Are there stages of attachment parenting?

“I feel like I’m stuck in a rut.  Are there stages of attachment parenting, like there are stages of grief?”  This was a question posed in a large on-line forum.

The poster hit the nail in the head so much closer than he/she realized.  Feeling stuck in a rut in your attachment process to your attachment challenged child is an indicator that something is out of whack with you.  Now that’s not a judgement or pointing a finger.  Bear with me.  With attachment challenged children, or mentally ill children, kids with conduct disorder, etc. we are asked to go against nature, instinct that has kept humans alive for thousands of years.  We are asked to love even though we are being abused, we are asked to forgive when no forgiveness is asked, we are asked to give when we are constantly being taken from.  As a matter of human survival, we instinctively recoil from abusive relationships.  We have bad feelings towards that person, we get angry, bitter, feel used.  We don’t have happy happy joy joy thoughts about that person!  If these situations were in a spousal relationship, you’d tell your friend to leave the abusive bastard (assuming your friend is a she)!  But when it’s our child, whether adopted, step, or bio, we’re supposed to just go, oh, ok, that’s ok, beat me some more, call me some more names, wreck my house some more, that’s ok because you’re my kid, I have no bad feelings about it?  Not possible!

We have to be super human, in a sense, and go against nature to help in the healing of our kids.  We have to respond therapeutically when we want to rage and scream right back.  And the only way I’ve seen to do that is to have your own emotional tank filled to the top, so that you have all this extra to give a child that never gives back.  Every day things in life take from us emotionally, even spiritually, and drain our tanks to a certain level.  Our spouse will drain it some.  Our “normal happy children” will drain it even on the best of days, especially when they’re teens.  But a kid with attachment issues, trauma backgrounds, will suck the tank dry in seconds.  And if you’ve got a low tank to begin with, they’re going to feel like they’re sucking the life out of you.  Which in a way, they are.

This is the one time in life when it is critical that moms – parents – put themselves first.  #1 priority is themselves, their relationship first.  That may mean Precious doesn’t get to go to Disney every year because mom and dad need a week away from the kids.  That’s ok, because in the long run, you are doing your kids a lot more good than Mickey Mouse.  It may mean Mr. Charming doesn’t get to shop at Hollister because mom and dad are taking a cruise so that everybody waits on them hand and foot.  Again, Hollister won’t notice, Mr. Charming will throw fits anyway, and you will get a lot more mileage out of that cruise than the worn-twice sweatshirt that ends up in the back of the closet.

So – no guilt.  Do what you need to do to take care of YOU – in healthy ways! Take time away, eat right, exercise, join a gym, date your spouse, hazard pay the babysitter, whatever it takes – do it.  In the long run that’s the best thing you can do for your kids, both the troubled and the rest, because you’ll have more to give to all of them.

Hang in there.

-realmom

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Why I call my kid…

Bad names sometimes when I talk to my support group, my fellow trauma mommas.  People, those who don’t understand, would be shocked to hear me say such things.  They never hear me say such things.  And NEITHER DOES MY CHILD.

We all think them.  We all get frustrated, upset, angry, have a bad day, whatever.  I don’t care how perfect your child might be, at some point you’re going to be upset with him or her.  You’re going to get angry.  And you’re going to think a bad name in your head.  You won’t say it, but you will think it. I can pretty much guarantee even Mary Poppins had a few choice words about her charges behind closed doors.  So how much more for those of us with children who seem genetically engineered to push our buttons every minute of every single day?  Poke,poke, push, push, until we lose our temper?  We’re not perfect.  Everyone has a breaking point.  Their goal, they think their very survival depends on them breaking us to the point where we lose control.  As therapeutic parents it is imperative that we retain control in front of the child, to not show anger, to not show how badly they have frayed our nerves.  How do we do that?

For me, I let those choice names and words out in a safe environment.  An environment where the people I am speaking to know that I am venting and letting all the crap out of my system and letting it go, an environment where I am safe and those words will go no farther, an environment where my child will never ever know about or hear those words.  I never want my child to hear the things I sometimes think.  But I need to express them, get rid of them, somehow.  So I swear like a m^&*^g trucker.

That’s not for everyone.  I’m not saying it should be.  Everyone has their own way of letting things out, of letting things go.  For some, it’s running until they collapse.  For others, I don’t know.  But what I do know is stuffing those things down, and not dumping them, purging them, is dangerous.  Letting them float around, festering, on the edge of your thoughts, they just might slip out.  A lot.  At least they did for me.  Once I started getting rid of them, expressing any anger and rage in a different environment, away from my kids, and saying the things I wanted to say and be done with it, I never had the strong urge to say it TO my kids.  I could shove it down for later.  I knew i could say my piece and get rid of it.  I could focus on the “right now”, which was maintaining the goal of therapeutic parenting.  Calm, cool, collected, not overly emotional.  I never ever wanted to say those things to my child.  EVER.  But I am not perfect.  I would lose control once in a while and say things I regretted.  Later I would apologize and try to mend the relationship, but when the relationship is already the problem… how many hits can it take?  I don’t know.  I couldn’t risk it.  I had to find a way to deal with my own shortcomings, my own failures, my own triggers that my child was so successful at setting off, and finding a way to bypass those so I could be who he needed me to be.

I don’t publish it on Facebook.  I don’t say it to strangers.  I don’t say it to teachers, neighbors, or anyone in the moms group.  But I do have a select few that I can be “real” with, who know and understand that I am not perfect, that I have failures and shortcomings, and this is a big one, who can let me fail and yell and struggle without judging me for my words or bad attitude, and let me get it all out, spew out that poison, and be done with it.  That’s how I keep it from my kid.  That’s how I keep it from festering and growing.  Some view it as wrong, or evil.  I understand.  For me, it became a survival tactic.  And so I continue to – keep it real.

-realmom

Expect the child to be wild animal…

Do you ever have people ask for your advice about adoption, and then look at you horrified when you give it?

The shortest advice I can give potential adoptive parents is “Expect the child to become a wild animal at any given moment, look around your house, and make changes accordingly.  Plan for the worst, and hope for the best.”

And they back away, thinking you’re a terrible person, and don’t speak to you again… for about 2 years, until their adoption is finalized and the poo-poo has hit the fan, anyway….

I’m not bitter because other people have experienced the “rainbow and unicorn” adoptions, that their kids came healthy and well-adjusted. You know why?  Because their kids are healthy and well-adjusted!  Of course.  But what adoptive parents of the “lucky” sort need to realize, is their happy little world does not negate the other half.  Living in the literal luxury we live in, here in America, in Canada, in the UK, does not negate the poverty of the 3rd world countries.  “I had enough food to eat today, how can you say you didn’t?”  or “I drove a car today and a drunk driver didn’t hit me, so how could one hit you?”

Just because as an adoptive parent you don’t have a trauma child, you don’t have a child with reactive attachment disorder, mental illness, emotional issues, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn, support, and be a friend to those that do.  Your experience in life in no way compares to theirs.  Your children in no way compares to theirs, and your apparent “parenting prowess” would fail in a second when faced with the daunting tasks some adoptive/step/foster parents face.

Whether your adopted kid shows it or not, they’ve suffered a loss, whether it be big or small.  All of our kids can relate to each other in some ways.  They all are part of the same sub culture called adoptees.  Some of us adoptive parents are also part of that group, and were also adoptees.  We have a connection, a bond.  Let’s work together for those kids that need more help and support each other in that journey.  Because you just never know… a drunk driver might be around the next corner and your world might come crashing down around you.

-realmom

You can’t put yourself last. Period.

Growing up, we are taught that to be good parents we must put ourselves last all the time.  As parents, we feel the need to put ourselves last, and daily we can see the crushing results of parents who put themselves first and their children last – neglect, abuse, etc.  But in the case of raising special needs/attachment issues/mental health issue children…. we need to put ourselves much higher on the list.  First, in many instances.

Much is required of us as parents in these special circumstances.  Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, we are sucked dry by our children, our friends, our extended family, with very little to fill us up again.  I compare it to trying to drive your car to the gas station or the emergency room or the beach when it’s on empty.  You can’t get it to go when there’s no fuel, no matter where you need it to go or how important the trip is.  There’s just nothing left to fuel the engine.  The same is true with us.  We can’t let ourselves run out of fuel.  Then we have nothing left to give our children, our spouse, even ourselves.

Although it may go against the grain, it may feel selfish, put yourself high on the list.  Take care of your needs.  Eat well, don’t skip meals or eat a lot of junk food in place of a meal – your body needs fuel.  Get sleep – even if it means checking into a hotel by yourself or with your spouse sometimes and leaving the kids with a caregiver so you can get a full night’s sleep.  The floor doesn’t need to be swept or the dishes don’t need to be done if you need a nap.  Get out with some friends – have a cup of coffee, or dessert.  Take some time for yourself.  The problems will still be there when you get home.  The stress will still be there when you get home.  Nothing will have changed – except you.  You will be lighter.  You will be refreshed.  You will have a higher tolerance level for “the crap”.  You will have more patience.

Second in line behind you is your spouse.  Many, many marriages are destroyed with special needs kids.  Work together, spend time together, just the two of you.  Get away from the stress and worry at home, and focus on having some fun.  Make some rules for this time:  Do not talk about the kids, money, or anything that stresses you out.  Have fun.  Play games, go hiking, go for a walk, go to a spa, get a couples’ massage, get intimate, whatever, but spend time together.

You can do this.  This is not a sprint, but a marathon, actually more like a triathalon.  Fuel yourself, your mind, body, soul, and partner, so that you can give to your children and help them heal.  You got this!

-realmom

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

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

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.

-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

Why a blog?

 I am starting this blog because I am on several online support groups.  It’s amazing to be supported by people who “get it”.  Yet, even with that support, so many of us feel like failures, because in this journey, we don’t see instant results.

We don’t see results that we hope for after years of doing all the right things.  We need pep talks, a half-time coach to build us up and send us out for the second half even though we’re down 21-0 in the pouring rain and our quarterback sprained his shoulder.  Ok that’s for any guys who may be reading this.  I find myself, on those online groups, saying the same things again and again.

That tells me we need to hear these things, all of us in the trenches, and so – came the creation of this blog.  I hope it helps you in some way, encourages you – if not, I hope you find something that does.

For all of you parents/caregivers/siblings out there – hang in there.  This is the longest marathon – but it is worth it. Just keep plugging in, keep searching for new tools, keep taking care of yourself – make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, get a mental rest from the chaos yourself.

If you aren’t walking this journey – move along.  This blog is not a place for you to trash people for fun.
-realmom