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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…!

Doors, Gates, Maps, and Keys: When Everyday Life is Chaotic

thWe went over a map of an old city we’ll be visiting soon.  The streets seem serpentine, but really, if you have a general sense of direction, it’s on a semi-grid system.  Yet, some of our kids from Russia could not navigate.

At all.

“Start at Point A,” I explained, naming a place clearly marked on the map.  “Then tell me what streets to take to reach Point B.”

“I have no idea,”  Mashenka shrugged.

“Well, when you leave this building, what street do you see?”

She eventually came up with the name.

“And would you turn right or left to head in this general direction?”


It’s then that I realized, for the five millionth time, she could not be bothered with learning right from left.  No matter howHands[1] many times I had repeated, “We WRITE with our RIGHT hand”, thanking the Lord that none of them were lefties, she could not remember it.

At fifteen years old.

Not a clue.

Not an interest.

Just shrug your shoulders and ask when you’re going to get to drive, like your seventeen-year-old brother.  And what happens when the driving instructor tells you to turn right?

dali_clock_turquoise_LAlright, so some people are map-challenged.

I directed the kids to look at “3:00” on the map.

“Imagine that the map is a clock.  The center of the map is the center of the clock and 12:00 would be straight up.  Now show me 3:00.”

She fiddled and played around with her chair as if she couldn’t be bothered.  She had no idea what we were talking about, as many times as I tried to explain the concept.  The more I try to dumb-down the map-reading, the more she becomes lost, as though it’s all really way too much to ask of her.  She doesn’t need to know this stuff!

And it has to do with our back door, as well, this sense of a scary and 116839573_sliding-glass-patio-door-handles-lockset-embassy-door-chaotic world that she cannot seem to tame nor order.  At the dacha, our back door does not close properly.  So she feels that it’s perfectly acceptable to try once or twice and then walk away.  Just stroll on down the lane and leave it unlocked.  Get someone else to do it.  Let her minions and slaves do her bidding.

“Excuse me, Mashenka, please close the door,” I instruct.

“I TRIED!!!!” she screams, walking away.

“I would not walk away if I were you.  Closing a door, even a fussy one, is not beyond your reach.  You’re a young lady now, and you can figure this out,” I encourage.

7af2bcd3-2130-47ac-a856-3cc61d3c2130-680-384She doesn’t want to be encouraged.  She doesn’t want to master new skills.  She wants to be a baby.

She has no friends.  She has no hobbies.  She has no desire to even try to do anything for herself.

I have bought her crafts for five-year-olds.  I have enrolled her in fun classes or sports.  I have helped the kids act-out the art of conversation.  Even closing a door is scary for her.

So she begins to BANG- BANG- BANG and slam the door shut repeatedly before I intervene yet again.  By now, she’s totally broken the door handle, which in her mind vindicates her:  “Its broken.”  We still show her how to close the door properly, but now, honestly, none of us can use it, thanks to her.  We need an entirely new door handle and lock.

The same thing happens when walking out of her bedroom.  There is a doggy gate in front of the kids’ rooms.  It’s because baby-gatewe can’t trust them enough to keep items off of the floor.  I really don’t want to see my dogs die due to the kids’ misdeeds. 

Every time she exits her bedroom door, Mashenka needs (like the other three teens) to step over a two-foot-high gate.  It’s really just a baby gate leaning against the doorway, but try as she might, she cannot navigate it.

CRASH!  BANG!  CRASH!  She trips over it every. single. time.  It’s as though someone slipped in there in the middle of the night and erected the Berlin Wall under cover of darkness.  The barrier might as well be an Olympic high hurdle.  The entire door frame is banged and gashed.

doors_Doors_doorsThen I realize:  doors.  She has a problem with doors, pathways, navigation, direction, moving forward.  I once asked all of the kids to tell me how to get to a nearby location, all of five minutes from our house.  Mashenka could not name one left turn, right turn, road name, landmark, nothing.

Just the other day, her father gave her a key to the front door in DC.  All she had to do was walk from the car, up the front walk, insert the key into door and open it.  She was there nearly five minutes, crashing and banging, until the dogs inside had been worked up into a frenzy, I thought we were being robbed and I ran to see what all the commotion was about. 

And yes, she does know how to use a key and turn it sideways to get a door to open.  However, she is incapable of doing that.

Doors symbolize transitions, probably conjuring many fears from the past, and many more fears about facing her future.  I am trying to empower her, and show her that she can control, to some extent, the circumstances of her life.  I teach our kids that everyone can “try” to answer questions without appearing silly, or “try” a new project with the proper directions to be successful.

But she’s stuck, locked in a time warp, with no map nor key to free her.

And no, she doesn’t want any help, either.  She’s fine, just fine, so don’t even go there.


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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Karen says:

    This is good, Alexandra! If only it were rational, this raising of children like ours. But no, there are layers of understanding and consciousness, over thehurt, pain, and trauma from the past. Thank you for helping to unravel some of it for the rest of us. Do you think your daughter can or will want to understand these things for herself?

    • avatar admin says:

      I would say probably, when it’s worth her while, as in eventually wanting to drive. She has a very strong desire to succeed, as long as she does not have to do anything that would embarrass or challenge her. That would be fairly normal for teens. She is opening up more, and is quite bright, except for these occasional pockets or black holes-! Thanks, Karen.

  2. avatar hoonew says:

    You have your hands full, Alexandra. Might she have something like optic nerve hypoplasia? I really don’t know anything about it, but the consistent coordination problems make me think of that.

    • avatar admin says:

      You nailed it, hoonew, with the coordination problems. She and her sister wanted to learn ballet a couple of years ago, and I wrote about the disastrous DVD lesson they did in the living room in their new leotards, etc. lol. She plays tennis and is steadily progressing, so the hand-eye aspect is there. I think it may be more mental or emotional, as in she doesn’t care… until she decides to care….

  3. avatar Mindy says:

    I think our similar-aged daughters have a lot of similarities, even when it comes to doors. What has made a huge difference here in recent weeks is a book she was given financial incentives (by me) to read called: “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself.” Definitely seeing far less of the deeply rooted victim mentality and immediate can’t do attitude. In fact, I’d almost say she has become driven to succeed in these early days since reading as she initiated taking on a new sport and has improved her grades. Her younger sister is naturally very happy and self confident, and I noticed that when something seems difficult, she processes it, gives herself a little pep talk and then gets it done, where she just wasn’t doing that – she was just relying on instinct and doing (or not doing). In researching ways to give yourself that little pep talk voice (that for so long had only been external), I came across this book. So far so good, so I thought I’d mention it. The change in her language and views about herself and her future self has been greater than expected.

    • avatar admin says:

      Ooh, thank you, Mindy! That sounds like a wonderful resource. I’ve gotten her motivational teen books in the past, and she’s enjoyed them, so I think this would be right up her alley. And the holidays are coming…. 🙂

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