Monday, May 28, 2012


Heather Forbes has likened each individual's stress tolerance to a glass....which, depending on each person's unique capacity and resilience some point - hit its limit and then - the stress spills over.  I guess it is another way to think of the old idea of "the straw that broke the camel's back" straw doesn't seem like anything - and yet, it might just be the LAST straw!

Last Monday, we were all tested - particularly Lydia, Anastasia and me.  I'd invited Lydia to come with us to therapy in Livonia.  I thought she might benefit from the chance to talk to Julie about the ways in which someone like Anastasia might need different treatment than - say - someone like Lydia.  Lydia's famous (and frequent) line is "You would never have let me get away with that!".  And, honestly, I think she goes back and forth [understandably] between thinking on one hand that I am favoring Anastasia, and on the other that I am not parenting Anastasia as well as I parented her.  Anyway, that was my hope in inviting her.  Of course, we also planned on perhaps some shopping and lunch. 

Anyway, after therapy, we headed back to Lansing on I-96, planning on stopping in Brighton at Cracker Barrel (Lydia's choice)with the caveat that if nothing at CB tickled Anastasia's fancy we'd get her some Taco Bell afterwards to eat in the car. 

Just east of the exit we were rear-ended by some fellow trying to change lanes. I was in the center lane just going the speed of the traffic and I hadn't seen him coming in my mirror.   It was startling, for sure, but he didn't hit us very hard.  I discovered last winter when I smashed-in the front of my car sliding at about 2 miles an hour into a pole, how really unable cars seem to be to take much impact at all (it is terrifying, really).  So, though we weren't hit hard, it was scary, particularly as when I tried to move off to the edge of the highway, the car defiantly seemed disabled.  Actually, the metal was so bent that when we moved right it rubbed against the tire, I think. 

Being hit was only the beginning of our problem, really.  I called AAA (being an AAA member is one of the best things we've ever done).  They said I had to make an accident report before they could come.  Frankly, I was shaken, and it was hard just to get my hands to work to dial AAA, but I managed to get the State Police, too, and eventually an officer came.  While we waited Lydia got out and surveyed the damage. I couldn't bring myself to do it.  All I could think about was how dependent I am on our car, since the van is not working, and we can't get it fixed right now.  In fact, how was I going to get Sergei from school?  AND his friend, who (wouldn't you know) is counting us on a ride for the remainder of the school year. 

After looking at the damage, Lydia opened up the hatch and began to straighten out the mess back there - things had gotten thrown around.  While doing so, she uncovered a beer which someone had given me months ago....   I'd sort-of "hidden" it back there expressly because any sort of alcohol consumption is a trigger for Anastasia - all the more so if the person consuming it is me.  I insisted (almost hysterically, because I didn't need a melt-down on top of everything else) that Lydia throw the beer into the bushes at the side of the road.  Obviously she didn't want to do that for a variety of reasons with the other driver watching (you can see how Anastasia's hysteria about beer had passed on to me).  Instead, Lydia told Anastasia the beer was hers....and that averted the problem, probably because at this point the police car arrived as a distraction.

 Fortunately,the other driver was straightforward about everything being his fault.  , then I could call AAA back.  All of this took time, and just being there at the side of the road realizing all of our plans were destroyed took its toll on me, for sure.

They sent a tow truck, but because there were three of us, we couldn't ride to Lansing with the tow-truck driver; but he said he'd take me to the next exit and the policeman could take the girls.  We all got dropped off at a Pizza Hut. 

Now began my FOUR HOUR effort to get us the 40 minutes home.  I tried using my phone in the restaurant,but I couldn't hear over the scratchy country music, so I went outside, where the noise of the freeway wouldn't let me hear.  I finally found that I could hear and be heard in the restroom - so I spent the afternoon there.  Lovely. 

So, I call my insurance company, and they remind me that, after our "review" of coverage last summer, we'd dropped the Rental Car feature on our policy - we could save money that way we'd reasoned, since we have another vehicle.  Right.  We had another vehicle.  But!  Last year the body shop had given us a loaner.  I called them.....well, yes, they would - but he didn't think they had one at the moment. 

Oh, dear!  So, like it or not, there was nothing to be done, but rent a car.  Let's start with Avis - who had no cars.  The Hertz, whose office was several miles away, and we had no way to get there except walk.  Enterprise will pick us up...but!  Wait!  They will not accept a card used both as credit and debit.  What?  Why not?  Couldn't they contact the credit union? No.  But- if I could give them a pay stub.  A pay stub?  Right. I always carry a pay stub with me.  Couldn't they speak to my employer.  Nope.   Eventually, they settled for a copy of the accident report and a copy of my Proof of Insurance (and of course I didn't have that with me I had to arrange to have that faxed to them.) All of this took so much time and made me feel so helpless and vulnerable. 

At 4:30 someone from Enterprise finally took us away from Pizza Hut (yeah!) to their office.  Just as I was about to sign for the car, Craig calls.  He'd walked to the body shop and they had come up with a loaner!  Finally something went right!  And, just in time, too!  Despite a bit of guilt for their trouble, I  took Enterprise's offer to drop us off at a Panera near the exit.  Absolutely did not want to sit in that barren Enterprise office until Craig arrived.    I can't recall when any coffee has tasted as good as that cup I first got at Panera's.  And eventually Craig arrived and took us home.  Thank heaven. 

How odd to immediatly have to leap into action and take Maxim and Sergei to their dog-walking job and Ilya to kickboxing.  While we were gone Lydia threw together some sort of meal from what we had in the house.  Imagining Anastasia needed a bit of reward for being so good all day, I picked her up a Snickers.   As they requested, I got drinks for I and M, and either a drink or candy for everyone.  After dinner, I realized that Anastasia's candy was gone.  Maxim mentioned casually going upstairs something about "his" candy bar.  So, basically, he took her candybar.   And, finally.....her cup of stress was more than full.  That was the last straw. 

Moms are not supposed to have last straws.  So, I took a deep breath and drawing her into the laundry room, spent Lydia's final evening with us, attending to Anastasia. (Though this allowed Lydia some nice time playing games with Zhen.) Really, though - Anastasia had been amazing.  She had coped with one triggering incident after another by hanging on.....and not allowing herself to get dysregulated.  I thought about it (well, she pointed it out.....after some time she realized what was going on....)  The acident.  Scary enough.  The mammoth change of plans.  Yelling (OK; I did yell a bit).  The bottle of beer.  And how could I not have reaized how hard it is for her to ride in a police car?  (brings back being removed from her mother)  No Taco Bell, which she'd counted on.  Loooong time stuck in that restaurant, not knowing how we'd get home.  The purloined candy bar was not the reason she lost it - as it might have was that on top of a huge load of earlier stressers. 

I was so proud of her, for working with me, for getting a grip, for actually realizing and telling me the things that had really stressed her out.  (I couldn't believe I wasn't aware of the police car at the time.)  And, I'd even forgotten that Julie had really pushed her in therapy, and not timed thngs quite well enough to "get her back" before we left.  I'd totally forgotten that I'd left Julie's office thinking, "Oh, crap...."   And, it had been the promise of Taco Bell that brought her back.  So, I asked her if she was still hungry (she hadn't eaten Lydia's dinner).  And, I went and got her Taco Bell.  It seemed to me that it was rewarding her work to become regulated, it was recognizing how well she'd coped with really hard things - one after another - all day!  And it was keeping the promise I'd made when we left therapy.  It was also feeding her, which is huge for her, since her mother didn't. 

But.  Of course, to everyone else, it looked like "spoiling her" and "letting her boss [me] around".  Since no one was in the laundry room with us, all they saw was the bad behavior, so it looked to them like I was teaching Anastasia to act badly to "get her way".  But it really wasn't like that at all.  Or, I don't think it was.

But, people can make me second-guess myself.  I was trying to do the right thing, anyway. 


:)De said...

Glad you made it back safely. That was a lot to deal with! I had a teacher place a bottle of glue on a stool in the middle of the classroom and had everyone sit in a circle around the bottle. He had us describe the bottle in as much detail as possible. One person was allowed to walk around the room to describe what he saw. Of course, since most of us could only see 1 side of the bottle, our details were different from the person on the other side of the circle.

It's all perspective. Such is so when parenting...people only see one side while we the parent get to walk around the bottle.


Mike and Christie said...

What an amazingly stressful day!!!
I'm sorry that those who saw what was happening didn't see the whole picture. Sometimes it is hard and we walk a lonely path. But I think you should be PROUD of you and of Anastasia! That is HUGE progress!!!
Riding in a police car would trigger my girls for sure! Being promised something and holding it together DURING a stressful time, horray for Anastasia and to you for recognizing that she needed to have that promise of Taco Bell fulfilled.
Last year, we had promised Chuck E Cheese and instead found a better deal at Amazing Jakes. When we got to Amazing Jakes, Alli was terribly disappointed. She held herself together for quite a while and then fell apart at the end. I had to take her to the van, while everybody else finished ice cream. She revealed that she had been promised Chuck E Cheese before and when her respite family was about to go, her other family pulled up unexpectedly and took her to a psych unit. So of COURSE this was a huge trigger that we didn't know about.
The next night, we surprised ALL the girls with Chuck E Cheese, because we felt it would help calm our Alli.
It was not rewarding bad behavior of an ungrateful child, but understanding that sometimes experiences are overwhelming and the promise was made and needed to be fulfilled.
Good Job Annie!

Molly said...

I believe you did the right thing, 100%. Especially when you explain it like you did! It sounds like awesome progress. I feel you on the glass thing. It is so very very true.

Annie said...

Thanks, ladies. I needed that.

mamaporuski said...

I just read my "Parenting the Hurt Child" again trying to find some nugget of truth that I haven't found before. Instead I was reminded that we should use the bonding and attachment techniques that our children need, no matter how long they need them. I too find myself feeding Z after five years of being home when he is overwhelmed. Dr. Keck goes on to say that no college application asks when your chid gave up being fed, rocked or their favorite blankie :).
Give your chid what they need, and forget what others think!

Ciska said...

I am by no means an expert, but it sounds to me like you did exactly the right thing. I guess it's hard for the other family members to see the whole picture because they're so close to it.

Alysa said...

Way to go Anastasia! I just started reading your blog and love that she is making progress.... And good on you for getting her Taco Bell! When she does something good, she needs to know that it doesn't go unnoticed... Because children with trauma are working through things that other people think are normal, like riding in a police car. To us, not a big deal, to her, keeping her cool was very hard! She needs to know she is loved, and cared for, and that her efforts are noticed, so a little Taco bell is good!!!!

Alysa said...

Oh, have you thought of having your family read this post? So maybe, they can see what you were thinking when getting her taco bell?

kate said...

I think she's come a looooooong way. ;>

And, I don't think the Taco Bell was a reward for "bad behavior". It sounds, to me, like a promise kept.

(I was freaking out over the police car. I was sure you'd go in the police car with her and send Lydia in the tow truck.)

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

It might be helpful to suggest some reading for people who don't understand what has to be different and why.
It IS hard to see it from a peripheral perspective. It took me a couple of years to see how typical parenting was failing us so miserably.

on our way today said...

I would have taken her back out for taco bell too. I do a lot of things ppl would criticize as well but I just accept that I have to do what I feel is best per child per situation.

My kids all love taco bell too and there are none near us. It would have been a huge treat for them too.