"Our Son Has Special Needs"
"The past year has been a living hell," said Phil, 40. "I went along with this adoption since Lisa wanted it so badly. I was perfectly happy with one child. The Russian authorities lied to us. Max has suffered psychological damage that may be irreversible. Still, when we were dressing him in his new clothes and I saw those scars on his little body, I vowed then and there to do anything to give this child a better life. I just never expected it to be this hard.
"I feel like a jerk. Everyone talks about the joys of adopting, even a child with special needs. So what's wrong with me? Why can't I feel what comes naturally to everyone else? This is terrible to say, but I wonder if I'd feel different if Max were my biological child.
"I'm angry and confused. How can one 4-year-old child create so much chaos and tension? He's turned our home into a battlefield. That incident with Annie's video game really got to me. As usual, Lisa accused me of picking on Max, but he needs to learn not to steal other people's things. That's one of the reasons he was kicked out of nursery school. If Lisa always rushes in to rescue him, or make excuses for him, how will he ever learn?
"I don't understand how things got so bad. Lisa and I have been through a lot together, including three miscarriages, and we've always been on the same page with Annie. My own dad was mean and critical, and I always vowed that I'd be different. But I just lose it with Max. I try not to be arbitrary about discipline, but he pushes all my buttons. The minute I do or say anything to him, he gets this defiant look and runs to Lisa, who immediately assumes, without even asking, that I'm being an ogre. Max can be affectionate with Lisa -- though believe me, she gets pretty exasperated with him, too -- but when I try to hug him, he pushes me away. Poor Annie doesn't know what's going on, and with Lisa so caught up with Max, I'm worried our daughter will be shortchanged. Thank God she's such a happy kid.
"Lisa and I used to get along great, but our relationship has turned toxic. We can't even have a conversation about anything other than Max. The Lisa I remember loved to talk and was always supportive. But when I lost my job earlier this year, I think she cared more about the fact that money was tight than about how demoralized I was.
"But make no mistake, money is tight. I'm not sure what to do. We've toyed with the idea of downsizing, and I think we should. We have a big house and don't need that much room. But Lisa thinks Max hasn't had much stability in his life so far and that another move will throw him even more off balance. She's probably right, but at this point we need to cut expenses. Frankly, there's so much tumult in our lives right now, it's hard to talk sanely about anything let alone something as important as moving. If we could only get a little peace and quiet, we could iron everything out."