Each child is unique… And that includes each child with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). Whether your child was adopted, fostered, separated from you due to various circumstances such as hospitalizations for you or baby during those formative years, or born with another disorder that made attachment impossible early on, how we got here is sometimes our focus. It’s easy to place blame, point fingers, or feel like the victim. It’s easy, because we are human and we are up against insurmountable odds, day in and day out.
As parents raising these kids, we often feel like we stand in the crossfire of our children and the world. However the situation came to be, we all wake up each morning with a mindset different from that of parents raising children who attach freely. We are the warriors who face endless ridicule from the ones we raise as well as from the society we live in.
And so, in honor of my fellow parents of children with this difficult diagnosis, let me tell you what RAD means to me.
RAD means knowing that I will be reminding my child to shower and brush his teeth for the next 40 years, and knowing that for 41 years he will probably still be lying to me that he already did.
RAD means repainting walls to cover marker, blood, scratches done with stolen scissors when angry, and those pesky fecal smears that refuse to fade.
RAD means going to at least 4 therapy sessions a month, 2 psychiatrist visits (one for my children, one for me), an ISPT meeting, an IEP conference, and daily emails or phone calls from teachers, bus drivers, Sunday school leaders, and case workers.
RAD means finding urine in random places… RAD also means knowing exactly where to look in the first place.
RAD means counting to 10 a million times per day.
RAD means telling my daughter that I love her, having my heart soar as she returns the comment, and then to find my expensive belongings smashed to pieces moments later.
RAD means being my child’s most loyal advocate on the same day that I screamed at him for getting suspended again.
RAD means loving my child and hating my child and loving them again, all within the same week (or hour).
RAD means holding my tongue when other parents tell me that my child is displaying “normal kid behavior” and speaking my mind when people without children offer me behavior management advice.
RAD means recognizing that the world doesn’t understand my child and that their advice comes from good intentions and not always judgment. And it means that those that do use judgment have been blessed enough not to have a child with this difficult diagnosis, so I will choose to overlook their ignorance.
RAD means accepting that my child may never learn to love me in the same way that I love her… but hoping that our combined love will be enough for the both of us.
RAD means screaming into pillows, crying into pillows, and throwing pillows for therapeutic purposes on a regular basis.
RAD means feeling incredible responsibility to form these small people into independent, contributing members of society.
RAD also means feeling incredibly humbled to have been chosen for such a challenging task.
It means fearing for safety, mine and his – praying for restoration of his mind and his emotions – asking for forgiveness when my compassion has been replaced by rage – choosing to believe that I’m making a difference, even if it can’t be seen right now – and realizing that I’m only accountable for how I raise my child, not for how my child turns out in the end.
RAD means laughing to keep from going crazy, finding comfort when another parent “gets it”, and requiring myself to be creative in the way that I function from day to day, consequence to consequence, and reaction to reaction.
My family may not look like that of my neighbor’s or the ones whom attend my child’s school. But then again, I had stopped comparing others to us long ago. Because I realized that this is the life I was given – and the most beautiful things often grow from the roughest of soil. And so we are choosing to bloom where we have been planted, plucking weeds daily and watering the heck out of our kids with love and forgiveness, recognizing that they are not the weeds, but the flowers…. Yes, flowers that smear feces at times. But flowers nevertheless.
None of us was created without a purpose. Not one. So, to me, RAD means choosing to see potential, strength, perseverance, and survival that has come to me in very small packages… and helping them to find that purpose.
If you are a parent of a child suffering from RAD, know that you, too, have a purpose… thank you for your incredible courage in raising your child – the strength to get up each morning even when you fear the worse from the day. You are doing such strong work and, even though you may never see the fullness of your efforts, know that you have been blessed to be a blessing. Through the criticisms and the weird glances at the grocery store and the umpteen appointments you have each week, know that you are not alone. I am so honored to stand with a crowd of such amazing men and women who do the hard work ceaselessly. You are amazing.
If you find yourself in need of extra support while parenting a difficult child, please check out the parenting membership at www.mommyhoodsfs.com/store/ for more help.