Thursday, December 13, 2012

Calling All Cars

It’s been so long since I’ve written here. The last three months have possibly been the most challenging with Mihiretu yet. That said, I’m caught in a conundrum.  While I so want to share our story because I know there are many people out there who might get something out of it – adoptive parents, parents of kids with special needs, parents of adopted kids with special needs, parents, people who grew up feeling different, anyone who’s ever faced what seemed like an insurmountable hurdle, okay, ANYONE – while I know this story is well worth telling, I don’t want to tell more than Mihiretu, the future Mihiretu, would want me to tell.  He might not grow up to be a blabber-mouth like his mother.  I’m walking a fine line here so bear with me.

It really hasn’t been cute around here lately.  This kid with a long, difficult history and understandable delays hitting the structure of public school has been downright ugly.  The shit has hit the fan, all hell has broken loose, the wheels have come off the wagon, choose your cliché.  There has been a lot of screaming, hitting, throwing of rocks, kicking of chairs, chasing of dogs and climbing of furniture.  Every person in our family has been deeply affected, every relationship strained.  It starts at five in the morning and ends when Mihiretu passes out at seven.

Because of this crisis (of faith and otherwise) we have acquired a behavioral pediatrician, a full-time aide at school, a speech therapist, the talents of the school – and district – psychologists, a male babysitter to run Mihiretu to exhaustion after school, a behavioral consultant for the home and a couples therapist.  It’s been super fun.  Lining all this up, admitting it was needed, finding the money to pay for it, and continuing to work out the kinks has taken almost all we’ve got.  Though I imagine the situation must be improving, I still feel under-fire.  Mihiretu isn’t the only one with PTSD.

There came a point where I sent out an email to a few trusted friends.  The subject line: “Calling all cars”.  The message:  Help, help me, any way you can.  For awhile there, when things were really grim, I had friends taking my girls for play-dates, giving them rides home from school, dropping off dinner.  The very act of admitting that kind of defeat, of showing my need, was out of the boundaries of my character, was certainly out of my comfort level. 

Perhaps Mihiretu has pushed us, quite firmly this last time, towards asking for and receiving the help we need.  That’s growth I suppose.  We have far more support now, from professionals and loved ones, than we did six months ago.  Frankly, our lives have been extremely challenging since Mihiretu came home from Ethiopia, three and a half years ago.  That’s a long time to be overwhelmed.

It occurred to me the other day that I should have a t-shirt made for when I'm out in public with Mihiretu.  It would read "You fucking try it".  Might give the old ladies in line at the grocery store pause before offering advice.  Might quell the glares at the mall from the perfect blonde moms with their perfect blonde children.  Might be a good reminder to me; this is a hard road we've chosen.  I'm doing my best.  Don't believe me?  You fucking try it.


  1. Sorry to hear you are having a rough go of it. We met at camp this summer. My kids are grown now but your story triggered my PTSD for sure. Hang in there. If I can lend an ear let me know.

  2. Oh, man. My older son has also had a pretty bumpy start to kindergarten this year. It hasn't been nearly as challenging as what it sounds like you're going through, but I can very much relate to the difficulty of managing behavior from the time he wakes up until the moment he falls asleep. I haven't blogged about it because by the time he and his siblings are in bed I want nothing more than to have a glass of wine and relax. You have my deep sympathy and I hope others whose children have faced challenges and gone on to have happy lives will chime in. This is tough stuff and I thank you for writing about it.

  3. I sighed a big deep sigh before putting my hands on the keyboard. My son arrived from Colombia at the age of almost six with a trauma history a mile long, Language (and the capital L is intentional) deficits, neurological impairment, mild mental retardation, etc. He is now past 40, lives independently, is unemployed currently, but has often been employed doing restaurant work, and is kind of OK. There was a lot of very not OK in between. You met his sister Caitlin (mom of Milena) this summer at Emandal. I have seen your son's beautiful face in her photos. I know in every fiber of my being how difficult and painful everything is right now. I have no panacea. However, I can assure you that everything you are attempting with Mihiretu has value and your efforts on his behalf are deeply meaningful. There are many times in my life when a "YFTI" t-shirt would have felt good. Just knowing that someone grasped that one was called for would have helped, I think. I would like to offer you my ear and my voice on the phone if you think that would be useful. I have signed up to follow the blog. my email address begins— thatsally. Feel free to write and we can set up a call. In the meantime, remember to breathe.

  4. Oh, ladies. So comforting to get a shot of support from three women who have been there. Thank you - for reading and for writing!

  5. I wanted to add, from my perspective as Sally's daughter and the sister in a similar situation, that this is also a meaningful experience for your girls. This is such hard work, and it doesn't end, but it is the kind of experience and relationship that will shape them. A lot of people talk the talk, but few people walk the walk. Seeing you do it, acting on your love for and commitment to Mihiretu in ways small and large, is of great value.

    I feel that my deep understanding of my brother's struggles has taught me empathy, one of my highest values as a human being (and one that is critical to my work). We learned early not to make assumptions about other people's relationships and families. I was forced to grapple with unfairness, privilege, dumb luck, the cruelty of circumstance. Particularly in an affluent community, these can be blind spots -- your daughters won't have them. I don't want to minimize the impact of the chaos you've been experiencing, it's real, but know that Lana and Mae are learning something important, and something they might not be able to articulate for many years.

  6. Caitlin, I've been thinking all week about what you wrote above. I can't tell you how helpful it is. I get lost in the chaos of the moment and forget that while this is very tough, we're all learning and growing. We adopted Mihiretu for many reasons and widening the girls horizons was one of them. Growing up in Marin County surrounded by rich white people could give them a narrow perspective - I don't think we risk that now. I was telling Mae the other day that I thought she'd make a good doctor. I told her that beyond her scientific aptitude, she has great compassion. I told her what you said about your brother and how it helps you in your work. She was impressed:)

  7. I've been following your blog for a while now and have two children at your son's school. I am relieved to learn that you are creating a good support network and am keeping my fingers crossed that you will soon find a solution that works for you and Mihiretu.