I am writing today because I am at my wits end and feel lost. I dreamed about adopting a child my entire life. I knew by the time I was ten that I would adopt. So when after having two incredible biological children, I decided it was time to make a difference in the life of one needy older child. Everything seemed to go as planned, we were certified as foster parents and then adoptive parents. Just a few weeks after our final trainging, we were presented a 4 year old girl who was deemed normal. We knew that she could possibly have some emotional and developmental delays due to the neglect situation surrounding her first four years as a foster child. CC was a spitfire from day one. All of the things we trained for came true. She bit everyone, she cussed everyone out, she broke everything she could get her hands on and she urintated and deficated on every nice thing we owned. Beleive it or not, that was actually the easy part of our lives. Fast forward four years and the struggles just keep coming, CC started going through puberty at 5 so she is on a strong hormonal therapy which makes her mood add more layers of complications onto her already endless list of issues, CC still uses diapers at night and has "accidents" at school at least twice a month. CC still breaks and loses everything nice she is given and now it is not intentional...it just is what it is. CC's comprehension for school work is almost zero. Due to being exposed to both crack and alcohol as a fetus, she has almost no short term memory. CC has sequencing problems too. Like for example the time she looked both ways and then ran in front of a car because she forgot the order in which they go. CC struggles so much with basic things that she has very little time to be a kid. For example, it takes her two hours every morning to get dressed and eat. Her ability to process information is so slow that this fact alone leaves her almost no time to herself. When she does have time for herself, she has zero creativity and gets mad when she has no one to play with because she needs others to lead her ~she has no original thought. CC never laughs, has no funny stories and is always hours behind when something happens...like for example her friends may laugh at the clown at the parade and she will understand why 20 minutes later. I feel lost because I find no joy in being her mother. Our 20 year marraige has been strained due to the enormity of the task of raising this girl. On the one hand, I want to have equally high expectations of CC as I do the other two, but I also do not have the required "extra" 6-8 hours a day to follow her around reminding her what to do and how to do it. CC is not retarded and score average scores on most subjects. I realized the other day that living with CC must be like living with someone in the late stages of Alzheimers disease. CC does not smile or laugh because it takes so much concentration for her to remember the tasks she is supposed to be doing that she is always lost in her own world. CC does not have autism but may have a learning disability ; we are trying to get to the root of it. It just seems lately that there is no joy in being with this child. I have realized that my role has become only to direct, redirect, remind and discipline. I used to feel love for this girl. I have been her mother half of her life and she does not remember her life from before. I am all that she knows now and there is no love between us. The hard work required to raise her has left me exhausted, chronically sick & empty. When we have had good days she finds a way to sabatoge them. Like the time I gave her 3 dollars at a dollar store (while on vacation) and told her to pick out a toy or two. She did, but later we found out that she also stole two more...even though we offered to buy them for her. This is a very hard thing for a parent and non-psychologist to understand. I have found myself avoiding CC and putting her to bed immediately after dinner because I cannot stand one more 'incident" or stupid question (like mom, when I am 200, how old will you be?) The school says she has an average IQ and yet I just do not see it. There was a time when I did feel like we were bonding and I felt hope for her future. Now I just feel dispair because I am eagerly waiting for her to grow up and go away (if I live that long)~ I am scared that by adopting this child, we have forever damaged what could have been a wonderful and happy outcome for our family. Since I see no improvements in her bahavior (stealing is now an ongoing issue) I worry that the stress of raising CC could end our marriage and cause years of suffering to all of us. CC's entire family has been or is in prison for all kinds of crimes. I used to believe that being a criminal was a result of environment not DNA...now I am wondering if the years of drug abuse have taken a permanent toll on CC's DNA....a collective dysfunction that is too hard to overcome. This little girl has a student success team at school 2 tutors during the week, countless loving adults (including an extended family that adores her) and experiences that most kids would drool for. She does not react to negative conditioning, she does not react to positive conditioning. She had zero reaction at Disney World and the same is true for Christmas, birthdays and so on. It is just so hard to love a child that gives nothing in return. I used to believe in unconditional love, now I do not. Love is conditional. It is a human response to sentiment, altruism and fond memories that are reinforced. If you never see joy, if you never see laugher, if your hugs are always greeted with stiff disdain and you add in the outrageous amount of work involved in thinking (and cleaning up after) another, then you have less than the happiness that even a dog or cat will give you. This is why I am so lost. After years of therapy, I just do not know how to "reframe" this relationship so that I can begin to care again.