Pity: Party of 1 – Your table is ready

Sometimes I get so sick of my child being pitied, of being treated oh so special because of his assumed past, because of his imagined and made up stories about his present and how neglected he is, the attention he receives and soaks up for things that didn’t even happen.  I get tired of the treats, and gifts, the extra everything he gets from strangers, acquaintances, teachers, because he can spin a good lie.  Sometimes I just want to stand up and shout, “What about me? What about his family who has to put up with the rages, the destruction, the violence, the CRAP on a daily basis while you all fawn over him like a wounded puppy?  We are the ones that should be fawned over, treated special, given gifts!”

Sometimes I wish I had some sort of obvious temporary injury, like a broken arm that sticks straight out, so that when I walk into the grocery store, complete strangers rush up to me to help me shop, buy me coffee, do nice things for me, treat me special just because of that cast.  Or maybe a broken leg, stuck straight out, and people rush to move things out of my way so that I can navigate my way around.  I sit and ponder that for a little bit.

Then reality starts to creep back in, where with my luck, nobody would notice that cast, and I’d end up knocking over hundreds of cans stacked up in a display, trying to get just one can, because that stupid cast was so awkward to navigate with, and two other shoppers would fall on the cans and break a leg, so then I could feel really awful.

I get up from my table, leave a tip, realizing I don’t want to be pitied.  I am a strong person, I am a warrior, and this pity shit is for the birds. If I want payback for being nice, I’ll go pet puppies at the pound, nothing like a little puppy love to raise your spirits.  But this raising a kid with RAD, there is no payback, at least not in the short term normally, and that’s just how it is.  I’m not doing it for the paybacks, for the hugs and kisses of parenthood that were in the brochure.  I’m doing to because it needs to be done and he’s my kid.  I love him.  I will do whatever it takes to get him the help he needs.  There’s no room for pity.

Hang in there.

-realmom

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Dear New Therapist

I know you have the best of intentions.  I know you have a lot of knowledge and have spent a lot of money, time and energy on  your schooling.  I respect that.  I really, really do.  But there are some things I would like you to know….

Don’t ask me to talk about my kid in front of my kid.  Not only is this demeaning to a child who already has issues, if I say good things about the child’s progress, it can backfire into the child’s regression, if I say the bad things that are going on it just reinforces to the child that he/she is bad.  If you want to know what’s going on, ask for a parent meeting, but do not ask me about my child’s behavior in front of my child.

I love this child with all my heart.  I am this child’s parent.  I do not beat, torture, neglect, ridicule or lock this kid in a closet from dusk til dawn and feed him dog food.  Part of the diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder is playing the victim.  You will probably hear a lot of horrible things that he claims I have done.  Take it with a grain of salt. If you have concerns, ask for a meeting with me (and him) to talk about these events.  And believe me when I say I have heard a lot of terrible things you have said and done to my child in that 50 minutes a week you meet with him, but I know better.  I know you don’t have a torture chamber back there nor are you performing satanic rituals when I’m not there.

The books are written on generalities, commonalities, and do not mean that all children react in exactly the same way or have exactly the same symptoms.  It also means not all children will respond to a certain therapy in a certain way.  Please be open minded.  Please be mindful that you are dealing with a living, breathing, thinking human being and not a two dimensional book.

Although I, the mom, have not gone through a decade of school to learn about attachment disorders and mental illness, please keep in mind that I know my child.  I have spent day in and day out with this child, possibly from birth to now, sometimes only a year, but I know this child better than anybody.  Please don’t blow off what I say and remember we are on the same team.  What I know about my child is truth.

Kids with attachment disorders lie and charm.  If you are buying into those, then you need to step back and recuse yourself from being my child’s therapist.  Keep your own distance and attachment issues.

The goal of attachment therapy is not for the child to attach to you, the therapist, but to attach to the mom, or the parents.  Meeting with a child alone for attachment therapy is not attachment therapy to attach to the parents.  Unless you are planning on adopting this child, you are causing harm.

Keep in mind that I did not cause the trauma in this child’s life, I was not the parent who neglected and harmed this child (if that’s what caused the trauma), I am the parent trying to fix it.  I made mistakes, I will continue to, but I am trying to the best of my ability to help this child.

We need to be working together, as a team, our goal is to facilitate the healing of this child.  Triangulation is one of the key features in attachment issues, pitting adults against each other.  We need to be in communication, open and honest, and keep that communication flowing.  Please do not side “against” me with my child.  Remember he’s doing the same thing to you.

I may not have gone to school for a decade to know what you know, but I have researched and gone to seminars and talked to people and other therapists and possibly read almost every book out there on my child’s diagnosis.  Don’t dismiss what I know just because I am not a professional.  At least read the book I am talking about and discuss with my why you think that approach would be harmful to my child, if you haven’t already read the book.  I’m not being a know-it-all or trying to tell you how to do your job, but my only job is to help my child.  Your job is to help all your patients with all their various issues.  So I have the luxury of focusing on a single thing and reading every book on the subject, talking with other parents about what works and what doesn’t, attending seminars devoted to just this topic – and you don’t.  So any information I bring to you is just that – information that I think would help and I am bringing to you to see if you agree.

Parents – hang in there.

-realmom

Brother vs. Brother

I overheard a conversation between the two bio brothers the other day.  Brother #1, diagnosis include Reactive Attachment Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, had accused his brother of pinching him or something as he walked by.  Brother #2, who is pretty much healed from his attachment issues, with his voice cracking with obvious pain, said “Why do you accuse of things I didn’t do?  You’re breaking my heart!  Completely breaking my heart!”

Not only was the emotion real for this tween boy confessing to his brother how he felt, he did so in front of several neighborhood children, his peers, who were just as likely to take this confession, this vulnerability, and use it against him, ridicule him.  He didn’t care.  That moment, he was in pain because of his brother’s actions, and he expressed it.  I was proud of him for doing so, especially in the circumstances, and my heart for him, because his pain was so obvious.

When we first brought them home, at 3 and 4 years of age, the older one was the problem child.  He fought, he destroyed, he spit, he swore at us, he threw things.  He cried at night and refused comfort.  We were helpless to alleviate any of his pain.  What’s worse, we didn’t speak his language.  We did our best, but we were afraid he was broken.  The younger one was happy, laughing, seemed to immediately adjust and had no problems at all.  What little we knew….  After a year, the older one worked through his pain and his issues, and settled down, and began to accept being part of a new family.  He had struggles, sure, he had reservations about attaching to us, but the major battle was over.  Now as a tween that attachment battle is won, he wants to be part of our family, he claims us as his own, and he’s dealing with adoption/abandonment/anger issues that he still needs to work through.  That, and the issues with little brother.  Little brother, on the other hand, angelic, smiling, laughing… never attached.  It was an act.  Looking back, I can see the times of mommy shopping, I can see the switch when h realized the cuteness wasn’t working to get his way anymore and he started looking for new parents, and began to be seriously destructive at home.  Looking back, it’s textbook, it’s obvious, it’s clear as day.  But at the time, we’d never heard of such a thing.  Sure, we knew about Reactive Attachment Disorder, but this kid was huggy, always on your lap – that wasn’t how they described RAD!

Eight years in, I’ve met families early in their journey, who have the feeling that there’s something “not quite right” with their adopted child.  They can’t put a finger on it, but things don’t feel right.  The hugs feel fake, the kisses feel overdone, and after awhile, you just want them to leave you alone.  I tell them they’re probably right, the hugs are fake, it is an act, and their child hasn’t bonded, and they need to seek help, learn about attachment, etc.  Even now with the changes to the DSM the “gregarious previously known as RAD” is given barely a glance, as if the fakeness makes it all ok.  It’s not given anywhere near the time and energy in the textbooks as the inhibited RAD child.  And so few therapists are well versed in RAD at all, much less this side of the spectrum!

If this is your child, don’t give up.  It’s a spectrum, but that doesn’t mean one end is worse than the other and harder to heal, necessarily.  Some of the “worst cases” end up healing and some of the easiest behaviorally end up not healing at all.  We just can’t judge and have to throw all we can in terms of resources and our time and energy into healing this little soul.  Don’t give up.  Even if you don’t see the results in their childhood, and they leave at 18, and you think well, we failed…. there’s still hope.  The human brain continues to develop and grow until roughly 25-27 years of age.  There’s still hope.

-realmom

My neighborhood

I love my neighborhood.  I have awesome neighbors.  I’m not bragging, I’m extremely grateful because I’ve never had neighbors like this before.  Neighbors who text me when my garage door is open, who tell me when my kid goes knocking on their door asking for junk food, neighbors who bring my flag back to my porch after it blew off in a windstorm, neighbors who bring me cupcakes and treats for no reason, neighbors who buy too much of something and ask if I want any, neighbors I can text and ask if they’ll pick me up cat food at the store because I feel like crap and we’re out, neighbors who contact me because another neighbor is having surgery and she’s organizing dinners for that neighbor for a few weeks and wants to know if I want to participate.  A real neighborhood, the real meaning of neighbors, that’s where I live.  Not everyone is like that, but it’s more than one, more than two, more than three, and I’ve never witnessed anything like this in my life in a town/city where people come and go.  It’s more like the old farming communities way back when where people watched out for each other, even if they had to hitch up the horse and ride 10 miles to check on their neighbors.

Every day out my front window is a gallum of kids playing.  (How much is a gallum, you ask?  A lot.)  And there is always, ALWAYS, at least 2 moms, if not more, supervising the kiddos playing in the culdesac.  Moms and Dads here “co-parent” whoever’s kids are outside.  They are involved.  The kids respect that and know that not only will they be reprimanded at that moment for bad behavior, mom and dad are currently being texted with the details so by the time the kid gets home the parents are well-informed.  There’s no “don’t tell MY kid what to do!” crap around here.  My one neighbor says, if my kid needs a spanking just go ahead and give him one.  Not that I ever would, but she completely trusts me to act appropriately and deal out appropriate punishment for her kid.  Other kids from down the street flock to our end… but if they don’t follow “the rules” (safety, respect) they will be sent back home or to their end of the street.  Usually the kids learn that it’s a lot more fun to play on this end where kids play nicer and don’t beat up the little kids and say “I’m sorry” when they accidentally knock another kid down” and end up staying.  (That’s not to say we don’t have some knock down drag out football and basketball games with the bigger kids – it’s just done in fair play!)

Why is my neighborhood different than anywhere else I’ve lived?  Almost all of the new people that have moved in – and there’s been a lot – have fit right in.  It’s not a rich neighborhood.  We don’t drive fancy beemers and SUVs.  There’s us with “problem” (aka trauma and special needs) kids, and a foster home, but the rest are just your average regular families, yet our “problem kids” also have limited problems, if any, with the other parents.  Maybe it’s because anyone who plays with my kids gets a little education on some things so they know what to expect and knows they can contact me about anything my kid does, and then when the foster home came into being, they were pretty well-informed, or maybe this set of people is just that open and willing and giving and caring than most of anywhere else.  I just don’t know.

What I do know is that we are involved as a little community here, we spend time together, we watch out for each other, and whatever you put into it, you’ll get out tenfold.  Some neighbors don’t want to be involved and don’t want to know anybody, and that’s their right and choice of course, but it’s amazing what a little friendliness does.  We “belong”.  And in this belonging, my entire family “belongs”.  My kids who don’t belong in a family of different race parents, belong in this neighborhood of families who are mixed race and have parents of different races.  My kids of different races don’t stand out in a group of diverse ethnicities.   My adopted kids don’t stand out when there are step-parents and other adoptive parents, or foster parents.

I don’t live in Utopia.  It’s not perfect.  But it’s profound to realize that 8 out of 16 houses choose to be part of this community, to make it community, and what a huge difference it makes for my kids.  And what a huge difference it makes for me as a parent.  I don’t always have to be the one outside watching my kids play, because there’s always someone outside watching the kids play.  Sometimes it’s me, too, but for once it doesn’t always have to be me eagle eyeing my kids to make sure they do the right thing.  I don’t have to worry about my kid getting into a car with a stranger because everyone is watching and if it’s a car that doesn’t belong, it’s being watched too.  We watch out for each other.

And all it took was a 4th of July BBQ to get to know each other a bit.  A potluck dinner on the front lawn.  Cookies or cupcakes for the new neighbors moving in, along with your phone number so they can contact you if they need something.  Jump-starting your neighbor’s son’s girlfriend’s car for the 45th time because she doesn’t have jumper cables.  A teenager shoveling the snow out of the walkway for the older couple so they can get to their mailbox – for free, and without being asked.  Mowing the neighbor’s lawn while they’re on vacation.  Little things. Neighborly things.  I hope that if nothing else we try to teach our attachment challenged kids hits home, that what they see with our neighbors shows them how things should be, a goal to reach for.

So thank you neighbors, because you’re helping in ways you don’t even realize: by example, showing my kids how people are supposed to treat people, giving, and wanting nothing in return, caring and expecting no payback.

GIrl missing for over a year, police just find out

This news story hit my news feed today.  An 11 year old girl was “just noticed” to be missing, over a year since she was last seen.  Mother refuses to say anything about the girl’s whereabouts and is currently in jail for “contempt of court” for not answering the judge’s questions.  My first thought was, OMG, and nobody notices? Neighbors? School? Relatives? Seriously?  My next thought was, contempt of court? Are you kidding me? Such a minor charge for such a serious thing!

The final thought I had was, this is what trauma births.  Trauma begets trauma.  Everyone can rail and scream at the mom, but I am damn sure she is from a trauma background herself.  Untreated, most likely.  And the kids she had left at home, now in the care of so-highly-qualified-CPS (is there a sarcasm font?), who have obviously been exposed to trauma by the very fact that a sibling is missing and no one else cared enough to report it, but you can bet there’s a whole lot more trauma in their lives than that, are they going to get on a treatment plan to address their trauma, work through it, and deal with it so they can live productive lives as adults?  If they live to be grown ups, chances of them living a trauma filled life and causing trauma to their children are so high statistically that no gambler would ever walk away from that table.

Until we wake up (those not in the know, if you’re here, you know already – the hard way, through the innocent cherubs you adopted that turned out to be not so cherub-ic nor innocent), trauma will continue to breed it’s ugliness.  Unless we can treat the youngest victims at the earliest stages of their lives, unless we take this seriously, this cycle will continue.  How can we (as one in the “know”) make a difference when we’re already so under water with our own family situations we’re using a straw to breathe?  For one, speak up.  Enlighten those who don’t know.  Educate.  Yes, in little bits and pieces, not a long barrage of how your life sucks (save that for your support groups or your blog) but educate about trauma and how it effects children.  Speak up about the need to revamp CPS to actually “care” about the children.  Support each other, either online or in person.  Join a support group.  Start a support group even if all you do is pass the wine bottle around once a month and pay the babysitters hazard pay.  Write a letter to your Congressional and Senate representatives about the need for more support, resources, and aid for foster and adoptive families in your state.  Join a grassroots organization that is pushing for these things, I know of several that have been started by personal friends of mine, because they saw a need and didn’t see that need be filled.  Even if all you can do is lick stamps or share info on your Facebook page, you’re doing something.  It doesn’t have to be hours a week.  It doesn’t have to be hundreds of dollars.  Another thing you can do is when the public gossips.  You know, when the stories hit the news and your friends gossip, your co-workers, etc.  Even your Facebook friends.  Stand up for what you know to be true.  Be willing to get flamed and don’t flame back, but stand up for the truth.  An example is the Rosie O’Donnell story where her daughter ran away to be with birth mom.  Drug addict, still drunk and high after 18 years, birth mom.  Yes, what we all dream of for our kids, to have THAT as a role model.  The media, the general public, blames Rosie and believes whatever the media makes up about her or twists the truth into being something bad.  Those of us in the know realize that the kid probably had trauma, FASD in utero and could very likely have Reactive Attachment Disorder, or a mental illness, having absolutely NOTHING to do with Rosie or her parenting or her gayness or her celebrity-ness or whatever else someone wants to blame it on, the girl came wired that way.  (And for the record, I highly dislike Rosie the celebrity, as a parent I don’t know anything about her parenting, BUT I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and not judge and even defend her to those who are judging because I am “in the know” about trauma kids, lying media, and lying kids, the effects of drugs and alcohol in utero, etc).  And maybe Rosie did eff up.  I don’t know.  But I’m not going to START there because everything that the girl has said that’s been published or posted doesn’t have the ring of truth of actual abuse to it.  That’s how we start to change things – by speaking up, for ourselves, for each other, by teaching others.  We need to learn everything we can and teach everyone we can.  Yes, a lot of times we teach our kids’ counselors about RAD and how to treat it because there are no good counselors in our area within a 4 yr radius.  We teach our teachers, our relatives.  We get backlash, we get called drama queens, we get called over-reacting.  But if we are all speaking up, if we all have the research and the knowledge and we defend each other – won’t that make a difference?  Won’t that at least make a statement?

I wonder.

-realmom

Why humanity has not evolved

Trauma is not new to the human race.  It may be new to the DSM.  It may be new to the general public that you don’t just “get over” traumatic events.  It may be new to the medical profession that emotional trauma physically affects the body and brain, not to mention the mind.  But the trauma itself, is not new to the human race, or to human experience.  From Genghis Khan to the Holocaust, from feeding Christians to lions to the Spanish Inquisition, from stick figure drawings in caves to child porn movies, humans have shown again and again the ability to harm another of it’s kind without conscience or compassion.  The effects of trauma are genetically encoded in each and every one of us.

So then why are there good people in the world?  Why aren’t we all murderers, sadists, evil?  How can a Mother Theresa come from such a history?  The ability to overcome trauma, evil, cruelty must also be built in somewhere.  Not that everyone can – I highly doubt if Genghis Khan had a nice, happy childhood, rocked to sleep and cuddled.  So as society evolves technologically, in math, language, science, knowledge – how is it that trauma and its effects seem to be tearing down that very society, with the overpopulation of jails (where a high number of that population were in foster care), and a basic disregard for another human being?  Animal instinct of “me” vs. the evolved “us” that is trying to become?

I have to wonder if it’s because the highly evolved “us” aren’t really as highly evolved as we thought.  We may be smart in language, literature, art, science, math – but we aren’t smart in the human condition.  Individuals may have evolved to a “us” mentality, filled with compassion, selflessness, a willingness to get dirty and do the hard work instead of expecting someone else “less worthy” or “less educated” to do it for us, but as a whole, we’ve only evolved the outside appearance of the human race, not the inside.  It shows by how we treat the homeless, the mentally ill, the foster children, the disabled, the refugees, by how our “aid” programs have CEOs that make upwards of a million dollars a year for their “service” to the world, where it’s workers can’t be bothered so sort supplies donated for flood victims and hand them out because it “wasn’t their job”, a society that puts on a pedestal a fat guy who became a skinny guy – never mind his little fetish, how our version of “giving” is throwing money at something, aka a relief project, and feel we’ve done our part, never caring that little or none of that money actually gets to the people whose lives were devastated by the tragedy to begin with.  In other words, we just pretend to give a crap.  Pro-lifers who are really “pro-baby” because you see them parading signs at clinics but you don’t see them at the volunteering at the homeless shelters, battered and abused womens shelters, free clinics, or becoming foster or adoptive parents to help those babies who lives they’ve just “saved” or help the women they’ve just judged and put down who can’t afford to feed themselves, much less a baby.

Yes, trauma is not new to the human experience.  It just feels new because we’ve put on bling and sparklies, and so the obvious effects of trauma in our society show up so much more against the backdrop of what we pretend to be.

If you’re not a trauma parent, but know one, find out how you can help.  If you’re pro-life, become pro-LIFE and assist.  If you have money to give, know where your money goes.  Hell, fly yourself to Haiti and hire locals to build houses for those lost in the earthquake years ago.  The “big guns” never did, even though millions were raised!  Get personally involved with your neighbors, your co-workers, that cranky guy down the street who sits on his porch and glares at you when you walk your dog.  Stop elevating the Kardashians and start elevating people who really make a difference in the world.  Take that Armani suit you never wear, sell it and buy cheap suits for halfway programs for people who need clothes for job interviews.  Stop watching reality TV and go meet some people.  Stop tweeting and start talking face to face.  Be the evolution.  We CAN do this – TOGETHER.

-realmom

“Abortion is the worst thing”

A friend recently posted on his Facebook a meme against abortion.  It was one of those days and I went into a long detailed response of life a child lives when abused, drug addicted, emotionally and mentally damaged, etc, and asked the question, is abortion really the worst thing?  His response was “Yes, abortion really is the worst thing.”

I don’t want to get into the abortion debate, but I felt deflated.  Obviously my real message had not gotten through to someone yet again.  A life of living in constant pain, constant confusion, never belonging, where black seems white and white seems orange.  Where nothing ever makes sense to you, and you never make sense to anyone else.  A life of a RAD, a traumatized child.  A child that statistically will grow up, commit crimes, and end up in jail again and again.  A child that may or may not have help provided to him/her in their lifetime.  A child that when grown will continue the cycle of abuse, addiction, and trauma, because it’s genetically encoded at this point.

I didn’t paint a pretty picture on his post, but I didn’t paste a totally reality-based one either. It was way watered down from what most of us see our children living.  But he obviously felt it was blown way out of proportion or a one in a million chance, and not the reality we live.  Locking our bedroom doors at night, fearing for our own safety, literally fearing for our own survival, if we sleep.  They think it’s made up, or Hollywood embellished.  Never mind my one friend with the broken cheekbone from her 7 year old beating her with his fists and she was unable to keep every blow from landing in one of his rages.  Never mind the 5 yr old caught choking his 3 yr old sister to unconsciousness because he wanted her “dead and gone”, after seeing his dad do it to his mom, also someone I know.  Let’s ignore the six year who beat the cat to death.  Or having to lock up every single sharp object so your nine year old won’t cut herself and end up bleeding to death, and those sharp objects include wire tablets, pencils, pencil sharpeners, paper clips and things you’d never think would be sharp enough to make you bleed and leave a scar, but are.  If we are the one in a million families, if we are so rare, then how come I know so many of them?  How come I can go on and on and list personal examples of things like these – just from people I know? Let’s not even count the people THEY know.  And the people they know….

The only time the “regular public” hears about us is when (a) our children kills us or (b) our children kills someone else or (c) our children falsely accuse us of abuse or (d) our child commits some terrible crime.  That recently happened to two other friends of mine whose children are teens and young adults… they woke up to the morning news with their kid’s face plastered all over with the words “wanted” on it.

Hear me, people.  These are not bad parents I’m talking about.  These are parents that did their best to get the kids all the help they possibly could.  It wasn’t enough. It just wasn’t enough.

So, my friend Kevin, I respectfully disagree that a dead baby is the worst thing in life.  A dead life is the worst thing: living but being dead inside, and having that putridness permeate and affect everything and everyone you ever meet.

-realmom

The War Against RAD: An Open Letter to Rosie O’Donnell

Wow. Truth. I’m not a fan of the celebrity Rosie, but my heart breaks for the adoptive Mom Rosie, and the challenges she faces. I can’t believe how the media has ripped her apart for the stupidest little things said by her daughter, and a woman who is STILL a drug addict after 18 years, who willingly put drugs into her system while pregnant… but yet she’s a credible witness here? Puh-leez. As another adoptive mom of a child born with meth, cocaine, alcohol, and all kinds of other recreational and prescription drugs in his system at birth, I watch him struggle daily with the simplest of tasks, because of the damage done in utero. Cause and effect – he doesn’t understand. He will make the same mistake again and again, never learning from it. Yet he knows algebra above his grade level. And someday soon he may do the exact same thing as Rosie’s daughter. I dread the day, and yet I expect it, too, on some level.

Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

Behind closed doors: Rosie O'Donnell's adopted daughter says her mom is a ' phony' in public who would put on a happy face, but then ignore her kids at home

Dear Rosie,

I am sorry for your loss. You have lost the most precious thing to any mother. You have lost a child. My hope for you is that Chelsea will eventually realize what her actions have done. In the meantime, be strong, Mama. From one adoptive mother to another, I feel for you. In the midst of everything I am sure that your biggest concern is for your child. Isn’t that always the way? We put them first. We are mothers.

I am sure I’m not the only Trauma Mama out there with a strong suspicion that your daughter may suffer from an attachment disorder of some sort. Of course it’s not my business, nor is it the public’s business. However, when it’s out in the media, I just hope people consider all sides. We never talk about RAD in public, do we? Mental illness is considered to be…

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