Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday Morning With Sydney


Weekday mornings I usually wake Sydney but on the weekends, she is often up before the sun, even if she is allowed to stay up late the night before. Almost every Saturday and Sunday morning that I try to sleep in an extra hour, we go through a similar chaotic scenario. She leaves her room early and goes and wakes the kids upstairs who would like to sleep-in. She gets into the pantry and feeds herself a variety of interesting things, often hiding some of these things under her pillow “for later.” (See my past blogpost about hoarding.) She cannot stick to anything for more than a few minutes until after her medication begins to work so she might play a video game for a few minutes, dump a bucket or two of toys, undress a doll, get a movie going in her little dvd player and immediately abandon it, check to see if I am awake and jump on my bed a minute, while asking a dozen questions but not waiting for a single answer.  Sydney’s room opens both into the hall and into my room. We designed the house that way so I would have a nursery connected to our room. It has come in very handy. On the weekends I usually remember to block the door to the hall so Sydney has to come through my room and I can intercept her. I forgot last night. Shawn heard her get up and gave her permission to go to the bathroom, with the very clear instructions that she should go BACK to her room immediately after. Shawn got in the shower and I dozed back off. I woke ten minutes later and figured I’d better check on Sydney. The first place I looked was her room but I have no idea why. It is a mystery to me why I have any faith left in her ability to follow an instruction. After all this time, and all these mornings gone-wrong, I still expect her to obey. I still am surprised when she has not followed the directions she is given. Why? I have often heard: “insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Am I insane? I know that definition would actually apply to a science experiment proving the laws of gravity or something much more concrete than the whims of a child. However, this morning when I looked in Sydney’s room, hoping to find her playing quietly or reading in bed, I told myself that I must be insane looking there first.  I knew I would be more likely to find her upstairs in a sibling’s room, jumping on them while they protested, or digging in the pantry for something. Is it that I am only giving her the “benefit of the doubt” or that I am hopeful? Is it insanity?

I went into the dining room, calling her name. She didn’t answer. She was hiding behind the pantry door in the kitchen. She had a mouth full of food, and an American flag in her hand. The flag is one of Levi’s prized possessions. It came from a classroom at the Vinland school that was closed and abandoned. (Insanity abounds in this world.) The kids and I had helped the teachers pack up their classrooms and Levi had scored big when one of the teachers offered him the old, faded flag from the classroom. The flag in her hand proved to me she had already been upstairs. One of the rules at our house is that she can only go upstairs if she asks permission. Insanity struck me again, and I asked her:  “Have you been upstairs?” I expected the truth but she shook her head “no.” I said, “Sydney, I know you have been upstairs because you have Levi’s flag. Tell me the truth. Have you been upstairs?” She slowly shook her head “yes.”  I have many frustrations with all this. Is she able to give me the truth but afraid of the consequences? Is she always just going to give me the answer she THINKS I want to hear because she just wants to avoid conflict or make me happy? Is she unable to give me the truth because of her disability? Is this totally because of the lack of impulse control due to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? I do know it is NOT because of lack of parenting, love, or discipline. Discipline of any kind has not been effective. Spankings, time-outs, lost privileges or toys, and lectures do no good. Positive reinforcement, hugs, and love have not made a dent in the behaviors either. We tried a morning chart with gifts for 3 good mornings and it took her a month to earn one gift. Of course, consistency is needed and we have been as consistent as possible through all the uproar she creates. Sydney is able to control her actions to a certain degree once her medication has taken effect. Even then, though, she cannot seem to control her impulses to correct her peers or to pester those around her. 

After I found Sydney this morning, took the flag from her, lectured her about her disobedience and how important it is to answer me when I call, I made sure she had something to eat and her pills. Then I watched her and waited for her pills to do their job. She ate a waffle, leaving the table over and over. She played “Just Dance” on the Nintendo for a minute, went to the bathroom and talked non-stop while there, played with her trucks and animals for a few seconds, told me about a dream she had (which she made up as she went along), got dressed, loudly read me two pages of a chapter book, argued with me about why she needed to go upstairs and wake Bailey, got out a bucket of crayons and paper but didn’t use them, dumped out her Polly Pockets, then immediately dumped a box of Barbies, cleaned up the Polly Pockets (at my insistence), turned on the television in my room and found a show she liked (which she immediately wandered away from) and got her coat and boots on so she could go outside. The yard is just mud from the melting snow and I told her to stay on the porch and sidewalk, fully expecting her to obey me and not come in covered with mud. Am I insane?  Probably! 

For all my frustration, I can only imagine Sydney’s. Being expected to follow rules and routine when her impulse control is almost non-existent must be very hard. Every thought (impulse) she has seems to be like a powerful magnet, pulling her to it. Alcohol did this to her. A birth mother who could not or would not control her impulses to drink did this to her. If you have seen the movie “Dennis The Menace” and watched how Dennis cannot control himself when it comes to pushing a button, then you might have an idea of how it is for Sydney. Dennis tries not to push the buttons in front of him. He reaches out to do it, pulls his hand back, thinks and weighs the options, then quickly pushes the button. The power of the button was just too much for him. THAT is what Sydney must be dealing with. What she sees, she touches and what she wants, she grabs. If she thinks it, she says it. Thank goodness for the medications we have found. It’s been well over an hour since Sydney took her pills. She is lying in the floor, in front of a show, talking calmly to me about her next trip over to visit Grandpa’s cows. I could probably go get a shower now or leave her unattended for a few minutes and it would NOT be insane to expect her to be behaving when I return. My precious baby girl is back with me for the day and the wild child is gone until tomorrow morning. Same
Sydney, caught in the act when she was
about four or five. 
time, same place. 


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