National Adoption Day

eb944b59ce468f8c17c8d401a05c09d1Today is National Adoption Day. The pinnacle of National Adoption Month. As you may have (or may not have) noticed I have been on a little hiatus as I have been working on retooling the site. The ultimate goal will be to create a resource for other families like mine with children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

But back to today. The purpose of this day and month like awareness days/months for every other issue out there (World Toilet Day is tomorrow!) is to bring attention and hopefully get folks to consider action. Many cities across the county clear court calendars to hold finalization ceremonies for adoptions which can normally have a long wait. In 2016, over 687,000 children spent time in foster care and the average time in the system is two years. The average age of a child entering the system is seven. Of those in foster care, more than 20,000 aged out, meaning that at age 18 they were released from the system with no permanent home or support. On any given day, more than 438,000 are in foster care.

Making the decision to adopt is not at all easy. For many it comes at the end of a painstaking journey of infertility. Which is what it was for us. Seven long years of heartbreak and loss and frustration. Friends and family who mean well but don’t know what to say. Baby showers and Mother’s Days going by again and again as horrible reminders of what was being denied to me. 

Agreeing to move to adoption felt like being broken. Something God had built me for that everyone else my age was doing (and every 16-year-old on Jerry Springer) so easily and I had failed. It just didn’t seem like I could love and parent an adopted child the same as my own…boy was I about to get schooled.

So we moved ahead. Three choices:

  • Private Infant
  • Foster Care System
  • International

I couldn’t get my brain around a private adoption. The idea of getting a newborn was appealing but meeting the birth mother and at the time they were mostly open adoptions (a relationship with the birth mother was maintained, she had visitation, got photos, letters, etc.) was difficult for me. I could not get past feeling like I would just be a long-term babysitter.

After attending classes about adopting from the foster care system, August’s dad was not comfortable with that option. The classes paint the worst possible scenario to show just how damaged children in the foster care system can become from repeated placements, attempts at reunification, abuse and neglect that got them removed in the first place and more. He did not believe he was ready to deal with that kind of trauma…again, little did we know what we were about to face.

So international it was. Russia was picked because it was a country we’d probably never vacation to and because the child would most likely look somewhat like us so we wouldn’t automatically have to explain the adoption story every time we walked through the door. Of course we did, and August by the time he could speak in full sentences was introducing himself as, “Hi, I’m August, I’m from Russia.” So any attempt at secrecy was lost.

Previous posts have obviously revealed that parenting my adopted child has been anything but a walk in the park. It has been the hardest thing I could have ever imagined. Nothing the foster care classes dreamed up came even close to what I’ve dealt with. This adorable round-faced stranger who spoke no English was placed in our care to raise and love for the rest of his life. This neglected, abused, damaged, traumatized child who would reject all efforts to care for and love him and instead grow up hardened and controlling and impulsive leading to such a difficult life.

Would I change anything? Of course not. I am August’s mother. It is my greatest blessing. From the outside I am sure it is hard for others to see how the joys have so very far outweighed the trials. I am the proud adoptive mom of a beautiful, sweet boy. His name is August Mikhailovich Prokhorov, now August William Giles. He did not grow under my heart, but in it.

If you are an adoptive parent or are adopted or know someone who is, celebrate this day and month. And please share your adoption stories…I love them!

The Future

One of the most amazing-and scariest-parts of being a parent is not knowing what the future holds for your child. It’s that wonder that makes you want to be a parent in the first place. And it’s that fear that makes you want to bubble-wrap them till they’re 27.

This is something that all parents share. It doesn’t matter how you became a parent: by birth, by adoption, by marriage. You pray, you read books, you take classes, you join groups, you look online, you stress, you put your life on hold all so that your child will have an incredible future. Even though you have no idea whether or not it will happen. Whether you will be successful. Whether your child will become the doctor or the lawyer or whatever they dream of becoming. But it doesn’t stop you from doing all the work. Why?

“When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.”
-Alexis de Tocqueville

Parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are no different. They have the same dreams for their children. Before they receive a diagnosis there’s no thought that the future might not include everything they are dreaming of. After the diagnosis, and as the reality sets in, the ideas of the future start to take on a very different view. What kind of therapy will my child need? Will my child be able to be in regular classrooms? Will my child be able to continue living at home? Will we have a relationship as our child becomes an adult? Will our child be able to heal?

All of these questions and so many more have gone through my head over the years with August. Because of his violent and volatile behavior, I can add some even scarier thoughts. Is this the night the sheriff shows up to tell me he’s been killed? Will he get angry enough to physically harm me? Will I get angry enough to physically harm him? Will time in prison make a difference or make him a better criminal?

I know as most parents do that at some point we have to let go and know that we have done all that we can do. What our children become is at some point out of our control. I have been watching on Facebook this week as many of my friends are moving their children to college for their freshman year. August would be a junior this year if things had gone as planned. I can’t even get him to complete his GED. He doesn’t see the point. I continue to ask and prod because that’s what parents do but I also know that it’s not my choice to make and if he doesn’t see the value nothing I say is going to matter.

I have been thinking much about the future recently because I am considering the future of this blog. The last few months have been very cathartic. I started writing at a time that I needed to write for me. And if anyone found it helpful that was fine but it really didn’t matter. I needed to write. And it served its purpose. But over the years since August has been diagnosed I have had people tell me I should do this or that I should be a therapist for others who are dealing with similar situations. My experiences with law enforcement and the school system have shown much need for educating about children with RAD and I always imagined finding a way to work with these groups.

So here’s the deal. Going forward I will still be telling my stories but I am going to fold this blog into a website designed for other families and anyone who is involved with a child with reactive attachment disorder. My vision is to create a community of resources for parents, teachers, law enforcement, extended families and others. There would be advice from professionals as well as hands-on tools that families can use. I have seen other blogs that are for home-schooled children or children with special needs that are mostly medical but I really want to focus on RAD because it is so very different from medical issues and from any other mental health issue and still so unknown.

And that’s my plan for the future. If you’d like to be a part of it here’s how you can help. Please subscribe to my blog if you currently just read it off of Facebook or LinkedIn. I don’t want to bore you with the details but it helps. Please share it! You may not know anyone with a child with RAD but someone you may know might. If you are a praying type, always welcome. I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what my future holds as well as August’s.

Map out your future-but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.

-Jon Bon Jovi

 

What comes out of that mouth…

Warning: Some of the following uses some colorful language. Apologies to those with sensitive ears/eyes.

You have a small child who has a chubby little face with a precious smile and kissable cheeks. At this stage you don’t know what the future holds and occasionally you’re getting kisses from this button mouth and he’s funny and curious and charming.

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Fast forward a few years and you’re sitting in a restaurant in Hollywood, CA where you’ve paid a lot of money to go and you’re trying to have a special moment and you get this:

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Much of it is normal sullen teenager but changes have started happening that are not what you expected. There is rage. There is hatred. He’s on medications that treat the symptoms but the cause lives in his body like a parasite you cannot kill.

And words come out of him sometimes like he is possessed. And you wish that he was because then you could blame the devil inside him and not the sweet boy you wish he still was who is now saying he hates you.

When August first got diagnosed I thought, “If I’d just never put him on the school bus…” He learned a lot of his colorful language there. His father and I were very careful not to curse in the house though as his RAD emerged that got harder and harder! When he would be raging and want to push our buttons he would just say, “shit, shit shit” over and over again. That’s when I learned from his psychiatrist that putting soap in a child’s mouth isn’t appropriate any more. As I have mentioned in past blogs we did as much harm as we did good early on in learning about RAD and how to parent August effectively but in that instance it was the only thing that made it stop. This was when he was maybe 10. He went on to use many more curse words but for some reason early on that was his favorite. He seemed to like the sound of it best.

As an adoptive parent you fear hearing your child say, “You’re not my real mom.” It’s like a dagger to the heart. Children have the ability to fill you with more love than you ever thought possible and also take it away in one breath. With August, for better or worse, that became one of the least horrible things he said. He talked in his middle school years about killing us, killing himself, wishing we were dead, all of which prompted his placement in the residential treatment center in Missouri. When we got ready to leave, I hoped for a tearful goodbye to show some signs of attachment and he was able to provide another kick in the gut with, “If you’re not going to take me with you then just leave.”

As a high-school age man-child he felt entitled to use all the curse words he knew. Which were plenty. “Fuck” became a punctuation mark, an adjective, a exclamation, you name it. He didn’t care that it upset me, that only made it more fun. He didn’t care about using it at school or with the police. That adorable face became unrecognizable to me whenever it spoke because it spewed hatred-filled, awful words. He manipulated and threatened and spoke with no feeling in his voice at all. But you could feel all the hurt in every word that came out of his mouth. All the pain he didn’t know how to process. All the loss and anger he feels and doesn’t know what to do with. It’s all in there trying to find an outlet and he is trying with every horrible word to control it. Not letting anyone else help him and making it worse every time he pushes someone away with the hurtful things he says.

Since he’s been in prison much of that has not changed. He’s tried some amazing cons on his father and I to get money. When we don’t fall for them the tirades are pretty amazing but at least now I can hang up the phone.

But more often there are these pleasant, calm phone calls. He asks me first what I’m doing and how I am. We talk about books and movies and my garden and my job. We talk about the family. When we visit together we talk about the past and things we used to do. He tells me about things that happened when he was living on the streets that both scare me to death and break my heart. Both of the phone calls and the in-person visits end with his saying “I love you” first. With a tone that says he means it. Hard to know for sure but I think so.

I’ll take it.

 

 

 

 

Finally, A Visit!

After almost a year and a half I hugged my son two weeks ago. It felt so good. And I even managed to sneak in a kiss on the cheek which he did not appreciate but I did!

The process for getting approval to go see August at the prison hasn’t been easy because in 2016 I had to get an order of protection and eviction against him. He had been breaking into my house and stealing from me and it was the only way I could have any recourse when he did. It was a horrible moment in our relationship. To sit in court and publicly reject my child. My child who already felt the deepest level of abandonment anyone can feel was being rejected by the person he most wanted to be connected to. Another stellar parenting fail. But I knew that continuing the path we were on was not going to be healthy for me and it was not going to help August learn anything about what was expected of him. So I had to get that vacated because anyone who is a victim of an incarcerated person can’t come to visit them, lest they use that opportunity for revenge apparently.

So two weeks ago I went to the Putnamville Correctional Facility. In case you’ve never been to a medium-level prison, let me give you a little idea of what’s involved. I was wearing a modest sleeveless summer sweater, crop jeans and sandals. When I got there I found out sleeveless isn’t allowed so I now own a t-shirt from the House of Marathon Gas Station down the street. Can’t wear any jewelry; no fitbit, no bracelets, no earrings no matter how small. I even had to remove my toe rings which I never take off and which was a bit of a challenge.

There are vending machines and I was advised by August to bring quarters so I am now standing with a bowl of quarters in one hand, my shoes in the other and a key to the locker containing all my other belongings waiting to go through the metal detector. But apparently that’s not good enough because before that I get patted down by a female guard (who I might now be dating). Then through the metal detector (thank goodness I was wearing a no-wire bra; that would have had to be ripped out) and a special cell phone detector. Shoes back on and a stamp on my hand. Through a door, ID and stamp checked. Mind you I’m only five feet from where I just was. Then follow a line on the ground over to the visitation building.

Once over there I wait outside. A guard calls me in and I sign in. I cheat on the previous guard by getting patted down by her. She rattles off an amazing list of rules which there is no way I’ll remember. She brings me into the visitation room. The room is surprisingly pleasant. Many little sets of a cube wooden table and two chairs. One side of the table has an “X” where inmate sits. I am assigned a spot. I have some time to look around.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
–Nelson Mandela

There are many different combinations of people visiting. Some are obvious; boyfriends/husbands and girlfriends/wives, parents/sons, families and fathers. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see children visiting their fathers here. They have pictures on the wall obviously drawn by children who have visited and there are murals painted all around to make the place seem less sad. Nothing about the faces or demeanors of the people seem hopeless or tragic. Everyone has on their, “Everything will be OK” looks.

August finally walks in. He’s wearing a khaki jumpsuit. He’s always been skinny and other than a few more tattoos he looks basically the same. The hug feels great. We sit down and chat. It’s not really awkward because we talk all the time. But it’s slightly weird. We haven’t been in the same room in almost 1 1/2 years other than a courtroom. He’s recently gotten a tattoo on his neck-a cross in the middle with a devil on one side and an angel on the other. The angel is naked. I guess if your son is going to have an angel tattoo on his neck it’s good that she has a nice rack.

I try to talk about important things. He tries to listen. I try to get him to think about his life. He tries to say the right answers. What he thinks I want to hear. We keep things civil. I hope that these visits will propel him to want to get out and do the things he needs to do to make that happen. He has come into the visit having to go to the bathroom so the visit gets cut short because as soon as he gets up the visit is over.

We are together about an hour and a half and it is glorious. As horrible as so much of parenting him has been, I miss him every day. I miss seeing his face and his smile. I miss going to movies with him and when he liked to help me with things. They were such brief moments but they were glimpses of who he could be. I get to go every two weeks will be so helpful for me and I hope for him.

Again, not a place I ever thought I’d be. Amazing the lives we find ourselves living.

 

Finally, A Visit!

After almost a year and a half I hugged my son two weeks ago. It felt so good. And I even managed to sneak in a kiss on the cheek which he did not appreciate but I did!

The process for getting approval to go see August at the prison hasn’t been easy because in 2016 I had to get an order of protection and eviction against him. He had been breaking into my house and stealing from me and it was the only way I could have any recourse when he did. It was a horrible moment in our relationship. To sit in court and publicly reject my child. My child who already felt the deepest level of abandonment anyone can feel was being rejected by the person he most wanted to be connected to. Another stellar parenting fail. But I knew that continuing the path we were on was not going to be healthy for me and it was not going to help August learn anything about what was expected of him. So I had to get that vacated because anyone who is a victim of an incarcerated person can’t come to visit them, lest they use that opportunity for revenge apparently.

So two weeks ago I went to the Putnamville Correctional Facility. In case you’ve never been to a medium-level prison, let me give you a little idea of what’s involved. I was wearing a modest sleeveless summer sweater, crop jeans and sandals. When I got there I found out sleeveless isn’t allowed so I now own a t-shirt from the House of Marathon Gas Station down the street. Can’t wear any jewelry; no fitbit, no bracelets, no earrings no matter how small. I even had to remove my toe rings which I never take off and which was a bit of a challenge.

There are vending machines and I was advised by August to bring quarters so I am now standing with a bowl of quarters in one hand, my shoes in the other and a key to the locker containing all my other belongings waiting to go through the metal detector. But apparently that’s not good enough because before that I get patted down by a female guard (who I might now be dating). Then through the metal detector (thank goodness I was wearing a no-wire bra; that would have had to be ripped out) and a special cell phone detector. Shoes back on and a stamp on my hand. Through a door, ID and stamp checked. Mind you I’m only five feet from where I just was. Then follow a line on the ground over to the visitation building.

Once over there I wait outside. A guard calls me in and I sign in. I cheat on the previous guard by getting patted down by her. She rattles off an amazing list of rules which there is no way I’ll remember. She brings me into the visitation room. The room is surprisingly pleasant. Many little sets of a cube wooden table and two chairs. One side of the table has an “X” where inmate sits. I am assigned a spot. I have some time to look around.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
–Nelson Mandela

There are many different combinations of people visiting. Some are obvious; boyfriends/husbands and girlfriends/wives, parents/sons, families and fathers. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see children visiting their fathers here. They have pictures on the wall obviously drawn by children who have visited and there are murals painted all around to make the place seem less sad. Nothing about the faces or demeanors of the people seem hopeless or tragic. Everyone has on their, “Everything will be OK” looks.

August finally walks in. He’s wearing a khaki jumpsuit. He’s always been skinny and other than a few more tattoos he looks basically the same. The hug feels great. We sit down and chat. It’s not really awkward because we talk all the time. But it’s slightly weird. We haven’t been in the same room in almost 1 1/2 years other than a courtroom. He’s recently gotten a tattoo on his neck-a cross in the middle with a devil on one side and an angel on the other. The angel is naked. I guess if your son is going to have an angel tattoo on his neck it’s good that she has a nice rack.

I try to talk about important things. He tries to listen. I try to get him to think about his life. He tries to say the right answers. What he thinks I want to hear. We keep things civil. I hope that these visits will propel him to want to get out and do the things he needs to do to make that happen. He has come into the visit having to go to the bathroom so the visit gets cut short because as soon as he gets up the visit is over.

We are together about an hour and a half and it is glorious. As horrible as so much of parenting him has been, I miss him every day. I miss seeing his face and his smile. I miss going to movies with him and when he liked to help me with things. They were such brief moments but they were glimpses of who he could be. I get to go every two weeks will be so helpful for me and I hope for him.

Again, not a place I ever thought I’d be. Amazing the lives we find ourselves living.

 

Mother’s Day

I am writing a few days ahead of actual Mother’s Day for several reasons. Mother’s Day this year also falls on my mom’s birthday. She passed away 30 years ago now but the day is still difficult. But then, so was she. Having these two days fall so close together and occasionally on the same day was rough for a young child. She insisted that they be celebrated separately since it was all she’d get in the year. A tough undertaking for an 8-year old with $2.37 to spend. I believe I have retaliated on every boyfriend since then as my birthday falls a week after Christmas.

Holidays are rough on RAD families. Anything that disrupts the routine, forces bonding, and makes the child spend time in the relationships he or she doesn’t want to have is a recipe for disaster. Add anxiety, lack of impulse control, everyone trying too hard…you get the idea.

If the holiday has a focus on the child you can maybe get away with it with little angst. So Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving can usually be managed if there’s no travelling involved (I’ll focus on these holidays and car trips in the future). But Mother’s Day has no purpose on RADish radar.

When August was little and I was still married, Mother’s Day was handled for him. Whether or not he knew it he got me a lovely card and present and I could probably score a hug and a kiss and breakfast in bed even though he had nothing to do with it. I know from taking him to buy Father’s Day cards as he got older that root canal would have been preferred to shopping for something that wasn’t for him. And forget the present.

But here’s two pictures of one of my favorite Mother’s Days. I was divorced and the boys were on their own. I was upstairs in bed because I knew they were downstairs making me breakfast. There was no yelling or screaming so the boys were getting along (for once!) Quite a long time passed and then they came upstairs with this:

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And all I was told was, “Something happened.” I was afraid to go downstairs. But there were three yogurts and the three of us laid in bed and ate yogurt together and had a great breakfast. It was wonderful.

Of course I did have to go downstairs eventually and I found this:

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But the fact that they tried this hard made my heart melt even more.

August will never understand how much Mother’s Day means to me. That for seven years I didn’t think I’d ever be a mother. That getting the call with his court date the week before Mother’s Day in 2001 (and finding out I was pregnant two days later) was the most amazing 48 hours of my life. I wish he could feel how full my heart is when I think about being his mom. And how much it breaks that he can’t. If he could I know his life would be so much different.

Mother’s Day is a time for celebrating our mothers, or those who have served that role. Remembering the mothers we’ve lost and acknowledging what a vital role mothers play in the development of every human. Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder brings the role of mother to a whole new level of importance now for me. I have been robbed of much of that bond with my child but nevertheless I would not be a mother without him and for that I am truly blessed.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and mother souls out there. Thank you for caring.

Mother’s Day

I am writing a few days ahead of actual Mother’s Day for several reasons. Mother’s Day this year also falls on my mom’s birthday. She passed away 30 years ago now but the day is still difficult. But then, so was she. Having these two days fall so close together and occasionally on the same day was rough for a young child. She insisted that they be celebrated separately since it was all she’d get in the year. A tough undertaking for an 8-year old with $2.37 to spend. I believe I have retaliated on every boyfriend since then as my birthday falls a week after Christmas.

Holidays are rough on RAD families. Anything that disrupts the routine, forces bonding, and makes the child spend time in the relationships he or she doesn’t want to have is a recipe for disaster. Add anxiety, lack of impulse control, everyone trying too hard…you get the idea.

If the holiday has a focus on the child you can maybe get away with it with little angst. So Christmas, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving can usually be managed if there’s no travelling involved (I’ll focus on these holidays and car trips in the future). But Mother’s Day has no purpose on RADish radar.

When August was little and I was still married, Mother’s Day was handled for him. Whether or not he knew it he got me a lovely card and present and I could probably score a hug and a kiss and breakfast in bed even though he had nothing to do with it. I know from taking him to buy Father’s Day cards as he got older that root canal would have been preferred to shopping for something that wasn’t for him. And forget the present.

But here’s two pictures of one of my favorite Mother’s Days. I was divorced and the boys were on their own. I was upstairs in bed because I knew they were downstairs making me breakfast. There was no yelling or screaming so the boys were getting along (for once!) Quite a long time passed and then they came upstairs with this:

222346_1999049982537_7375673_n

And all I was told was, “Something happened.” I was afraid to go downstairs. But there were three yogurts and the three of us laid in bed and ate yogurt together and had a great breakfast. It was wonderful.

Of course I did have to go downstairs eventually and I found this:

229674_1999357910235_610622_n

But the fact that they tried this hard made my heart melt even more.

August will never understand how much Mother’s Day means to me. That for seven years I didn’t think I’d ever be a mother. That getting the call with his court date the week before Mother’s Day in 2001 (and finding out I was pregnant two days later) was the most amazing 48 hours of my life. I wish he could feel how full my heart is when I think about being his mom. And how much it breaks that he can’t. If he could I know his life would be so much different.

Mother’s Day is a time for celebrating our mothers, or those who have served that role. Remembering the mothers we’ve lost and acknowledging what a vital role mothers play in the development of every human. Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder brings the role of mother to a whole new level of importance now for me. I have been robbed of much of that bond with my child but nevertheless I would not be a mother without him and for that I am truly blessed.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and mother souls out there. Thank you for caring.

Nature vs. Nurture

It’s been a while since I have written. But this topic has been on my mind. August’s younger brother was here for a week visiting during Spring Break and it drove the concept home so strongly.

Now August’s brother was a surprise born seven months after we returned from Russia. We had tried for seven years to conceive and it wasn’t until August’s adoption was finalized that it happened. I hate knowing that I’m one of the those “adopt and you’ll get pregnant” stories that people tell like adoption is a cure for infertility. Trust me, if it was I wouldn’t have waited seven years to try that route!

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But I digress. So the boys are almost four years apart in age. And arriving so close in time we didn’t know much how to parent either one of them. But we felt like we did things pretty much the same with each one and August hadn’t been identified as RAD yet. We didn’t know we were going to need to parent him differently. Of course they had different interests. But we read books to both, sang songs at night, said a prayer at dinner time, went to church, tried to carve out time for each of them individually.

August was always more independent. When he was three and four years old he could leave his bed at night in total darkness and roam the house with no fear. He’d fall asleep wherever he got sleepy and we’d be terrified trying to find him under the guest bed or behind the living room couch or wherever he landed. He could sneak down into the kitchen and get food and take it back to his room without us ever hearing him. The food hoarding started way back then. His brother went to bed and never woke up.

As the RAD behaviors started to emerge we probably made a lot of mistakes in how we addressed them. Hours and hours trying to calm August’s rage and keep him from hurting himself or us. A lot of it including us yelling too. A lot of time with him in his room and learning later that separating him from us was the worst thing to do. And then all the time we were spending trying to help him. Teacher meetings and psychiatrists and counselors and extra time with him doing homework and taking him to tutors.

All the time this was happening his brother was also growing up. And everything came so easy to him. He was smart, gentle, easy-going. He had several interests which we were able to fit in. He was fine being alone and developed a love for reading. When I had to spend hours dealing with August’s rages, he could occupy his time. I felt terribly guilty about what having a child like August who required so much of my time and who created so much chaos in the house was doing to him.

So fast-forward. It’s 10 years later. I continued to raise two sons with the same love and caring. As I learned about RAD I did parent them differently, understanding what would work for August. They both dealt with the end of my marriage and seemed to handle it much the same. I moved to Indiana, away from both of them, something I hated doing, but needed to do.

I have already talked about August’s path. School never worked for him. IEPs and homeschooling and constant behavior issues and run-ins with the law. A residential treatment program then more arrests and eventually his current time now in prison.

And his brother has been in advanced classes, won awards, starred in school productions. Doesn’t need to be told to do homework, overachieves on projects, goes to a gifted and talented high school and will graduate with almost a year’s worth of college credits.

Two children, raised identically except for the first three years. Given all the love and caring and opportunity two parents can give. And even when problems arose, all efforts were made to help and heal. August’s brain was altered before we ever met him. The abuse and neglect of his first three years had set his course. And while he could have healed and overcome his demons (and still can), the psychiatrist that diagnosed him said that the angst and discomfort that bonding feelings cause makes the RAD child fight like crazy against it.

So it seems that I was waging an uphill battle against nature with August. I don’t know if I did everything right (probably not). It seems to have helped with his brother (or maybe that’s in spite of me!) I hope I’m not out of time. I love both my boys so very much.

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Nature vs. Nurture

It’s been a while since I have written. But this topic has been on my mind. August’s younger brother was here for a week visiting during Spring Break and it drove the concept home so strongly.

Now August’s brother was a surprise born seven months after we returned from Russia. We had tried for seven years to conceive and it wasn’t until August’s adoption was finalized that it happened. I hate knowing that I’m one of the those “adopt and you’ll get pregnant” stories that people tell like adoption is a cure for infertility. Trust me, if it was I wouldn’t have waited seven years to try that route!

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But I digress. So the boys are almost four years apart in age. And arriving so close in time we didn’t know much how to parent either one of them. But we felt like we did things pretty much the same with each one and August hadn’t been identified as RAD yet. We didn’t know we were going to need to parent him differently. Of course they had different interests. But we read books to both, sang songs at night, said a prayer at dinner time, went to church, tried to carve out time for each of them individually.

August was always more independent. When he was three and four years old he could leave his bed at night in total darkness and roam the house with no fear. He’d fall asleep wherever he got sleepy and we’d be terrified trying to find him under the guest bed or behind the living room couch or wherever he landed. He could sneak down into the kitchen and get food and take it back to his room without us ever hearing him. The food hoarding started way back then. His brother went to bed and never woke up.

As the RAD behaviors started to emerge we probably made a lot of mistakes in how we addressed them. Hours and hours trying to calm August’s rage and keep him from hurting himself or us. A lot of it including us yelling too. A lot of time with him in his room and learning later that separating him from us was the worst thing to do. And then all the time we were spending trying to help him. Teacher meetings and psychiatrists and counselors and extra time with him doing homework and taking him to tutors.

All the time this was happening his brother was also growing up. And everything came so easy to him. He was smart, gentle, easy-going. He had several interests which we were able to fit in. He was fine being alone and developed a love for reading. When I had to spend hours dealing with August’s rages, he could occupy his time. I felt terribly guilty about what having a child like August who required so much of my time and who created so much chaos in the house was doing to him.

So fast-forward. It’s 10 years later. I continued to raise two sons with the same love and caring. As I learned about RAD I did parent them differently, understanding what would work for August. They both dealt with the end of my marriage and seemed to handle it much the same. I moved to Indiana, away from both of them, something I hated doing, but needed to do.

I have already talked about August’s path. School never worked for him. IEPs and homeschooling and constant behavior issues and run-ins with the law. A residential treatment program then more arrests and eventually his current time now in prison.

And his brother has been in advanced classes, won awards, starred in school productions. Doesn’t need to be told to do homework, overachieves on projects, goes to a gifted and talented high school and will graduate with almost a year’s worth of college credits.

Two children, raised identically except for the first three years. Given all the love and caring and opportunity two parents can give. And even when problems arose, all efforts were made to help and heal. August’s brain was altered before we ever met him. The abuse and neglect of his first three years had set his course. And while he could have healed and overcome his demons (and still can), the psychiatrist that diagnosed him said that the angst and discomfort that bonding feelings cause makes the RAD child fight like crazy against it.

So it seems that I was waging an uphill battle against nature with August. I don’t know if I did everything right (probably not). It seems to have helped with his brother (or maybe that’s in spite of me!) I hope I’m not out of time. I love both my boys so very much.

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Happy Birthday August!

Today is August’s 20th birthday. It is a day filled with so many emotions. I don’t want him to be spending his birthday locked up. But part of me thinks maybe spending a birthday in prison will be the wake up call he needs. Maybe he’ll make the decision that he wants to change and he’ll start focusing on school. Then I remember this isn’t how he’s going to heal. This isn’t how he learns. His damaged brain won’t repair by spending a birthday behind bars.

Every birthday since he became my son and even more so since he was diagnosed with RAD I have wished that I had been there at the moment of his birth. That I had given birth to him. He couldn’t be my son any more if I had but just that little difference; just those few extra years in his life could have spared him so much pain.

His first birthday with us we made such a big deal. He was a huge Scooby Doo fan and my sister and I stayed up so late making a handmade cake which looked wonderful but was so hard to make. We had about 10 little boys at our house in Oregon and thank goodness the weather was nice because I don’t know what we would have done if it was raining which it should have been!

Over the years his birthdays have been different with a variety of themes and kids. Sometimes big crowds, sometimes just a couple of friends. He’s always been really happy on his birthday, even when he was little and couldn’t remember what day it was! Mostly it’s because he likes getting presents. Can’t deny him that!

I sent him an email this morning. We aren’t allowed to send cards and presents. And because I charged him with stealing my car at the moment I can’t even visit him. Another “parent of the year” jewel in my crown. So an email and money on his account to spend on candy. That’s how I spend his birthday.

The reality is I am happy he’s even having this birthday. There have been so many times over the last few years when I didn’t think he’d live this long. His dangerous behavior and scary choices had me constantly expecting the sheriff to come to the door to inform me that he had been killed. So that there even is a birthday is a victory.

He has no cake and no candles to make a wish over and blow out. So I make wishes for him. Probably things he’ll never wish for himself.

  • I wish he finds the smile he had when he was little
  • I wish he learns the value of education
  • I wish he comes to realize how incredible and valuable he is
  • I wish he decides to face his demons and heal from his trauma
  • I wish he learns to build relationships built on trust and respect not manipulation
  • I wish he stays safe
  • I wish he has many more happy, healthy birthdays

Happy birthday my sweet, sweet boy. Mommy loves you so much.