‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Truly, Madly, Deeply

I love that movie. Have you seen it? If not, please do. I'm going to have to go back and watch it soon, because it has been stuck in my mind for the past 12 hours, and I'm guessing that means it has a message for me at this moment. I need a message. I need something.

I don't like posting when I feel despondent, but we all feel that way now and again, and I think it's healthy to share it. I don't want people thinking I'm immune to moments of despair when dealing with extreme behaviors. I also don't want to scare anyone away from potentially adopting Dasha, but it's important they know the good and the bad. How else can you make an informed decision about something so important?

Dasha exploded last night. It was after several hours of complete calm. She and Nastia had set up a tent in the yard and were playing in it. Dasha decided she did not want to share the tent with Nastia, or anyone, and proceeded to try to push Nastia out. When Nastia wouldn't let her, she absolutely lost it.  I was upstairs on the phone with a potential family that was interested in adopting her, and I heard her screams through several doors and two air conditioners blasting.

I won't recount the ugly details of trying to get her up to her room, but I will say it involved Nastia being hit, scratched, punched and bitten. And once I took Dasha from her arms, it involved the same for me. She pinched me so hard on my way to her room, I had to put her down. She ran to her room and slammed the door. In the under-10-seconds it took me to catch up to her,  Dasha had managed to smash the table lamp so that tiny shards of glass now covered the floor and rug. I opened the door to find her slamming the drawer against the wall (why oh why had I put it back?) and standing in a scatter of glass shards. The dogs ran in,  revved up by all the screaming, and Dasha kicked them while I tried to usher them out.

"I HATE YOU, DOGS!" She screamed. "I HATE YOU FOREVER!" she ran to kick them again, but I stopped her.

I asked Nastia to get me the vacuum and the trash can. I was barefoot and ended up with a nice shard in my big toe. I did not react. I tried to move her away from the glass, which was everywhere, as she screamed "YOU'RE HURTING ME! YOU'RE HURTING ME!" Of course I was not.

All I could think of in that moment, if I'm honest, was that the windows in her room are open and my neighbor is going to be calling the police any minute. This is why families of traumatized kids get reported to DHS all the time. Ask Diana. She knows.

Back to the raging. Dasha pinched my face and banged her head into mine as hard as she could, "I HATE YOU ! I HATE YOU!" She screamed. I lifted her onto the bed to keep her from the glass, and she kicked me, hard, in the stomach. She may be tiny, but she packs a punch. I was in survival mode and not feeling much of anything -- not angry, scared, sad -- nothing. I felt numb.

Nastia arrived with the vacuum and started cleaning up. Dasha yelled really rude things at her " YOU ARE STUPID. YOU ARE SO DUMB. YOU ARE FAT. I HATE YOU AND YOU ARE NOT MY SISTER!" I had taught Nastia in earlier Dasha tantrums not to react. It's been a hard lesson for her to learn, but she kept her cool this time, used a calm voice, and only spoke to Dasha what I asked her to translate.

At this point, I took a moment to help Nastia. Dasha grabbed the nearest item and hurled it at my head. It was then that I realized everything needed to go -- the dresser, the toys, the dolls, the books. It simply was not safe to have anything in her room. 

I told Nastia, and she understood -- I had had to do the same thing with her years ago. To keep her safe. Nastia calmly started removing everything from the room while I tried to keep Dasha from hurting herself or us. As Nastia cleared the room, I had her calmly explain to Dasha why we needed to do this. It was to keep her safe and to keep her from hurting herself or us.

" I HATE YOU! YOU ARE BOTH STUPID IDIOTS! I HOPE YOU DIE LIKE MY SISTER!" Nastia was remaining surprisingly calm. Then the dogs pushed through when Nastia opened the door.

" I HOPE YOUR DOGS DIE TOO! AND YOUR CATS!" This time I saw Nastia fill with rage, and I knew she might lose it. I told her to go take a break while I dealt with Dasha. She started to leave and...

"AHHHHHHHHH!!!" She got a huge shard of glass in her heel. She screamed and dropped to the floor.

"Mama, Mama! It hurts! It hurts!" She was sobbing. Then the blood started coming. Suddenly Dasha stopped raging and backed away towards the door. She looked terrified. "I'm scared," She said very quietly, almost at a whisper. I needed to take care of Nastia, so I simply told her Nastia would be ok, but that I had to remove the glass from her foot and help her.

At this point, Nastia was sobbing. She let out all the hurt and frustration of these past 4 weeks with Dasha. " Mom, it hurts! I dont want it to hurt anymore." She leaned into my shoulder and wept hard.

This whole time Dasha looked on dazed. Finally she raced to the bathroom and brought back the bandaids. I tried to take the box " Mama, please I do it." She said this in English. She removed the bandaids and gave them to me. She sat crouched on the floor watching us  as I pulled the glass out and cleaned up her foot and placed on the bandaid. Again she added "I'm scared." in a small voice, almost a whisper.

Eventually, Nastia calmed down and, as Dasha was now calm, I emptied out the rest of the room -- glass-infested rug as well -- as Dasha watched. She only cried when she saw me throw out the little jewelry box she so loved, but she had smashed it against the wall. It was beyond repair.

After Nastia was ok to go in her room, I stayed. I sat on the empty floor and waited. I told her I was there for her and that I loved her still, even though I did NOT love what she did. She sat on her bed and cried. She made her way over to me and climbed in my lap and wept and wept and wept.

I would be lying if I told you I wanted to be holding her right then. I'd be lying if I said I felt anything at that moment. But I did what I knew to be the right thing, because that's what good mothers do. They stay. They weather the worst storms, because that is what God does. It's not fun, its not easy, it's not what I wanted to be doing, by ANY means, but it is what this child needed, and so I sat and held her even as I watched my toe bleeding underneath her legs. I just held her and reminded her that my love was there regardless.

Eventually, I lifted her up to her bed -- a bed devoid of sheets, stuffed animals and all the trappings of a little girl's bed. Just a urine-stained mattress and a pillow in an echoing, blue room. She fell asleep.

 I stayed for a bit and prayed and prayed over her that God would help heal her broken little heart, and then I brought a sheet in to cover her, and went to bed.


  1. Anonymous12:26 PM

    (((hugs))) I am sending all the love I have your way in hopes that it will reach you in this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. You are an amazing person, Keri, and an even better Mom. Truly remarkable. Kudos to Nastia as well for keeping her cool.

  3. shelley t12:39 PM

    There is nothing to say, really, but I wanted you to know that I read this, and that my heart is both full and breaking at the same time.

  4. Hello, I saw your comment on Good Moms are a lot of things, so I hopped over. This post is amazing,and how you handle it is as well. I have two children (step-children) who both have RAD, we have our rages, but not as server as you describe here....God bless you...and your family

  5. Aprilleigh1:51 PM

    I'd like to think I would have handled that situation with some fraction of the skill you've demonstrated, but I'm pretty sure I would have fallen short of the mark. I am grateful to be blessed with a fairly even-tempered child, although it leaves me inexperienced and inadequate to deal with something like this.

  6. Sending you prayers and hugs and wanting to tell you you are not alone. You handle the impossible with grace.

  7. Thank you, all of you, for words of support and encouragement. i havent felt quite this down since Dasha arrived. I am praying for strength and calm. She had a few more bad moments today, but now she is down to no toys, not even clothes (she was trying to rip them all...so she is down to just a pair of underpants -- unless we have to go out of course) She is now helping me clean the house and the aftermath of her tirade, which I think is good for her. I asked calmly and said I would love her help because I was very tired and sad from the last two days. " Ok, Mama, I help" She said in English. I'm guessing that her speaking English recently is her attempt to please me. I'll take it in any form I can get.

  8. Wow. So powerful. ou have commented on my blog a few times and this is the first time I found yours through another. You and I are going through the exact same rages. I am dumbfounded right now. My heart goes out to you. I love your comment about "what a good mom does" Sometimes I wish I could tatoo that on my kids' brains. You are a good mom. I applaud your honesty and willingness to blog about such an event. Writing about it brings you back to the depression attached to an episode but it cleanses me. I hope it did the same for you. You were already on my prayer list, now tjhat I know you are me in a different part of the US, you moved up the list!

    About her room. You did great. Stinks to do it but you have no choice. We cleared my son's room out too. Nothing. No clothes, no dresser, no pictures, no toys, nothing. A mattress, a sheet (provided he doesn't try to choke himself that night), a pillow and a door alarm. That is all he can handle. We have tried to replace a few items here and there. No dice. They get destroyed.

    You are doing a great job and you are worth it. I hope you know that. I believe there is a special heaven for mothers of trauma kids. Your reservation is already there :)

  9. (((HUGS))) to you! What difficulties you face and yet you have such patience and understanding of the BIG picture. Kudos to you! :D

  10. I feel so helpless when Princess attacks the other children- and it's been nothing to that degree. And today my son cried and said he wished he was an only child again, especially because "Princess ruins everything," and all I could do was hold him. I had nothing to say. One of the few things that keep me from despair is that she is starting to realize (and feel barely remorseful about) the negative effect she has on others.

  11. Oh Keri... Love to you. Strength to you. Peace to that little girl.

  12. Thnak you for writting this post and your blog. I love coming here to read about you and your girls. I have a blog award for you over at my blog.

  13. You poor dear....I don't know what to think or say. You certainly handled that with aplomb...but I'd certainly think twice about signing up for that permanently.

    Is that a terrible thing to say? Or think? I know - if God has planted a child in your heart - that child is there to stay. And, it doesn't matter if the child comes through adoption or through biology. And, I'd surely never, ever give up on my "challenging" child, but...

    ...even my Anastasia wasn't so difficult as THAT on her hosting visit (she had the odd good sense to try to "break" things like the big, oak dining room table). And though she has bonded to me, in particular, and sorted herself out through the last few years, I have to confess that puberty seems to have set us back, perhaps further back than where we were - it has completely destroyed any vestige of the dear girl that I'd come to know. A hard, snide and angry shell is all that is left in her place.

    I have almost come to the conclusion that, since there are so many emotionally balanced, resilient children out there who need homes, my choice would be to reach out to them. It is hard to count the cost of this behavior on siblings, and there are times when I wonder - was this to anyone's benefit?

    The problem is that these children do long for love, but something prevents them from receiving it.... And yet - there are children still sitting in orphanages, who could receive it, if only they had the chance.

  14. You are amazing.
    Nastia is amazing.
    Dasha is healing thanks to your loving care.

  15. Oh my, Keri. So much tough stuff, but you're right- This is what good mothers do.

  16. Wow! God is working through you. That is unconditional love if I ever saw it. You're amazing.

  17. Anonymous5:58 AM

    I'm so sorry you're facing this, I've been there and know how hard and weird it is to be restraining your child just to keep them safe.
    I'm just wondering if the kids are getting any therapy or psychiatric or medicinal treatment? Because we've found great treatment (although it was incredibly hard to find and get) and medications that have hugely tempered the rages, if that is any comfort to prospective families. Especially once you get to puberty it was essential, but of course results vary for different kids and issues.
    Hope you get a break of peace soon!


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