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

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The Moon

The moon was very visible today.  Late afternoon even, it was still completely visible in the sky, and I couldn’t help but marvel at it as I walked to my van.  But even when I can’t see it, I know it’s there.  I don’t need to take it on faith, really, because it’s effects are constant: it affects  the earth itself, the tides, and it can even block out the entire sun at times. It is a constant force.

Such is trauma with our kid.  My mostly healed son was ranting at the misbehavior of some foster kids who were visiting our home.  He was going on and on at how the siblings were attacking each other, not listening, etc.  He ended his tirade with “Boy, you guys sure got lucky with us!”  An expression must have crossed my face in that split second, because his big grin faltered and he said, “Didn’t you?  We never acted like that, did we?”  I just smiled sweetly at him, which he knew (correctly) meant oh hell  yeah and he turned way muttering to himself, “We were like that?  Really? Oh my gosh poor Mom and Dad!  I can’t believe we did those things!  Oh boy!”  That’s the first time I think he ever crossed that line of understanding in his mind.  Now in a day, a week, a year, that trauma will raise it’s ugly head again in that child and his behavior will show it and he’ll have yet something else to work through and he’ll forget all about this experience, but for now, he is starting to understand himself by learning through their life experiences.  But the force beneath the surface, for now invisible behind the sunshine, is still there, is still guiding him, driving him to some degree.  Our goal is to weaken the force, but it will never be completely powerless.

As parents of trauma kids, we need to remember and understand the force the trauma will always have in our kids, even when fully healed and attached – it does not mean the force is not still there affecting their decisions, thoughts, and emotions.  Like the moon, it will always be there.  It doesn’t mean we have failed as parents, or even screwed up at all.  It truly is a power in and of itself.

Hang in there –

-realmom

 

How do you not parent out of fear when your child is out of control and has attachment issues?

Use the fear to do what you need to do to keep him and your family safe – motion detectors, alarms, cameras – locks – whatever it takes to alert you when he is in an area he should not be in. After that – you have to let it go and know you’ve done your best. Document everything, have a therapist and all his paperwork with his diagnosis, drs who support you, etc PRINTED OUT in a binder and take it everywhere when you go on trips. I say printed out because they take it more seriously if it’s printed off a computer vs. handwritten, even if it’s written by you. I understand your fears. I wake up every day in fear of “what’s next”… how will he escalate, will he escalate… but the future is not my problem – THIS MOMENT IS. IN THIS MOMENT I must make sure, to the best of my ability, that my family is safe, he is safe, my animals are safe (if I have any), the children in our neighborhood are safe, the things important to me are safe (keepsakes). So I do what I have to do to protect them. IN THIS MOMENT I must work on attach with this child, touch him lovingly, make eye contact with soft eyes, use a firm but gentle voice. IN THIS MOMENT I must be aware of the needs of my other children, and not let them go on the back burner regardless of the chaos my RAD is causing. If we need to go on a family trip without him, so be it. If we need to go to a movie without him, then we do. If he needs to rage in his room while my other children and I bake cookies together and sing silly songs, we do. But most important of all, in this moment, I must breathe deeply, listen to my body, and take care of myself first.

HUGS

-realmom

Stages of Attachment Parenting – Part Two

Shock and denial – Pain and Guilt – Anger and Bargaining – Depression and Loneliness – The Upward Turn – Reconstruction of your life and Working Through – Acceptance and Hope.  Sound familiar?

I think we work through those stages constantly throughout our child’s life, as do all parents of special needs kids. The reason I keep pointing that out (special needs kids) is because when you look at it from that perspective, we are in a HUGE group, we are not alone, and there are so many people experiencing the exact same feelings as we are. It’s not just “RAD” or adoptive parents, it’s all parents mourning the loss of the life they thought they’d had – and learning that (a) it’s ok to have had those dreams and (b) it’s ok to mourn their loss, it doesn’t mean you don’t love your child and (c) it doesn’t diminish your child in any way to mourn your expectations of life.

So work through those feelings, don’t bury them, or allow yourself to be consumed with guilt.  See a grief counselor if you need to.  There’s no shame in that!    Allow yourself to mourn so that you can move on.  And you can, and you will.  This may not be the train you thought you were getting on, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be an enlightening journey, worthwhile, all the same.

Hang in there!

-realmom

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

Good Info for your Teachers/Schools

I just came across this article and it is spot on.  It’s fairly long, but is awesome information to go over with your school, your kid’s teachers, assistants, and anyone that has regular contact with your child in school.  It explains their behaviors very well, the whys behind it, and supports the parents.

 

The Attachment Disordered Child and School

Oh yeah, and it’s from The Institute for Attachment & Child Development, and some something you’ve written down and sent to the teacher/principal.  After all, you’re “just” the parent, what could “you” possibly know about child-rearing and your child in particular? (shaking head)  Or maybe your child is in a good school and they actually listen to you and respect what you have to say.  If that’s the case, hurray! and here’s more info to give them.  I like how it explains things out in layman’s terms and details the common behaviors in school vs. home.

I kind of laughed while I was reading this, because I was in the middle of the passive-aggressive portion of the article when my attachment challenged child went into the living room and started watching a show his older brother had requested to watch… something maybe a bit old for him, maybe not, but certainly something he needed to ask if he could watch, since it wasn’t on “their” tv (which is locked down six ways from Sunday as far as channels go).  I said that he needed to ask before watching that program with his brother.  In typical form, rather than just ask right then if he could watch it (the answer would have been yes), he got up and went back into the playroom and turned on cartoons.  That’s such a typical example of “You’re not in control of me”.  Passive-aggressive, not in your face defiant, but I am certain that will be added to his list of infractions he keeps in his mind and he will “get even” later, even if later is a year from now (providing he hasn’t made a breakthrough by then).

We are lucky that his teacher is on board with us and does everything we suggest (like not repeated warnings, not buying into the “poor me” crap, victim thing he plays at school so much).  I had hoped that it meant he would do well this year, because instead of spending the first part of the year charming the teacher, playing the little games, then seeing how much he could get away with and upping the ante every week, so by the end of the school year the teacher is pulling her hair out and calling me every day (even though she’d been warned!), I thought that maybe if the teacher was on board from the get-go, and his little charm games didn’t work, that maybe he’d focus on the work.  It’s halfway through the school year and I can say this year, with this child and where he’s at emotionally/mentally, it’s been a failure.  He’s not the biggest or worst behaved child in his class (usually by this point in time, he really pours on the juice).  So for me, that’s a win.  For his teacher, OMG, that poor person!  But academically, he’s not doing well at all.  He “can” do well, as a lot of our kids are, he’s quite bright intellectually, but thinks he knows everything and has no need to learn what they are teaching him in school.  Some days he does above his grade level, other days, it’s like his first day in this country not understanding the language.  And I’ve watched it long enough to know it’s not based on events, things happening at home, traumaversaries, none of that.  It’s something he turns on and off at will.  And he can even verbalize that.

I’m not sharing all this with you for any other reason except to commiserate with you.  Same boat, we’re in, rowing as hard as we can to get to the other side, but a bunch of jerks on a speedboat named Trauma keeps throwing us off course!

Hang in there.

-realmom

 

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

Christmas was better before you

One mom with multiple kids adopted out of foster care is constantly reminded through the holidays how “wonderful” Christmas was ‘before’ her, how many toys they got, the trips they made, the decorations, the tree, the food… all fantasy.  None of it real.  Of course adoptive mom is hurt, because she’s done so much for these kids, and has worked so hard to make every Christmas and holiday a special time for them, but it’s never “good enough”.  Why bother?

My word to you is this:  DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONALLY.  This fantasy life they have built up is not because you have made life so miserable for them, it’s not because you as parents are inadequate.  Really, it’s NOT!  It’s because they feel, deep down, that THEY were inadequate for their bio parents which is why they are where they are.  It’s innate that children blame themselves when their parents screw up.  Of course the parents couldn’t be the ones who were wrong, to blame, high up on the pedestal children put their parents on.  And once they lose their parents, that pedestal becomes so high it’s out of sight.  You can’t compare to a fantasy.

My gut instinct is to address appropriately the fantasy, and not play into it, but how that works for your kids may differ.  I would seek help from a qualified person to know what that way is to not enable them to continue in this fantasy life of perfect bio parents (which then equals them being bad children and unworthy) without causing more trauma and pain.  Whether it’s addressing it directly, and slowly bringing them around to the truth, or talking about what is good about your past holidays and events with them, whatever is what is right for your kids, do it.

And hang in there.  It’s not about you.  It’s really not.  You are doing GREAT!

-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