Reading a heartbreaking post online about a mom who couldn’t protect her children from her child with RAD, and so the child had to be turned over to the state. Since then, the child has acted perfectly (of course). When the mom visited, the child called this new temporary foster mom “mom” and acted like her mom was nobody to her, breaking her mom’s heart, and her sister’s heart, because they had given so much for so long and put up with so much… only to be looked upon as if they were the problem, or liars.
This is not unusual.
There is a song that says “there is no me without you”. With our kids, however, it is literal. There is no them. They are a shell, a mass of emotions and explosions, but the “person” part – the part that we would call who we are, seems to be missing. They are a reaction to the environment around them. That’s how they’ve survived so far. It becomes really apparent in some kids when you change their environment. They like what other kids like, they do what other kids do – these are not close relationships I’m talking about here – even if at home it is something that they absolutely hate to eat or do. Sometimes it’s simply manipulative, a way to push our buttons and prove us liars or wrong, but sometimes – this is “who they are” at that moment, because there isn’t a solid them within. They are like a wisp of smoke inside, not solid.
We have tried for years to differentiate our child with RAD from his brothers, tried to find out what he likes instead of just copying what his brothers do, find out what his interests are, and were frustrated that we couldn’t find anything that he liked or was interested in. Once his brothers stopped doing something, his interest disappeared. It completely baffled us until a therapist explained to us that he only “feels” when he gets a reaction from others, and it must be a strong reaction. If he can do what his brothers are doing, he thinks he might feel what they feel when they are doing it, pleasure, pride, he doesn’t know but he does know they feel something. When that doesn’t work, then he can ruin their time and get a big emotional response from them or us, then he gets a bit of emotion when he can upset the brothers or the family into chaos – he’s gotten a bit of feeling. So he then does that. But within him – there is nothing, no self-sense, if you will.
Just having that little bit of insight into him has helped put his antics into perspective. If he can’t feel what they are feeling by copying them, they he’ll make them mad or upset to get some feeling. He just wants to feel SOMETHING. ANYTHING. It seems like no matter how much positive we try to pour into this kid, he doesn’t feel it, the only time he feels is when he creates chaos within the family. It’s helped me to bypass some of the things he does by knowing what’s probably coming, so he doesn’t ruin things for his brothers, and it’s also helped me not be so upset at him when he does create chaos, because I understand why. The fixing, that we don’t have the answer to, but are still working on. But at least we have a tiny glimpse of insight and understanding into this complex being of a child.
It does help.