My son Jordan was the last child I adopted. He kept me busy all the rest of the years. Jordan was a beautiful child. He was put on Ritalin when he was one year old. When I read about it, on the description by his little photo, in Sunday's paper, I thought that sounded really excessive! But after I adopted him, I understood it completely. His energy level was extremely high, and he had absolutely no patience, no self-control, no self-protection skills. He had been born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and ADHD. He was said to be severely retarded. I didn't know that this last was not the case. Strange as it may sound, there is an enormous difference between global retardation, and brain injury. Jordan was struggling terribly; an alert, loving, intelligent child with an extraordinary level of energy, held captive in a wild body with an incorrigible spirit, trying to survive with extremely severe learning disabilities. Extreme enough so that he cannot read, write, or do the simplest math, even now, in adulthood.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is different for every child. It can be so devastating, that the baby dies before birth. It can be light enough so that the child is so close to normal, that they suffer horrible depression, because they know exactly what they are missing. This has been the hardest disability I have dealt with. When I adopted Jordan, he was nearly five years old. He was a furiously angry little boy, whom no one had ever appreciated or loved. He could barely speak, was not potty trained, and yelled "NO!" at everything anyone said to him. He was so very difficult, round the clock, that his foster family was paid $900. per month, for his care! This was unheard of, twenty years ago. I had never heard of anything near such a high payment. I remember thinking that I should have gotten paid that much, when I was Chad's foster mother! Jordan's foster family had so much trouble with him, that they got CPS's approval to have him sleep in a playpen, with a professional fishnet fastened tightly over the top. They were ready for him to leave their home, though, because he had outgrown the playpen. In addition, he was now nearly too strong for the foster mother to overpower. She could not make him mind in any way. She had to physically force him, to wrestle his clothes on and off. He fought her at every turn. The caseworker asked me if I was certain I was strong enough to handle him. I assured her I was. And I was. But much more than physical strength, I needed patience, and new strategies, for a child who was unlike any I had ever known. My old strategies worked pretty well, but I developed new ones as we went. Jordan had the ability to dress himself. I never struggled with him. I didn't believe in entering into any power struggles with a child. I sat him down, and told him I was his mommy now, forever. I told him that he would have to mind me, like all my children did. He could see that all the other children did mind me. He saw that there were always consequences if they didn't. In our family, I said, all the children mind their mother. There were two corners I could choose, to stand a child in. I told him Jordan I would spank if I had to, but that I knew he was smart, and I knew he could mind me. We would try other things first. He looked at me in such interest and astonishment, with surprise and trust shining in his eyes. I told him, one thing at a time, what he must do, in order to get something he wanted. The first thing I taught him, was to dress himself. He had to put his own clothes on, in the morning, in order to get to eat breakfast. I wasn't about to get into a wrestling match with him. That's not my style. No problem. He wanted breakfast. He dressed himself. I put a diaper on him during the day, until he chose to use the toilet. When he had an accident, he changed himself. Soon he was through with accidents during the day. This was never a problem. It worked just fine.
I remember feeling certain that if I could raise Chad, and help him as I had, and he could turn out to be the nice and happy person that he had become, I could certainly do the same for Jordan. Well, Jordan is a success, but it certainly has been a long road. I would do it again. I love him so dearly. But I would be much more assertive in demanding medicine that would help him sleep. I wouldn't stop until I found a doctor who had the solution.
The massive difference between Chad and Jordan, was that Chad slept at night. I had no break from Jordan, round the clock. If Jordan had been able to sleep eight hours at night, our lives would have been a COMPLETELY different experience! Enormously happier.
I had not known there could be a child who only slept three or four hours per night. Five, if the mother was extremely lucky. Jordan was this child. He was on Amitryptaline, to help him sleep. And that was the only reason he ever slept five hours. I had never dreamed of such a human being.
Jordan has a very dear, loving side. But he was also a little boy who destroyed furniture, toys, and everything breakable. One of the first things he did was to pick off my piano keys. One every few days, as soon as I took my eyes off of him. He removed and lost knobs and handles of drawers. He picked apart other children's toys, and destroyed them. He took apart everything he could get his hands on. He jumped off his set of wooden shelves until they fell into a pile of boards. Then he picked up the boards and used to them scratch the walls, and see if he could bang holes in them. Then he would climb on his bed with the board, and scratch the ceilings to watch the little sparkly things fall off. He had tantrums, and would run screaming, and throw himself on his bed, which had a window by it. One time he threw himself a little further, hit and broke the window with his head. He was not injured. Needless to say, I didn't put his bed by a window any more!
During the day, in my sight, I could keep Jordan busy and happy. Actually, during the day, he was easier than Chad had been. But at night, he was damage personified. He would ravage, and destroy the house while I slept. There is no way to adequately describe the damage this little boy could quietly do to a house, at night.
In spite of his medicine, Jordan simply could not sleep at night. First I tried locking his bedroom door, with a room full of toys. But when the house settled down for the night, he'd be out the window, playing in the moonlight. He had no awareness of danger, so he had no respect for streets, and would run out in a road without looking.
But this little boy had a fascination with books and stories. When I put a set of headphones on his head, with a book in his hands, he could follow the story with, he would sit still, spellbound, until the story was finished. I bought them all! Jordan would listen to me read, as well. Fascinated, his eyes would be fixed on me, until I stopped reading at the end. That was what told me there was something in this child, whom no one had known about. He and I really bonded, over stories we shared! Hugs and smiles, and a ruffle of his hair were always part of our story time. He was learning to hug. He was learning to love. He WAS loved.