What do I do?

That picture, that was our dream, wasn’t it, when we adopted?  Those adorable moments of having children, the joy, the perfect photographable moments, the heart moments?  But instead we ended up with something out of a Stephen King novel

What do we do?

That’s what parents keep asking.  What do I do when… my kid keeps hurting my heart?  when my kid refuses to heal?  when I don’t like my kid?  when I’m ready to run away from home?  when I’m ready to give up? when…..

Dear friends, I’m going to get Biblical on you for just a moment.  It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not, or you are a Buddhist or a Hindu or an atheist… the general principal applies.  The quote just happens to be from the Bible.  “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  Here’s what I mean:  Believe in a higher power.  Believe in more than yourself.  Believe in the power of healing.  Believe in miracles, for you and your child.  That doesn’t mean throw everything else to the wind, and stop therapy – it means when everything else is failing – keep believing.  It means if you pray – pray.  Ask others to pray.  If you believe in Reiki – have it performed.  Whatever it is – that higher power – use it.  On you, on your children.  Whatever doesn’t harm might help.

The second part is actually a two-parter. Loving your neighbor as yourself.  Well, first that means you have to LOVE yourself.  Sometimes love is a feeling, a fuzzy warm oh look at the kitten or oh-my-god-i-love-red-velvet-cake feeling.  But love is also an action.  A I-can’t-stand-to-look-at-your-face-I’m-so-mad-but-I-am-still-doing-your-dirty-laundry action.  Now apply it yourself.  As parents of trauma kids who manipulate others and beat us up verbally and emotionally and sometimes physically, we get beaten up at home, and we get beaten up everywhere else as the kids make everyone else think we are horrible mean people when we’re not. We are beaten down from all sides.  On top of that we are constantly not just second-guessing but third, fourth and fifth-guessing ourselves that we are making mistakes, that we did something wrong, when we do make mistakes we flog ourselves relentlessly.  We don’t allow ourselves to be human.  Ever.  Well I say LOVE YOURSELF.  Actively LOVE yourself.  Give yourself grace.  Pamper yourself.  Take care of yourself.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, psychologically.  You can’t give what you ain’t got.

Then love your neighbor – aka your child.  It doesn’t say “your nice neighbors, your good neighbors”, etc.  It says all of them.  So… apply that to your children.  Love them equally.  Again back to that sometimes love is a feeling and sometimes it’s pure action.  Loving your children equally does not mean everybody gets a popsicle at the end of the day.  It means providing for them equally according to their needs.  I don’t buy each of my kids a new pair of shoes just because one of them needs a new pair.  Does that mean I am not treating them equally?

Take care of yourself.  Realize you are doing the best you can.  The results are not up to you, only that you do your best and provide all the resources you can for your child to heal.  The rest is up to your child and “that higher power” (even if that higher power is fairy dust).

Hang in there!

-realmom

5 Things Adoptive Parents Want Teachers To Know About Trauma by Mike Berry

Excellent resource – and provides sample letters, a video, etc.  Follow the link to their blog.  You will want to share this with your kids’ teachers, after school providers, etc.

5 Things Adoptive Parents Want Teachers to Know About Trauma

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

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

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

Vilifying the adoptive parents

Once again, adoptive parents trying to get help for their child are told the only option “they” have is to terminate their parental rights.  Really?  And what magic doors is this supposed to open that can’t be opened while the parents are still parents?

The media and those “not” in the know vilify parents who give their kids back to the state – not realizing that so much of the time, the state is telling them that’s the only way they can get help for those kids.  Which is, in truth, a load of bull.  It’s how the state gets those noisy parents off their backs from begging for help with these traumatized troubled kids they placed with the family, with all the promises of support and resources.  Once the child is back in state custody, it can all be swept under the rug and the child shoved back into the system, either in foster care, or in jail, never to be heard from again.  Because if the adoptive parents are no longer the parents of the child, they no longer have any rights – no right to information about where the child is, how the child is doing, whether or not they are receiving therapy, if they are alive or dead.  So now there is NO ONE in this kid’s corner to fight for proper resources and counseling and meds and whatever else the kid needs, and the child disappears along with thousands of others into the masses, eventually to end up in our jail system – or our morgues.

“That’s what the social worker’s job is,” you reply.  – Yes.  And they don’t have triple the case load they’re supposed to have, and the ones that do care and want to do a good job – those few who aren’t burnt out – can’t do their job.  And the rest, well, that’s why one was just arrested for child porn.

“The adoptive parents shouldn’t have adopted that child in the first place then,” you say.   –  And the end result would be the same, the child disappears among the masses…. the system can’t support the number of children it has.  And so these “perfectly adjusted” children are placed in adoptive homes that have no clue what they’re getting into, are not prepared, and certainly not trained.  That makes it the adoptive parents’ fault – how, exactly?

“The adoptive parents are obviously not good parents,” you say.  – That’s akin to a plumber telling a heart surgeon how to do his job.  If you haven’t been there, done that, you really have no idea what it takes. That’s not an insult, it’s just a fact.

“The adoptive parents need more training to be able to raise this child,” you say. – That’s what the adoptive parents say too.

“The adoptive parents need more resources and help when things go south, without getting vilified by CPS,” you say.  – Now you’re starting to see the big picture.

“The social workers need smaller case loads so they don’t get burnt out and can do their jobs correctly,” you add.  Adoptive parents and social workers cheer you on.

The bottom line is this, the system is broken.  It keeps getting worse and worse and pretty much the only thing it’s pumping out is the next generation of inmates and criminals, if these kids don’t get proper intervention, counseling, therapy, medication and whatever else they need to deal with their traumatic past.  And who are their birth parents?  Oh, they are the previous generation of foster children who didn’t get intervention, counseling, therapy, medication and anything else they needed to deal with their traumatic past.  The system is based on the wrongful assumption – a MYTH – that kids are absolutely resilient and can get over anything that happens to them.  That is simply ridiculous.  That is so, oh, 100 years ago, and yet in this day and age of nanobots and moon landings and seeing other galaxies with our satellites, we still believe the myth that started before cars were invented.  Knowledge of the brain and how it works – and how it’s wired, brain mapping, and all those things have come so far – and yet, we have an entire system that’s based on the world is flat system.  How is that benefitting the children?  How is that benefitting anyone?  If you don’t want to look at the individual children that are being eaten up in this maw of destruction, then look at what it’s doing to society:  the number of inmates at any given time who were foster children is astounding.  So not only is this system not helping the children, it is literally destroying society!  Yet a majority of these people – when children – if the proper intervention was introduced early enough, and they were helped, not only would they blossom in an adoptive family, they would grow up to be productive members of society, not just another picture in the mugshot database.

Instead of complaining about “crime at an all time high” and “how young people seem to have no respect” and all that – let’s fix the roots of the problem… one of them being the foster care system and what happens to those kids while in it and afterwards.  The entire system is built on crap, and well, gets worse from there.  If we want a healthy society, we need to start with the building blocks – the children.

-realmom