Friday, November 27, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs...



I have had several emails responding to the comment left on my last blog post. "Miserable and Destroyed" has shared her adoption experience and cautioned us to see many of the mountains we have had to climb as signs from God that we should not be proceeding. She has admittedly had a very rough experience with adopting an older child, perhaps one like we have all seen highlighted in magazines and on news shows with older children suffering with Reactive Attachment Disorder. My heart goes out to her, as it sounds as if she has suffered tremendously, not only with the adoption of her daughter, but has faced many other trials as well. There is a lot of pain there if you read between the lines.

Have we had things stand in our way that have told us to "stop"? Are we not listening to some sort of Divine Message? Are we ignoring signs that we are about to bring about the ruination of our family?

Do you think those thoughts haven't entered our minds with EVERY adoption?

Of course they have. In those quieter moments in the middle of the night, when I come across blogs of folks struggling mightily to conquer the RAD monster, when I speak with moms on the phone who turn to me for support and encouragement when no one else believes how their child acts behind closed doors...of course it makes me scared to think of what we might be bringing home.

In her comment she writes "And, now, now after the fact, I have become aware of so many other "forever families" in our adoption agency group who adopted older girls (seems to almost always be girls) whose lives are similar. They just covered up the realities out of shame or embarrassment. But, most of the "Mother figures" now say they want their lives back, they are tired of being cursed at daily, their daughters are the poster children of defiance. And, we are all so angry that we were misled, deceived, when we tried to do a good thing."

Those words are hard to read. They sadden me deeply. I do not distance myself from that experience...how could I after Josh? But there were a few things that stood out for me, and because I am receiving so many private emails about this I thought I should talk about my thoughts openly here. "they just covered up the realities of shame or embarrassment". Sadly, that is true. It takes a strong and straight thinking parent to see RAD for what it is...not a reflection on your parenting but a VERY VERY UNDERSTANDABLE reaction to life experiences.

We see attachment disorder as "wrong" and as "damaged" instead of...at least in my mind...seeing it for what it is, a perfectly reasonable reaction to pain inflicted on someone in childhood who does not have a large bank of positive attachment experiences to turn to and create some sense of balance when hurt by someone. Reactive Attachment Disorder is how living beings...be it animal or human...respond to being harmed, ignored and rejected by others.Think about it for a moment. When you were dating in high school or college, and loved someone deeply only to find they betrayed you or hurt you in some way, weren't you a little more cautious as you entered your next relationship? Imagine that kind of deep pain coming at an early stage of your life when you had no good experiences to look back on and help place the bad one in context. If the ONLY experiences you have had have included relationships where your needs were not met, where you could not trust someone (adults) to take care of you, and you had never had an adult who truly had YOUR best interest in mind and you could count on, what would adults be for you? When you think about it, RAD is not at all irrational, it makes perfect sense to me.

The problem lies in the very true statement our commenter makes, that adoptive parents cover up the realities out of needless shame or embarrassment. I was told this very thing by a therapist in Colorado Springs, that infant attachment disorder is far less known because adoptive parents think it reflects poorly on them, that they personalize it and are embarrassed to admit their child doesn't love them...and yes, that they don't love their child who is acting so unlovable. Hard stuff to admit, especially about an infant. It is wrong thinking in personalizing it as if the adoptive parent caused it instead of seeing it as a condition their child came to them with a condition they will help them through. It is this denial and fear of being “discovered” that keeps families from getting the help they need as soon as possible. Think about it, how awful would it be to admit that this longed for child is a wreck and hates you but cuddles up to others? Of course they do, there is no risk in warming up to strangers! With you...oh, the harm you could inflict on them if they should let go and love you! How terrifying it must be to try one more time to trust someone when your entire life you have been let down. What courage it takes for ANY adopted child to trust a new family. And that is not going to happen over night, nor is it always going to be possible.

I remember 10 years ago speaking with our Social Worker and discussing RAD, and how we felt we could handle physical disabilities but RAD was the single thing I thought I would not be able to handle. I was scared after all the horror stories used to prepare us for what might lay ahead, for you sure don't hear much about the tens of thousands of adoptions that go smoothly and the children bond quickly with their parents. I am so glad I didn't let those "newbie" fears stop us. We sure might have...

But look at what we gained...

Some kids are damaged beyond repair. But not many. The fact is that most can be helped tremendously, if parents admit there is a problem in the first place and place their child's needs ahead of their own fear of being seen as lacking. And yes, those fears are true...we have been judged countless times for the way we parent, for the screaming toddler we hauled around who was so very, angry and awful at moments. We have been judged right here on the blog for so many, many things we have done or not done in our life. We have had
people roll their eyes at us when they learn our children sleep on our floor once or twice a week, or that Josh was in bed with us until he was almost 5. We lost friendships with those who didn't
want to be involved as we struggled, we lost our son's early childhood to anger, we lost money for
treatments of all sorts.

But look what we gained.

And yes, I do know it could have gone the other way. Oh believe me, how I know it. As we adopted Kenn
y, it was never far from my mind...what in the world are we doing here? Are we STUPID or what? Why rock the boat after finally hitting smooth seas? Why adopt an older boy with special needs when we already have 2 boys and we are happy? Don't I realize how badly this could turnout?


But look what we gained.

Parenting is not easy. Adoptive parenting is not easy. Biological parenting is not easy.

Another thing that stood out to me in our commenter’s words was this statement:
“And, we are all so angry that we were misled, deceived, when we tried to do a good thing." And in an earlier statement she said “We went in to the adoption process wanting to "make a difference in the world" and have a legacy behind us when we were gone - but that is certainly not happening. “.

I know many wonderful people decide to adopt to “do a good thing” or to “make a difference in the world”. I also have found over the past 10 years that those who adopt for those reasons alone are often not prepared for the reality of what adoption brings. Sure, we all love that adoption makes a difference in a child’s life, but when that is the main motivator…when we want to merely “do good” and are not in it 100% because we want to parent, it is too easy to emotionally jump ship when our “project” bombs or when the fairy tale turns into a nightmare.

Dominick and I both know this is no fairy tale. As I said to one person this week already, I know that standing on the outside looking in it appears to be magical, this family story of ours. But it is not. They are real children with real histories that are not always what one would voluntarily want to invite into your home.

I can’t even really explain all the reasons we want to, for some are more elusive “gut feelings” than concrete reasons. But the one reason that has never changed in all these years of building our family is…we want to be a mom and dad. What we are doing is not altruistic in any way. Sounds selfish, doesn’t it? But the fact remains, our kids are not some sort of “do good’ers pet project” we are tackling so we can have people stand back and say “You are such saints!”. Heck, I could find much easier, less time consuming and frustrating things to do if that were all we wanted. No, we are adopting our girls for the same reason we adopted all three of our sons, because nothing in life has brought us more joy or more satisfaction. And nothing…and I do mean NOTHING in this world has ever made us feel more like we are doing what we was put on earth here to do. Everything else takes a back seat to simply being a family, to creating love, to nurturing others. For Dominick as well as myself, jobs are a means to an end, they are not who we are. They are a way of supporting what goes on at home.

I want to be a mom more than I have ever wanted to be anything in the whole world. I may have talents and skills in other areas that could have brought us decent financial rewards had I chosen to pursue them. Dominick could have made his career a priority and looked for satisfaction away from home rather than in the home.

But I think that it is wanting this parenting thing more than anything else that helps you hang on when the going is rough, that pushes you to advocate for your children when others have given up, to act lovingly even when love may not yet have developed…and, if need be, to relinquish your children on the rare occasion that you discover they are indeed so disturbed that you will never be able to help them and your own life is in danger. But many relinquish with love, even if you might not believe that is possible…I have spoken to a few who have done so and whose voices still carry the sound of regret that they were unable to help their son or daughter…who don’t call them “that kid” but will forever see them as their child.

When it comes to Dominick and I, neither of us could care less if we, in the words of anonymous, “have a legacy behind us when we are gone.”. That again seems to be more worrying about what others think than about wanting to be a mom or a dad. And my children are not my “legacy”. Who we are, the swath of love we leave behind us is the only legacy that really counts in my book. We could care less if the kids carry our name out into the world, in fact they could each revert back to their birth names for all we care!! But if they carry forth the love and respect for others they learned on our laps, well, that’s all the legacy we’ll ever need to leave behind.

Because this particular road to our adoption has been extremely long and arduous, does that mean that we are ignoring signs from God that we should stop…that our daughters should not come home? What signs should we be heeding? Do we live our lives from a place of fear? Do we let “could happen” dictate our actions? Or do we let dreams filled with joy and hope guide us? Do we do our research and march on in as prepared as we can possibly be?

I can not live as anonymous suggests, although I know many in this world do. I choose to see God as walking with us on whichever path we choose, present and waiting to reach out when called. Are we making a mistake? Anonymous is certainly not the only one to think so, and many have voiced their disapproval and disbelief in ways that are far less kind than the way our hurting friend here did. We have signs we have seen to, despite how arduous this journey has been…and still could be. Our signs aren’t big red “Stop” signs, they are different and more subtle…they are in the healing of our own son from the hurts of the past. They are in the crooked and scarred grin of an 8 year old boy who took our hand and walked away from his old life and bounded into a new one. Our signs are in the stocky build of a young man achieving his blue belt rank who at moments we were in fear he literally wouldn’t live to make it home, he was so malnourished and ill.

God does give us signs, we are provided road maps for our lives. Sometimes we follow, sometimes we veer down other paths. But God is always there. We are never abandoned unless we turn our back, and even then God waits patiently beside us until we turn back around. I guess in the LaJoy family we see different signs, ours are filled with the good things in life, and those are the ones we elect to follow.

One of my favorite sayings is “Success comes in overalls and looks like work.”. One could sometimes replace the word “success” with the word “miracles” and that also would be accurate, for what one person looks at from the outside and sees as a miracle in the form of 3 little boys walking between their parents, is actually part “miracle” and a lot of overall wearing!!

My anonymous friend, thank you for your warning. I am so very sorry that your daughter has not turned out to be all you had dreamed of, that your life has fallen apart. I, in no way, am making fun of your experience or denying the reality of what I know must be an awful day to day existence. I DO take your words to heart, and have given all of this more thought than could be counted. And yet we will press on, despite our fears that you are living out.

Because we know what we might gain...



16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said, Cindy! I remember all of the times you have tried to "resist" the push you have felt from God to go in this direction or that. In the end, God gave us the ability to make choices, assuring us that he'll be waiting in the wings to lift us up if we fall - again, I believe it is not what we look at but what we see! I see a family who is ready, willing and able to go get the rest of their family! With all the challenges that may lie ahead, with all the love that is shared and has grown so large - go get those girls! Bring them home and remember you are not alone - you have friends and family ready to support and help as needed along the way! Love, Miss Joan

minime0910 said...

GREAT response!!! Love the street signs. I think there are no accidents, what is meant to happen will happen and I am hoping for a miracle for you so you and your beautiful family can travel asap. Fingers crossed, sending lots of good vibes your way! Erin

Lenore said...

Keep on reading those positive signs....we are behind you!!! ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I think Cindy is for a long time away fom the turning point, so NOTHING at this point would make her not adopt those girls.

On the other hand older child adoption in often not a fairytale and I certainly wouldn't walk that road.

I have 3 kids and a marriage to think about and a traumatised heartless pre-teen would be much more than I can handle.

It's not that older kids don't deserve, nor need families, it is that I'm tired enough and I KNOW I couldn't handle teenage RAD, no way.

Thank you to the anonymous person who shared her terrible story (I think I would have disrupted the adoption - another reason I can't adopt children above 5 years old).
It is the very nighmare of every adoptive parent.

Also, being a mother of girls and see how complicated they are emocionally I can imagine just how manipulative your child was.

Why are there more older girl adoption stories going wrong? I'd say because there are a lot more older girls still finding adoptive placements well after nursery age, than boys.
Also boys are more straight forward and easy and RAD could be spotted more easuly in many during the early orphanage visits and girls are more complicated than that.

Cheers,
Teresa

Maureen said...

Wow! For anyone to think you have not analyzed this from every angle, they cannot be a regular reader. I feel for the anonymous woman and after reading her story understand why she is trying to warn you away. But I applaud you for replying in a kind, thoughtful, and honest manner. Hopefully anonymous sees it the same way.

You were very right to say that many adoptive parents hide details to appear to be a "perfect" family. I have been guilty of this. Initially we told everything on our blog, but I have stopped as things got better and now don't mention when things regress. While things have remarkably improved in the past year, and our son does not have any signs of severe RAD, he still has times where he lashes out in fear and probably pain. When I mentioned it at an adoptive mother's support group, one woman asked if it was just because he was 4 years old. At a therapist they implied the same thing (and I have not gone back there). Maybe, maybe not. When I told my mother about an issue recently, she said not to put it on the blog. Why cover up that everything is not perfect? It doesn't mean I love him any less. It just means that he is still adjusting and maybe others would benefit from my honesty.

The other thing I want to comment on is that I too am a selfish person. We didn't adopt to save a child. I wanted to be a mom. Other adoptive parents have commented to me about wanting to save all the other children at the orphanage and I just think that I didn't really notice them. I was just trying to bond with and get to know my son. I do feel empathy for all the children still in orphanages and I'm so glad there are people who feel the call to help them. I will help, but I don't feel like I can save them.

My prayers continue to be with you because I feel you are following the right path -- God's path.

Anonymous said...

The book "Building the Bonds of Attachment" by Daniel A. Hughes has been very helpful for our family. You can read reviews of it on Amazon.com

From a faithful reader of Cindy's Blog

Anonymous said...

Cindy, I've read and re-read this post several times before commenting. I am not an adoptive parent. I only had one child, who was and is the absolute joy of our lives, even as an adult. My perspective on this subject is clearly from one on the outside looking in...but here's my take on it:

We all make decisions in life that could possibly result in a long, dark, hard road...especially when those decisions involve people...and children in particular. One of my best friends has three beautiful children, now grown. One daughter and her husband are missionaries; the other is a sweet Christian mom who homeschools and is "supermom." The son: he stole my engagement ring from my home when he was a teenager, has been arrested and convicted numerous times, and has been involved in horrible things that his parents never even realized existed. This all started when he was a small boy and has continued with a vengence through his adulthood. Their disappointment and heartache are real and ongoing; now their two- year old grandchild is being put at risk. Never, ever, have they ever hinted in any way that their disappointment and heartache are because they have this son...just that his ACTIONS cause a continual uproar that they hate. For them, as for all of us to some degree, love can hurt.
This hurt can come from horrible behavior, chronic or dibilitating disease, and the list goes on. When you make a decision to love and nurture a child, you may not get the fairy tale life. The commitment is real, no matter how you form your family; the child is yours to love and work every day to fulfill their needs. Even when those needs are extreme and you weren't expecting them; it's your job...your commitment. I would never diminish the heartache your commenter feels; I'm sure it's real and very heavy. There are places to get professional help to deal with these issues, and I hope she would continue down that road if she has already started.
Cindy, go get your girls. They are obviously yours in your heart already. You will deal with the problems that come with them, just as you would if you had carried them each in your womb for nine months. Don't try to figure the odds of having difficuly with RAD or anything else. You will deal with what comes when and if it comes. My best to you and your husband, AND your kids...ALL of them!

A Friendly Lurker

Anonymous said...

To those who have not parented a RAD child, walk a mile in our shoes before you criticize:

Many foster and adoptive families of Reactive Attachment Disordered
children live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur.
Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe
that we can work through the problems. Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our children. But what does it cost us?

The majority of the population does not understand the dynamics of parenting a RAD child. Family and friends may think that you -- the parent are the one with the
problem. Families are frequently turned in on false abuse allegations. Support is non-existent, because outsiders can't
even begin to imagine that children can be so destructive.

It is a known fact that kids diagnosed with RAD tend to target their Moms, play it cool around their Dads, and charm strangers. Where does that leave a parent? Without strong support and
understanding, the parent will become isolated, demoralized, hurt, confused,and often held accountable for the actions of their child.

Families are simply not prepared for the profound anger that lives in the heart and soul of our RAD children. It's heartbreaking, frustrating, mind boggling, and extremely stressful. In essence, we're fighting to teach our
children how to love and trust. Intimacy frightens our children; they have lost the ability to love, to trust, and to feel remorse for hurtful actions. They see us as the enemy. Small expectations on our part can set our children off in ways that are not only indescribable, but also often unbelievable.

Your home becomes a war zone and
you feel totally inadequate. You begin to question your parenting abilities, and your own sanity. You know that your child has been hurt beyond words; you ache for them. Despite your loving intentions and actions, it's thrown in your face. Your heart's desire is to provide your child with untold opportunities, a future,and all the love in the world. You want to soothe your child. You want your child to
have a fulfilling childhood and to grow up to be a responsible adult. Yet, you are met with hatred and fierce anger.

In war, the battle lines are drawn; an antagonism exists between two enemies. In our homes, we are not drawing battle lines; we are not prepared for war. We are prepared for parenting. Consequently, the ongoing stress can result in disastrous affects on our well being literally causing our
emotional and physical health to
deteriorate.

Anonymous said...

In parenting a child with Reactive Attachment disorder, you will not escape adverse effects. It is essential to recognize that your feelings are typical under stressful conditions. It is
just as essential to accept the fact that extensive stress is unhealthy.

By recognizing the symptoms and
seeking support, you will strengthen your abilities to cope. Counseling is readily available to families and
individuals. Take advantage of
resources that will help you put the traumatic experiences into perspective, enabling you to let go of past feelings
by replacing them with positive skills for recovery.

The strains a Reactive Attachment Child puts on your family can be enormous.

Effects on the family of a RAD Child:

· A RAD child will play one parent
off the other, which could result in a rift between parents.

·Dreams of the perfect loving, caring family are squashed. There is no such thing as perfect family, but a RAD family can become quite dysfunctional.

·Due to child’s disruptive behavior, parents often withdraw from social functions.

·Family events, like Christmas, can be filled with anger and frustration due to RAD behavior.

·Friends, family, church members
become critical of parenting and attitude.

·Parents appear to be unfair, strict and sometimes hostile, as parenting skills used with healthy children do not work with RAD children.

·Siblings and pets can often be
targeted and threatened. It is extremely important for RAD children to have their own room - for their own good as well as the safety of siblings.

.

Anonymous said...

·Siblings often feel ignored or
overlooked as the RAD child takes up so much of the parent’s time. Schedule,daily or weekly, one-on-one quality time for each child in the family.

Mother’s Stress—

SELF-BLAME: Many moms have the
misconception that they should be able to solve their child’s problems - super-mom syndrome. The worst of all feelings! We are angels, not gods.

GUILT: On many levels.

1. About how we often feel toward
our child. Let’s face it, their disorder makes them hard to “like” let alone “love” sometimes.

2. That “we” let our family fall apart(the god thing again).

3. That we are angry with God for
this tremendous challenge.

4. That we are having trouble
forgiving our child for past behaviors - BIG ONE!

5.That we don’t spend enough
quality time with our other children, our spouse, and, in taking care of ourselves.

6. Without knowing any better most of us have lost our tempers or worse with our child.

ANGER: Or betrayal or feeling frustrated.

1. At everyone you had to “explain” the disorder to and that you had to explain the disorder to so many.

2. At family and friends for saying things like, “All kids do that!” And for not
understanding what our life was like.

3. At God - Why me?

4. At our Attachment Disordered
child. For doing this “to us”. We took it personally and saw the child “as” the disorder, instead of a child “with” an emotional disorder.

5. At our husbands for not believing us or noticing the child’s strange manipulations, for not understanding,for not supporting us emotionally, for
counter-mining our new parenting
techniques (usually by loosing their temper), for not being as committed in using the new parenting techniques or reading the materials. For “saving” the
child when he/she didn’t need saving,for not helping us when we needed helped, for leaving it all to us.

6. At ourselves for not being our
“old self” or fun anymore.

7. At the system or adoption agency. Cries for help went out for years - bad advice and blame were given in return.

DISTRUST:

1.Of helping professionals. We
have been given so much “bad” advice we question even “good” advice.

2.Of other supports.

3.Of ourselves, our abilities --
feeling un-empowered.

4.Of the system.

DESPAIR AND LOSS OF HOPE:

1.Will it ever get better?”

2.“Why read another book - nothing helps.” “I’m tired.”

ISOLATED and ALONE:

No one understands and we “believe” we can’t get respite from our problem child.

OVERWHELMED:

Many moms suffer from Depression,
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Parenting a Reactive Attachment
Disorder child, who has not learned to trust, is difficult. Without trust there is no respect, honesty or real affection

Dee said...

Cindy, you ARE doing the right thing. God is leading you to those girls, just as he led you to your son. I am sure of it. They may have RAD, but if so, you will help them overcome it.

My children have had a lot of help from a trained therapist, and she has worked wonders with our family. That's the thing to do, get the right therapist.

As you said, children usually overcome the RAD and thrive where the parents want to PARENT, not take on a charitable project.

I have two older adopted kids and neither had RAD. Not all older adopted kids have it - I know many older adopted kids who bonded easily and well with their families. If they had been RAD kids I would've done whatever it took to help them.

Don't let the negative comments sway you.

Hang in there!!
XOXOXOX
Dee

Kelly and Sne said...

Very well said. And you are doing the right thing by going into this with your eyes wide open. And, believe me, there are major road bumps in just about every adoption journey.

While it is unfair that the commenter projected her situation on yours, I wouldn't fault her as much as you have for her own situation. Each family's situation is unique. I agree that many people adopt for the wrong reasons and are disappointed when it doesn't live up to their expectations (e.g., don't enter it with eyes wide open), some are unprepared to deal with it if it doesn't. Frankly, I'd like to think that I'd be able to handle it but really I don't know how well I would be able to handle a RAD child - especially an older one. I think it depends a lot on the strength of your marriage and your faith and your support system. Fortunately you seem to have your bases covered and have a tremendous and unique inner strength. God bless you.

Laura said...

Cindy, you are already their mom! I have seen your posts and followed your blog for years. We have 2 12 year-olds. One from Uralsk, and one from Petro, so I feel that we have that in common. You have met your daughters, they have each other.....it will not be easy, but they ARE part of your family already. Can't wait to see you all together.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,
Your family has gone into this with your eyes wide open and God will provide you with all you need to work through whatever comes up. You know what to expect and to reach out for help when needed. That is after all, how God helps us, through others.
Bless you all,
Teresa F.

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Ah, there's so much I could write here on this subject. Some wounds still fresh from Thanksgiving when a child after 11 years can't be thankful for anything in relation to our family, but can be thankful for friends. But we know that each and everyone of them, whether suffering from RAD or not, is absolutely better off than they would have been and our prayer is one day ALL of them will trust, even if it takes till they're 50. I always love your insite.

Christina said...

Cindy, Thank you for your words regarding Lori, John and sweet Matthew. I have been reeling since hearing of Matthew's passing. I have been asking God "why?" constantly. Your words help more than you will ever know.. I have talked to Lori multiple times throughout this pregnancy and I know how much she loved this baby and how much this is hurting her. It is great to know that she has so many of us out there to send her love and prayers. Thanks again.