Category Archives: Adoption

(RAD) Parenting: Scolding = “Mom Hates Me”

Compliments, support, and encouragement are part of my role as a parent. Those are easy, and usually welcomed by any child. Reprimanding, correcting, enforcing consequences, sticking to rules is not as easy, and in this household it feels like a crime. My conundrum lately has been: what on earth is a parent to do when the latter sends a child spiraling into an abyss of anger, sadness, depression, self-loathing and contempt for his parents? Well, I should say contempt for me, specifically, because even if Daniel does the correcting, Sky decides it’s me he’s upset with. It makes no difference that the scolding happens with the most calm and firm tone. In Sky’s perception he’s flawed, not good enough, we’re pointing it out, therefore we must hate him, and as a result he hates the mother figure more than anything. The extreme reaction takes the attention off what he’s done, and skillfully places it upon those scolding him and what they’re doing to harm him. It’s his way of punishing us for punishing him.

This extreme reaction is not a typical problem most parents of psychologically healthy children deal with, so I’m hesitant to write about it. I have four kids who have handled corrections the usual way, so I know what it should look like. Most parents will not understand where I’m coming from, but I know there are thousands of parents out there with kids who have serious attachment issues, so maybe I should write about this stuff anyway.

This is a daily issue, and it occurs multiple times throughout the day. RADish children (those with reactive attachment disorder) tend to misbehave around the clock, and they make a sport of it. Everything is a game to them, they’re rarely straight with parents about anything, and are always, always, always seeking control. This makes being in the authoritative role of “parent” the most difficult role on the planet. It’s a lose-lose position to have, and the pay is terrible unless you’re willing to do some major inner work on yourself. In that case, it can be an enormous blessing, like winning the lottery. But at the end of the day you still have to bring your strengthened, empowered, healed, and more wise self back home with someone who despises you 80% of the time. That takes a great deal of self-discipline and mental focus– focusing on yourself and the well-being of the entire family far more than the one RAD child, which the child also despises. Have I lost my non-RAD parents yet? I wouldn’t blame you.

This morning’s scenario: I switched on the light to wake up Prasad and Sky for school. Prasad usually gets up first to use the bathroom while Sky lies in bed, whining. This time, Prasad was walking to the bedroom door, and Sky ran, shoved him aside at the top of the stairs, and bolted out the room to be first in the bathroom. It was extremely rude, and Prasad was very upset by it. Sky said nothing. No “excuse me” or “sorry, I have to use the bathroom badly”… nothing. I told Prasad I’d have a talk with his brother, and not to make it a big argument. When Sky came out of the restroom, I took him aside and in a matter-of-fact way pointed out his behavior and how rude it was, and that it hurt his brother’s feelings. Again, no words, he just walked away and went to get dressed. As he walked away, I told him I wanted to hear an apology to his brother this morning.

When Sky came down after getting dressed, he was pouting and sulking. His whole demeanor had changed, and he seemed very depressed. One would guess he felt guilty for treating his brother badly, but when asked what’s wrong it’s always about himself, and me disliking him. He also says often that he’d prefer it “if everyone could be nicer” to him. He feels victimized every time he’s told that he’s done something disrespectful, unkind, or dangerous, regardless of how others are affected. This is a core problem with RADish children- they have little empathy, they think the world is out to get them, and they work so hard at making sure it doesn’t. He has stated that he’d like it if we didn’t point out what he does wrong, and that he’d “be happier and nicer that way with a more open heart.” So, if he has to follow rules and keeps receiving corrections, he’s going to continue being unpleasant? The logic used to make my head spin, but I no longer try getting inside his head. I remain in my own, rational, nurturing & maternal mind, and let him know I love him. If I didn’t love him, I would never correct or scold¬† him for anything because I wouldn’t care. I remind him in a very matter-of-fact way that all the people in our home have the very same rules to abide by, I speak the same way to all of the kids, and love them all equally. He knows this is true on an intellectual level, but he can’t seem to grasp it emotionally, especially when he’s been corrected.

I guess the difficult aspect for me is the sour taste after every incident. The very real sense that while he’s being corrected, he’s thinking about how much he dislikes me.. feeling it. It becomes so personal. From our past discussions, I know he’s always wishing he were back in Guatemala, and never adopted in those moments of being corrected. It’s the old Grass is Greener on the Other Side Syndrome. Darkness pours from his eyes, yet I keep flooding love back at him through mine. It’s an exchange that often leaves me empty until I fill it up with love for the light that I know lives inside him. I’ve seen and felt it, so I’m well acquainted with it. Being despised, and remaining loving through all that negative energy is the key. That’s the test. It’s why I have a RAD child. It’s difficult, but I’ve learned it can be done. To scold or not to scold? By definition, I don’t mean yelling and criticizing, but loving corrections. Everyone needs those. Love goes beyond warm and fuzzy feelings, or making your kids happy in the moment. I don’t know about my RADish, but I’d feel pretty lost and forgotten if my parents weren’t paying enough attention to how I treated others. This role I have to play is more than tough, but I’m playing it out; I will compliment, support, guide and even scold as long as I truly love my kids. Anything less, and I would understand being despised. For now, I need to work at letting that wounded darkness go. It’s heavy, and I’m sad it’s there, but it’s not mine to carry or heal. With parenting, in the end it’s all about ourselves and our own growth… RAD is one of the greatest fertilizers on the planet.

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Living With a RADish: Spiritual Insights

This is a heavy-duty topic, due to the fact that we have a son with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). By writing, I’m hoping to help other parents, if even just a little. Life with a RADish child can be nightmarish and disturbing at times. It’s especially difficult for mothers, since kids with RAD direct most, if not all of their rage toward the mother. We become isolated and alone because no one outside the family can even begin to understand. As a result, I’m officially what is known in the RAD community as a “Trauma Mama”. My life has been turned upside-down over the last few weeks since the discovery that I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After years of emotional and psychological trauma, I’ve finally sought treatment, and am just beginning to heal. The diagnosis came as a shock to me, considering I’ve been very good at holding it together over the years. Liam and autism have made me so strong, I barely knew what was happening in my body. When I found out, old physical aches and pains disappeared (where I was holding a lot of emotions together), and I was left with a deep pit of sadness and hopelessness that I’ve seen no way out of. Other RAD moms probably know what I’m talking about- that deep well of despair we don’t dare dive into because there isn’t even a rock-bottom.

The problem is, when we’re faced with something we don’t accept and have absolutely no control over, we become lost in dysfunctional thinking. We make things all about the other person, and changing them, which doesn’t work… ever. I had to stop wanting the relationship with my son to change, and I accomplished that. I did let go. The hopelessness forced me there several months ago. I accepted that it may never change, and made peace with that. It was sad, but extremely liberating. I focused on me 110%, and noticed that I couldn’t make peace with myself. This is the difficult work- accepting that our very best efforts were not enough. Accepting that no matter how much effort, love and sincerity we put forth in relationships, we cannot always alter the relationship, and especially not the other person. All we can do is look within, and ask ourselves what it is we are supposed to learn from the situation. It’s never about the other person. Believe it or not, we have a gold mine of wisdom within, and these painful relationships are the perfect opportunity to begin sifting through the rivers of sorrow and sadness.

Last evening during meditation I experienced a heightened sense of awareness about the relationship with my son’s anger, lack of trust and attachment. I came to know that every human being has Attachment Disorder when it comes to our relationship with the Divine, or Divine Mother, as I call it. Instead, humans become attached to all the wrong things in this world–¬† wealth, fame, power, temporary human relationships, and so forth. Some worship or emulate celebrities, lose themselves in materialism, while others fall prey to false beliefs and various addictions. All the while, humans are searching desperately for that authentic, divine connection. I believe we are all just dying to connect to the Divine, whether we know it or not. We are dysfunctional and disturbed because we believe we are all separate; most insanely of all, separate from God.

For everyone our relationship to our true Self and the Divine is a deeply personal one. I go from feeling drawn to the Divine, almost like a crazed mad-woman, then pulling away out of a sense of fear and unworthiness. If you know anything about Reactive Attachment Disorder, you know this is a core symptom. My child loves me more than anyone, but fears (sometimes hates) me more than anyone at the same time. He’s terrified of the power I have, and so are our souls when it comes to approaching our Source and embracing it completely. We avoid spiritual practices more often than we embrace them. My son feels worthless, doesn;t trust adults, and therefore has a need to be autonomous– he will not rely on me to make sure things go smoothly, and is hyper-vigilant in his control. The same is true of the human ego; our need to control our lives instead of trusting in divine will. My point is that I see clearly how RAD children are a little reflection of the soul’s predicament, and how we shut ourselves off from the Divine. This awareness is helping me shift how I view my child, but most importantly it gives me an enormous insight into my own spiritual life. My son truly is mirroring a part of me, and it’s the most valuable part: my soul. For the first time, I’m seeing a purpose behind this gut-renchingly painful, totally insane relationship, so it isn’t quite as painful or insane any more.

I’m reminded of Swami Sri Yukteswar’s quote: “Human conduct is ever unreliable until anchored in the Divine.” This, too, can be applied to RAD children: Until they are anchored in their mother’s unconditional love, their behaviors will always be difficult to understand.

(Deep breath)

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Assuming the Role of “Big Brother”

It’s been a while since we updated about Prasad (or any of our kids for that matter). The past 3-4 months we’ve noticed a huge leap in maturity and self-esteem accompanied by a whopping amount of inner security. He’s not the same child we brought home almost four and a half years ago. He shows no signs of the old PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis, and he hasn’t been medicated for it in over a year. He’s extremely well behaved and eager to please, super helpful in all respects, and has become a fantastic role-model for his younger brother, Sky. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s true.

Sky and Prasad are 19 months apart, presently ages 9 and 11. Despite that, for several years Sky has been in the awkward role of the brother who knows more, understands more, and did better overall in just about everything. Because of that, Sky was like an older brother and it was not a healthy dynamic. It couldn’t be helped since Prasad lacked a great deal of social skills, language, academics, and was underexposed to the world. We’re happy to say that’s no longer the case, but it’s upsetting little brother’s ego in a big way.

It’s a transition period for both of them, but we’ve been using the term “big brother” a lot when referring to Prasad, and “little brother” when referring to Sky because we’d like to get the roles straight in their minds. Sky has a tendency to boss Prasad around, but we’ve been cracking down on that now. Also, Prasad is finding his own voice, becoming assertive, and isn’t allowing his younger brother to dictate what he does. Again, it has shaken up Sky’s world terribly, but it’s for the best.

It’s been a long road for Prasad. It took almost three years before he really started believing he was home for good, and that we were in it for the long haul, no matter what. He finally got it, and he’s completely attached to us, heart and soul. I cannot express how touching it has been to watch the transformation of my nervous, fearful, angry, self-abusive child into a caring, deeply loving, strong and loyal young man. His emotional maturity has finally surpassed his brother’s, and that’s where it should be right now. Seeing the more natural dynamic unfold feels like a miracle. We are so proud, and so deeply grateful.

What’s Prasad up to this Summer? He’s been helping out a lot around the gardens, doing dishes and his own laundry (without being told), and taking care of his new Flemish Giant bunny. When he’s not so busy he draws, writes, reads, does math review (without being told), swims, studies magic tricks, helps me build the fort, and really enjoys building with Legos. He’s also quite a comedian, performer and professional goofball. He’s an all around fun and easygoing kid… again, I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s true.

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Devoted Child, Humbled Mommy

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything personal about our kids, and it’s mainly because they’re older and I’m respecting their privacy more. However, today I learned a great deal about myself as a mother, and just how infinitely loving Prasad is. I don’t just mean the usual affection a child shows to his mother, but it’s a deep reverence, respect, and a love so powerful that it requires expressing. He is so devoted to me as a son that I often find myself wondering if I’m worthy of such a child. I also learned that, as a mother, I need to loosen up!

I still have tears in my eyes as I rummage through words of explanation. Yesterday, Mother’s Day, Prasad brought me a single blade of grass. I assumed he was just being goofy, considering he’s also a very a humorous boy. I looked at the grass stem and wondered what he expected me to do with it, and then I just chuckled lightheartedly. Daniel took a look at it and told Prasad not to bring any more grass into the house, and told him it was silly to hand people grass. That was that. Prasad hopped off and seemed fine.

This evening after dinner when I was relaxing on the sofa, Prasad carried in another tall stem of grass along with two wilted, closed white Dandelion buds. It was a very sad bouquet, but I smiled at it. Daniel mentioned again that he was handing me grass. I didn’t take the bouquet… the single blade of grass wouldn’t even stand up in a vase, and I found myself wondering what I’d do with it. I smiled and brushed it off lightly, but I regret that now.

In an instant, Prasad felt deeply rejected, tears flowing. He poured out his feelings of not feeling good enough. He said that he looked and looked for flowers and couldn’t find any. He said those were all he could find. He then raised his voice to Daniel, saying that he noticed the roses Daniel has given me for Mother’s Day, and that he wasn’t able to give me anything like that. He was quite emotional about it, and I was amazed at how important it was to him. Most boys his age aren’t concerned about it, especially after Mother’s Day is over.

We had him calm down, and I went off to relax in my bedroom. I sat there thinking, and kicking myself for not fully accepting what he’d offered me. I thought about Divine Mother, our guru, and how anything we offer them they accept completely, with unconditional love. I was ashamed of myself. It was just a single blade of grass, but in his hand he held a symbol of his love and appreciation for me. How could I be so uptight?

After Prasad calmed down, Daniel allowed him ten minutes of computer time. After a few minutes, I overheard Daniel say “Would you like to go back outside and get another bouquet for Mom? You can stay on the computer, or you can go back out if you want to.” I thought FOR CERTAIN Prasad would stay online playing kids games considering it’s a limited activity he really enjoys and looks forward to. Nope- he didn’t even have to think about it. He got right up and went outside to pick another bouquet. My stomach dropped in amazement… I swear time stood still. From my bedroom window, I could see him walking in the yard and looking so hard. I began to cry… he chose me over computer time? He chose me? In that moment I realized just how much he loves me, and how blessed I am to have a child who thinks so much about me. He came inside and handed me the sweetest bouquet I’ve ever seen. Grass stems, tiger lily stems, and some little white wildflowers (yes, he finally found some flowers). We had a very healing talk with apologies. I told him that anything he has to give me I will love with all my heart, and that I never knew what an incredibly loving son I had. Like his father, he’s someone who balances out all the negative experiences I encounter in my life. He’s one of those people who inspires and uplifts me, and makes me work to be a better person. Thank you, Prasad. I learned a great lesson today.

Posted by: Jill

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Parenting: Floating on a Raft of Community Support

I don’t write these types of posts often. Mainly because they pertain to some very private issues with our kids, and we like to respect their privacy as they get older. That said, I know there are readers who have been following us for years (you know who you are) so I like to do some basic updating. This post pertains to Sky and the help we’re receiving. I’m wishing, for the sake of other adoptive parents, that I could be more open about our experiences. For their sakes, I’ll share as much as I can within our comfort level. If you’re going through similar experiences and need support, please feel free to contact me privately at jillpeebles@yahoo.com.

It’s hard to believe Daniel and I have been parenting solo for so long, even though there is a huge support system out there in our community. We had a very important planning meeting this morning with Sky’s Case Manager, Service Coordinator, Therapist, and our Parent Support person… it was the very first time we’ve ever felt completely validated and understood by so many people. This is the first time that the eyes of others are not all on Sky, and not only worried about him. Now there is support happening for the entire family as a whole, which ultimately is what’s best for Sky. They’re considering everyone’s best interests. It’s all provided by our local mental health center, and paid for through the State’s Waiver program; a major life-saver. It’s looking like we’ll even have respite care for times when things get very difficult or stressful on the family, which means we have options. One choice could be having the Case Manager come over and talk with Sky and the family, or take him out of the home for a few hours to give us all a break. Another option would be an overnight or full weekend visit to another family’s home (they’re trained in handing kids with Sky’s issues and it would actually be a very therapeutic environment). Of course, we’d meet the family, talk a while and assess for ourselves whether this is something we want to do. Currently, we don’t have the need for this, but have a feeling it’s only a matter of time before more difficult incidences arise again. It’s extremely helpful to know we have these types of options out there, and they’re in place, ready to utilize as soon as we need them.

Interestingly, as soon as Sky got wind of the fact that he was beginning family therapy (a few weeks ago), he has been on his best behavior at home. He despises therapy. For several reasons he will not be doing 1:1 therapy, only Family Therapy. 1:1 does not work with kids like Sky. Home and family are the only areas he has serious problems with, which can be typical for children with attachment issues. It’s taken me a very long time to come to terms with this, but we do have a child with serious attachment related behaviors so he may have full-blown Reactive Attachment Disorder. Don’t even Google the disorder unless you want to be really freaked out. He’s getting a full psych evaluation to determine this over the Summer. Why has it taken me so long to acknowledge this very obvious possibility? RAD does freak me out, but that’s not why. It’s because, as mothers, we are supposed to love and nurture our children enough to help them feel rooted, grounded and secure in the world. We are supposed to be the most connected beings to our children, and when it doesn’t happen we blame ourselves. I haven’t done it consciously, but over time I’ve noticed my extreme aversion to any such ‘attachment’ related diagnosis. I’ve always felt deeply connected and attached to Sky, even though it hasn’t been reciprocated. The guilt of sensing non-attachment from Sky has probably kept me from seeking more support outside the home. When I reflected deeply on how I was handling everything, I saw clearly that I was acting as if I deserved every behavior issue, or punishing myself in a huge way. How many other parents do this without even knowing it?

What I’ve learned recently is that it has nothing to do with anything I have, or haven’t done. I’ve been as loving as possible with my child, and I’m equally as loving with all of my very attached children. Parents don’t need to blame themselves as if they have all the power in the universe to create disorders in their children. That idea is just as ludicrous as blaming a mother for having an autistic child (something they used to blame mothers for up until the 70’s). I’ve also learned that attachment issues are not isolated to adoptive children.. they are also found in children who stay with their biological families. I know of two families personally who have biological children who did not attach well. Whatever the case, however the families are created, it can be a horrible state of insecure limbo for the child (leading to severe control issues, lack of empathy, and behavior problems), and cripple the family dynamic.

Our Parent Support worker told us she is so relieved to know we adopted two more children so that we can see it’s not necessarily about ‘being adopted’ as it is varying temperaments, possible unknown past trauma, brain chemistry and such. Just because a person adopts a child does not mean they will have a child with attachment issues, and we have confirmed that through our other children. Most adopted children do not develop these issues. I cannot imagine how much more difficult this would be had we not adopted another child… the self blame, guilt, confusion, and false beliefs would be overflowing.

Finding well-rounded support is only part of the solution, but it feels like more than half of it. A whole team is standing by our sides, we’ll be getting tools, and attend a support group with other local parents going through what we’re told sound like identical issues. It’s hard to imagine having that many people who fully understand this process and why we have to parent the way we do. We’re going from feeling zero understanding to a giant mountain of it. It’s grace, I just know it. God may never give us more than we can handle, but when things feel bigger than we can manage he sends a helping hand (or several of them).

Posted by: Jill

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