The Mourning Doves, Part 2
Part 2 – Restraint
“That which yields is not always weak.”
This is the second installment of ‘The Mourning Doves,’ an adoption story of a single mother, her daughter, and their search for a therapy dog. ‘The Mourning Doves’ is a multi-post documentary from the Invisible Obstacles Series. To start from the beginning, click here.
As Anne lowers herself into her chair, she sees the coffee machine. She vaults to her feet, slapping the table with both hands. “I want my coffee!”
We’re in the clubhouse of her apartment complex, where Anne will have her first home-school lesson of the day. Amelia spreads the textbooks, worksheets, and a set of colored pencils out on a small conference table. She had just started to introduce today’s exercise.
Anne heads toward the coffee machine, and Amelia takes a deep breath. Amelia lowers her head into her hands. She waits.
When the machine overflows, Anne shouts for Amelia, and her mother handles the mess. Meanwhile, Anne garnishes her drink and adds ice.
Amelia takes a sip of Anne’s weak, lukewarm coffee. She winces. It’s terrible.
“On the good days, I see every accomplishment as a small miracle. I was surprised when she started reading, when she found math to be easy.”
As Anne tallies results from the recent primaries, she cheers and boos as her mother reads the election results, squealing and bouncing with glee when Sanders takes a win.
The work takes a while, but Anne remains focused, and she’s in a good mood throughout the long session. It’s a weekday morning, and the clubhouse is empty except for a small cleaning staff. With her back to the windows, Anne is free from the distractions that would catch her attention in a classroom.
“I’m sure my decision to home-school her has a huge impact on this. If I had sent her to public school, she would have hated learning. She still isn’t a big fan of school-work, but she is accomplishing so much more at home.”
This has been a good day. With Amelia’s flexibility, Anne is able to get through the day with no meltdowns, tantrums. or early-stops.
“Anne never went to public school. I made my decision to home-school based on the struggles of my friends, who had adopted, and the problems they had with the public school systems. Schools were judging kids based on their family medical histories. They struggled to get through the IEP process and were being bullied into medications. My friends’ kids’ hated school. I didn’t want Anne to go through the same thing.”
“The best benefit of the home-school curriculum is that it can stop when she needs to stop. If she is having a bad day with learning, the lesson can wait until tomorrow. If she is finding a chapter to be easy, she can go through it quickly, and move on.”
“In a public school setting, if you fall behind or don’t understand the concept, the class keeps moving ahead. Home-school allows Anne to learn at her own pace.”
During our session, Amelia dresses her daughter, ties her shoes, carries her books, cuts her food, accompanies her to the restroom, and helps her shower – all things an average 8-year-old can do independently.
Other than this, Anne seems like a regular kid – bright and happy, if a bit pampered.
“People look at her, and say she looks fine to them. Her scars are internal. You can’t see the trauma. You can’t see how illegal drug use during pregnancy damages and misforms the brain.”
This is what makes Amelia’s job so difficult. Anne looks fine. If everything goes well, she acts fine. Even as I follow them throughout the day, I see the limited view that friends, family, and strangers see. From the outside, it looks like an indulgent mother molly-coddling a demanding child.
On a good day, critics keep comments to themselves. When all is well, Amelia might catch some side-eye for letting her hyperactive child brew coffee. She might get strange looks for sharing a bathroom stall with an 8-year-old who looks closer to 14.
“Anne is obsessive. If we do something once, that she likes, it becomes a ‘This must happen every time’ thing. If it doesn’t, major tantrums and meltdowns happen.
On a bad day, Amelia might have to refuse to one of Anne’s demands. Amelia is not afraid of inconvenient whining. She’s afraid of triggering a full meltdown, derailing a trip to the grocery store, or an entire day of school lessons. As Anne gets older, her meltdowns become more difficult to handle, and those silent critics turn loud – complicating an already overwhelming situation.
“She is too big now to be just picked up and carried away from a situation. If I don’t hold on tight while she is screaming, she is going to run.“
“I’ve had people yell at me in public, threatening to call the cops on me. They don’t see that I am trying to keep my child from being a menace in public. They judge me for having a spoiled, uncontrollable brat.”
“I feel like I spend every moment trying to prevent a tantrum, a shut down, a manic like spurt of hyperactivity. On her bad days, I just want to call her birth mother, and scream at her. How dare she cause all these difficulties for MY child.”
“I don’t have the patience that I thought I would have as a parent. I feel like I yell every day. I fear she will think I am mean, or unloving. But my biggest fear is that if I don’t yell enough, and keep her in line, she will fall into the same fate of addiction as the two generations of her birth family before her.”
When I ask her what advice she has for parents coming into similar situations, she encourages families to do research online and join support groups, but most importantly, to prioritize their child’s development over an uninformed stranger’s judgement.
“Do what you feel is best for your child – not what people think works for kids like yours.”
Amelia chooses her battles carefully. She has learned to stay steadfast in her focus and flexible about the daily details.
This is the second installment of ‘The Mourning Doves,’ a multi-post documentary from the Invisible Obstacles Series. Check out the other posts here:
Part 1: Her Protector
Part 2: Restraint [You are here]
Part 3: Warrior
Part 4: Winging It
Part 5: Good Stuff
Part 6: Sanctuary
This session is from the Invisible Obstacles Series. Families in the Invisible Obstacles series provide a glimpse into daily life while navigating adversity. Names and locations of minors may have been changed to protect privacy. Permission & quotes attributed to Amelia R. unless otherwise specified.
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