be a post in which I:
  • wondered if this was just something I couldn't fix. Writing about how I had said during one of the pre-placement sessions that the one thing I could not accept was dishonesty. I had no idea how to have a relationship with someone who was dishonest.
  • mourned that I guess I didn't have a real relationship with him and maybe never would, posts in which I considered what his future was going to be like.
  • told a story about how he had got caught in a lie to a friend and how I hoped that would mean more to him, would have an effect on him.
  • marveled at how angry he was that someone had lied to him, how bizarre I thought that was.
  • wrote about how depressed I was that I clearly was a total failure as a parent to him.
  • expressed my sadness when he decided not to go on the field trip for which he needed $40 when I told him that I would make out a check to the school as soon as he brought me the field trip permission form.
  • talked about my odd feeling of pride that I had checked with someone else and got the truth before being convinced to do something.
  • wrote about my sense of feeling distanced from him as I sat and listened to a story and wondered if anything in it was true.
  • wrote about how necessary to his survival lying must have been.
  • guiltily confessed that life was easier, for me, now that I wasn't even trying anymore.
In the second year, there would be posts about how I was beginning to see how a parenting relationship was different from others. I could parent Carl even if he lied constantly. I required truth in a friendship, but parenting was supposed to be unconditional. He got certain things from me, no matter what. Of course he got love, but he also got birthday parties and laughter during family outings for ice cream. I stopped withholding anything I might have done because I had caught him in another lie.

And then there would be posts confessing that ignoring the problem wasn't helping either. I would obsess about even while I accepted that I couldn't fix the problem, maybe I was making it worse by doing nothing. Maybe I was teaching him that it was okay to lie. I was reinforcing his negative behavior patters. Maybe I should go back to trying to fix him, even if I didn't see results. Maybe if every single time he lied I made life uncomfortable for him it would slowly make a difference.

But I would keep coming back to the place where not doing anything about it was easier on the whole family. I had been Sisyphus, but I was done. The rock was staying at the bottom of the hill and we were having a picnic on it.

Even though I periodically felt very guilty about that.


  1. Thank you!! Seeing this kind of progression -- whether on a blog as the blog and the relationship evolve in real-time or in looking back as you're writing here -- is so helpful to me as a prospective parent.

    While it's really not the same, I've written a little bit about trying to change some of my partner's behaviors that bother me and I need to keep some of what you say in mind. I'm much more successful in dealing with her (which is the part that's my job) when I do.

  2. I so appreciated this post (and the one previous to it). I am an adoptive mother of a boy who is currently a toddler but will soon enough be a teenager and my husband and I are often talking about parenting and have read some of the books you mentioned in the post previous to this one. It is always nice to hear that experienced parents sometimes have to throw the books out and adapt based on the needs of their child. Also, and probably more importantly to me right now, as a daughter who is still struggling with challenges with parents and inlaws, it means a lot to me the way you have defined the parent-child relationship. Thinking about it that way is very liberating. Thank you for this post.


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