When the judge asked the question, I said, “I do.”
Inside, I was terrified. What had I just agreed to? Can I really do this? I was not as sure as the words came from my mouth telling the judge I would.
I was truly relieved the wait was over, and things were finished. Somehow, I hoped life would improve now that we committed and couldn’t turn back.
Yet…they didn’t change. Things are difficult.
When he is angry, which is most of the time, he will turn his back to me when I speak. Sometimes, he walks out of the room as I talk to him.
Doors slam. A lot.
Things are sometimes broken purposefully, in anger.
To the outside world, he is charming. Polite. Affectionate. He is so sweet. He will try to help if he can, with a smile. In public, he will even be sweet to me. Nobody understands that it isn’t that way at home…that at home he is mean. That I am not making up stories when I say he would never act this way privately.
He rarely speaks to me in a tone of voice that is pleasant. Most of the time he growls at me, or shouts.
He creates chaos. He fuels my anxiety to a point where I now need medication.
He is a bully. He likes to make us angry, and admits it. He had actually said he likes to see me mad. He pushes my buttons continuously. He lies, manipulates, and fights for control of every situation.
I purposefully committed to this bully. This personal attacker. Why would I do this to my family?
My youngest also seems incredibly anxious. I wonder how this all impacts his life. My oldest secludes often. Also, she takes anxiety medication now too.
Did I make a mistake? I wanted to believe I could do this this. I wanted to believe things would be better. I felt an obligation to continue moving forward, even though I had doubts.
I live in fear he will end up hurting someone. I worry our family will split.
If you read the above, and think…why don’t you just leave him? Why don’t you get a divorce?
It is because I am not talking about my husband.
I am talking about my son. My 8yo boy.
This is what reactive attachment disorder is like.
If I were in this type of abusive relationship in my marriage (my husband is wonderful btw), I could end it. There would be help, support, and anger toward the abuser.
But, when the abuser in the home is your child, you are blamed. You are held responsible. You are doubted.
It isn’t his fault. Prior to being placed with us he was neglected. His brain didn’t develop properly. He never formed proper attachments. He also was born addicted to drugs, which surely adds complications.
He doesn’t trust. He prefers superficial relationships that have a time limit. For example, with his teachers. The relationship lasts from 8am to 3pm, for one school year. He will charm them, and they all think I am crazy when I say he is tough to deal with at home.
They will undo any work I do, by giving him the extra attention he seeks. They will make things harder for us, even though their intentions are good.
Should I have said, “I do” when the judge asked if I felt I could provide this boy with a good home?
I wanted to. I still want to. But it is HARD. I don’t always do the right things. We don’t live in an area with proper therapies or support.
I can’t help but think of how much easier life would be if I had said “no.”
How much less stress we would have daily. How much happier and lighter we would feel.
But, he needs us. He needs a place to land. He needs a family.
I do think his placement with us was likely a bad choice by social workers. I do think as professionals his issues should have been recognized and addressed. I think he would have made more gains as an only child in a household. But, that isn’t how it happened.
We accepted all of this, we chose to move forward. We struggle to make it all work.
Some days are better than others.
I love him. I do. But if I am honest, I don’t always like him. And that is hard to admit. I am my own harshest critic. I feel like I am failing him.
With RAD, you have to do things so much differently than you do with other kids. It goes against all of your parenting instincts, and is hard to do. Even harder when there are other kids in the home. To parent one so differently, feels nearly impossible. I cannot turn my emotions on and off so rapidly. But I try. I don’t always succeed, but I try.
It is hard not to take what he does personally. To remind yourself this is his trauma, and it isn’t really about us. When I can sit and reflect, I know it is not personal. In the heat of the moment, when he is defiant and mean, it feels very personal.
We chose this. I thought it would have been so much better by now. Time heals, right?
But we can’t erase the trauma. We can’t make the brain forget.
All we can do is try our best. To try to give him what he needs, the tools for future success, and hope he uses them.
It is hard for me to accept we may never have the proper bonded relationship. It may be impossible. But I need to keep trying, just in case.
I admit, on hard days, I wonder why I did this. But in the good moments, I remember…
Everything isn’t about me. We were led to this path of fostering and adoption for a reason. We can do this.
I will fight to succeed.
I will fight so he can succeed.
It won’t be an easy path. But I chose it.