Tag Archives: Trauma Mama

(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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RAD Parenting: Just One Day of Truly Unconditional Love

Mother = Unconditional Love, correct? That’s what I’ve been taught, but it isn’t always that easy, nor is it realistic when we’re all flawed, imperfect, and unenlightened human beings. In my nineteen years of motherhood I’ve been close, and I only mean close to giving unconditional love. The only true unconditional love in this world comes from God, saints, or truly enlightened beings, but mothers are very, very close. That said, I’ve had my challenges with a child who is determined to push me away, never tell the truth, deceive the whole family, and cause us to feel completely unsafe in our own home. I experience hourly knots in my stomach, have become hyper-vigilant, and was diagnosed with PTSD. The whole experience is a massively painful boulder God/the Universe/my guru has thrown at my head.. ouch! Instead of throwing it back at him or running away from it, I’m embracing the boulder because it’s from Him; chiseling away for the hidden diamonds inside. I’m determined to master the art of unconditional love in this lifetime, so what better stage to be on than with a RAD (Reactive Attachment Disordered) child.
Unlike most days, this day was filled with harmony. I should say, rather, that I myself was filled with a harmonious acceptance about life. Could it be that I awoke refreshed after a long night’s sleep and meditated for almost an hour, or that my husband is on a spiritual retreat and he keeps calling me with incredible insights, or could it be that every time I observed Sky’s negativity, constant deception, and problematic ways I immediately forced myself to think “MY GOD is in him, MY GOD is there.” When I think “MY GOD”, I get an image in my mind of my guru. It’s not a thought, necessarily, but an overpowering feeling. I feel such heart-melting affection for my guru when I see him in a specific scene in my mind, and I can feel his great Love for me as well. His sincere sweetness is beyond any description, and the closest to God’s Love I have ever experienced. To shift into that feeling when I have observations of negativity in Sky causes all of what’s happening in this dense, physical world to disintegrate… to melt into Love. Maybe that is why I was filled with such harmonious acceptance today. I’m hoping so, because it’s an easy practice for me. If not, maybe the harmony and calmness came from my therapeutic time with Prasad…
Prasad is doing extremely well today. I’ve noticed that, due to an hour long conversation this morning (intimate 1:1 attention), he is less nervous, less scattered, more focused and present, and most of all extremely joyful and more affectionate than ever. My presence is medicine to him, and his is to me as well. We spent a lot of time together without Sky today and had the opportunity to ‘be ourselves’ together, which doesn’t present itself often. We feed off of one another in positive ways, and I can always feel my inner child adoring him… he’s the brother she never had, but always wanted. We were both in such a heightened state of joy by the time we picked up Sky from a play group today, I’m sure Sky noticed. He became very withdrawn and shut down in the car and at home, which is what he always does when Prasad and I are very happy, playful and alive. He wouldn’t speak much, but it didn’t affect me at all like it usually does. Normally, I’d get dragged in, try cheering him up to no avail, all the while realizing I was robbed of my previous, very positive state of mind. Instead, today my level of joy remained stable the whole day through, despite Sky’s various attempts to drag us down.
At one point when Sky walked into the kitchen he was slouching, heavy, angry, glaring at me and obviously depressed. Nothing triggered it, except that we were happy (close to ecstatic). This is how he gets when he wants to drag everyone down. It’s complicated, but if no one shares in being miserable, he feels alone, isolated, and out of control. I observed his face and heard my own inner voice saying “MY GOD, MY GOD… MY GOD is in there. MY GOD is in him.” I felt deep affection; a vast ocean of love, not necessarily for Sky personally, but for the beautiful image of God I know is within him. He would not be living and breathing without it. I saw his sulking, angry face as the mask it really was, and literally felt the presence of God hiding deep inside of Sky and all his self-centered ways. All was well. The whole evening after dinner (Sky’s most difficult time of day) was more smooth and drama-free than it has ever been. My thoughts alone can transform a situation.. Sky was not healed, nor is that my intention, but he did not even attempt to engage in any sort of conflict. That’s a huge “Wow” in this family.
This day was miraculous. I know these spiritual lessons are why I chose to be a mother. They’re extremely difficult to learn, but I’m determined to get it, one day at a time. Unconditional love for all people, regardless of what they do, their mistakes, or how they treat us, is what we are here to cultivate on this planet. Sky is my greatest teacher and catalyst in that regard, and I thank him. I’m realizing that great, unswerving, unconditional love in the face of misunderstanding, pain, and ugliness is the only way out of our suffering, both individually and globally. For the first time I’m seeing that I am capable of it, if only for today.
  • On a last note, I couldn’t help sharing this extract from St. Francis, since it is so applicable in my own life. I was reminded of it by a friend, and I didn’t fully understand it in the past, but it makes complete sense to me now:

Brother Leo asked [St. Francis] in great wonder: “Father, I pray thee in God’s name tell me where is perfect joy to be found?”

And St. Francis answered him thus, “When we are come to St. Mary of the Angels, wet through  with rain, frozen with cold, and foul with mire and tormented with hunger; and when we knock at the door, the doorkeeper comes in a rage and says, ‘Who are you?’ and we say, ‘We are two of your brothers,’ and he answers, ‘You tell not true; you are rather two knaves that go about deceiving the world and stealing the alms of the poor. Begone!’ and he opens not to us, and makes us stay outside hungry and cold all night in the rain and snow; then if we endure patiently such cruelty, such abuse, and such insolent dismissal without complaint or murmuring, and believe humbly and charitably that that doorkeeper truly knows us, and that it is God who makes him to rail against us; O Brother Leo, there is perfect joy.

“And if, compelled by hunger and by cold, we knock once more and pray with many tears that he open to us for the love of God and let us but come inside, and he more insolently than ever shouts, ‘These are impudent rogues, I will pay them out as they deserve,’ and comes forth with a big knotted stick and seizes us by our cowls and flings us on the ground and rolls us in the snow, bruising every bone in our bodies with that heavy stick -if we endure all these things patiently and joyously for love of Christ, write, O Brother Leo, that in this perfect joy is found.

“And now, Brother Leo, hear the conclusion. Above all the graces and the gifts that Christ gives to those who love him is that of overcoming self, and willingly to bear other pain and buffetings and revilings and discomfort for love of God.”

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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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