Attachment

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Sometimes, I blame myself for the bond (or lack of bond) with my middle son. I wonder what I could do to make it better.

If I talk about it with other people who haven’t fostered or adopted, they will make excuses for me.

Well, you missed the cuddly baby years with him.

If you had gotten him as an infant…

Most people without these experiences assume that if you miss the baby time, you can’t possibly bond fully, or love a child the same way.

While I struggle with a bond with my middle kiddo, it isn’t just because I didn’t get to parent him during his infancy. I have been a foster parent to many children. And there have been some very real bonds with kids who were not babies. Some children felt very much my own…even though I would only have them a short while. Some I longed to raise to adulthood, and still mourn the loss of knowing who they are today.

So, while I believe my son would be bonded if I had been with him when he was an infant, I do know I am capable of bonding with older children too.

The issue with him is he is unable to bond. That is what reactive attachment disorder is.

I have to keep trying. But I also know we may never get the same connection as I have with my other 2 kids.

But it isn’t an adoption issue, or an age issue…

It is a trauma issue.

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Valentine’s day in elementary school

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I helped my kids make their valentine’s for their friends last night. This consisted of writing classmates names on a premade card with a piece of candy attached.

When I was young, candy was a bonus. Most kids just had the chatacter card.

Now, I see kids handing out full gift bags! A gift bag!! Are you fucking kidding me? For Valentine’s day??

I already deal with the birthday gift bag situation…and was annoyed when that became the norm. Not only do we have to pay for the party and food, now we also have to provide a gift bag to those who attend? Wtf overachiever parents? Who made this new rule?

And now, bags of shit for Valentine’s day??? Multiple pieces if candy, pencils, stickers, tattoos, and a card?? I am dying. Who started this?

My kid was thrilled with his candy purchase. Now, when he sees some give entire bags of shit, he will be requesting we do this next year. Because, every kid wants to give the best stuff, right?

Dear other parents,

Stop it! Keep it simple! Those if us regular parents want our kids to feel happy with their single candy handout, not inferior to your grand gesture of gift bags.

Knock it off. Chill the fuck out. It is elementary school for the love of God!

Sincerely,

Not an overachiever, just a regular mom

I lied to myself

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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.

My little boy

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Currently, I am sitting next to my little boy as he plays his handheld video games. His brother and a friend are playing their games on the other side of the room. All are content.

I love my kids. All of them.

My little boy is special though. His demeanor is sweet, extra sensitive, and loving.

Today at school, one of his assignments included picking a favorite sentence from a group and copying it. He chose, “This is my mom” from the group.

At night, when we say our prayers, he typically thanks God for his “wonderful mother.”

I mean…wow.

Our connection and bond is strong.

His brother has reactive attachment disorder…so my bond with him is strained.

I have a great bond with my daughter. It is actually fun for me to have an adult child…though it is painful to know she doesn’t need me as much.

I am so thankful for the strong bond with my little boy.

He still likes to cuddle. He still likes me to carry him from his bed in the morning, and carry him to bed at night. If he thinks I am angry or upset, he immediately begins to cry. He is just a sweetheart.

The other day, I almost referenced giving birth to him in a flippant comment. But…I didn’t. Both of my boys joined us thru foster care adoption. But…I am so connected with my smallest child that I sometimes forget.

I truly forget that I didn’t carry him and birth him. It is…both amazing and odd. Amazing that he is so totally my son that I can overlook how it happened. Odd that I can actually forget (if only for a brief moment) that he grew in someone else’s belly.

And then I feel guilt. Guilt that I forget. Guilt that I never forget my other son joined us thru adoption…since his RAD refuses me the luxury of forgetting.

I feel happy though too. Happy that my love for him and our bond is not affected or defined by his adoption.

I love all of my children. I am bonded thoroughly with 2…and I struggle with one. But I will fiercely protect them all and try to make them into confident and successful people.

I am thankful that my little guy didn’t suffer an attachment disorder. I am grateful we have our strong bond. If both of my boys were difficult, I think I would crumble.

My little guy is so loving, and fills me with so much joy, I think he saves me from depression. He saves me from feeling like a failure. He fills me up with love when I am knocked down.

And for that, I am grateful for my sweet, loving, superhero of a son.

Life is good right now

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I am really having a great month, and we are only 6 days into February!!

We picked up our first exotic pet after finally obtaining our permit.

I am not going to disclose the animal, since I try to keep this blog anonymous. But I will say it is unbelievable to actually have this amazing creature in my home.

Also, this month is the month we adooted our boys…so we think of it as love month. Valentine’s day, adootiin anniversaries…all love!

Things got a little hard for awhile…but now they are overwhelmingly great.

I must remember this when things get hard…

One (or more) bad day doesn’t equal a bad life.

Breathe. Give it time.

Feeling grateful.

Dear Immigrants

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Dear Immigrants,

My heart hurts for you. I cannot imagine the fear this administration is putting you through.

Today, I overheard a conversation in my elementary school office about a boy who only had a Mexican birth certificate, and debating on where the sibling baby was born.

Why? Why does a school need to worry about this? Why can’t the focus be giving any child who walks thru the door an education?

Realizing someone from my small town is being personally affected by this racist adminstration brought instant tears to my eyes. My heart feels heavy. I wish I knew the family so I could help in some way. Do they need assistance with reading paperwork? Do they need help figuring out what documents they need?

I cannot imagine moving to a new country, where the language is different, and trying to figure out all the legal details. I cannot imagine having some of my children born in one country, and some born in another…and the fear of being seperated if paperwork isn’t in order.

Please know that this administration does not represent all of the people in the United States. Please know many of us welcome immigrants and refugees. Many of us recognize immigration is at the very core of what this country stands for, and we are appalled by the messages sent by our current administration. Our hearts are heavy too.

Please seek out help to find a way to be safe. Find the people who will help you. We do exist. We are not all racists who believe immigrants are criminals. We understand the courage it takes to leave all that you know behind in order to start over. We have high hopes that we can help you feel safe, secure, and successful. All of us do not look down upon you. Some of us see courage, strength, and hope when we hear you struggle with our difficult language. We don’t all want to build a stupid wall, or send people away. Some of us support DACA, and dreamers. Some of us aren’t assholes.

Immigrants, please don’t lose hope. Please don’t judge us all by the words and actions of those ignorant racist politicians.

I am ashamed at the tone this country has taken in response to our fundamental core values of helping those in need, and welcoming immigrants.

My heart is heavy. My vote will count. I promise to vote to help you, rather than hurt you.

I want you to feel welcomed, not afraid.

Dear God, I have a few suggestions…

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Dear God,

First, thank you for all my blessings. I know I am about to sound ungrateful. This is not my intention. I am grateful, truly. But, I do have a few suggestions…

(In random order…)

  • Could you redesign kids with a volume switch?
  • Would it be possible for boys to actually pee IN the toilet? Or at least clean up messes themselves?
  • Could standard tubs actually cover my whole body in water? Feeling a bit upset that I cannot actually take a relaxing bath unless I remodel and get a bigger tub.
  • Could mom guilt and judgements stop being a thing? The job is hard enough already (again, grateful…but just sayin)
  • Could brownies and ice cream please be health foods?
  • Did I mention volume control for kids??!!
  • Could periods not be a thing? Don’t females suffer enough with childbirth? Could we eliminate the period?
  • Could I please be able to understand animals like Sofia? I will wear an amulet if needed…
  • Could people stop being assholes?
  • Can the winter season please be shorter?
  • Can school shootings never happen again…ever.
  • Could racism and bigotry end?
  • Can we learn from mistakes the first time?
  • Can we please get the cure for cancer?

Only a few things on my mind right now…

Again, super grateful.

On a more personal note…can my daughter please be discovered for her talents soon, so she doesn’t leave the country in pursuit of her career?

Can my son make a miraculous recovery from his attachment disorder so we can get along better as a family?

Can all of my kids just feel safe, secure, confident, and loved? Can all kids actually feel this way?

A sincere thank you, God, for all of my many blessings.

But, I hope you might consider my suggestions.

Envy, body image, and shame

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My college freshman daughter hasn’t gained the “freshman 15” people joke about this year. As a matter of fact, she has LOST about 15 lbs.

I am happy for her, since she wasn’t really trying or stressing to do it. It just happened. Isn’t that nice for her? She was sensitive about the size of her chest, and losing a few pounds reduced her chest by a full cup size.

She wasn’t overweight. She wasn’t unhappy with herself. She has always had a confidence I admire. That said, I can see her confidence boosted even further with this weight loss.

When my dad died, I put on some weight. I am STRUGGLING, trying to get my ideal body back. It happened so fast, and I feel miserable and ashamed that I let it get out of hand.

I was a comfortable size 4-6. I am now an 8-10. I put on about 20 lbs, with the first 15 happening in 4 weeks. It is nearly 2 yrs later, and I have lost 10…ONLY 10!!!

My daughter and I are the same height. Yet, we wear our weight so differently. My body is shaped like a pear…I have larger hips and thighs. She has a body that is more evenly proportioned, with a large chest.

She always looks great. I…do not.

I am jealous of her. I admit it. We are currently only 5 lbs different in weight, and she looks great! Meanwhile, I still look chunky.

She has never worried about her body. I always talked to her as she grew up about weight not being important, as long as you are healthy.

I am a hypocrite. I obsess over my weight. As a teen, I struggled with an eating disorder. I have never felt I liked myself or my body.

Thankfully, I didn’t pass this to her. I succeeded in helping her be comfortable in her own skin in ways I have never been. I envy her…oh, do I envy her.

I still strugglr to keep my insecurities from influencing how she sees herself. It is hard.

Childhood anxiety

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My youngest is full of anxiety. He worries about EVERYTHING.

Lately, getting him off to school has been a real challenge. After winter break, and then some illness, he hadn’t gotten back into routine.

He begins his worrying at night, at bedtime. He cries, insists he hates school. In the morning, more tears.

I feel like an awful mom sending him to school. I am trying everything I can to help him with his anxiety.

My latest attempt at a solution seems to be helping…love notes.

I give him a note each day to put in his pocket. Some sort of simple encouragement…”I love you, have a fun day” etc. He feels more secure if he has a note.

His anxiety encompasses so many aspects of his day. He worries about snack because he is the only kid who prefers white milk to chocolate milk, therefore he must be weird. He worries about arriving at school and being late (he hasn’t been late…but he fears it). He worries he won’t have a friend to play with at recess. He worries the teacher will be angry if he makes any mistakes (she is a nice, patient teacher). He is just full of worry and anxiety.

He is my mini. Oh, how I love him.

I wish I could calm his fears. As a mom with anxiety, I know his feelings are very real. And I just love this little boy so much, and wish I could ease the anxiety.

For now, love notes. Lots of love notes.