Wow. There has been quite a jump in readership and comments in the last few days. So, a little background for those who are new to reading and don't have the time or inclination to go through all the archives (I don't blame you!).
Max has been living with us for 16 months now. He's 6, getting close to 7, years old. It's been a hard road. We thought we were being careful about what we could take on, but Max turned out to have more issues going on than we'd been made aware of. He has attachment issues and, after a year of settling in, we're pretty sure his other main issue is depression and anxiety. He qualifies for a diagnosis of ODD for what it's worth. It's not like that is treatable other than consistency and follow through. He did have some exposure to drugs and alcohol prenatally and shows many signs of FAE, but the doctor we saw for it says it's not enough to give him the label. He is very passive agressive.
Those have been the challenges. We question ourselves and our parenting all the time. Up until a couple of months ago, he was presenting as the perfect child at school, which made it doubly hard. Were we making mountains out of molehills at home? Was it our parenting style?
Max, of course, has good qualities. He is attached to us, at least as well as he is able. He does seem to truly love us, but he has a definite push and pull relationship toward us. He is smart. Very much so. Sometimes he is helpful and seems to try to be a decent person to be around. He is very enthusiastic about sports and treats.
Even as I was writing that, though, I was thinking. Gee, yeah, he uses his smarts to try to manipulate us. He is enthusiastic about treats and equally angry about the lack there of. He lies a lot, even about little stupid things.
He's home sick today from school, but I'm pretty sure he's not actually sick. I made him go to school and he got himself to throw up (he can make it happen if he tries hard enough). He was fairly convincing, but his behavior was not enough consistent with being sick that I believed him. And he certainly has a tendency to cry wolf. But, after throwing up, he got to come home. He did nap for a bit, but now he's mad that he has to stay in bed and rest. And he is hungry. I just gave him a half a banana and told him we'd see how that stayed down before moving on to maybe a little rice.
Anyway, that took me a little off course. I was talking about how it's been sense he moved in. Here's the thing. I don't think I've bonded to him. I try hard to give him loving gestures, but my heart isn't in it. Maybe he feels that? I hug him, I pat him, I tell him I love him, I hold him on my lap, I read to him, I do finger rhymes, I hold his hand, I sing to him, I groom him, I play with him. But I'm making myself do these things. And it's hard. I keep hoping that if I act the act enough, more will come, but it doesn't.
Max is just a little kid. He acts the way he does because of his background. It's understandable in the context. I can see that, objectively, but I can't see it moment to moment in living with him and his abrasiveness.
I think, quite often, that Max is just a typical, very rambunctious little boy. I have a hard time even dealing with that, though, because of all the other stuff. I have a hard time letting go of my negativity toward him. I'd like to. But, let's face it, folks, if I were in a relationship with a man who treats me like he does, everyone would think I was stupid for not leaving. So, I can see why some people think the right thing to do is disrupt.
With Max, it's different than with a grown up. He's a little kid. There is hope for him to change. I hope. That is why we stick with it. But then I question myself. Will he change if we don't truly love and accept him? Will he change even if we do? Will he develop into a person who can really connect with other people no matter what we do? Will we be able to survive and thrive as a family if he doesn't?
And, I have an answer from Anthony. He doesn't think we should disrupt. Well, neither do I, really. As I said, I don't feel like we have a choice about it. But, if he feels so strongly, maybe he should become the stay at home parent. :P Only partially joking.