The price of arrogance

Most of us trauma parents, if we adopted, were suckered into it by cute faces on the brochure and the myth that “these kids just need love and they’ll be just fine!”  We aren’t saints or heroes for wanting to have kids, or for adopting out of foster care or internationally or whatever.  We adopted for whatever reason – infertility, genetic disorders we didn’t want to pass on, because we were adopted, because the child was a family member, a million different reasons – and we drank the punch.  There are a few among us, however, who knew about the man behind the curtain – and adopted anyway.  Teachers, therapists, special ed specialists, psychiatrists, experienced foster parents – knew about RAD, ODD, trauma kids – and they still went forward and adopted a kid knowing the kid had RAD, or assuming the kid had RAD if it wasn’t in the documentation.  They knew life was going to be hard, hard, hard.  They went ahead and did it anyway.  (yep, I call ’em saints)

But from what I’ve learned, from the ones that “thought” they knew what they were getting into, is that they have have the same line after awhile:  “I was so arrogant!  I had no idea it was going to be like this!”

So even with all their knowledge, and even experience, with special needs kids, even degrees in the stuff – as parents, they end with us, the naive, the gullible, the drank-the-punch crowd:  dazed, standing around, wondering what the hell just happened to our lives.

I don’t say this to put them down – not at all – you are saints for going in knowing what you knew!! – but to encourage the rest who were blindsided.  Even the knowledgeable got blindsided.  Even they are dazed and confused by the way things go with RAD, they struggle with the questions of what is the right thing to do, am I failing this child, am I doing this wrong, am I making things worse?  Regardless of how we ended up in this water-logged boat, we’re all in it together now, furiously paddling and bailing out water as fast as we can, hoping to reach our destination before we sink.  Might as well encourage one another, since we’re all trying to keep from sinking as best we can!

So why did I call this post the price of arrogance?  Because in this case, that’s just one more thing to stop beating yourself up about.  Whether you drank the Kool-Aid or had the PhD, it’s still the same damn boat so stop beating yourself up over it…  And remember what an incredible person you because you are parenting a trauma child, you aren’t giving up, and you are plugging holes in the boat as fast as you can with one hand while throwing water overboard with the other!

Hang in there!


Photo credit: Kim Plante


I think we’d be friends!

I almost want to print this out on a flyer and hand it to everyone I meet, and add “adopted kids” as well. – realmom

“What do you wish you could tell ‘society’?”

“I don’t really have much positive to say to ‘Society’.”

“My kids have enough trauma without people being insensitive. First off people need to find a filter. Stop saying crap in front of these kids that you have no business saying.”

“Seriously, they are people with feelings, ya know? Don’t ask me in front of them if they are my ‘real’ kids, or what their parents did, or if I am going to keep them.”

“Also I don’t need you to count my kids and ask me if I know what causes that and if they are all mine. I assure you I know what causes it: a broken SOCIETY causes it, as well as a call from God to CARE for these children. If you need to have an opinion then find a way to help. The system is broken and a lot more people need to follow God’s call for care of orphans to fix it.”

“Honestly, I am doing the best I can to follow that call. If ‘society’ is not finding a way to help they are part of the problem.”

Standing ovation for this hard working foster mom!

Shared with permission from Humans of Foster Care #HumansOfFosterCare and special thanks to Humans of Foster Care for their amazing stories into the lives of the people that work so hard to help these kids. I’d repost every single one – I love them – but I think that would be cheating as a blogger.   Humans of Foster Care

Being part of the problem

“I think I’m part of the problem here.  I’m irritated at little things and I can’t wait for school to start so for at least a few hours a day, she’s someone else’s problem.”

You know what I hear here?  Guilt that the mom thinks she is part of the problem.  But I also hear the answer, and she doesn’t even know it.  Most likely, because of the overwhelming guilt in the statement.  This RAD life is not easy, it’s taxing and sucks the air out of you, all your energy.  Or as one mom recently described it, “she sucks all the air out of the room and laughs as you’re all gasping for air.”  Yep, perfect description.  So I’m going to harp on one of the things I harp on a lot, and that is to say, NO GUILT.  You have feelings? (fake gasp)  Heeellllloooo of course you do!  You get irritated and tired? Of course you do!  This is not easy!  This is a life for super heroes – and you are one!  No normal mortal could do this!  So leave the guilt aside for being human, having human feelings and limitations.

If you haven’t figured out the answer in the statement of the mom (it’s so much easier when it’s someone else’s, versus yourself, isn’t it?), she’s tired.  Of course she’s irritated, she’s worn out.  Her body, mind, emotions are telling her that she is in need.  She needs respite, self care, she needs to recharge.  That’s also a “no guilt for being human” thing.  Of course we all need to recharge!  In a more normal life it happens without people even realizing it so much, and they are drained so much slowly it’s not an obvious up and down cycle.  With RAD and trauma parents, special need parents, parents of kids with mental illness, etc., the cycle is so much faster and deeper that we can literally lose our entire charge in a single day.  That doesn’t make us bad parents!  That doesn’t make us bad people!  It doesn’t make us weak!  It only means that our kids take a lot.  We want to give them what they need, and they need all of us, and so we give, leaving ourselves depleted.  And somehow, we must find a way to recharge ourselves and fill ourselves back up so that we can continue to give to our children and help with their healing.  No guilt, it’s part of their healing to have parents who have well-fed “souls”.

So if you feel you are part of the problem, listen to yourself.  Get yourself some respite, some self care, take a break, take a mental vacation, something, whatever it is that works for you to recharge yourself.  Meditate, color, do yoga, sing at the top of your lungs and dance around your house, color your hair blue and purple streaks.  Whatever.  It doesn’t matter so much what you do (as long as its’ not harmful) if it makes you happy and fills your soul, then do it.   It’s not being selfish to take take out for yourself, as we’ve been told by society.  In our lives, it’s an absolute necessity for the healing of our kids.  It’s a requirement.  It’s the only way we can make it to the end.

Hang in there.  And once in a while, you know, chill.


Going to bed angry

In a support for RAD moms forum, one mom wrote this:  “It makes ME crazy to go to bed angry because of an explosion that destroyed everyone in the house…and then wake up and pretend to be happy to see this child!!!!!  This is not “normal”!!!!”

She got a lot of responses, ranging from “suck it up buttercup” to “God won’t give you any more than you can handle”.  But the responses seemed to deal more with what she should “do” rather than her feelings about it all.  My response was a little different and I’ve expounded on it here (because it’s my blog, and I can, LOL).

You’re right.  This is not normal.  Pretty much nothing about our daily lives with trauma kids is normal.  From pee and poop hiding to rages, lying about whether or not the sun is up today or if they brushed their teeth, from charming little angels at school to dervish devils at home… none of this is normal.

We are all human. And humans can’t take abuse day after day and get up with a smile on their face. I think that the responses of moms are right in the fact that you are working to meet with your kids where they are – some are ready to accept the responsibility for their actions, so you are demanding apologies and restitution, some kids are just using tantrums as power so you ignore the entire thing – but you also need to accept where YOU are through all of this. It’s ok not to wake up and be happy and bubbly after a day of hell!  In fact, if you do, I’d daresay THAT’S not normal!

This where the self-care comes in. Give yourself a big ole treat of some kind. SOMETHING. Something that you can do when the kids are in bed, whether it be wine or chocolate or read a smutty book – whatever, you deserve it and you earned it – reward yourself for getting through that. STOP buying your kids things out of guilt for making a mistake or losing your cool or not being perfect or because their life was filled with such trauma before you that they are living this and buy yourself something for a change – and most of all NO GUILT!!! you are already doing the impossible – how can you possibly feel guilty for not being perfect on top of that???

(That’s my new motto! kids didn’t get new school clothes this year, they got tons of perfectly fine clothes- I get a new wardrobe!)

Remember that our kids can turn on and off their emotions, even not remember their rages and tantrums, and most of what they show us daily is fake.  They don’t really feel what they show a lot of the time.  But you, the parent, ARE feeling what you’re feeling and show what you are feeling because you are human.  So don’t punish yourself.  Reward yourself for surviving – and won, because you woke up the next morning, crabby or not, you still got up and were still there to try again – even if you woke up in a hotel because you needed a break!

Hang in there.  Give yourself a break, literally and figuratively.


John M. Simmons RAD Broke: Reactive Attachment Disorder

John M. Simmons RAD Broke: Reactive Attachment Disorder.

If I Had a Nickel for Every Nickel I’ve Spent on RAD… Oh, if Only…

I try to always provide at least a little bit of help with my articles about Reactive Attachment Disorder. Today, I will fail miserably in that attempt. That isn’t because I don’t want to help. I really do. If only I could help people learn how to help their children with attachment disorders without becoming RAD broke. But I haven’t found the answer to that problem, even in the least. You probably follow my articles. You probably watch the comments. You probably observe people who are RAD broke just as much as I do. In fact, if you are a regular reader of my articles, there’s a very good chance that at some point (if not right now) you have been RAD broke, yourself.

By the time you are finished fighting against the resources of the state, you’ll be RAD broke and the lawbreaker will still be collecting their check and breaking the law.

I would tell you I’m not here to complain, but that isn’t true. Usually, RAD broke comes because someone in a government position breaks laws pertaining to another person’s (or family’s) legal rights. These lawbreakers do what they do without fear of consequence because of personal immunities from prosecution. We can’t touch them. Did you get that? They can intentionally break the law and they can’t be prosecuted! I was taught in school that in the United States, no one is above the law. That was a lie. Let me clarify. Child Protective Services is not above the law. You can sue Child Protective Services. But the people who work for Child Protective Services are immune from prosecution. This makes them individually “untouchable.” Only Child Protective Services (as an entity) is responsible for those person’s individual actions. The individual cannot be held legally accountable. And what does the individual employee care if you sue Child Protective Services? The lawbreaker doesn’t get fined. The lawbreaker doesn’t go to jail. But go ahead and sue. By the time you are finished fighting against the resources of the state, you’ll be RAD broke and the lawbreaker will still be collecting their check and breaking the law.

When I talked with my attorney, he confirmed what I had been told by the criminal. I could go RAD broke suing the state, but the law breaker had no threat or incentive to keep him from breaking the law.

I remember when the situation with my oldest daughter had reached the point where family lives were in real danger. As I talked with the director of CPS in our area, he just told me that I didn’t get to bring Russia’s problems to the U.S. and make them his problems. When I told them that my daughter was a U.S. citizen and that with the evidence we had presented, he was legally obligated to help, he simply said: “I’m not denying that, Mr. Simmons. I’m simply telling you I won’t do it.” When I told him I would sue him, he corrected me. “No, Mr. Simmons,” he said. “You can’t sue me. I am immune. You can’t sue me. You can sue the state of Utah. And by the time you get through fighting the State of Utah, this will all be over, she won’t need the assistance anymore, you will have done no good for yourself, and you will have spent a bunch of time and money for nothing.” When I talked with my attorney, he confirmed what I had been told by the criminal. I could go RAD broke suing the state, but the law breaker had no threat or incentive to keep him from breaking the law.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be willing to go RAD broke to give our children what they need.

So until the government decides to make people who work for Child Protective Services accountable for their own individual actions, there is little we can do unless we are fortunate enough to work with someone from Child Protective Services who truly wants to help. Sadly, I know that many of you have experienced what I am talking about. Many of you have spent yourselves up to a perceived limit in adopting children. You have then acquired massive debt while getting your child counseling and perhaps, residential care. I have heard so many stories of people maximizing loans on homes and even downsizing houses to get their children help. I’m not saying we shouldn’t make those sacrifices for our children. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be willing to go RAD broke to give our children what they need.

If you know what I’m talking about, if you know someone who has gone RAD broke because someone else is thumbing their nose at the law, please sound off in the comments and share this article around.

What I am saying is that this is the United States and no one should be above the law. I’m saying that everyone should be legally accountable for their individual actions. I’m saying that when parents plan their country-given rights as part of their resources to help children from hard places, that they should have easy access to the resources that are legally theirs. I’m sorry that I didn’t give you anything to help you in this week’s article. But if you know what I’m talking about, if you know someone who has gone RAD broke because someone else is thumbing their nose at the law, please sound off in the comments and share this article around. This situation of legal immunity for individually and intentionally breaking laws is out of control.

Oh, and the good news is that the director of Child and Family Services I dealt with no longer works for that organization. The bad news is that he’s now collecting a pension that he “earned” while blatantly refusing to follow the law.

About the Author

John M. Simmons is an adoption advocate and author of the award-winning novels The Marvelous Journey Home and To Sing Frogs. John performs television and radio interviews and writes editorials to share his experience with special needs and international adoption. He appears at book clubs, and is a frequent guest speaker for various groups to increase adoption awareness. He and his wife have three biological sons and six adopted children.  

*shared with permission

No mas pantalones

Ever see the commercial, where it’s basically liar liar pants on fire, and the two men’s pants catch on fire because they are lying, and one looks down and says, “No mas pantalones?” (no more pants)  Makes me laugh…. unless it’s my kid doing the lying.

As parents we’ll be judged by those who only see the outside of our family – our charming, seemingly abused and neglected, but perfectly behaved RAD, and our seemingly heartless response to them because, according to them, we “never ever get them anything” but the sibling gets everything.  You can’t win against that, they are incredibly talented liars and manipulators.  Just know that everywhere they go they are talking smack about you behind your back, and openly acknowledge that.  No reason to hide that part of your family’s dirty laundry, because what she’s going to say about you is way worse than that.  In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to be honest about a few of the things the child has said about that person to their face so they know the lies go in both directions, but since you realize your child has issues with telling the truth, you do not take those lies seriously.  Make it into a joke, elaborate it a bit to make it funny, talk about the millions she’ll make in sitcom writing , “You’ve heard of the boy who cried wolf? Well, I have the girl who cried triceratops!”, just use humor as much as you can, and don’t be embarrassed.  After all, it’s not YOUR fault.  YOU didn’t raise her that way, you don’t condone it, but you also can’t control what comes out of a child’s mouth outside of your presence.  Anyone that says you can obviously  has never parented a strong willed child, or has one buried in the back yard.

It’s time we stop behaving as if we believe it’s our fault too.


School stress

A mom with adopted kids from foster care was saying how the beginning of school – even the thought of it, as it was still a couple of weeks before school started – created such stress in her kids that they were in chaos.  They were constantly on edge and getting in trouble at daycare, at home, and everywhere they went.

My thought is this: There’s no win in this situation. Absolutely none. Consequences don’t matter usually (only you know if it does for your kids) and the stress of school and schedule changes and the unknown freaks them out and they can’t handle it. No matter what you do “after the fact” with punishment or consequences or yelling or scolding it won’t change a damn thing. The only thing that “might” change it is to change them by teaching them how to cope better with stress and change. And if you’re already addressing that through therapy, working through stuff at home… then you’re already addressing it. They can’t learn any faster than they can learn, they can’t heal any faster than they can heal. So….. my only advice is to stop letting it stress YOU out as well. Yes it sucks BIG TIME. This is not what was promised in the brochure. BUT it’s not your failing as a parent nor is it your fault as a parent, nor is a lot of it their fault either. They might be doing the best they can too with dealing with it, and the triggers going on. If you chillax to the extreme (good luck, not saying it’s easy) and let things go, roll off your back during this super stressful time, etc, it might destress or decharge the atmosphere at home a bit and help them bring it down a notch. Maybe. No promises. But (IMO) it’s really about all you can do – is work on yourself during this time, and control yourself, and see what changes you make might make a difference. The changes in them happen so slowly and over such a long time that you’re not going to see any improvement between now and school. Next year? Maybe. Hopefully. But this year? That has sailed, and now you know it sunk right off the dock. Pull it back in, patch the holes, and work on it for next year.

Hang in there.



So many of the parenting books, and even therapists, say that if your kids aren’t improving, or aren’t healed, it’s your fault, as the parents.  YOU are doing something wrong.  That kind of thinking really gets my ire up!  While it is possible you are not following through and doing what you are supposed to, in general, the parents I have met in this RAD battle for a child’s life are doing everything – EVERYTHING – they possibly can and then some to provide healing resources for their child, to be a healing resource for their child.  Only you – I repeat – ONLY YOU – with some sincere and honest self-evaluation can determine whether or not you are giving it your all, whether you are following the therapies to the best of your abilities, etc.  Just you.  Not some therapist who met you for 15 mins, or some author of a book who supposedly knows it all, and certainly not your extended family.  Only you can make that judgement.  And once you’ve sincerely determined that you are doing it right, you are giving it all, then let that part go.  It’s not your fault.

If we gave the original artist a shredded canvas and asked him to paint Mona Lisa, could he paint one exactly like the original?  No.  It’s not possible.  The canvas is damaged beyond repair.  No amount of super glue or gorilla tape can put that canvas back to it’s original perfect condition.  But could he paint a different picture, a beautiful picture, on that canvas?  I bet he could.

Take a good long look at the statue of David by Michelangelo.  Could he have done that if there were large cracks running through the stone?  David with half an arm, a missing foot, a large gash in that perfect stomach?

You can only work with what the original material’s potential is to create a masterpiece.  Or even a simple painting, for that matter.  So expecting that every child will heal implies that the original material is intact.  Unfortunately  there’s just no way to know if it is or isn’t, so we assume it is, and keep working, but the fact of the matter is, not all kids will heal fully, and some kids won’t heal at all.  This is not the fault of the parents working on repairing the damage created by trauma, but the fault of the trauma itself and the damage it’s done.

You can only do what you can do.


Guilt and the other kids

A mom recently said that she feels guilty about taking her focus off of her RAD child, who demands all her attention, and time, and energy, and if she doesn’t give all her attention and time and energy and focus to her RAD, then the RAD makes everyone’s lives miserable.  She feels that if she takes the focus off the RAD even for a little while, it may affect her healing… but it’s obvious, her other kids need her too.

My response was NO GUILT for putting other kids ahead needs in front of hers for awhile. I think of it this way, we’re at a lake and my rad is crying on the shore. But my other kid is in the lake drowning. Who do I attend to first? The noisy one making a scene or the ones who are actually drowning, but in silence? People will see me “walk away” from my screaming child on the beach, and tsk tsk me, judge me, but they don’t see my 10 yr old has just slipped under the water. The other kids deserve “all of you” at times as well.

You’re only human.  Giving to your other children, taking time for your spouse, taking time for YOURSELF will not break the healing, stop the healing, or prevent the healing of your RAD child.  Do what you need to do for the best of your entire family, and that includes you.

Hang in there.



I have a friend who has an interesting, to say the least, little farm.  She has a chicken – pictured – her name is Dot.  Dot really wanted to be a mom.  I mean really REALLY wanted to be a mom.  Made a nest, wouldn’t get off of it, no eggs though.  Since the ducks had laid eggs, and had plenty of them, my friend stole a few of the ducks eggs a few days before hatching and put them under Dot.  So the ducklings hatched, and Dot the chicken is raising them.  The ducks are raising their ducklings, and Dot is raising her ducklings, and everybody, it seems, is perfectly happy with this arrangement.  Dot is a good mother to her ducklings (duckens?).  So good, in fact, that she takes them swimming, even though chickens don’t like water normally, because that’s what good mothers do.  They do whatever it takes to meet the needs of their kids.

When I saw the picture* she posted of Dot swimming with her duck babies in the pool, the word that popped into my mind was Motherducker.  I’m not sure why, and it wasn’t the swear word version.  And it made me think of OUR kids, and how different our kids can be from us, it’s like, well, they’re ducks and we’re chickens, but still, we roll with it and do whatever we can to raise them to be the best that they can be.  We’ll even get in the water with them if that’s what it requires.  That’s love.  That’s commitment.  That’s integrity.  That’s honesty.  That’s raw, open-your-heart-and-let-it-be-hurt openness.  That’s true unconditional love.  And it’s uncomfortable.  And it hurts.  And it’s not something you can post on Facebook, when other moms are posting, “Oh, my kid just gave me a hug and said he loved me,” and all you got is the list of names your kid has called you so far this morning… and he’s only been up a few minutes.

So the next time your kid calls you a mother***, of the derogatory, swearing kind, just smile and tell them, “No, dear, I’m a Motherducker and proud of it.”


  • Photo courtesy of Kim Plante