After the crazy weekend my family has had, perhaps its time to take a few steps out of the darkness...
I have three great children. Intelligent, charming, helpful, hardworking and special kids. One of them is RAD. When people compliment me on my wonderful kids I always say, "Its not me. They came here this way. I'm trying not to get in the way of their awesomeness."
The truth is...They didn't come to earth like this: passionate, powerful, determined and brilliant. Their lives have taught them some of those things. They came here: dependent, vulnerable, desperate, and fighting. No one so much so as my RAD son.Here's the difference.
Two of my boys went through difficult gestations, traumatic births and long periods of time in Newborn ICU. My youngest especially.
He was born 8 weeks premature. After popping his lung 12 hours after his birth, he was sedated, put on a ventilator and given chemicals to strengthen his lungs. His heart pounded with the effort it took him to breathe. His respitory rate was too high almost constantly. There were a few exceptions, however.
Even hours after he was born, he lay in a tiny heap in his incubator. His less than 5 pound body laboring, his eyes closed, and barely making a sound. The nurses told me, from the moment I walked into the room and he could here my voice, his heart rate would return to normal. His respitory rate would slow and he would rest. Just from the slight indication that his mom, whom he didn't know, had never seen, and didn't have enough cognitive power to process what a 'mom' is, he knew he was alright. We had a bond. We spent, in his case, seven months together. Some of it while he was just a clump of dividing and reproducing cells. Some of it singing to him, talking to him, asking him what his name was and sleeping curled up together. It is an unknowable but iron bond which forms between two people who are literally a part of one another.
Now, my RAD son...
RAD stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder. When a baby is in this dark, cold, and scary world they cling to their mom to care for them out of the womb as she did while in the womb. When their hunger, fear, discomfort, hydration and well being are not just neglected but ignored, the world is no longer a dark place from which they need refuge. The world is a monster, full of monsters who won't do anything except make you miserable.
My youngest son and my middle boy as well were both born into cold, medicinal, sterile enviroments. Because my husband and I talked, held, touched, fed and nurtured these little beings, they knew to trust and thrive because we were teaching them how. My oldest son recieved some care from his birth mother for a brief time in his infant life. We don't know how much. Because she helped him learn to attach to her, her decision to put him in an orphanage before he was two months old, shattered their bond like a fragile icicle. He still retains the remnants of the icicle, because she began building it. However, the impact of the shattering left him so deeply wounded, he is afraid to heal. If he closes his wounds and then someone, someone like me, tears them open again...he's sure he will die.
Instead he picks at the scabs to keep them open because the pain reminds him not to let anyone hurt him again. (By the way, this is an actual physical part of the disorder. Picking at sores, cutting themselves, digging at their skin, etc. etc.)
Some people dismiss this phenomenom stating that there is no way for a child to harbor these types of deep feelings about someone they can't remember. They dismiss the behavior as normal rebellion, kids who make mistakes and 'boys will be boys'. Those people are wrong. Why can a smell bring a memory to your mind. Why can a name, not a person, just the name gring emotions to your heart? Why do humans search for a loving Heavenly Power that they've never seen and can't remember? Because our cells have memory not connected with our brain. Those memories trigger: adrenaline, increased heart rate and respiration, hormones, chemicals and RAD behaviors
So...they're just victims of bad parents, chemicals, and hormones right? Ask yourself...Do you want your son or daughter growing up to believe they are broken, wounded, and victimized and there's nothing anyone, including themselves, can do about it? Its not the child's fault, but their dangerous behavior won't stop without accountability. They don't understand mercy, to them it is weakness and like a predatory animal they will attack.
RAD parents are taught to fight fire with water. A simple concept, but it means shutting down your outward expressions and meeting the attacks without emotion. It means listening to my son tell me how he's going to kill me, where he's going to hide the weapon, and how he's going to get away with it. The only thing I can do... nothing. Instead I walked him calmly and reasonably through the consequences and the outcome. He might not have meant it. It may have been his way of trying to scare me. It doesn't matter. The harm he will do himself doesn't register on his motivations scale, because revenge for the broken bond is all he feels.
When my RAD kid was 5 yrs. old, he started coming in the house with his hands covered in bee stings. Every day for weeks he'd cry and complain about the sores. "Honey, where are you finding all these bees? can you stay away from them?"
"I'm catching them in my hands," he said.
Stinging me hurts my hands, but it kills them."
After about 4 months of this he stopped. When I asked him why, he said, "I thought they'd stop stinging me because they'd die, but they didn't."
"There are too many for you to kill them all, bud."
He nodded. "That's why I stopped. It hurt too much and I couldn't win."
This is the memory I refer back to when I'm trying to figure out how to help him past his self-destructive behavior. He won't stop until it hurts him too much and he knows he can't win.
I can never give up, take a break, let someone else try, or 'send him back' as my nephew recommended. What ever pieces of his broken heart are starting to heal will be ruined if I can't have the strength to refuse to stop loving him.
When I first learned about RAD kids, the woman teaching the class told the parents..."You are in an abusive relationship. Your child is the abuser and you are the abusee."
I broke down and sobbed. On one hand It was a relief to have someone say I'm not the worst mother ever because my child hates me, but on the other hand I was defeated.
I always thought if I were to become involved with an abusive relationship I could walk away. Boyfriend, husband, parent, friend, roommate., it didn't matter I had the power to choose. On this day I knew I was naking a conscious decision to love, accept, and spend my life willingly accepting abuse.
My husband helps to sooth the scars. I'm lucky that way. Eight out of ten marriages with one or more reactive individuals end in divorce. The RAD kids divide and conquer to create disharmony in the family and keep the consequences off themselves. If they only understood they are creating the bee-stings while killing the bees. And it hurts them too much.
RAD kids are charming, adorable, happy, and sweet with distant acquaintances. Individuals like, neighbors, teachers, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents. These people don't have the power to tear open their deep wounds. Closer individuals will see it because they have to live with the behind closed doors behavior. Parents, siblings, therapists sometimes and anyone who lives with or knows someone who lives with a RAD kid. Parents get judged for being mean, cruel, and unloving because real love is doing what's best for the person you love, not watching your own back. My RAD son taught me this. As far as he's concerned teachers aren't looking out for him, they're keeping peace for their other students, their families, and their jobs. Friends, neighbors and well-meaning family members aren't doing what's best for him, they're more worried about their own feelings, families and lives. Public humiliation and looking like an abused child in public is another of their weapons. You will create different consequences in front of people whom you care what they think of you and your parenting. Consequence gone, or parent becomes monster...either way they win. Being right is always more important than being happy and "their way" is the only way. The more mature section of their mind thinks they wouldn't hurt so much if things had been done their way in the first place, admitting you're wrong means someone hurt you and you let it happen. RAD kids won't even approach that mind set.
I've read and studied everything I can find on RAD kids to try to understand and do what's best for him. The truth is there is no cure. Parents can make progress and pray for a day in the future when it finally sinks in, but many RAD kids never get it. Some do, though. Not giving up is the answer.When their choices have consequences that take them out of your home, its their choice. Let them know with soft conversations, clear and concise dialogue and "the water" we talked about earlier that you love them, want them and always will. It is their choice to behave in such a way that they can't remain in your home. Don't send them away because you're frustrated though. You must choose to take the abuse. I know its sounds wrong, but everything you do with a RAD kid is backwards from your loving tendancies.Those of us who have RAD kids say this to each other all the time. "I totally get it. You're a good parent, hang in there and call me if you need to talk."
Most of us don't do it. We keep our dirty secrets locked behind closed doors so No one can judge our bad parenting.No one can label our kids and No one can make it worse by being well-meaning but clueless. If you had the solutions to raising my RAD son, God would've given him to you. My Father-in-Heaven believes I can do this. If God is on my side, does it matter who isn't?
So I'll say it again to any of you who have a RAD kid. "You are a good, loving, tough parent. Keep it up. I know its lonely and I pray and cry for you. If you ever want to talk to someone who gets it, e-mail me. Mostly Hang on, you're not alone!"