Genea carries many of the effects of early neglect with her every day. She spent the first year and a half of her life in an orphanage in Ukraine. She was cared for, but not cared for, if that makes sense. She was provided with basic needs, shelter and food, but I believe she went hungry a lot. That she was fed but not when she was hungry, instead when it was time for feeding. Maybe she didn't get enough, maybe it was often late.
Children who have an early history of neglect often have issues around food. They binge eat, refuse to eat, they hoard food or are so desperate for some control of their lives that they make themselves vomit just to show they are in charge. I spent a lot of years working with children, and even if the neglect was brief and the child then went to a home where the parents lovingly did everything right, a decade later the child often still hides food in places that are not good for food to be.
So Genea takes food. She gets up in the night and wanders into the kitchen and helps herself to a donut or some cookies. Sometimes she eats the food right then and there, and we find the evidence the next morning. Other times, she takes the food into her room and hides it somewhere. I don't consider this to be stealing. I think of it as a rut that has been burned into her brain that may never fill in. Self- protection and survival. Of course it makes no sense. There is plenty of food in our home and she certainly eats her fill. Even when things get low, there is still not nothing.
We don't particularly have a consequence or punishment set up. We remind her that she eats just fine and tell her not to do it again. Please. Because when you hide food in your room, your parents may not know about it but the bugs will. Bugs sense food and come running. They may jog for miles to help themselves to your under-the- bed- cracker- buffet. Then they tell more bugs and more bugs and all those bugs have hundreds of babies and they all want to live where there is food.
So the other day I went into the room I like to call the quicksand pit (the girls bedroom), to clear some stuff out. You know, like all those precious drawings and renderings of the letter "R". My goal was to remove paper from the room because holy turd on a stick these children can collect some paper! Seriously there was well over 4000 pieces of paper wafting around or shoved into corners. Under Genea's bed I found a box with a bunch of toys and miscellaneous junk, and some crackers.
Obviously Genea had gotten up in the night and helped herself. I couldn't decide what to do about it right away, so I shoved it all back under there and finished up with the paper hunt. While I understand where her hoarding comes from and I don't especially mind her taking food, I absolutely do not like her roaming a dark house alone at night and I really super hate bugs. So when dinner rolled around I had decided I would serve her up her box of toys and junk and crackers right there on the table next to her milk.
She did not care for her dinner that night. The Husband and I both lit into her about bugs in the house, how we don't like bugs and don't want them inside. That they will come in and they will eat on your crackers. They will have a party and not invite you. They will behave poorly and hook up constantly just like if they were on Jersey Shore without protection. Well, ok we didn't say that one. Anyway.
Genea listened to all of our points and nodded her understanding. That's what she does. The mom's out there probably know the routine, the RAD mom's out there definitely know the look. The dull, glazed eyes. Mouth slightly opened and tongue pushed out and bulging. Head slightly tilted to the side. Basically this means, I hear your words and I can repeat all of it and the very next time I get a chance to swipe some crackers I am on it like brown on rice, bugs be damned.
Later that evening I was helping Teena with her routine and I noticed Genea's homework spread across the floor of their bedroom. Sigh. It was like she took special care to make sure it was as strewn about as possible. Instead of putting it all in her folder and into her backpack, which was also laying there flopped to the side, she made a point of making a mess of it all. I hollered for her to come in and get it all picked up and set for the morning. Nothing I hate more than a problem in the morning. Well, I hate the morning in all forms so I work very hard to prevent the slightest glitch. I turned back to Teena while Genea came in to pick up her stuff and out of the corner of my eye, barely even visible, I see a teensy black speck on one of the homework pages.
I pick up the paper to inspect the speck.
The speck was walking. Perfect.
I hold out the paper for Genea to see and exclaimed to her...... SEE! THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TAKE FOOD AND HIDE IT IN YOUR ROOM YOU GET BUGS! I TOLD YOU! NOW YOU HAVE BUGS!
Now really, I hate bugs and this one could barely even be called a living thing. I have seen dandruff flakes bigger than this bug. It was so small I could not even tell what variety of insect it was. But Genea, all Genea needed to know what that it was crawling and it was a bug and it was on her stuff. Shrieking like she just saw a king cobra giving her the stink eye, I swear she levitated and catapulted her body backwards through the door and into the plaster of the wall in the hallway. "BUG BUG BUG!" she screamed as I waved the paper around to show her. "Look at what happens Genea, look! There are bugs in your room now and it's because you have food in here!'.
Aaaack aaaaaaaaaah aaack, she yelled. Well, point made and it was time to get back to business. Of course now Genea is even less inclined to pick up her work and prep for the morning. I flicked the bug with my fingernail and off into space it went. Our evening continued, and I silently enjoyed the natural consequence.