An “Ah-Ha” Moment

Peace VS. Chaos

After our visit on Thursday evening, we were discussing the events that lead up to incarceration, and what things are like now.

As predicted, Sweetie 4 was fine. She appeared to be calm and was smiling when we came in.  She was asking about granola bars that she likes and was a little worried she might not pass Spanish when she gets back because the detention center does not offer Spanish. It was as if she doesn’t know that she will be there for quite a while.
She struggles with the concept of time.

We just let her talk. There was NO MENTION of the young man she was ready to die and go to jail for.  Not a mention.  There was not a mention of what happened, regarding her violence and anarchy.
Instead, she was complaining with a slight smile that the other girls in her pod are so badly behaved and it drives her crazy so she screams for everybody to shut up.
She went on to explain that she is the best behaved in the pod and has lost no points and has not had any “room time”.

As we were listening, it was like hearing the very same words from the last two times in detention.
And it dawned on me…. My “Ah Ha Moment”……

Something we haven’t been able to figure out, was WHY she is so much more well behaved in detention, besides the fact that there are locks and officers that have some serious power.

I have written much on my blogs about chaos and the craving of chaos at a brain level… (a bio chemical level)  I do not think this is  a purposeful choice in a way, as the brain is craving it, much like you or I would crave sugar or caffeine.
So even though she knows what she is doing is not ok, it is like she caves in to a sugar attack.  But it isn’t sugar.  It is a “chaos craving attack.”

We tried to recreate the simple choices routine at home, which is what she seemed to thrive with in detention.  She liked not having so many choices, and school uniforms helped with that. We made a simple schedule to follow and she liked the security of that schedule.
What we DID NOT recreate, was the “controlled chaos” that happens in detention.  She was able to get that bio chemical fill IN detention, combined with the limitations.
But at home, we are peaceful and everybody is generally happy and following societal norms of getting up on time, family devotions, going to school, helping with family chores, spending time together, playing games, going boating, going to work, family dinners etc.
THIS PART of family life, she cannot stand.  Normal? NO.  But it is very real to her.
Instead of punishments, which do not work for a child who does not understand cause / effect, we created a coin earning program for her where she would earn coins every two hours for positive behaviors.  We chose every two hours because that is all she could handle.
A few days she earned all her coins and there were prizes to be had.
More recently, she was down to about 7coins in  a week. She didn’t care about prizes or money.  She didn’t care about coins.
She was trying to recreate chaos on a regular basis and seemed to be upset, yet thrilled once she achieved that level she needed, which was getting higher and higher and more and more dangerous.

Now, at SCHOOL , there was PLENTY of chaos.  So she was chaotic.
What they DIDN’T provide, (because they cannot) was the limited choices.  There were no locks on cabinets, she could choose to go to class on time or not.  She could eat or not eat, she could see whom she wanted when she wanted and she could not handle the FREEDOMS at school, so she acted out and became more and more out of control.
Her behaviors started to spill over into instruction time, and she was spending a lot of time creating more drama.

So at home, she had peace and limits.  At school she had chaos and freedom.
At detention, she has EXTREME Limits and Controlled Chaos.
AND THAT combination seems to work for her.

The BIG question is, how to help her change her brain to see peace as desirable and not chaos.  We have had the joy of working hard  with some of our other sweeties when they first came home and we were able to successfully help them to transition to a new “normal”.   One of our sweeties took a long time for that transition to happen.

So far, after nearly 5 years, Sweetie 4 has not been able to transition. In fact, she has dug in and gone backwards in her behaviors for an extended period of time.
Sometimes I don’t think she likes it, but most of the time, sadly,  she DOES like it.  It is all driven by whatever emotion she is feeling.  She is ruled and driven by pure, raw emotion.  There is no logic to it, and therefore trying to reason on a logical, cognitive level,  is not successful.  Changing the brain’s craving from chaos to peace is proving to be a near impossible feat with Sweetie 4.

Now, what to do, WHAT TO DO!!!!

Love NEVER fails!  NEVER EVER will we give up!
BUT…we also have to be safe.

At this point, things are not in our hands and decisions will be made by the courts for her extended detention.  We are praying for wisdom and discernment for when that time is over.

She is getting older and my fears can take over my thoughts and all that does is raise my blood pressure.  UGH

We have time for visits and writing.  One of the therapists is hoping to see her in detention. This will be good!
And now, we rest, wait, plan  and pray.
Her story is NOT over.

9 Responses to An “Ah-Ha” Moment

  1. Annie says:

    That all seems to make sense, except – Is her behavior worse at home, where things are peaceful, or at school (which, if like any high school) must be chaotic?

    I am really glad that the visit was pleasant! So sorry it has to be behind glass…..

  2. ChristieM says:

    Hey Annie,
    It was beginning to be equal at both places. Partly because in the beginning of school she was uncomfortable and not sure of her place. Once she got comfortable, behaviors took over.

  3. Annie says:

    Interesting – I do love those “ah-ha” moments.

  4. Melin says:

    Hey Christie,

    I wonder if you received an e-mail I sent recently?
    I hope I did not somehow offend you. So I have recently found this blog after I tried to look up your old one. Seeing those pics moved me – gosh, we chatted via FRUA nearly everyday during those years. The detioration of FRUA was very sad. Still is.
    Anyway, I am sorry. Sorry for you, Sorry for A and the rest of your family. This isn’t anybody’s dream . Maybe it is just the way you are expressing it in writing, but you seem much more intact than I would be. What I gather from your writing is that safety is where you draw the line (naturally). This last post of yours is raw. It’s truthful. You did a beautiful job of explaining that stability is so much more complicated than the opposite of chaos. You mentioned a dx that sounds like you could be on to something. She certainly presents like somebody with BP. But I understand how trauma complicates that dx. One never knows if they are seeing the chicken or the egg.

    In your heart of hearts did you see this coming? Or is one not able to imagine such grief? I am not surprised to hear that she is functioning in the center. She probably feels like she is right where she belongs. Poor girl. But it doesn’t help her to ignore behavior that might land her in jail or worse so I totally agree with this plan of action.

    The other girls? Are they happy to have some dedicated months of peace and quiet? Does that sound horrible of me to say? Let’s face it – A. hasn’t lived her life in a vacuum so this has to be equally nightmarish for your family.

    Please write often. I learn from your posts. You always share something I can apply to my life if not now, eventually.
    Be blessed Friend. And a belated Happy Birthday to you.

  5. ChristieM says:


    So wonderful to hear from you. I didn’t get your email so I don’t know if you offended me or not. Can you resend it? 🙂
    I am going to reply to this better tomorrow. Tonight, my Blood Pressure is wreaking havoc on me once again. Dang…..

    We are all really doing quite well. You are correct, her behaviors have not been in a vacuum, and our family has been through a tremendous amount, but we place that in the hands of our Lord.

  6. Melin says:

    Yea – you really are out there!

    Is this the best e-mail? The one under, “contact?”

    I am glad to hear that you are purposing to keep track of your stress level – if that is even possible:). I didn’t have anything controversial in the previous e-mail. Just chit chat, catch up kind of stuff. I wrote you about the same time I caught up with another FRUA friend, J. Here we are all these years later. Well, 14 years later to be exact. But I was on FRUA for two years before that so I suppose 16 years in all.

    You know what I’ve been challenging myself to consider lately?
    What would my life look like if I had no fear? Like, if I really, really, really , really believed God is able. What would my life look like if I had no fear? I find myself unpeeling layers everytime I think about it. I increasingly see how any anxious feelings I have are largely due to fear. I don’t have any amazing insight into how to navigate from fear to trust. My go to strategy is remember past victories and prayer. But I’d be lying if I said that has assuaged my fear. So no answers but at least I have the question right 🙂

    I’ve rambled! Please don’t feel obliged to respond to my questions. Think of them as rhetorical.

    There is parenting and then there is extreme parenting. That’s the kind of parenting where one kid requires as much parenting effort as 12 typical kids would. 12 at the least.

    We mothers are only as happy as our least happy child.

  7. Karen says:

    Makes sense to me (perhaps unfortunately?!) because of all the training I’m getting. 🙂 We continue to work with Family Based Therapy (in home, 2-3 hours a week, working with just me for at least half of that time)…I am hopeful that we are finally transitioning to a more peaceful existence, and yet apprehensive of those adolescence/puberty years which are to come…

    Praying for you…your daughter…and the others at home as well since I imagine they’re affected too…

  8. Lucy says:

    This kinda sounds like what extreme sports were invented for… semi-controlled chaos. I don’t have any trauma history or anything, but I think I kind of understand where she is coming from. Perhaps we all do a bit – when routine becomes boring we are feeling it.

    Maybe she could take up mountain climbing, or motorcycle racing when she gets out? Planned moments of chaos that require order and calmness to achieve….

  9. Addie says:

    As I was reading this I was thinking back to your old blog. The environment in detention must be an awful lot like the environment in her old orphanage. I remember that she was so good there – one of the very best behaved kids who was singled out for a special trip because of her good behavior. I am wondering if that particular combination of simple choices amidst chaos is not what has worked well for her all along?

    Perhaps when she leaves detention you can find a similarly restrictive school environment that will help her learn to set those limits for herself?

    Also, this may be less relevant but I thought it bore mentioning.

    She seems to take pride in being the best. From your blogs, I see a behavior that looks an awful lot like me trying to reduce sugar in my diet. I do really well for a while, but then when I eat one wrong thing if I’m not very careful it spirals into a day of eating the wrong sorts of foods because “it’s a lost day anyhow”. I know it’s a bad way to think, and I work on it, but it strikes me that perhaps she craves perfection in a similar way with behavior. In detention, it’s easy to be the best and the criteria for success are very, very easy to understand. The same is true for homeschool.

    In her time before the orphanage she had a lot of freedom but also a lot of responsibility. If she was going to survive, getting caught was not a option so even in her misbehavior she had to do it “perfectly” – run the fastest, be the sneakiness, etc. If she didn’t do things perfectly, her world would become chaos (if she was caught, if she failed and was hungry, etc). Seems like perfection vs chaos is a behavior she learned very early.

    I will continue praying for you and your family. You are such a wonderful mom to all of the sweeties!

Comments warmly welcomed!


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