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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

A Case of Mistaken Identity

depressed-teen-girlI have related on previous occasions that some of my children believe me to be Russia’s wicked witch, Baba Yaga.  It’s because I insist on things like school, manners, and cleanliness.  The horror of it all.

But we are now in that period of time, that magical era that’s the first half of May.  This includes important dates such as my birthday, Mother’s Day, and Mashenka’s birthday.  She self-destructs every time, if not to ruin one of “my” days, then to declare her utter and absolute self-hatred.

By now, four years into this relationship, I have come to understand that it is a case of mistaken identity.  Hers and mine.images

For some odd reason, she imagines me to be her birthmother.  Adopted at age 11, and presently turning 15, it’s not like she doesn’t know the real score.  Her birthmother was a wild carouser, alcoholic, and parasite (according to Russian documents).  Among other things.  Boyfriends came and went.  There were beatings and angry arguments.

I am a pleasant, tee-totalling, society-lady.  Perfect?  No. 

I do not beat people, nor fly into drunken rages.  I do not leave young children in my broken-down shack with no food or clothes and not return for days on end.  I do not allow boyfriends to touch my girls.

imagesMy husband tried to impress this upon her when her recent rages escalated into the manic phase.  For days on end, she spued her hatred, which we recognized as self-loathing, but really… it gets old after years of trying to build her up.  She would be sweet as an angel outside the home, but once facing us, she went back into the “I don’t have to do anything you tell me to do” phase.

Counselling, you say?  As in “tie her up and throw her in the trunk of the car and take her to an office to speak to a stranger about things she will not speak about”?  So Benedetto stepped in.

“Your anger is against people and events in Russia, not here,” he explained.  “Do you honestly think for one minute that Mama would ever act like that?  Would she EVER allow bad things to happen to you, or to anyone in our family?  Have I ever images-3done one bad thing to you?”

“You need to understand that we’re on your side,” he spoke calmly.  “We try to give you the best education, we cook three meals a day for you, we spend time talking with you, take you to youth group and sports….”

He got her to acknowledge that she was still allowing “those people” to win.  Their ever-present specters were plastered like masks over her teenage-depression-in-girlscurrent parents who were loving providers, the exact opposite of all she had experienced. 

And she was being transformed into the spitting image of those horrific hell-raisers from the past.  She tore at her nails till they bled, she refused to tend to her many blackheads on the face, she did not practice proper grooming.  She was sour and sullen.

I hoped that we were instilling some sort of moral compass into her life, yet imageswas unsure if a distinct lack of opportunity was the only thing between us and further disaster.  To see her in public, one would never imagine such behaviors, which only said to me that she could control it to some extent.  She simply wanted us, those imagined perpetrators from the past, to suffer.

“You’re welcoming them into your life, while every day pushing us away,” he pointed out.  “You’ll have to make a decision about what type of life you want, because this is not going to be life in our family.  We cannot continue like this.”

I think his fireside chat worked.  For now.  It could be that the fear of the future is so overwhelming for her, that she feels the need to revert.

Instead, we’re trying to help her to build, build a new identity, and build a new concept of what’s possible with a solid foundation beneath her.  And that takes work.  But hopefully, she’ll see that it’s worth it.

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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Mindy says:

    I nodded my head during your entire post. Slightly different behavior, but pretty much the same thing here, except it happens in January and June. This January was actually really calm after almost 5 years since adoption at 11, so am slightly hopeful about June. I’ve heard an unprompted, “you were right” and “I can’t believe I used to do that” more times in the last 6 months than ever before, so I am hopeful there really is progress.

  2. avatar Sybil says:

    Mashenka is at an age she can understand and even probably discuss the issue rationally. If she can apply the knowledge to how she emotes with you…well, that is the hard part. I hope so for all of your sakes, but the most for her sake.
    To this day we speak of the whys of things and how they affected our daughter’s life here and why I felt it was necessary to be the way I was with her when she was growing up. She is now a psychology major in college. The courses, papers and exercises are helping her sort out more and more of who she is and why and who she wants to be and what she wants in her life. It takes the right times to be able for our children to put many things together and be able to change if they want to. As they mature, those times become more frequent.

    • avatar admin says:

      You give me great hope Sybil. Thanks for sharing the positive outcome from your family. It encourages us all to keep on loving and believing.

  3. avatar AP says:

    Yes, this story very much describes my youngest daughter. She “hates” her BM and blames her for everything bad that has happened in her life before she came to us. Therefore, it only makes sense to her to “hate” me for everything bad that has happened since. She can even voice this to me at times. She has said she doesn’t need or want a mother. Funny thing is …. guess who she comes to when she wants something (several times a day!) While we have our certain time of year that is the worst – we always seem to be on a rollercoaster that never quite stops. So hurt, so broken.

    • avatar admin says:

      Rollercoaster is the word, AP. But I’m so encouraged by the stories of these other families writing in! I hate the blame game, but I try to be philosophical. I mean, how many of us adults take 100% responsibility for our lives? In our case, I also have to fight against seeing our oldest daughter for wanting me for anything other than gimme- gimme. I like the insight about the BM being the prob before, and now WE’RE the prob!

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