Parenting a child with RAD Reactive Attachment Disorder symptoms can be exhausting to say the least. We don't have an official diagnosis for our daughter adopted one year ago from Ghana. However we have read countless books that tell us she is textbook for this diagnosis. We do believe her to have a mild form but we are still in the midst of many many hurdles. Our girl has come a LONNNGGGG way from the beginning. Our first few months alone we both did not know what on earth we were doing, how to do it, and we had even begun to fall into a very dark place. Its was easier to just fall into despair and shut the world out because of not knowing how to cope and where to even go. Alas, I am one that does not fear the doctors couch ;)! To the couch we went for a few months sharing our frustration learning to cope and to help heal our daughter and ourselves. One year later to the date and there are still episodes, though they are far in between, they still exist and when they arise its is as if the last year was worth nothing and in that moment you feel like there in no progress. That moment is short lived when you realize again the little girl with her arms crossed in front of you saying she has no love in her heart for someone with messy hair like me, and pants inside out (today I had my workout pants on yes inside out) and for someone who is so hateful and mean like me, is a hurt child who love has hurt her. Why would she want love, it hurts. Our daughter is capable of love, let me tell you, when her arms are around us with a genuine spirit its a love that is so full with everything inside. Until the moment comes when fear has let in, this is too much love, I can not handle another moment, I will do something to push it away, even if all is well. For instance today we had a scenario like this. I am a mean mom I make my kids do two math sheets a day so Gs was on her second sheet before any kind of media is plugged in. We were working on skip counting. Here was the problem ___, 60, 61. The answer we all know would be 59. She was stuck here at this number, I suggested she make a number line from the number she knows comes before which in 50 and then count up. Here is where it started. "I don't want to do it that way!" me "fine, is there another way that can help you?" She is just staring at the paper and arms become crossed and I just show her by example how to start. She finished the number line to get the missing number 59. BUT, arms crossed and now she has become just mean to her siblings. I say you may need to go chill out and compose yourself , I can come with you. No movement just hard stare at the ground. Me "G really you seem to need some calm time or just time to collect yourself." I gently remove her from the chair and begin to walk her upstairs where I am anticipating the volcano to erupt. It does. It goes on for about a half hour. Yelling to my face. Hurt words like "I have no love in my heart for someone like you!" "My Ghana family were so much better than this one!" 'Ghana is a better place!" Here is a blog write up from G and Es village. It will haunt you. "My mom loved me and held me you have no love for me!" "You love all kids much better than me. why do you even want me?!" " My life was great in Ghana I had clothes, a better room, much nicer mom. " Look at you sitting with your messy hair and your ugly shirt and your pants backwards" (yes those were all true!) I sit through her countless vent adding my two cents in-between. Her words can now come out and be clear hurtful but clear. When she first was placed in our home this venting would come in other forms. Lying (we still work on this, but not as much!) stealing. Three times I was asked to go to the Target counter to purchase things my purse had strangely had inside. Earrings, bracelets, the ones that have the metal tag that alarms when you leave. I was the lady who said "I didn't put that there,really!" From stealing things from family homes and friends homes. Food hoarding, manipulation this is still something we struggle with but I am way faster at recognizing it and managing.
Back to the room: My turn to talk me still fighting my inside because at this moment, I may get some stones thrown at me, but I wanted to do what was done with me if I spoke to my mom like that, we are Hispanic, you NEVER disrespect your elders, unless you want to die, I would get my ass whipped. At this moment her whole goal is to get me vexed to the point where I loose control of my own self and then she has won. "See you can't control me, and I can control you." It would be a loss of relationship for me to open up a can, she would have gained power and then it would be a loss because really she doesn't really know what she wants. So traditional parenting does not work here. Actually the parenting we have learned from books before does not work for our biological kids at all either. So here were my words again fighting my anger inside because I do not want her to see that she has vexed me for real " Wow, you had a ton to say. I agree on so many of those even though you were not nice in your words about my pants, my hair etc. I can see that you are so angry you want me to hurt with you, I can see that you want to push me away!" Arms still crossed and there is even some eye rolling going on, a harsh very hard look. Its not G. Its a really ugly hurtful person looking at me. "You are right I can be mean to my kids. Especially when my kids are being disrespectful I can take things away at that may seem mean. I may push you to do your best and that may seem mean!" Her shaking her head to agree with me. Good we are both agreeing on something. "Your dead wrong about something. My love for you is HUGE, I adore you, I want you in my family always. I know you are sad and your hurt feels so BIG. I know my love for you is scary!'' Come sit in mamas lap. It came a time when I did not even want to touch her during these moments, I wanted far from her. Some days she won, for my sanity sake. Not this time. Arms still crossed face still harsh, body stiff. I begin to rock her. A very tall child I rock her, her body begin to lessen her tension her voice becomes like a still small voice, when I ask "how is your heart now?" a sweet whisper "good". Mind you these outburst have lasted two hours at a time previous and mind you I have four other kids to care for that walk in and interrupt. I find it gives me a calming point to breath to then focus back. God is good to me ;)! We sit in this position for five minutes I then say to her "you have said some things not nice to mom, can you apologize for this?" very small voice "I am so sorry for being disrespectful." I then tickle her, wrestle her to the floor, and ask her to smell my arm pits (she said I stink too!) Humor can decipher so much tension. She giggles I see her pretty pearly teeth, there is a genuine hug back to me. All is well again. UNTIL the next trigger. We have decided to get professional help with her. Its hard looking for a therapist that specializes with adoption. Talk therapy does NOT WORK. These kids have made up stories about the new families that have landed some social workers to remove kids because they believe them. Finally we found a therapist that will come to our home. HALLELUJAH, can you hear me singing. I feel like I am managing just on OK, I want to be awesome and I want to help her be able to share her pain in a productive manner that can be beneficial to her and us.
I know what you may be thinking, why on earth would anyone go through that much trouble? I never can do what you do. I have been told many times, even by close friends and family. Let me tell you something. Ready for my secret " I CANT DO THIS EITHER!" My knees are calloused from begging for Gods help. For Him to break my heart with compassion for her, to have eyes to see her insides and not the yucky mess only. I remember thinking I made a huge mistake in the first few weeks. In my solitude of depression I remember feeling "do I even hear the Lord?!" He lets me sit there without answer for a little while. Then a multitude of love comes over me, a peace floods my body that is not of this world. A voice in my heart says"I have called you to this, You can not do this, You will fail many times. I CAN DO THIS, I WILL DO THIS, I am here, always, I have chosen you for this, I have chosen them for you. In this the Glory will be mine. You have been asked to be used by me for My Glory not your own. You will be called blessed because of ME.!" I go through the trouble Because the Lord is Lord over me. I would not have chosen this life for my own horn blowing, I mean would you?! I now wonder who needed this more, me or them? My heart has broken to be molded by God even more through this. So I encourage you if you are in my spot, get help early. I was too busy sulking in my own self pity to get a move on a get on the help. It seems like no one understand you, they may not not. BUT seek help for your other kids. I am lucky to have family rescue me for my own sanity. If you don't have that find awesome friends that can help. If you have a friend with a child with these symptoms. HELP THEM! They can't do this without a community. Remember the proverb it takes a village. It really does. Help without judging them. Here is a resource if you are in the Metro ATL area. Attachment and Bonding Center
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