Jar of Joys

Some days, when our kids are raging, punching holes in the walls, attacking us, shattering windows, when we’re calling the cops on our 8 yr old because he needs to be readmitted to the psych ward, or we’ve discovered our 7 yr old is cutting herself again, or our 15 yr old has been kicked out of yet another RTC for dangerous behavior – as parents, we feel like failures.  As people, we feel like failures.  As human beings, we feel useless.

But there are other times, those times when our child hugs us for real, when our child smiles a real smile, and not the fake one, or when we get a glimpse of the real child inside that mess we see most of the time, those moments, when our hearts well up with joy because we see progress, or we see a real emotion, or we have a real moment with our kids, those are the moments we live for.  They happen a lot less than the first kind… but they do happen.

For the times when you’re fighting the hopelessness, the depression, remember the other times.  If you’re like most human beings, it’s easy to forget those short “good” moments.  So when they happen – write them down.  Put them in a jar (or a coffee can, or locked up somewhere where only you can get to them) and pull them out when you’re in those bad moments.  Remind yourself that there HAS been progress, that there have been moments in the past where your child has connected with you.  Maybe it’s a time when your child told a funny joke.  Maybe it’s when he spontaneously gave you a hug before he ran to the school bus.  Maybe it was a time when your child went an entire week at school without getting suspended/detention/sent to the principal’s office.  Whatever it is, if it gives you happiness, a moment of warmth, write it down and preserve it.  It can even be a funny picture you took of your child, a moment in time where she was just being a kid, a normal, non traumatized kid moment.  We need to remember those moments in order to get through the harder moments.

So go make your Jar of Joy.  Record those moments.  Make sure you go back and reflect on them, to remind yourself that baby steps are happening, this is a helluva marathon and not a sprint.  You’re the turtle, not the hare.  Just keep going, doing the best you can.  That’s all anyone can do!

-realmom

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Mom’s purse and when CPS comes to call

Growing up, my mother carried this big purse with her everywhere she went.  It was a magical bag, kind of like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag.  Not only did it contain her wallet and whatever else moms need to carry, if you were hungry, out came a package of saltines.  At a fast food restaurant, if they ran out of salt, Mom would pull a small packet of salt out of her purse, or ketchup, or mustard, or pepper, or oh my god what else is in there?  Breath mints, Kleenex, pen, paper, gloves, rain bonnet, the list goes on.  My mother was prepared for anything.  That’s the generation I grew up in.  Obviously it’s the generation my husband grew up in too, since he’s always asking me if I have such-and-such in my purse.  (No. I don’t. Carry your own purse.)

The younger generation doesn’t think like that.  They know there’s a 7-11 on every corner, or a Starbucks, so if you need something – you can just stop at the next corner and get what you need.  With our traumatized kids,  we have to think like the older generation.  We don’t have a StopNGo for our lives.  We have to be prepared.  So when CPS comes to call – that’s not if, that’s WHEN – be prepared.  Be prepared from the moment this child comes into your home.  Expect it. Do your due diligence, document, document, have your papers in order, doctors numbers, whatever you need to provide for that day when your child tells your teacher “My mom beats me” when in reality you’ve never laid a hand on him and never even thought that thought.  You’re upset, you’re hurt, you’re afraid, suddenly people of authority are treating you like a criminal.  How could the teacher believe that?  Doesn’t she know you better?  How could he say that?  Didn’t just that morning he tell you he loves you?  You’re in emotional shock.  You’re devastated.

Time to pull out Mom’s purse.  Be prepared.  Expect it to come.  Expect there to be a knock on the door, a phone call.  Don’t expect it in the way of fearing it, like the world’s going to end, but the way you expect a rain storm.  Some day it’s going to rain really hard.  It’s going to ruin your day because you thought you were going to sunbathe and enjoy the sunshine, instead it’s pouring down rain. It’s going to happen.

If you have therapists on board with you, you can hand out their card.  Have a lawyer lined up.  If CPS comes to take away all your children, because the false accusation was just that bad – have a family member or close friend lined up where they can go for an emergency so that they don’t have to go into foster care.  And know your rights – WHO you have to talk to WHEN, and when you can refuse to talk until you have proper representation with you, whether it be a therapist, lawyer, or even just a witness to record the entire interview.

Remember this, too, in your Mom’s purse magic bag – that social worker is not your friend, no matter how nice they are to you.  That teacher you thought liked you so much now hates you because they believe your child.  And really, can you blame the teacher? For her your child is all light and smiles, love and hugs.  She has no idea what’s behind that facade, of the damaged, broken, destroyed heart the lies within.

Prepare your heart, too, for that day.  Realize that your child is scared.  You’ve hit a soft spot that has scared him.  So he does what RAD kids do – chases you away in whatever manner he can.  This is not about you, although it seems the spotlight is shining directly on you.

Expect it, be prepared, get your ducks in a row, guard your heart, and this isn’t the end of the world.  It’s just part of the journey.

-realmom

Adoption as a loss – Adoptive parents do NOT feel guilty!

Huffingtonpost recently posted an article/opinion piece on adoption and loss.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mirah-riben/living-with-adoptions-com_b_6504642.html

A lot of times I totally disagree with what’s posted there, but this time, I agree with them.  A lot of adoptive parents read this, though, and then felt guilty for wanting a family, for taking a child out of their biological home.  Here is my response:

As far as this article is concerned, I can say as an adoptee they are right. It’s complete bullshit to tell someone they should be grateful. You were born without eyes? Be grateful you have a nose. Wha?? People are just dumb. Adoptees do have a loss. But for adoptive parents to feel guilty – YOU didn’t create that loss. You are providing a replacement, yes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as good as or better than the original. Acknowledging the adoptee’s feelings, letting them have those feelings, does a world of good. Telling them not to feel them is what does damage. Adoptees have this fantasy world – even abused children who remember severe abuse- about their natural parents. I dont’ know why. I was sure I was a princess, kidnapped, even though I knew my mother was 15 and unmarried. I’ve fostered children who have suffered severe abuse and instead of thinking “thank god i’m out of that house” they want to go back to their moms who “loved them” by beating them senseless… it is just a wiring in our brains or something. DO NOT feel guilty. Adoptive parents have nothing to feel guilty about. Life is not fair. Shit happens. You do your best to deal with it and move on.

-realmom

Guilt: Why can’t I fix my broken child?

I get it, I understand the feeling, but it still never ceases to amaze me when parents feel guilty and that they have failed when they can’t “fix” their kids.  When the children need more care than the parents can provide, when the children run away, when the children end up in a residential treatment center, the psych hospital, even jail – the parents feel guilt.  Why couldn’t I fix my child?  They blame themselves.

But taking a step back and looking at the situation from a more objective point of view, the statement seems ludicrous.  (no offense)  Do we get angry at our plumber neighbor because he couldn’t perform an emergency appendectomy for us and fix us?  No, of course not!  That just seems silly!  Well….. these kids are very broken.  If groups of professionals can’t do it, with their decade of training and experiences…. then how can we expect that we as “parents” can perform the miracle?

I recently read a post from a mom whose daughter at 17 just went off to RTC.  The mom wrote that she was starting to feel excited about the future, she could see that their relationship with their daughter could be more positive now that she was outside the home, she knew the daughter was safe and being taken care of, her needs were being addressed, and she was starting to feel joy in looking at the future again.  In other circles that mom would be crucified for not loving her daughter.  But we know differently.  This mother gave everything she had to her daughter, gave every opportunity she could for healing. It wasn’t enough.  Not through any fault of the mom or the parents, but because the child’s needs were so great.  It was time to put the child in more hands-on charge of the professionals.

The fact that this mom could so soon start to feel positive about her future relationship with that daughter, could see the positive changes in their lives, made me well up with tears with happiness for her.  Yes, I thought.  Yes.  No guilt.  She did nothing wrong.  She was not a failure in any way, shape or form!  Feeling relief that the days of having to watch a child 24/7, living in fear of what the child might try to do next, worrying about what trouble the child might get into, unburdening yourself from those feelings is not wrong.  Far from it.  Accepting the fact that “it is what it is”, and being able to move forward with your life, that is healing within yourself.  That also is a lesson to your child, whether they ever learn it or not.

No guilt.  And stop this ridiculous expectation that you should be able to fix a very broken child.  Maybe we can, maybe we can’t.  All we can do is do our best and provide all the opportunities possible and bring in every resource we can find.  But that’s where our responsibility ends.  Our responsibility is not to “fix” the child.  There’s no guarantee that’s possible at all.  Our responsibility is to love with everything we have, give with everything we got, and never give up on them.  Sometimes it’s enough.  Sometimes it’s enough – but we don’t know it til 10-20 years down the road.  Either way – no guilt.

-realmom

God didn’t intend for me to be a parent

One of my trauma mommas wrote this in an online forum.  I am reprinting her part here with permission. I believe a lot of us feel this way, even if we don’t admit it.  And my response follows.

” I now feel that if God had wanted me to have a child He would have made it so. I feel that maybe I thwarted His plan by adopting so I adopted a child who couldn’t care less if I lived or died. At times, I do feel like He put W in my path. I don’t know. If the reason was to show me that I would not have the family experience that my husband and I dreamt of, then the adoption was a raging success. Pun intended. I just know that I am not an advocate for adoption any longer. When people ask should they adopt, my response is do you really want to hear what I have to say or I am not the person to ask that question. Of course, I am told how blessed I am for having such a sweet and respectful child. I forget that they don’t know the real child I live with and love. At the end of the day, I do love her, but I am broken and scarred by that love.”

Do not say God did not intend you to have a child because you did not birth one… that means the teenage girl who threw hers in the dumpster was “intended” to have one… the crack whore, etc. That is a load of kablooey!  As far as our parenting experience, the whys… I don’t know. My hubs and I do feel strongly that God intended us to have this child. That’s the only thing that keeps us going with him. There’s a reason here. Somehow we are important in his life, even if we don’t see it. Somewhere there’s a myriad of lessons for us to learn here as well. I’ve changed dramatically. I never knew the darker side of adoption. Now I am working to be an advocate for parents to teach them about the dark side before they adopt and to support them after. That’s the thread we cling to. No we’ll never have the family life we dreamed off. Double whammy, both of us were adopted into abusive homes so we didn’t have it growing up, we adopted because we were determined to do it for our children! Irony… And as far as the scars you wear, the broken parts, wear them with PRIDE, because you are a warrior, you earned those scars, fighting in a battle for the life of a child who will never say thank you, will never know the battles you fought, and you fought and LOVED an unlovable human being. Love is a verb, love is an action, not a feeling, and you LOVED. That is admirable! That is put it up on a billboard for all to see awesome! That is true heroism! Stand tall and proud, even though you feel broken, because although you have not been “rewarded”…. you have truly sacrificed. And isn’t that what Jesus’ message was all along? You have walked the true path. Humbly, and without return.

-realmom

Awareness for Everything – Except RAD

I get Facebook popups about different awareness groups all the time.  Autism awareness, Down Syndrome, seems like every other day there’s a new group, syndrome, disease or illness that has an awareness group.  People are pretty aware of autism now.  The kid may look perfectly normal, may seem normal to you, but when you are on the playground and suddenly that kid slaps another kid, the mother murmurs, “He’s on the spectrum.”  (And that’s supposed to make it all ok for the kid who was slapped?)  But, it’s accepted, and no longer questioned as bad parenting.  Good or bad, is not for me to say.  Autism awareness seems to have been made pretty well, at least in the USA.

Same scenario, same two kids, same two mothers sitting on the park bench.  This time, the kid slaps the other kid, and his mother says and does nothing.  You are aghast.  How could she let her child be such a brat?  What a horrible parent!

In both these scenarios, the mother does nothing when her child slaps another child.  She doesn’t intervene, get up, remove the child from the situation, nothing.  In once case she’s forgiven because her child is “on the spectrum” and therefore doesn’t know better, or some such garbage.  The other scenario, because no excuse is given, the mother is looked down upon.  The actions of the child were not different in either case.

Let’s take this scenario only the kid who hits is OUR kid.  Our traumatized, RAD kid, who is getting overwhelmed on the playground and disregulated.  We either miss it or hope he holds out a few more minutes, either way, we know a blow up is coming and we’re trying to avoid it.  SLAP!  He hits the other kid.  Every parents’ head immediately turns to look at us to see our reaction.  As a mom of RAD, we know things have now spun out of control and we need to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. We mumble a quick “I’m so sorry!” to the other mom and try to pull our child away from the playground.  We know a rage is coming on, we know things are about to go very, very bad with our child.  Whatever set him off has set him off in full-blown rage.  The minute we touch our child’s arm and say, “Honey, it’s time to go,” he screams as if you grabbed him tightly.  ”Don’t hurt me!” he yells.  You realize you are now the focus of every eye on the playground and the surrounding block at this point.  ”Son, it’s time to go home.  Let’s walk to the car and go home, then we can relax, maybe have a snack.”  Unseen by the spectators, your son gives his “tell”, the movement he makes right before he lunges at your face, trying to gouge your eyes out.  Preemptively you reach out and block his move, in no way hurting him or being aggressive.  To the spectators you just hit your kid, even though you technically didn’t touch him, he touched you.  You met him partway.  No harm was done to either party – BUT – he throws himself down on the ground and starts screaming “you hurt me!”… well, I don’t need to continue this scenario to the CPS, cops, etc. that have now invaded your life.  And suddenly, YOU are the bad guy, the bad parent.  Why? Because you intervened and prevented a bad scenario from happening on the playground, because you did what you needed to do to keep your child from hurting another child… and you are the bad guy because there’s no “easy” button in this case to say, “He’s a trauma kid, he’s making it up.  He’ll be ok in a few minutes, when he’s done raging.  I have to put him in this hold so he won’t hurt himself or someone else.  I’m not hurting him.”  If you had said, “He’s on the spectrum” people would have not thought twice.  But you don’t have that handy dandy little phrase.  You don’t have a button for awareness, or a tshirt, or a day of the month.  You got – nada, zilch, nothing.  In fact, you have less than nothing because you have the opposite of awareness – you have ignorance, denial, even by the “experts”, judgements from friends, family, neighbors, pretty much everybody in your life who doesn’t understand RAD.

And that is pretty much why we all become hermits, stuck in our little caves, afraid to venture out in the world where we’ll be judged and found guilty, the only evidence being a lying, manipulative, damaged child.

But this is also the reason we need to keep informing our friends (perhaps former friends?), neighbors, family, teachers, even the professionals in our children’s lives about this “spectrum” of attachment disorders.  Without awareness, we’ll be stuck in our own little caves forever.  We need to get out of our caves.  We need to see the sunlight.

Don’t give up on the world, or your family, or friends, or the world, just yet.  Keep plugging along.

-realmom

Let’s talk holidays

Yes, the holidays are over, the Thanksgiving thing, the Christmas thing, and you survived.  Well, kinda.  You just want to block it all out of your mind and not think about it until you really have to again.

Remember the days, pre-trauma kids, when Christmas was fun?  If you had non-trauma kids, you would wrap up presents under the tree, which of course you’d decorate together, even making your own decorations, afterwards you’d sit around drinking hot cocoa together and listening to Christmas carols on the radio?  Back when Christmas was fun and something you looked forward to?

Maybe you can’t remember that anymore.  Christmas – heck, any holiday, family gathering – has become a time of immense stress.  Expectations placed on you by others – family, friends, whoever – that your children are nice and well-behaved, that you arrive on time to eat and everybody uses their inside voices and their table manners, that eating utensils must be used and no food must be thrown, and tantrums are only tolerated by those aged 2 and under?  And here you are, with a trauma kid or more, who destroys everything in sight, who steals, lies, breaks… and yet, you want them to experience the fun of Christmas.  You want them to be excited at the presents they get.  You want to see the joy on their faces when Santa has come.  You want to decorate the tree together, drink hot cocoa, and not have it thrown in your face in rage.

Here’s the reality:  your dreams for your kids are great.  They are awesome, heartfelt, and wonderful.  However, your kid may not be there yet, may never be there.  So forget the expectations of others – screw them.  Forget your expectations of smiling happy faces in a Kodak commercial.  It’s a nice dream, it’s a nice goal – but be real about where your kids are right here, right now.  Work with what you got.

If your child hates surprises, if it totally dysregulates them – it’s ok to take them shopping WITH you for their Christmas presents, them wrap them and put them under the tree.

If getting and decorating a tree is too much stress for the whole family, or it all falls on you – it’s ok to not have a tree.  Or a fake one.  Or a picture of one.  Or draw one.  Whatever works for YOU and YOURS – that is what is ok.

If having lots of people around, coming and going, sets your kids off (which translates to, makes them feel unsafe), then change things.  Don’t have an open house with people coming and going.  Or have one, but have the kids at a friend’s house for the day, doing something that they do frequently.  If traveling from house to house is hard on the kids – don’t take them.

Bottom line is – the holidays are stressful because we are trying to please everyone – our family plus everyone we’re in contact with – and look like we’ve got it all together.  But you know what?  If it causes you stress – then don’t do it.  Downsize.

Bottom line: if the holidays are stressful – look at what you’re doing… and readjust.  Look at your family, your kids, and do things differently.  It’s ok.  Make new traditions.  Make new fun things.  Keep things low key. Do your own thing.  IT. IS. OK.

Remember this, next year…and try to enjoy it, eh?

-realmom

Just read the most amazing article

I had opened a link someone else had shared, I always have tons of windows open on my browser, eventually I get around to looking at them.  It could be anything from a recipe to a cute picture.  I never know what I’m going to get when I click on the multiple millions of tabs I have open.  Today I click on this one: http://outofshemind.com/2015/01/marriage-in-the-trenches/?fb_action_ids=10152643257052219&fb_action_types=og.likes

I hope that link works.  I’m new to this blogging thing.  All I can say is, WORD.

-realmom

Finding support

And no, I don’t mean a new push up bra… but finding support, while in the trenches, of those who understand, who truly understand, what it’s like to live in the war zone you call home, who can commiserate with you when you can tell by the smell which of your children peed where on the carpet (on purpose), who understand how you feel when you say you just want to run away from your life…..  I’m sure there are some good groups out there, I know there are some unsupportive groups out there…. but here’s my group.  They saved my life, my sanity, and I learned I AM NOT ALONE.

momsfindhealing.com

My best friends now.  We chat daily, via FB, text, even call.  We live all over the country – but they are my lifeline.

Check it out.

Guilt: Why can’t I fix my broken child?

I get it, I understand the feeling, but it still never ceases to amaze me when parents feel guilty and that they have failed when they can’t “fix” their kids.  When the children need more care than the parents can provide, when the children run away, when the children end up in a residential treatment center, the psych hospital, even jail – the parents feel guilt.  Why couldn’t I fix my child?  They blame themselves.

But taking a step back and looking at the situation from a more objective point of view, the statement seems ludicrous.  (no offense)  Do we get angry at our plumber neighbor because he couldn’t perform an emergency appendectomy for us and fix us?  No, of course not!  That just seems silly!  Well….. these kids are very broken.  If groups of professionals can’t do it, with their decade of training and experiences…. then how can we expect that we as “parents” can perform the miracle?

I recently read a post from a mom whose daughter at 17 just went off to RTC.  The mom wrote that she was starting to feel excited about the future, she could see that their relationship with their daughter could be more positive now that she was outside the home, she knew the daughter was safe and being taken care of, her needs were being addressed, and she was starting to feel joy in looking at the future again.  In other circles that mom would be crucified for not loving her daughter.  But we know differently.  This mother gave everything she had to her daughter, gave every opportunity she could for healing. It wasn’t enough.  Not through any fault of the mom or the parents, but because the child’s needs were so great.  It was time to put the child in more hands-on charge of the professionals.

The fact that this mom could so soon start to feel positive about her future relationship with that daughter, could see the positive changes in their lives, made me well up with tears with happiness for her.  Yes, I thought.  Yes.  No guilt.  She did nothing wrong.  She was not a failure in any way, shape or form!  Feeling relief that the days of having to watch a child 24/7, living in fear of what the child might try to do next, worrying about what trouble the child might get into, unburdening yourself from those feelings is not wrong.  Far from it.  Accepting the fact that “it is what it is”, and being able to move forward with your life, that is healing within yourself.  That also is a lesson to your child, whether they ever learn it or not.

No guilt.  And stop this ridiculous expectation that you should be able to fix a very broken child.  Maybe we can, maybe we can’t.  All we can do is do our best and provide all the opportunities possible and bring in every resource we can find.  But that’s where our responsibility ends.  Our responsibility is not to “fix” the child.  There’s no guarantee that’s possible at all.  Our responsibility is to love with everything we have, give with everything we got, and never give up on them.  Sometimes it’s enough.  Sometimes it’s enough – but we don’t know it til 10-20 years down the road.  Either way – no guilt.