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Anger Print
Thursday, 15 December 2005
My 14-year-old Korean-born daughter has angry moments. She is not always able to explain her frustration, so without words, she became a tantruming toddler and child (and young teen, but less so). She is an imperfect perfectionist whose high standards that she sets for herself are bound to be impossible...a perfect 4.0 GPA this year, starting position in ALL soccer games, handwrite 5 page report in ink without any mistakes and no rough draft! Of course, parents are helpless to change the outcomes and if we ask for her to set a lesser goal, then we must not think she is good enough, that she is dumb or flawed. At times she has been out of control, raging for an hour, trashing her room, until exhaustion brings "weakness" and lets comforting begin. Is this typical for a child born 2 months premature? A child adopted at 4 months of age? How did she "learn" to be so angry, so physical, so inconsolable? Can she be "fixed"? Is she "broken"? What did we do wrong? Are we bad parents? Where do we fall in the nature/nurture continuum? Do all adoptees experience this?

With time I've found my own answers to some of these questions. We travelled to Korea on a "homeland tour" with close friends and about 2 dozen terrific strangers from all over the U.S. This was our 2nd trip to Korea, but it was the one that really touched on adoption issues continuously...it was so much a part of the trip, just woven in. One evening we were doing a few hours of volunteer work in the Baby Hospital...where newborns who have been relinguished for adoption are staying. It was on the floor below us in the Guest House. R and her best buddy A, A's mom and I were feeding newborns while two staff nurses kept us on schedule, and managed the whole unit (of about 40 infants). It was a wonderful experience. This was where A had been cared for, this was the type of place R had stayed for a time. The girls both loved holding the babies and helping them take their bottles. One baby was jaundiced and under a billirubin light...crying and crying and crying. I asked the nurses if I could pick her up and feed her...no...not time yet. This tiny 2 day old baby kept on crying, desperately and heartbreakingly. R kept asking me, why, Mom, why can't you pick her up and hold her, why is she crying? I tried patting her and touching her and talking soothingly to her, but she did not stop crying. I held one feeding infant in my left arm and kept patting the crying baby under the lights with the other. And I began to cry too, as I am now retelling this story.

R was so puzzled by all of this. To her, if a baby cries, you help it. But I reminded her. These two women have 40 babies to care for. If they don't stick to their system, some babies will not be fed or changed or held at all and other babies will take all their attention, so they have to do it this way to make it work a little bit for all of them. Yeah, yeah she understood. AND...I reminded her...this may be the way it was for you when you were in an incubator for 5 weeks in a hospital. Perhaps you tried to cry, but could not because you had respiration tubes in your throat, or perhaps you could cry, but it was not your turn to be fed or changed or held or talked to. R said, that would have been awful to have no one comfort me. Yes, and remember that is what LS, (the therapist from 4 yrs ago) said she thought might have happened to you to make you feel that you can't cry or ask for help because no one will help you (something R had said in therapy). R said, maybe that's what makes me so mad. Yup, maybe.

And then I added. But also, there may have been someone like you or me, who heard your cries, wanted to help, but had her hands filled with other babies because there were many babies for a small number of staff nurses. It's not that no one cared, they had to share their caring around. And maybe someone did try to help you, like we are trying to help this crying baby, but will this baby remember this evening? Probably not. Just the feeling of frustration and anger and being mad.

We talked about this baby a lot as we went to bed that night and again during other times on the trip. Does this explain my daughter's easy anger, fast temper, low frustration tolerance? Not completely, but it may offer a piece of this puzzle.

My daughter is a friendly, warm, social kid who is upbeat and fun to be around. She often states that her daily goal is to be happy or perky and she comes darn close to meeting that...except for her tantrums in the privacy of our home. To say that kids who are happy don't also have dark places, that hold sadness, anger, grief, frustration or bitterness seems to skim over the texture of who they may be. And I always have to remember that she does not/will not/cannot see the world and herself as I do...so I have to keep sharing my viewpoint with her, keep letting her know that the darkness is part of her, just as it is part of the day...you don't get one without the other.

cg
IAT, used by permission

Comments
Anger
Written by Lisa on 2005-12-17 10:58:43
This article describes our ten year old Korean daughter exactly!!! We are just about to begin attachment therapy. She was not a preemie and was in our home at the age of 4 months but anger has been a prevalent theme. I almost am happy that she was able to let the anger out in our home because anger turned inside often becomes depression as we are seeing now. We are very excited that after all this time we have found out what is going on with her and have found appropriate therapists. The flip side of the anger has begun to show itself, a former perfectionist, overachiever is beginning to show post-traumatic type of behaviors in environments outside of our home. Her diagnosis is formally Disorder of Childhood NOS with attachment issues as well as Generalized anxiety disorder and we will be attempting to rule out Posttraumatic Stress.  
I loved when you talked to your daughter about darkness being part of her. We have done this also and found it to be enlightening and empowering for her.
wait, it can get darker
Written by cg on 2005-12-17 14:08:06
you are quite right about depression/anger connection....and our KAD is now 17. about 18 months ago she asked to enter counseling to talk about 'her issues'. for 18 months she worked very hard with a great tx (who knew little about adoption or IA issues before hand but listened and learned)....she is on an anti-depressant, often finds the anger and/or depression overwhelming, but is coping and learning to cope. it's not always easy to parent a child whose temperment is so challenging. on the other hand i listen and learn and grow, too. i would add a warning bell for middle school/teen years where depression and self-destructive behaviors abound. at first the idea of drinking or cutting seem wierd, then then seem all too familiar to teens since other kids are doing it. what helped us was that we talked about 'stuff' often. that i could listen without freaking out (publically). that i was there and invovled. sometimes too involved, but involved. good luck. the journey is well worth it. 8-) cg
we feel the lurking darkness
Written by lisa on 2005-12-18 07:20:26
Besides the rage, we have always seen the perfectionistic, controlling side of our daughter. We are very aware of the dangers of adolescence and how they might affect her. No, cutting and drinking as well as a host of other behaviors do not seem at all out of the realm of possibilities for our 10 year old daughter. She has been recommended for a psychiatric eval. We are not thrilled with the idea of meds but cannot rule them out, either. It will be interesting to see if she will take them at all. She so much wants to be "a regular kid." We are also very involved and have accomodated her needs as we have realized what they were. Often times they were not easy to figure out and the exact opposite of what she said she wanted as well as what others thought we should be doing. We appreciate the "heads up" and look forward to more good advice. 
 
Yes, that's my kid!
Written by Barb on 2005-12-21 19:01:21
Reading the various comments, I can see my son in every one of them. He is a handsome 13 yr. old boy who sets high standards for himself, but they are impossible for him to achieve. He has never, ever liked asking for help. He has always wanted to be "part of the gang".  
 
He was born prematurely, in hospital for 4 months and in foster care for 2-1/2 months before coming home to us. He was always fussy and things had to be just so. I can now see how, being in hospital for so long, there really wasn't enough staff to totally meet his emotional needs, because they had other babies to tend to. I can see how this has affected him tremendously.  
 
My son is one who, most of the time, is interested in "instant gratification", which is fairly teen age behavior, but I can see how it is magnified for him. 
 
I pray that with his therapy, and meds, his life will smooth out. I had tears of joy in my eyes today, because he gave me a spontaneous hug and told me he loved me! My, I can't tell you the last time that happened!

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