When I got pregnant with my 13 year old I had confidence in my ability to be a good mom. My son was an only child for 8 years and I was a good mom. Together, my husband and I raised a great kid.
When we adopted I still had that confidence. Why not? The difficult kids were the older ones. How different could raising a kid adopted at 18 months old be?
So where did my confidence go? It’s gone. My confidence in myself as a mom at 32 years old is minuscule compared to that as a 19 year old. Isn’t that backwards?
Having a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) has sucked the confidence out of me. I second-guess everything. I have heard so many negative comments about my parenting; especially while my daughter was still so superficially charming that she manipulated everyone around her. I understand how it must look to people. Really I do.
Let me paint a picture for you – here is this little girl… all the way into the building she’s angry. She’s ready to go into a rage any second. She’s trying hard to pull away, being defiant, throwing dirty looks. The second she enters the building she transforms. Now her head hangs. Her lip quivers. Giant tears glisten at the edges of her eyes. She glances up for someone to manipulate. She catches one! They move in close and ask, “oh darling, what’s the matter, you look so sad?”
Enter the mom. That lady standing next to her that is still upset that less than a minute ago she was defiant and ready to run. The mom is cautious; she knows what’s coming, the child has caught someone with those big tears. This is nothing new, mom’s tired and weary; she’s defensive and doesn’t look nice at all, hostile even. She looks like she doesn’t give this child love ever. Not that you’ve seen. Every time you see her she’s annoyed.
The unsuspecting person decides the child just needs a big hug.
Here’s the hard part. Mom has to say no to the hug. Mom knows the child can’t get attention while manipulative, otherwise it will never end. Healing is more important than mom saving face.
Wow! That mom isn’t very nice. How can you deny a child comfort? And then it comes later, the accusation – mom uses love as a punishment tool. The shocked look to the mom. The “I’m so sorry for you” look to the child.
And another ounce of confidence is chipped away.
This is where I lived. Thankfully my daughter is healing! This doesn’t happen every time we leave the house anymore. I don’t dread church anymore, or the grocery store. But my confidence is still gone and the hurtful words swirl in my head, especially on the hard days. When you mix these harsh judgments with a child you’re trying to love that keeps rejecting you, it’s not easy. Rejection is coming from both ends. How does a person deal with this?
All I wanted to do was love a child.
Please don’t read what I’m not saying. I’m not saying it’s my child’s fault. She is a beautiful little girl, full of compassion and love. She is strong and amazing, angry, hurt and confused. Most importantly she’s healing.
I’m not writing this for you to feel sorry for me. Please don’t. It’s hard but it’s a privilege to raise my daughter. While I don’t enjoy the hard moments I do enjoy the progress that comes from them. Every bit of healing is cherished.
I’m not writing this to make anyone feel bad if they have judged me and are reading this now. I do understand what it looks like, really I do.
I’m not writing this so anyone will think I’m the perfect parent either. Hard parenting = PLENTY of mistakes.
I’m writing this because moms with RAD kids need support. Thankfully I have a wonderful group of friends who supported me before they even knew what RAD was. They all know I love my child and that every day I fight for her and pray for her healing.
If you know a mom with a child who has RAD and she looks exhausted…she is. This article from Families.com is the best one I’ve seen on being supportive to RAD families.
In addition pray for them! Always remember – It’s not important for you to bond with the child, it’s important for the mom to, first, and foremost.
Most importantly, I’m writing this because I need to get it out. It’s been pent up for too long and it’s time for healing.
For my daughter and for myself.
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