Monday, December 13, 2010

Unintended Consequences of Institutionalization: Helplessness and Hoarding

Vitals:  Bill is still in Ukraine.  I'm home making room for child #2 and Ruslan's life hangs by a fragile thread.

Details:  So, I thought I should write about how Ruslan is doing since I haven't seen to much harsh reality on many of the blogs out there.

In general, Ruslan is doing well.  He seems to like school, although he prefers to stay at home.  He is eating well and knows that he has to finish his plate in order to get dessert.  He usually balks over one or two items each meal, but eventually, after a considerable amount of him whining and us ignoring him, he gets it all down.  He is extremely affectionate with me and all the kids and does a reasonably good job of stepping back and entertaining himself when I tell him they need a break. 

However, we are currently are dealing with two problems.  One is dressing.  The other is hoarding.

I know from our visits that Ruslan never had to dress himself in the orphanage.  We arrived early a few times (when they didn't expect us) and saw Ruslan passively laying on a couch while the ladies bundled him up for the day.  Considering the number of layers they piled on him, I guess it's no wonder they dressed him, since it would have taken him half the day to get all those clothes on.

Nevertheless, one of the first things we did was teach him to dress himself.  This is painful for everyone involved.  He can't sit up unless he is "W" sitting and you can't get dressed in a "W."  So, he has to lay on his back to take off and put on his underwear, pants, socks and shoes.  Then he gets up in a kneeling position and puts on his shirts. The whole process takes about ten to fifteen minutes and that is if he gets right to it without stalling.  He doesn't really like to dress himself, and he definitely doesn't like to be alone.  However, if I stick around, he just spends time whining and trying to dodge the deed so, it's easier on everyone if we get his clothes out and I leave the room.

Since I am taking the kids to public school, we have a limited amount of time for them to get ready in the morning.  Thankfully, we are all early risers, including Ruslan, so this is usually not a problem.  However, one morning last week Ruslan decided he didn't want to dress himself.  He was in his room and we had picked out his clothes, but he insisted that I dress him.  This is NEVER going to happen.  I usually leave him to get dressed alone, and peek in on him every few minutes which speeds up the process.  He usually makes good progress but this morning, he did NOTHING. 

Well, I kept telling him to get dressed and he finally just said, "No."  He pulled this over the weekend and I just left him in his room until he finally dressed himself, but this was a school day and we had limited time.  So, I started to count, and, since he was being so belligerent and we were running out of time I gave him three chances to get started and finally spanked his butt, once with my hand.  This is the only time I have spanked him.  He was more surprised than hurt, but let me tell you what, he screamed to high heaven.  I closed the door, doubting myself and certain that I had scarred both of us for life.  The next time I peeked in, he was dressed.  Such a miracle.

I thought the issue was over so, I praised him up and down and took him to the living room to put on his socks and shoes.  Wouldn't you know it, he didn't want to put his own socks on either.   You would think he had enough!  I certainly had enough.  Compounding the problem was that we were running out of time.  I started to count again but he STILL would not put his socks on.  SO, I gave him another three chances to get started and when we got to three, he got a second spanking.  Remarkably, he put his socks on immediately after that, but then he didn't want to put on his shoes.  I was beyond the point of praising him over the socks and we were officially out of time.  I'd really had enough.  He was whining and telling me that he couldn't.  He needed help.  He was in pain etc. etc. etc.  We didn't have time for him to put on his shoes and I would have DIED before I did it for him, so I made an executive decision and took him to school shoeless.

I passed him off to his teacher and handed her the shoes.  I told her we had a standoff, he needed to put the shoes on by himself but that she could handle it any way she wanted to.  She was so great.  She just said to put him on the rug and she would take care of it.  On the way out I made some comment to the assistant teacher about the morning and she said, "well, everybody's entitled to a bad morning now and then."  God Bless Her!  That statement sort of snapped me back to reality.  I realized she was right.  I was so annoyed with how things were going, I was ready to strangle him.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that God sent her specifically to restore my sanity. 

The next morning Ruslan woke bright and early.  After we picked out his clothes, I left the room, just like the day before.  I peeked in on him a few minutes later, expecting a second stand off, but lo and behold, he was dressed and smiling.  I'd like to say the problem was solved after that, but just yesterday I had to put him the the car for church without socks and shoes.  He finally put them on himself in the car.  The beat goes on...

The second problem is hoarding.  We have a ton of books here.  Ruslan found a bunch of gift bags in my closet and has been gathering all the books off the bottom shelves in the house, taking them to his room (pushing them in front of him as he combat crawls) and storing them in rows and rows of gift bags on his floor.  I let it go until I couldn't see the floor anymore.  I talked to him about it over the weekend (never really knowing how much he understands) and explained that we had to make room for a bed for his brother.  I finally put the books on shelves in his room one day while he was at school.  He took this really well and I can't decide if that means he really doesn't care or he really hasn't noticed.  He still has most of the books, they're just on shelves now.  The kids have been great about letting him keep them there.  So, the book thing went off OK, but the other problem is everything else he is hoarding, which amounts to anything that he both sees and wants.  Things keep disappearing and I keep finding them in his room.

I think I am going to have to sort through the stuff in the gift bags and hide them.  It's really a pain to dig through them all, and I hate to destroy his collection, since I suspect it brings him some comfort, but it's starting to get out of control.  I'm not sure whether I should do this with him in the room or do it alone and hope he doesn't notice.  I'll probably do an experiment with one or two bags and see how he handles it. Wish us luck. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure what any of us would have done if we never were allowed to have anything that was our own, or even have with us for more than a few hours! I think I'd hoard too! Poor little guy! He is so lucky to have you as a mommy!I like how you handled the dressing!!