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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why You Haven't Heard From Me

This one's gonna be long, so get a cup of coffee.

I haven't been commenting much lately. I could blame it on Word Verification, since I can't ever get through that with my dial-up connection. I could also blame it on Bloglines, since having that service has saved me many hours in click-and-search, but it also means I have to click away to get to commenting boxes. I could also blame it on my hectic schedule, thought to be honest I find myself retreating to my bedroom more lately, which is where the computer lives. I think I'm just off right now and those things are just convenient covers (except the word verification- I can't comment even if I want to. I have tried repeatedly to ask for the recipe for those amazing hamburger buns, to no avail ;). The change of season always brings a mixed bag with it. Autumn is my very favorite time of year. There is no more exciting prospect to me than walking in the windy, chilly air while the leaves fall all around me. But it is a reminder of things past for my kids, and they have a tendency to 'go off the reservation'.

I think my least favorite of the complications that come with adopting older, hurt kids is the way they can get you to doubt your own sanity. No kidding here. Some call it the drive to survive, some say it is a result of being abandoned, I say the Bible says it best, but these kids have a real propensity to lying.

My son tried to say it was a compulsive thing, that he couldn't control himself. I told him that if it was compulsion he would be lying about every single thing, like rather than dad being outside working on the tractor he would say dad drove to town or dad is in his office. He only lies when it would benefit him to do so, which means it is not a compulsion but a calculated choice.

I begin with the foreknowledge that they lie, and I am not easily deceived. I have come to know the physical indicators of their untruthfulness, such as the big, blinking eyes or the rubbing of the hands. I am also keenly aware of their biggest temptations and most frequent offenses. And Yah gives mothers a sense of things that is truly amazing and mostly accurate. So you would assume I have the advantage. Now I'll give you some examples.

I walked over to the sink to wash my hands in order to start dinner. I bought and installed a stainless steel soap dispenser into the sink, which is great so that I can get soap even if my hands are greasy from making hamburgers (just use the back of the wrist to push it down). I give the thing a squirt, and soap shoots up and all over everything. It has been filled too full. I also notice that my dish soap bottle is nearly empty, and it was brand new two days ago. No one has permission to fill it. So I think back. The soap bottle was full at lunch. Since then, the only one who has had access to the sink was Joe, when I asked him to empty the dishwasher. While he was doing this job, I left the room for two minutes, which is not only time enough, but also an open invitation. His greatest temptation is to touch things he has been told not to touch.

I learned long ago not to ask them a direct question, because they immediately lie in defense of what they consider an attack. Instead, I ask in a way that is not answerable by yes or no. Joe was outside with Gary working on cow fence, so I sent Gary a page and said, "Ask Joe to tell you what he did with the soap dispenser." When they came home, Gary reported that Joe said he pushed it down too hard once when I said he could use it. Word game. First, he is bringing up a totally different incident. Not a lie, but he knows this is not what I'm talking about. Second, he is trying to manipulate Gary to his side of the story by putting out the premise that he had permission to do something and therefore should not be in trouble. So we go in the house and stand by the sink. I explain to Gary that within 4 hours' time, the dish soap bottle has been nearly emptied and the dispenser is overfilled (and we all look at the mess made by the soap being shot out like a geyser). I explain further that Joe was the only one in the kitchen between lunch and dinner. Joe immediately scrunches up his face and starts crying really loudly (another attempt to manipulate the situation). When Gary asks him why he is acting like a 2 year old, he yells (another lying indicator of his) that he did not do it.

This is where my stress level goes through the roof. On one hand, he is the only one who could have done it. But I start to doubt myself, like maybe the soap bottle wasn't really full at lunch, or maybe it got knocked in the sink and spilled, or (then I nearly faint) what if I filled it and forgot?!? By this time Joe is on the floor on his knees (dramatics, an indicator, but also one that has been used when he wasn't lying, so it throws me off, too). He is crying, his hands folded, begging Gary to believe him that he did not do it. Having fallen for the cover before only to be humiliated later, I say "No, Joe, I believe that you did it and your body language backs me up." He wails even louder (mind you, he's 11 years old) and Gary sends him to his room until we get it sorted out. I know sending him away is not how many would handle it, but by this point I was so mixed up I had to have time to think.

So we put the other kids at the table and serve them dinner (the baby was way overdue for bed because she skipped her nap) and then we call Joe out to the dining room to talk (the dining room and kitchen are connected, so we are only across the room from the others kids). Joe looks over at the other kids, who are eating, and says he did it. He over filled the soap dispenser. Then he gets red in the face and angry. I ask what that is all about, and he says he really didn't, but I forced him to admit it because I wouldn't accept the truth (I should never have let them watch Anne of Green Gables). So then I am past upset, sick to my stomach over the prospect of accusing a boy who was not guilty and coercing a flase confession. Gary sent him to eat his dinner and I went to bed, seriously worried that I was having a stroke because my head hurt so bad.

In the morning my oldest asked me why I was so upset last night. I told her what happened and that I apparently was way off in my sixth sense. She says, "Oh. I walked into the kitchen yesterday while you were in your room and saw Joe pouring soap into the dispenser. I figured you told him to since he was doing dishes." So when Joe and Gary come to the kitchen, I have Kayla repeat what she said to me. Joe was incredulous. When Gary asked him if it was true, he said yes. Now, this is actually a surprise, because more than once when a kid reported seeing something, Joe accused them of lying. When he says this, I make him look the person in the eye and say "You're a liar". Half the time he can't do it, but half the time he does it and then we have the stress of sorting through who is lying about lying. Kids without a conscious will willingly let a sibling stand in the corner for false witness while they eat breakfast without a blink. Are you starting to understand why these incidents are so hazardous to my health? That whole Brady Bunch episode where the kids cover for Peter and he can't live with himself for it may happen with normal kids, but not these kids.

So Joe admitted that he did it. Gary asked why he lied the night before, making his mother out to be a false witness as well, and he said because if he told the truth he wouldn't get supper (more manipulation). Gary said Joe knows better and that he is trying to shift the guilt by getting false sympathy (have I trained him well or what!?!). Now I'm not only mad about the mess and about him touching what he is not supposed to touch, but also the lying and manipulation, especially since I went to bed thinking I was wrong and had falsely accused a kid and misread the signs.

So I am even more steeled not to not believe them when I am convinced they are lying, right. The next incident is the case of the shoes that never existed. It was time for the kids to go to 4-H, and I told Kayla to put on her tennis shoes. She was trying to wear the new sandals that we bought earlier, but I think that's a REALLY bad idea. She says "What tennis shoes? My new ones?" Obviously I would not mean the brand new shoes, either. So I say, "No, Kayla, you're going to a barn yard to work with animals. Wear your old tennis shoes." To which she replies "I don't have any old tennis shoes."

OK, I know it is possible to get Alzheimer's in your 30's. It's very sad and not common, but it is possible. So I immediately think "I need to go to the doctor's and be check out" because I remember distinctly sending her to the store with my mother last year when I was sick, with money for new tennis shoes, and they were white with a pink stripe (because I asked for white, and my mother called from the store and said all they could find was white with a pink stripe and was that OK). So I say "No, I mean the shoes with the pink stripe". Kayla says "I've never had shoes with a pink stripe." OK. I must be remembering the phone conversation with my mother differently. Wasn't it a pink stripe? Where is that neurologists' number anyway?

I was about to say I must be wrong and she'd have to wear her new tennis shoes when I suddenly get this overwhelming feeling in my body. It's a terrifying feeling, like being possessed by something, and I can't seem to turn my head to look at her. Before I know it, I growl "Go get your old shoes!". She's walking back and forth between the front door and the back door, crying, looking for these shoes that never existed. I'm getting more and more scared by the physical changes in my body and think, on top of my Alzheimer's, I must be having a nervous breakdown.

Gary finally comes in the room and asks what is going on. I tell him, and he says "Kayla, they're outside." She is back in 30 seconds with the shoes (and not looking me in the eye). I asked her why she was telling me she had no shoes with a pink stripe, and she said because she wanted to wear one of her new pairs of shoes. She was not only willing to lie (and allow me to doubt my own sanity) but also to hide the shoes outside with the work boots in order to manipulate the situation to her liking. My only answer for the weird physical experience was the fight between the Holy Spirit and demonic influences. So I'm even more convinced to follow my own instincts when it comes to the kids, because they obviously have not out-grown the lying phase, right?

Now to incident three. Nellie is not allowed to touch the cats because she has been violent and mean with them before. Once she put a cat in a lunch box and closed it, and if I hadn't gone into the room to get socks for her sister, the cat would have died because we were leaving. When I let the cat out of the box, it was wet and panting very hard, barely breathing at all. She has also picked cats up by the tail (at the age of 9!) because she thought it was funny. So she is not allowed to touch cats. Period.

We were outside gathering things from the garden for lunch. We have several raised beds scattered around the yard, and I was about 100 feet away from her. She was helping Kayla clean out a bed to be re-planted, so they were tearing out vines and turning the soil. I looked over and saw her hitting a cat on the back with the trowel. I got up and started walking toward her, and she stood straight up with the trowel behind her back. Yeah, like I didn't see it in her hand. The cat ran away before I got there. I said "Why are you hitting a cat? You know you are not allowed to touch cats because you are too rough with them?" She answers "I wasn't. I was digging and the cat came over by me, but I was only trying to break up this clump of dirt." I'm thinking maybe my eyes are deceiving me. After all, I was across the yard and looking at her sideways. It is possible that it was an optical illusion. So I ask Joe to go grab the cat for me. He brings it over, and sure enough, the cat has black stripes along its back (white cat, dirty trowel). So I raise my eyebrows at Nellie, as in "What the heck!?!" She pops out that lower lip and starts the puddle of tears, saying "I was afraid you wouldn't let me work in the garden anymore if I told you the truth." Oh, gravy. More manipulation. More shifting guilt. So I take away the trowel and tell her to sit on the bench until we are done.

Obviously by now, you can see that when I get that feeling that they are lying, they are. No matter the subject, they are willing to make me doubt myself if it works to their gain. So, once again, I resolved myself to no longer doubting that little voice (or the giant possessive spirit, depending on the situation) and stick to my guns.

Incident four. The kids are sitting at the table doing school work. Gary had just returned form the Med Center where he got the prescriptions that I had to go get filled. I told Gary to set the prescriptions on the table while I gathered the checkbook, the mail to go out, and my library books (he wanted to grab a shower before I left). When I picked them up again, there was doodling on the top paper. I had also seen Joe with a small blue paper in his hand. So I ask why there are doodles on Dad's prescription (no more yes or no questions, remember). He says "I don't know. I didn't do it." I say "Joe, I saw you with the paper in your hand, and there are doodles on it." He says "I was just looking at it. I didn't do it." I say "I saw you with the paper, and you have proven to be an unreliable witness before. Stand in the corner." So he goes wailing to the corner while I sit and ponder whether he will ever be able to just control himself. Joe continues the wailing, and I begin to get mad at the manipulation he seems so fond of employing.

Gary finally gets out of the shower and asks why Joe is wailing. I tell him, and Gary says, "Oh. I doodled on the paper when I was waiting for the receptionist to finish with another family." GrrrrrrrrEAT!!!!!!! I disciplined a kid who wasn't guilty. I got him out of the corner and apologized through his accusing glare. I went to town and got two McChickens and ate them while I cried over what a terrible job I am doing raising these kids.

If I had to put a percentage to it, I would say it's less than 3% of the times that I discipline someone when they are actually innocent. I think it's even lower than that, because we have had many a "hahaha, remember last year when you felt bad for grounding me from the pool party? I really did eat the whole bag of candy when you were on the phone" revelation. But even at 3%, chances are they get away with more than 3% that I don't know about, so it evens out, right? Yet that rare incident when I am wrong causes me to doubt myself every single time. These incidents all happened in a matter of two days. One time I was wrong. One. But since then I have been afraid to stick to my gut when it comes to figuring out who is lying and who is not. Autumn is hard here.

So I've been pondering the answer. It is not to just let them go. Believe me, I've tried that. It would be a lot easier. Correcting them takes so much time and energy. But then I come across passages like Ezekiel 3:17-21, or Romans 13:1-5, or posts like this phenomenal one, and I know why in my soul I cannot look the other way while while my kids sin. They will be subject to rules and required to give credible witness all their lives; most especially before the Throne. If I teach them that it is wrong and they do it anyway, I am not accountable. If I give up because it is easier, I am accountable.

I'm one of the first people to balk at a gospel message that God accepts us just as we are, because scriptures say repeatedly that he will not accept us unless we repent- turn from sin. The Bible says that we must not be lawless if we are to partake of the wedding feast in the New Jerusalem. Yeshua says if we love him, we will keep his commandments. So when I constantly ride my kids for their wrongs, I am not being a mean mom. Quite the contrary. Still, it is hard to get past the three percent and be assured in my ability to discern through the Spirit. It causes me to step back and be less assertive out of fear. And so, I have been quiet. That and Word Verification.


Swylv said...

Blessings for all you do. May Adonai get ahold of your kids in a powerful way and may HE change them in HIS love and Torah.

~Bren~ said... little sweetheart!! still have your sense of humor! That is a good thing.
I am in your shoes. I understand. You could have been writing about my day....except all the lies triangulate the adults here...we are not as smart (at least not all of us). So here is the deal, my friend. NEVER apologize. I know people are going to gasp deep on that one...oh well...they do not raise our kids. The reason you never apologize for making that child stand in a corner for telling the truth is....he is a known liar. Tell him you are sorry, but not sorry you sent him to the corner. You are sorry that he has created such a reputation for himself and that because of that he will not be believed. You had every right to doubt him. I would have too. When your husband corrected the situation, I would have told him he could come out of the corner, but how sad to not be believed when you are telling the truth. Change your reputation son!!!!
You are NOT crazy, do not have alzheimers, are not unfair, nor do you have a problem parenting. They will eat you alive if you let them. I would NOT feel bad for acting on your gut. God gave it to ya! It could be a very good lesson for them to get a consequence when they are not telling a lie. I have told Charlotte..."I am not sure if you are lying or not this time, but based on your past behaviors, the chances are you are lying...You do not have to be proven guilty...because you have set up this reputation for yourself, you have to be proven innocent!
By the way, I don't have word verification!!!

Owlhaven said...

I could relate to a lot of what you wrote. Thanks for sharing!!


Anonymous said...

I can remember a time I was punished for something I didn't do. I don't remember the actual punishment (or what it was I was meant to have done) but what I do remember is my dad apologising afterwards when he found out I hadn't done it. I think the apology probably made more of an impact on me than the original wrongful punishment (as is borne out by the fact I remember one and not the other) so although obviously you want to avoid it, I don't think the occasional mispunishment is going to cancel out all the correct discipline. I hope that makes sense, it is meant to be an encouragement albeit rather rambling.

Tracy said...

Amy, thanks for sharing this today. We have had so many of these same incidents in our home over the years and I'm not foolish enough to believe they won't occur again! We only have one child now that is deceitful. He's 16 and I absolutely HATE not being able to trust him. Sometimes I feel that it would be easier just to ignore the situation but I know that is not the way for long term success. So, I too doubt my sanity some days and drag myself through the day only by the grace of God. You're not alone.

NeeCee said...

I totally understand what you are going through. My son is adopted and struggles with RAD. It is only through the grace of God, we get through the day and I am often faced with situations such as these.

I fully believe God can and will heal our children.

Berean Wife said...


Been there, done that. When the occasional punishment for not doing wrong has occurred I point out that there were many things that I may not know they did wrong and yet it was deserving of punishment.

I agree with Bren that your reputation will be a cause for misjudgment all through your life so change your reputation. :)

I can't blame the lying here on being adopted, abused or being a foster child. I have a couple that just have more struggle in this area of sin.

I turned off word verification just for you. Hope that helps.

Berean Wife

Crystal said...

I can so relate to you! I appreciate your honestly about your struggles. My 12 yr old adopted son makes me question my sanity on a daily basis- usually several times a day. We've tried everything with him to no avail. You hit the nail on the head with Prov. 22:15. Nothing has worked except God's way. In fact, it usually makes him 10 times worse when we use other methods.
Hang tough. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job!