The Siblings in the Crossfire

He looked scared from an early age. But August seems happy to have a baby brother![/caption] As you read this I am driving down to North Carolina to see August’s brother this weekend in his Spring musical. For those who don’t know, he lives there with his dad while I’m living on my little farm in Indiana. Living away from him is one of the hardest things for me but there were a series of events that necessitated it which would require several blog posts to explain. When I moved five years ago, August stayed down there as well but that didn’t last long and he ended up in Indiana with me within six months (future blog post material…). But this trip got me thinking about the effects of RAD on our non-RAD kiddos. The groups that belong to and have over the years have been chock full of stories of the side effects of having to dedicate so much time to our RAD children that the rest of the family suffers. One of my earliest memories was the story of a woman in Oklahoma who had finally gotten her child into a psychiatric placement but her insurance had run out and she was now faced with the following dilemma: if she went and picked up the child and brought it home she would be arrested for child endangerment because she had other children at home and the RAD child had tried to poison them by putting tile grout cleaner in their shampoo bottles. If she didn’t go get the child she’d be arrested for child abandonment. Truly a no-win situation. My youngest son was not expected. Without getting too personal, near as I can tell, we accepted the referral to become August’s parents on a Wednesday and our son was conceived that following weekend. So much was going on during the time between getting the referral and preparing for going to Russia it didn’t even cross my mind that I could be pregnant. So, yet again, the two children’s fates collided when we got our court date on Friday May 1st and found out on Sunday May 3rd that a second child was on the way. My younger son witnessed a lot of things no small child should ever see. I remember one day when I was holding August during one of his rages. This meant him seated in front of me on the floor with my legs wrapped around his legs. One of my arms around both of his and the other harm holding his head so he couldn’t head-butt me. Usually I could get the door closed so my youngest didn’t have to see this but this one happened quickly. He walked by-he was maybe 5 at the time-and I remember saying in my calmest voice, “Everything’s OK”. He very quickly replied, “It doesn’t look OK.” Out of the mouths of babes. He heard all the screaming and saw all the destruction of the house. August was abusive to him both emotionally and mentally. He spent so much time alone while his father and I had to focus on his brother. I have spoken a lot about August’a resilience. He survived the first three years in Russia first being abused and neglected by his birth family then in an orphanage. But now that my younger son is a junior in high school and I’m starting to see the man he is becoming, I am in awe of his resilience as well.  Realizing what he has survived from living in a household with a child with RAD, I know he has equal survival skills. I have been guilty (as I’m sure we all have) by going down the rabbit hole with our RAD kiddos and getting too caught up in their drama and mayhem. I’ve taken for granted that my non-RAD son is good because he always has been. And I’ve dealt with the guilt of knowing that I’ve done that. I remember once my younger son realized that August got his birthday and “Gotcha Day” because he was adopted and that I got my birthday and Mother’s Day and his dad got his birthday and Father’s Day and was upset because he only got one day (I told you he was bright). That’s just the tip of the iceberg of all the ways he’s been short-changed in growing up with a RAD sibling. I must admit he and August have had some really nice conversations since August has been in prison. August has said he’d like to make amends for what he knows was horrible treatment of him when he was little. I would love to think they can repair the relationship as they become adults. They won’t have me to kick around down the road!Please feel free to share your stories of dealing with your RAD and non-RAD children. The successes and the dramas! Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

Mothers and Sons

When I was young there were no boys in the house, just me and my sister. So I became the boy. I could bait my own hook, played soccer, went out at night looking for night crawlers, went ice fishing. Neither my sister nor I were particularly girly (she was a swimmer), no matter how many matching dresses my grandma made. But when I grew up I just assumed I’d have girls because that’s what I knew. And when my friends started having children their first-born’s all made sense…of course! She’s a “boy-mommy”. I just KNEW I was going to be a “girl-mommy”. Now when you adopt, the surprise is gone and when you adopt from Russia there’s even less. We knew we’d be getting a boy. It flew in the face of everything I believed about my path to motherhood. But at that point my path to motherhood had taken every twist and turn it could so I was just along for the ride. But when I saw the video…that face…he was my son. As sure as I was giving birth to him. I was a “boy-mommy”. I’ve said this to friends before but I truly believe that August saved me and his brother. Getting pregnant with Spencer wasn’t planned and if I didn’t have August, I wouldn’t have been nearly as healthy during my pregnancy. Having August meant I stayed active, ate better and didn’t obsess about being pregnant which I’d tried for eight years to become. I am forever grateful to him for that. All along this journey he has fought me. We have fought over bedtime, food, school, medication, therapy, clothing, haircuts, computer time, TV time, video time, girls, curfew, drinking, drugs, and so much more. But mothers and sons. And this mother and THIS son. I know before it’s over this current conflict will have us arguing more I’m sure. And I’ll take it. And give it back. Because that’s what mothers do. And maybe I’m having to do it on a scale many of you won’t ever have to deal with and can’t possibly comprehend. I certainly hope so! That’s the point of this whole blog and my wish for you who are dealing with these precious damaged children. Till next time, Shannon  ]]>

My First "Family Friday"!

  • Plant a garden. Start with a seed and see how it grows (incrementally) each day. No yard? A cup of soil on the windowsill works just as well. You don’t need a fancy store-bought kit!
  • Get cooking. “It works well because you have to get the ingredients, combine them, and then wait before you get your reward,” says registered nurse Rona Renner.
  • Make a wish list. It’s never too early to start a birthday list. When your child finally gets her coveted toys, the payoff will be especially sweet.
  • Do jigsaw puzzles. Bring on all 400 pieces! Resist the urge to help your child find the place for that one tricky piece.
  • Plan a surprise. It doesn’t have to be a birthday blowout. Your kids will learn the value of delayed gratification, says family physician Deborah Gilboa, even if they’re bringing Dad breakfast in bed.
  • Raise caterpillars. “Every year, I order a cup of caterpillars. First, we wait for the package to arrive, Then it takes 7 to 10 days for the caterpillars to attach to the cup and another week before the emerge as butterflies–a spectacular reward,” says parenting expert Lori Lite.
  • Now with RAD, some of these are easier than others. But hopefully one or two might be a calming activity you can do together or spark some other ideas. Getting that mind engaged and focused where you can see the beautiful mind inside is a reward worth fighting for. Please share your ideas and your success stories! I’d love to hear from you!    ]]>

    Nature vs. Nurture

    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. 10306234_10203907719320005_801684289185291184_n]]>