Thursday, August 1, 2013


This note in Z’s handwriting was in the last round of paper recycling:

“Dear evryone,
how know me
my family thinks that I don’t beylong on this family.
they hayt me”

I brought it up the day after I found it. Obviously lots to talk about. But the first item of discussion regarded the top line(s).

“So…with ‘Dear everyone’…do you think you meant everyone on earth?” I wondered.

She shrugged. Knowing Z, that was quite possible.

We pored over the next line, which neither of us could decipher. And since Z did not remember writing the note, we were left to speculate.

Suddenly Z figured it out: she meant 
“Dear everyone
who knows me”!

Oh, right. That’s all.

“When do you think you might have written this?” I asked.

“When I was mad?”

“Why were you mad?”

“I dunno.”

“Do you think maybe it was because you did something you shouldn’t have done and got busted and had consequences?”

“Maybe.” (Reluctantly.)



“Do you think you got in trouble because we hate you and don’t think you belong in this family or because of something you – who we love and who belongs in this family - did?”

“Because of something I did?”

“Yes! That’s right!” Then, to be sure, I asked, “Do you ever feel like we hate you or you don’t belong when you are not angry…like if you are sad or even just on a regular day?”


But is getting mad really the key issue here? I thought not: “…Honey, do you ever feel upset because you were adopted?”

“No!!!!”…expressed with No hesitation.


That was a few days ago.

Last night, Z was sent to bed after dinner because of Fresh Attitude toward her brother and mother, despite several extra chances. She had a giant tantrum, with lots of banging and throwing, and then she fell asleep. Later, as I went upstairs to tuck in her brother, I found this note on the landing:

“Dear Mama and [G].
i am relly sorry that I have been Bad for a long time.
i going to triy to be good but i don’t thik i can.
i love you both

The note was heartrending. No one has to my knowledge ever told Z she was BAD! Plus, we always tell her she can do ANYTHING! It didn’t seem to me that she was making excuses  either – she genuinely thought she might well be unable to “be good.”

A thoughtful reader JUST sent me this timely link: . We love and celebrate Z’s power; we never ask her to be “nice.” We only ask that she treat the people around her with basic kindness (different from niceness!) and respect. Sure, sometimes this doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons, some of them “normal” and some of them “disordered.” Nonetheless, she’s a terrific kid! How has she come to believe – at least in that moment – that she is fundamentally and irreparably “Bad”? 

Into the night, while practicing meditation, while trying unsuccessfully to sleep, I kept asking myself, “What does she need? Does she need me to be kind and encouraging? Strict and boundary-setting?” I thought of different people I know and how they might approach the situation. Wise people. Clever people.

And then I thought of all the people I know who, like Z, question their place in the world and their own abilities.

For so many of us, the worst struggle we encounter is that with ourselves. I see it with my students all the time: some students start strong and then lose steam without family support or the confidence that they can follow through; others begin with resistance, with the attitude that they lack whatever it takes to learn. It’s not always possible for teachers to reach students in these positions, hard as we may try. Feelings of trust (of self and others) and belonging can be elusive in ways that are positively debilitating, especially for people with questions about their place in their families and peer groups. Ideally, the basis for healthy self-acceptance and –confidence and trust is established at home and in those early relationships

If only I could figure out how to approach Z’s notes and her feelings of not being able to be good, not belonging, being “Bad,” maybe I could spare her the persistence of some of these grueling conditions into adulthood. Unconditional love and acceptance are always the way, right? But does Z need “cut-the-malarky-and-just-be-good-y” unconditional love or “I-acknowledge-your-deep-inner-pain-y” unconditional love? Both? Something else?

…these are among the many questions I asked myself before finally nodding off…

Wouldn’t you know it, all our energy this morning went to getting out of the house, so what I did after all that ruminating was: nothing.

Then, moments ago, I got an email from a family member* suggesting the CTFD Method, which seems enticing (

Dear everyone
who is reading this 
if you have The Answer, 
please do let us know. 

Full Spectrum Mama

* Who is currently still alive, having sent the link in an all-inclusive group email.


  1. As a note writer myself, I think I would write a note back to Z. Keep it as brief as she did, and state simply that you do not think she is "bad," that you love her no matter what she does, and you are glad that she is trying to show good behavior. Then sit down with both notes and help her read the one you've written for her.

    As a kid (and still as an adult) it is much easier for me to communicate via writing. If Z feels this way too, I'd keep that pathway of communication way open & encourage it!

    1. Dear Ana,
      The funny part is, like you I am SUCH a note writer. But since most people in my life are NOT and have historically been uncomfortable with my note writing - as opposed to face to face - I have learned not to write so many notes. Because of my spectrum location, I don't really "do" face to face either, so I usually keep things to myself!
      Thank you for alerting me to the fact that my daughter is a fellow note writer! Yay!
      I also appreciate your suggestion of sitting down together.
      Really, thanks so much, you were a big help.

    2. P.S. Your language, too, is fantastic - so positive and accepting. I have just totally cribbed it and written and illustrated the little note. MWAH!

  2. Ugh. I got the CTFD thing from someone with whom I had just spent a few hours, but otherwise had not seen for 12 years. I was FULL-STOP offended. I don't care if ze meant it to be funny, I don't care if you just told me what a good job I'm doing with my son, I NEVER want to be told to calm down thank you very much. If I'm anxious about my child, it's for a completely legitimate reason - and having my emotions belittled and suppressed doesn't help. Go to hell.

    1. LOL - I KNOW.
      And honestly, with the kids I have, the concerns that are mentioned on the site are completely ludicrous...White People Problems for which i offer the proverbial
      But I DO think some parents might find it useful and/or funny and for those parents it is included...i.e. NOT as a legitimate response to your situation, or mine... Though I do wish I had slept better (whole 'nother post...sleep...)
      This comment was in my spam for some reason, which is why it took me awhile to post. Meantime I got the most fantastic suggestion (above) and am feeling very happy about that!


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