Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. I won’t go into the stats or the diagnostics or the myriad of other issues surrounding this, this, this THING that has affected so many children and adults. This beast has silently filled our lives with a trauma that cannot be defined or fully understood.
Children do not have to be subjected to neglect or bad home lives to be affected. It doesn’t happen only to poor people or alcoholics. The effects are often likened to traumatic brain injuries because fetal alcohol exposure can cause a trauma to the brain and prevent or stunt development. Fetal alcohol exposure can behave like a traumatic brain injury, causing strange behaviours, delayed social, physical, or emotional skills, sometimes health problems, mental illness, and the list goes on. The symptoms may appear at birth or may be delayed and rear up in adolescence.
All of my adoptive children were affected by prenatal alcohol exposure and neglect. All of my adoptive children have shown some effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, from the minor to the obvious, and all behavioural.
Our family travels as part of our lifestyle – we enjoy world travel, performing acts service or charity, and worldschooling, something akin to homeschooling across the world. I would love to say this has helped my children overcome some of the challenges they face. It may have, but I won’t say it, because I don’t really know what my kids would be like if we had a stationary,average life. I interact with other parents of FASD affected children and some of their experiences are so much more extreme, with behaviour issues and mental illnesses that interfere with everyday living. That isn’t our experience, but it could happen – I just don’t know. So, I will explain some of my children’s challenges, which we are very open about, to give people a little insight to FASD – a little or a lot. ( Oh, and please feel free to laugh a little! This isn’t meant to be an essay on our life of horrors, but more of a let me help others understand, or an explanation as to why “thangs get a little different around here”…)
I have 3 children who will avoid doing things at all costs. I mean all things, playing, working, socializing, ALL THINGS. They will stand for hours rather than do anything, even if they might enjoy it. Why? I don’t know and neither do they, and I have asked. Sometimes I will say go find something to do, or give options of things to do. They prefer to stand and not do things. Seriously, sometimes for hours. There have been times when one of these children will suddenly stop and just stand. A little overwhelming in a busy airport while on the move to the connecting flight, but we compensate and I am aware. Mind you, I know what this indicates, what brain malfunction could be responsible, and so on. What no one can answer is how to change things for these children. So we try.
All 6 of my adoptive children have honesty challenges (yes, as in “liar, liar, pants on fire”). Some lie more than others, with 2 children, at times, being a bit extreme in their efforts..They are terrible liars, seriously the worst. There is no reason for it, according to most, it’s just a habit, they say. They forge on, expecting that people will just start believing everything that they say, no matter how far fetched. Sometimes caught with evidence (I tell them the frosting all over your face and staining your teeth, or the wrappers stuffed in your pillow case, or the browsing history on your electronic device are all giveaways, but they don’t believe me!), they will still deny, sometimes resorting to hysterical crying and statements of “why don’t you believe me? I’m telling the truth this time!”, and I yet I will remain unmoved and wait for the truth to emerge. It always does. In this, too, we try.
Several of my children have eating issues, including one with an obvious gorging problem. The food issues will likely lessen in intensity, and, for one child, has even been overcome (she still loves to eat super salty and very sweet foods, and will become overindulgent with those). My 10 year old, Seamus, can eat more in one sitting than 4 adult men. I am not exaggerating! He has eaten in one meal more than 8,000 calories – he lives for buffets. Prior to his adoption, while still in public school, the teacher frequently lost him. Yes, they lost my 5 year old! He was always found with enormous amounts of food that he had liberated from the cafeteria trash cans. Once he was found with 24 pieces of toast in his shirt sleeves, with evidence of having already eaten at least the same amount. (I won’t even go into my rage at having 5 year old children left unattended or so poorly looked after that they have time to take 48 pieces of toast from the trash bins, stuff them in their clothes and hide in the janitors closet to eat it for hours on end!) Until recently, I had given Seamus the opportunity to indulge his lust for food within some reasonable limits in hopes it would eventually fade. It hasn’t, but I have had to restrict him to some degree, for, even though he doesn’t gain weight despite the huge intake, it was suggested to me that he may be accumulating fat around his internal organs and may eventually cause some serious health issues. We continue on and we try.
Along with these food related issues comes the theft and dumpster diving. The theft is almost always surrounding the desire for food. The food itself may be stolen, but the money (usually just change) may be taken to procure the food, which is almost always junk food. ( Like lying, my children are terrible thieves. They always get caught, usually because of someone slipping up in word or deed. They keep on trying, though) My 16 year old son is experiencing some independence and defiance issues right now and despite eating normal meals provided at home, feels that he should be entitled to eat more fast food. That sense of entitlement has led to digging through trash bins at the mall ( or airports or wherever we are) and eating the remains of fast food he finds there. Yes, he knows the dangers. He is of average mental ability and has no reason to do this. He just can, so he does. So we continue on and we try.
I am not bitter about the following statement, but it must be expressed for those without experience to understand. There is a sense of entitlement that children in/from foster care have that is often overlooked or unacknowledged. Their whole world has become only about them. There are many reasons, from the teams of people who exist to monitor their lives to trying to relieve symptoms of the bio-life with interventions and often material things so they don’t feel “different”. This sense of entitlement doesn’t end with adoption. One of my children expressed his disappointment after being adopted because he thought he would get more stuff, do what he wanted and when he wanted and have fewer chores. He was sadly mistaken. We move on and we try.
My children, just because of their existence, have learned to manipulate people. They know that when they do wrong, people will be unlikely to chastise them if they know their background. People often feel sorry for them. Maybe people believe that because they were abandoned or neglected, that they should make up for it. I think people generally mean well. Unfortunately, this has led to my children never experiencing consequences, so now they believe that there are no consequences to their actions. I am a parent to children with brain trauma who feel there are no consequences to their actions. Let that sink in. This is the future of our world. Of course I work hard at counteracting this, I work very hard at it. We continue to try.
I have this idea that we should all be grateful for all that we have, especially our lives. I believe that it is a necessity and directs our paths. I thought this even when I was not Christian. Without gratitude, what reason is there for living? Gratitude is very hard to teach. Teaching it to people with brain trauma is even more difficult. So, we try.
The theme of this is FASD, but it’s very different for everyone. There is no guide book for this! I just try to find the humor in the bizarre, when sometimes the only explanation for the oddity du jour is that the sane train derailed. I mess up, the kids mess up, maybe we should do things differently, maybe we should do more, or less. I don’t have all of the answers, except I breathe and I laugh and I pray a lot and when I make a mistake ( I do this ALL THE TIME!) I try to fix it and do better next time. When God blessed me with all of these children, He really had a lot of lessons that He wanted me to learn. I am still learning! While I am learning, we just try. We try to live and be happy. We try to live our lives by our faith. We try to be better. We try to overcome. We just try.
Something very important to me to mention is that my kids, ALL of my kids, are the best and coolest people I know! We are honest and forthcoming about their unique challenges and struggles, but that does NOT diminish their importance to me or their value to this world. Nothing I have said was with the intention of demeaning or embarrassing my children and they are completely aware of and supportive of this post to help bring awareness to FASD.
Blessings to all~ THE CAVEMAN CLAN