Don’t be tellin’ my kid…

That he/she can be anything they want to when they grow up.  Don’t fill their heads with dreams and ideas of becoming a famous basketball player, rock star, or the next Taylor Swift.  You think are you are encouraging a kid to believe in him/herself, to reach for the stars.  But you are not.  You are ruining the reality so fragile that it may take years to build back up what you just broke down with your fantasy tales.

See, my kid isn’t based in reality.  My kid doesn’t understand how the world works.  He/She thinks if “I want it, I should have it.”  School, hard work, earning, saving, and deserving are words that are not in their vocabulary.  What we call “NT” (neurotypical kids, kids without trauma and damaged brains from god-knows-what was ingested in utero) understand that in order to become a famous basketball player, you first have to learn how to play the game.  Then you have to practice and practice.  You have to work hard.  You have to earn it.  And you have to have a whole lotta luck to be in the right place at the right time.

My kid doesn’t have that base in reality.  He doesn’t understand that first you have to learn how to play basketball before you can even begin to think about making a career out of it.  It seems basic to you, how could he/she not understand that, you think?  Welcome to our world.  These are the basic understandings of life that our children do not understand, they do not connect the dots, and even if they are chronologically 16 they may very well be two years old in their understanding of life and how it works.  It’s not bad parenting on my part.  It’s not that we don’t try to show by example, that we don’t talk about it, that we don’t read biographies of people and learn how they go to where they are.  But my kid can’t connect the dots.

So when I ask you to not encourage my child to do things outside of the “right now”… do your school work, do your best, work on what’s right in front of you at this minute…  Then please do me the courtesy and respect of doing as I wish.  You may think I’m a mean-ass parent, too strict, whatever, and you are welcome to your opinion.  But my child is not welcome to your opinion, and neither are you welcome to negate what we work so hard to instill in our child, so that someday, just maybe, they might be able to live a productive life and provide for themselves.  Because what you’re doing – harsh reality, here, peeps – is showing my kid the path to jail.  The path of if you want it, take it, you don’t have to work for it, because you want it.  And when that doesn’t happen – because if my kid never picks up a basketball other than to throw it at his brother’s head – he will never learn how to play the game, and will never become a famous basketball player.  And when that doesn’t happen, it’s back to living moment to moment.  No millions from playing basketball?  Then steal what you want, someone else has something you want, so just take it.  It’s your right.

Because that’s how our kids are wired.  You don’t tell a kid with CP that if they just focused, or tried harder, they would be able to stop the tics or control their muscle movements.  You’d look like a fool.  Just because my kid’s disabilities and inability to see cause and effect, the linear progression of things aren’t obvious like uncontrollable muscle spasms doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  I took the time to explain to you how to interact with my child because I wanted or needed you to interact with my child.  But you don’t know my child.  You see the charm, the fake, the public personae.  I know my child, how he/she thinks, acts, and understands.  My child has a disability.  Respect that.  Don’t tell a kid in a wheelchair that if they want it bad enough and try, they should be able to walk up that flight of stairs.  When put in those words, you understand how stupid that sounds.  There are some things that not everybody can do, whether you’re disabled or not, whether you have extra challenges or not.  I will never be a seven foot tall basketball player.  It ain’t happening.  I can chase that dream all I want, but I’m going to end up starving on a street corner if I focus just on that idea.  And so will my child.

If you want to encourage my child, encourage them to finish school.  Encourage them to do what most people would call “every day, mundane things” like learn to wash clothes or change their underwear daily.  Because my child lacks those things.  That’s where it all needs to start.  And I need your help to help my child achieve even that in life.  That’s the part YOU need to understand.  My child cannot accomplish even those goals without a lot of extra help and support.  And that’s what I am doing.

Would I like my kid to be able to do whatever he/she wants in life?  Of course, as a parent, I love my child with all my heart.  But as a parent, I also need to live in reality, the reality of being able to hold a job, provide food and shelter for oneself, learn how to have relationships with other people appropriately.  That’s my reality.  That is my sole focus and goal right now.

I need you to help me in order for my child to attain that goal.

-realmom

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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

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.

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

In one of the online forums/support groups I’m a part of, a mom in the trenches asked this question of the group.  One of the other BDTD moms wrote a beautiful response that I wanted to share with you.  Shared with permission.

  • When your child constantly triggers you and shows you how much they dislike the thought of you, how do you find things to like about them to keep you going? I feel like I should be able to find some redeeming qualities about my child, but I just can’t. This leads me to having negative feelings about myself and my abilities as a mom. We are in our RAD water torture phase of healing, so the little lies and control behaviors never let up

I highly recommend the book, When a Stranger Calls You Mom, by Katherine Leslie, which explains, from a child development PhD who is herself a foster adoptive mom to 4 kids from foster care who had varying degrees of RAD. In a nutshell, we are wired for reciprocal relationships, and it is reciprocity that triggers warm, fuzzy feelings. You can coach your kids into some reciprocating behaviors, and she shows you how. Mostly, it is liberating to realize that there is a reason why you don’t feel warm and fuzzy, and it is beyond your control, really. Why don’t you like this child? Because she’s nonreciprocal and draining and if a man treated you this way, you would dump him. But you can’t do that with your kid. So you feel trapped, which is not a great feeling. I also highly recommend reading Stop Walking on Eggshells. That is about borderline personality disorder, which is where many of our unhealed RAD kids are heading. It helped me understand how truly disturbed my kid was, how horrible a burden she is shouldering with this disability, how it truly was NOT personal the way she treat me like shit–that is all she has to offer! Having some distance, understanding she can’t help it, nor can you, is a huge burden laid down, and it is easier to be nice. I still have ZERO warm fuzzies for her. That’s okay. I care what happens about her, I am there for her, I provided her with everything one could possibly ask for in a good childhood. I set good boundaries with her so she cannot abuse me and destroy our relationship, and now we get along better than we ever did when she lived with us. It is super hard when a mentally ill person lives with you. Do not add the burden of asking yourself to be giddy with affection for someone who is, by their nature, abusive and rejecting and depressing. When I understood, at last, that she was not stubbornly withholding a healthier version of herself, that this very sexualized, depressed, ANGRY, raging, dangerous person was who she authentically was and the best she could do, I dropped a lot of expectations that just hurt us both. Here is what I find admirable in her: despite having this illness, and despite having been suicidal, for the most part, she forges on, something I truly don’t know that I’d have the strength to do. I really don’t know how you live without loving anyone or enjoying anything and relying on sex with dangerous men to feel alive. But she does. She could have done much, much worse things than she did. She does, in her limited way, care for her brothers and sisters, and does not want bad things to happen to them. She showed integrity in getting birth control, understanding that she cannot give a child what they need. Those two books help a lot. Also, another book The Gift of Fear, changed my life and saved me from my RADchild-induced PTSD. As for you as a mother, you soldier on WITHOUT REWARD, which is something the parents of the neurotypical THINK they are doing, they THINK they love unconditionally, but most don’t. Love is more than warm and fuzzy. I have warm and fuzzy for my younger two, whom I adore, and whose company I enjoy. But I provided the same childhood and the same opportunities to their sister, who does not and will not love, who squandered every last opportunity she has ever had, who has been hard from day one, and will be hard to the day I die. THAT is hard core love. You are awesome. Just tired. Because this shit is hard.

A Forever 3 Month Old

As I was researching for an article on attachment and adoption, I reread some books that I hadn’t read in years.  One thing really stuck out to me.  In a study done by  Schaffer and Emerson (1964), they noted that babies 3 months of age and younger have indiscriminate attachments.  They would accept food and comfort from any caregiver.  After 4 months of age, they will still accept care from anyone, but do have a preference for a primary or secondary caregiver.  It isn’t until after 7 months that babies start to develop fear of strangers and develop anxiety when separated from his one or two favorite caregivers.

The first thing that struck me about that information is that I know several excellent foster parents.  I know that it has taken them an average of seven months each time to get a child settled in to their home – and the child is usually moved about that time, or sent back to their biological family for a few months, only to return to a different foster home and start the process all over again.  So once the child has started the attachment process – it’s interrupted, time and time again.

I then thought about my son with RAD.  We brought him home at 3 years.  We had heard of RAD, but only the type that they wouldn’t hug you, look you in the eye, and wanted to kill everyone.  Nobody had every spoken about the kind where the child looks perfectly happy and well-adjusted, always smiling and laughing, but will go to anybody at any time.  The kind where you feel in your heart something isn’t right, but all outside appearances show everything is perfect.  By the time things start to really go downhill when the child is older, you’ve lost valuable years of time that could have been used in attaching and therapy, and the window might have closed permanently for that child.  It wasn’t in any of the multitude of books I read, on any of the online searches I did on attachment at that time, anywhere.  So we thought everything was fine, until everything wasn’t, and we had a RAD diagnosis and chaos in our household.

We had said for years that our child never changed from the day we brought him home.  We may have curbed some behavior, and he may have gained some not so pleasant behaviors as he aged and became more capable, but the essence of “him” and who he was never changed for many, many years.  And now, with that study coming back into mind, it made sense.  He was a perpetual 3 month old during all that time.  He was indiscriminately attached.  He was acting out because he wasn’t attached to anyone and at the same time attached to whoever was in front of him at the moment.  He was a 3 month old emotionally in a 9 year old’s body.  I had never put it together like that before.

I can feel guilty about those wasted years when we could have been doing something, when I was the only one who felt something was “off”, but you don’t know what you don’t know.  You can’t feel guilty for not finding information that isn’t even out there!  Even now it’s rare.  I have to put aside that guilt, and just move forward with what we have now, and where we are now.  I have no time for guilt or regret.  Maybe when the kids are grown and out of the house I can regret the things I should have done differently.  But for now, I have to focus my energies on what I can do now to help him heal.  Identifying where he’s at emotionally, and where he was at, has helped me realize that in the past six months he has grown, he has moved into a different stage.  He has finally changed.  It took him well beyond the general guidelines of how long they can fake it before they fall apart, of how long it is before they start to develop attachments, but then he’s a stubborn little guy, he is, after all, my kid. 🙂

Since I can’t go back in time and tell myself what I now know about attachment and everything I’ve learned over the past 8 years, the best I can do is offer up this information to other parents who might be in the same boat, or to prospective adoptive parents so that they are fore-warned and fore-armed.  You can do this.  You will get through this.  But you need all the support, resources, and information that you can find.

Hang in there.

-realmom

Box Tops = Love?

Why would I spend an entire morning – a morning without children, my only 2 ½ hours a day without children to get things done 4 days a week – cutting out itsy bitsy little Box Tops for Education, taping them onto the school’s collection sheet, writing my attachment challenged son’s name, grade, and teacher’s name on them?  Is it because I’m that meticulous about the little things?  Nope, that’s definitely not it.  Is it because I had nothing better to do, that I was bored?  No, certainly there were better things I could have done with my time.  Was it because I find that sort of thing fun? Nah.

Normally we rip those things off the cereal boxes and throw them in an old formula container, and when it gets full, dump them in a baggie and one of the kids takes it to school and dumps it in a container there.  No cutting, no neatness, no collections sheets or names.  But in our school if you put them on a collection sheet, all nice and neat, and the child’s name is on it, they get entered into a raffle to win prizes.

See, I woke up this morning feeling like a horrible mom.  I am at the point where I really don’t like my kid, my kid that seems to love to torture me with behavior that drives me crazy, that seems to enjoy seeing me lose my cool on a regular basis.  I love the child, but I don’t like him.  I cringe when he starts talking.  This is not the place I want to be.  This is not the person I want to be.  This is not the PARENT I want to be.  But this is where I am.

So today, to show him I loved him, I did something I’ve never done for his two older brothers, ever.  I spent my entire morning cutting Box Tops and putting them on the collection sheets for him to take to school tomorrow so he can get 20 chances in the raffle of prizes.  Will he even notice, or care, at how much time it took?  No.  Will he say “thank you mom” or realize I did something for him I’ve never done for his siblings?  No.  If he wins a raffle will he say “thanks mom!” because I did it for him?  Nope.  But in my heart, I did something for him, something special, something I’ve never done for anybody else, as small as it seems, and gave up my entire morning for him, to show him that I love him.  Because right now, that’s all I got.  I don’t have mushy feelings, I don’t have inner joy at being his mother, I don’t have words of praise for him for “just being him”.  But, I have Box Tops today.  And tomorrow, I’ll find something else.