Thursday Night: April 21

First, I want to thank my wife for documenting in this blog a diary of the special challenges and struggles that we as parents of adopted children face.  These children have been hurt deeply in ways that many times we know nothing about and that happened before we even met them.  I am the only father that Yelena has ever known and very often I feel powerless, inadequate and frustrated when my good intentioned efforts to love, nurture and to teach Yelena the basic skills necessary to function, form healthy relationships and to respect other’s property and feelings prove totally ineffective.  On the contrary, my repertoire of efforts to parent, which come primarily from the ways I was parented, usually result in exacerbating Yelena’s tantrums and do not help her to connect any of her behaviors (including stealing, playing with fire and threatening her mother and I with knives and fists) with any consequences (loss of privileges, chance to earn them back, etc.) that follow. 

It seems that thus far, in the ongoing struggles to love and parent our daughter, any of the consequences that I try to enforce are taken in by Yelena as another justification that I am the “mean daddy”.  All too often I take this in personally, become outraged (I would never talk to my father that way), and argue with my wife about backing down from enforcing consequences such as, “Yelena, when you are punching us or waving a sharp object at us I will call the police and/or crisis team because that is unacceptable.” 

I feel deeply inside myself the frustration that taking Yelena’s behavior personally is not helpful and yet almost all of the time (even though I am a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience), I have absolutely no idea in the moment what to do. Except to remember that  twelve years ago in a far away land and for the first year and a half of her life Yelena was deeply hurt. Then she was taken away by two strangers in a big flying machine thousands of miles away to another far away land. When I remember this, it helps me to not take anything Yelena does or says too personally.

Late Thursday night, it occurred to me that perhaps the reason that it helps me have compassion for my daughter is that in my life, I have been deeply hurt too.