This week, one of the boys had a nasty gash/bite in his forehead/between his eyes where the other twin bit him. Mom was napping. While she napped, the also unsupervised 5 year old sister emptied an entire bottle of dishwashing soap onto the carpet. At least that spot will be clean & these bubbles were not poured in my bag. :o)
When I evaluated these kiddos at 12 months, they were both spending 80% of their waking hours in a portacrib (together). They couldn't sit up or crawl given such limited opportunities to build gross motor skills and they had very limited language development beyond open mouth vowel sounds. That was before mom was on her meds. Before she could remember to feed them or change their diaper. Instead of providing developmental therapy as in most cases, I was supporting this mom to provide the bare basics for her kids; they need to be held, talked to, fed, clothed, bathed & loved on. We set up charts & visuals as well as phone call reminders that the twins must eat & drink. Mom was never hungry - except for the cake, cookies, soda, etc - stashed away for midnight consumption - but in her lack of hunger, she more often than not forgot to feed the babies. Both parents have some degree of mental impairment or learning disability. Therein lies the problem.
Selfishly speaking, I won't have to wade through mess to get to the kids. Food, trash, clothes. Mom collected cups - like from 7-11 big gulp or any other large plastic cup from gas stations & such. She didn't want to collect something common that everyone else did like barbie dolls or shot glasses. She collected disposable plastic cups - hundreds of them, stacked everywhere.
I don't have to worry so much about staining my clothes from the spills on the carpet anymore. I don't have worry about unexplained bruises, bumps, cuts or scrapes that I see with no explanation. "I don't know what happened." I won't have to worry about the kids eating week old food off the floor because they are hungry. I won't be nauseous the first two hours of my day because of the stench in that little apartment. I won't have to worry about getting there, finding mom looking in the neighbor's yard because the twins are missing again. She let them play in the backyard by themselves. I won't field calls like "Carmen, I hear the twins screaming upstairs. I don't know if they are ok or not. When are you coming?" I won't be the one to decide if the situation merits another call to DCFS to no avail.
So, it's over. Just me & the social worker that has stuck it out with this family out of a number of other therapists who would rather quit or worse yet, discharge them from services because the conditions were horrid. I took a birthday cake, candle, plates & gifts to celebrate their birthday; celebrating the progress the've made & celebrate this load off my mind & heart. They have made good progress despite the conditions. They sing songs & love books, play appropriately. Mom has made progress & real changes in the way she interacts with her kids. She speaks to them, sings to them rather than yelling. She hold them close rather than pushing them away. She wants good things for them. I know she does. Here's to the twins~ here's to the teachers who will worry about them now.
Someone To Watch Over Me: the after party
Yesterday met with way more happiness AND sadness than I expected. The twins were ecstatic with their little cake & gifts. The 5 & 7 year old siblings were even MORE excited, clamoring to help the twins blow out the candles! The kids (all 4) and I read books as much as we could before lunch. Cuddling in a cozy lap with a book is their favorite thing to do. Daddy does read with them. Yeah!!! A love for books is the foundation to success in reading, which in turn leads to school success & we all know where that leads. YEAH!!!
I was certain to praise the kids as much as I could - the older ones especially. It's part of modeling appropriate interaction but also so they could hear a few more times that they are good: good helpers, good listeners, good looking at book readers, good cleaner upers, good eaters, good singers and good candle blower outers. You can't even imagine the smile that spreads over their entire face when they hear they are good. The 7 year old made me cry when he said over chocolate cake (chocolate cake all OVER us), "I sure wish we had something for you to remember us by. Don't forget us." Awwwwww.... "You've given me the best gift to remember you. We will remember eating this cake together, singing, laughing & being happy together. I will not forget you."
Mom joined us only to light the candle & take a picture (that was really nice). She did not enjoy the cake moment with her children. I KNOW this woman loves cake. She did not say goodbye, staying busy digging for socks without looking at me as I praised her boys' progress, her progress . I choose to believe that the goodbye was hard for her as well, instead of any other reason why she would not acknowledge me. I don't need a thank you to do my job.
I prayed over each twin before leaving; praying for health, growth, good success & safety. Prayed for a very real embracing from the one who knows how to hold us & love us. On my way out the door, little M. called me back to kiss the owie on his finger. I cried all the way to my next appointment.
Later in the day, I wept more while reading Motherless Mothers (Edelman). There was a poignant piece related to the loss I feel for these kids in the absence of protective parenting.
Most parenting experts agree that a moderate amount of anxiety is a normal and important element of parenting. Parents need to have some degree of concern for their children's wellbeing: that's what ensures their offspring's survival. They need to be responsive to signals that aren't evident to others around them, the unique signs that their child is in distress. Daniel Stern calls these a parent's 'vigilant responses'. They're similar to the type of actions a lioness might take when her cub is in danger, although human threats today are morelike staircases and swimming pools than predators in the wild.
Tell me where's the shepherd for this lost lamb
There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me
I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me
Someone to watch over me