Saturday, September 29, 2012


I'm not feeling particularly eloquent at the moment, but that probably has to do with going to bed at one-thirty and waking up at five.  I'm not even sure that I have a whole lot to say that I haven't already said.  But I somehow feel compelled to write what's on my heart in the hopes that it might help someone understand our situation.  Or maybe...might help someone understand their own situation with a traumatized child...before it's too late.

We're beginning to realize that we've never truly known our son, not for the entire six years that he's been with us.  He isn't the child we've thought him to be:  the one with the sense of humor that matches ours entirely, with interests in the same sports, the same taste in music, the same clothing styles, the same opinions, the same strong-held Christian beliefs.

We're beginning to see that that child never really existed at all.

He was a facade.

Mr. J has spent his entire six years with us pretending to be what he thought we wanted him to be.  Pretending to be the "perfect" child for us.  In his eyes, a miniature Mom and Dad.  If he played the part well, he knew we would leave him alone.  We wouldn't try to "fix" him like we did his sister, we wouldn't put him in more therapy or try to parent him differently.  He would get all the benefits of happy family life without ever having to talk about who he really is or about how he really feels.  Without ever having to acknowledge that he isn't perfect or that he struggles or that he isn't what he desperately wants to be: "normal".

And if he was good enough, he would never have to be corrected or disciplined or be made to feel as if he wasn't solely in control of himself and everything to do with his life. 

Perfectly in control, perfectly poised, he played his part so convincingly that after that first hectic six months with us, we only ever saw glimpses of the sickness that lay beneath the surface. 

A perfectly crafted surface.

A surface that, as his body is beginning to swarm with the new hormones of adolescence, he can't hold together anymore.

The facade is gone.

He held it together for six whole days this time.  Sure, there were times when we could see the anger boiling in his eyes, but he held it in check for six days.  That's a record for the past few months, but we all knew it wasn't going to last.  Last night, Mr. J went off again.  About power.  About having no control over what we will or won't give him, when he thinks he deserves whatever he wants because he's been mostly "good" for six days.

Control.  Calculated control.  He got angry before dinner, yet chose to push it down so he could enjoy family movie night, pizza and ice cream.  As soon as it was over, he let it all out.  On purpose.  Calculated and controlled.  The police arrived as he was trying yet again to break his window out, and they got to his room just in time to hear him threaten to kick me in the stomach so he could kill our baby.

I don't think our family can take much more of this. 

Sobbing six-year-old, hugging a cat on her bed, not understanding why her big brother is screaming again.  Nothing happened!  Why is he so angry?

Wide-eyed ten-year old that's still too fresh in her own healing to comprehend what's going on, but reaches out to hug her Mama when she sees the tears coming.

Sweet four-year-old that misses his big brother and keeps calling for Mama and Daddy from his bed, scared to be without us, hearing the rage from the other room.

Oblivious one-year-old, innocently repeating "Bubba! Bubba!" as his brother screams and pounds and swears and threatens.

Precious tiny baby boy, little miracle, receiving a death threat before he even lays soft gray eyes on the world.  Is his world even safe?

We have to protect them. 
We have to protect our family. 
And we have to protect Mr. J from himself.

We can't do this anymore.

Please pray that we find the direction God wants for us, that it becomes painfully clear, and that doors are supernaturally opened for us to get our son and our family the help and the respite that is needed.  We know that God is in this and that He has been from the beginning.  He will not abandon us now.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Broken Little Child

He threw a rage at the hospital tonight.  A big one.  He kicked and screamed and threw a chair at the receptionist.  His super-human fury-driven strength required five men to contain, an empty "time-out" room, a bed with restraints, a "burrito wrap", and some emergency medications.  And somehow, he still managed to spit on people, hit, and slap the doctor across the face.

Of course, we've seen this sort of thing before.  Many times.  At home.  We aren't surprised by his actions, just surprised that he finally lost control enough to show this very real side of himself to other people...the same people he's been trying to convince that he's perfectly compliant and well-mannered.  He wants them to believe that this is our problem and not his.

We stand by the truth.  We are not, have never been, and never will be perfect parents, but the responsibility for the behavior our son chooses does not belong to us.  It belongs to him and him alone.  The responsibility for the trauma that caused his brain to work the way it does also does not belong to us.  It belongs to another set of parents that failed him many years ago.

And yet, I concede to my son's way of thinking on at least one point.  Although not in the area of responsibility, this problem does belong to us as well as to him.

Because we love him.


Tonight, as I was putting our other kids to bed, Miss M, who is our troubled son's biological sister and who is currently winning a long battle with an attachment disorder, got really serious.

"Mom, why did you adopt us if it was going to be so hard?"

"Girlie, we've talked about this before.  Everything that's worth doing- everything really important - is hard."

"Do you wish you could change it?"

"Sweetie, I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever go back and not adopt you, because then you wouldn't be my daughter."

I walked over to her bunk bed, reached up, cupped her head in my hands, and planted a few kisses right in the middle of her forehead.  Those big brown eyes as dark as chocolate were sparkling with genuine joy as my voice filled with tears and I said to her,

"You are mine.  Forever and ever, you are mine.  No matter how hard things get, you are my girl.  Forever." 

"I love you, Mom."

"Love you, too.  Now go to sleep!"

There was a time, less than two years ago, when I no longer had any idea what I was fighting for.  When I felt like giving up.  There was a time when that same little girl that hungers so much for her Mama's love and approval couldn't get through the day without throwing a tantrum about something, without hitting or biting or screaming, couldn't let her guard down long enough to show us the real Miss M that she kept hidden inside.

There was a time when all things felt hopeless, when every thought of our daughter brought on panic and despair, when constant talk of her dominated our marriage, and when we couldn't see God working through all the pain and anger and frustration.

There was a time when I couldn't see the scared, broken little girl underneath all that spewing hatred; the little girl that I now love with all my heart.


I am convinced that there is a terrified, broken little child inside every traumatized, angry, unattached child. 

Inside my son.

It's that thought that allows me to feel sorrow for him tonight, in an out-of-control rage against people that he doesn't know and have done nothing to him.  How scared and panicked and all alone that little child inside must feel!  And as silly as it sounds, he's never been without my husband and me when he's been in one of his rages.  Does he care?  Does he feel abandoned?  Does he even notice?

I know God is working in this situation.  I don't know how yet, but I do know that when all seemed lost with Miss M, He showed up in amazing His own time.  He's healing my daughter.  He's changing who I am.  He's strengthening my marriage and my faith and my family, and best of all, He's reminded me what - who - I am fighting for.

That scared, broken little boy or girl inside every traumatized child is His precious child.  Not ours, but His...created beautifully and wonderfully in His image and for His glory

And they are people worth fighting for.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


We have never claimed to be perfect parents.  When you spend so much of your time fighting on the frontlines of a traumatized-child-versus-authority-figure war, there are many times that you end up parenting on the fly, enforcing the first and best thing that pops into your mind at any given moment.  Sometimes, the impulsive ideas are brilliant and work beautifully.  Other times, you look back later and think "Hmmm...that was definitely not my best parenting moment."

We're human.

Parenting a child that is constantly looking for the next chance to one-up you is tiring.  Constantly looking for the next way to gain power over you, the next opportunity to control what you do, the next way to manipulate a situation to make you squirm.  Control is everything to kids with attachment problems, even if gaining perceived control causes them to hurt themselves down at their very core.  Even if it causes them to lose the things that they love the most.  If they feel triumph for even the briefest of moments, they feel

But then what?  How do they feel afterwards, when the damage has been done?  I mean really, truly, deep down in their do they feel?  Happy?  Independent?  Thrilled?  Exhilarated?  Powerful?

I honestly don't think so. 

I think they feel alone.

Totally and completely alone.

Today our son probably felt more powerful and more alone than he's ever felt. 

He doesn't like living here, at least when it comes to being held accountable for his actions, which he is perfectly capable of being held accountable for.  We have raised this child for nearly six years, and we know for a fact that he knows right from wrong and understands what consequences are for.  His ability to discern appropriate behavior and his ability to understand consequences is not in question here.  Of course, like most children, he doesn't enjoy consequences, but his disdain for them is massively aggravated by the fact that they are handed down by us...the very ones that he desperately wants to control.

The problem comes to this: he can't stand it when we, as his parents, exercise authority over him.  He may let it go for weeks at a time, and honestly, when he's been in a calm, regulated state of mind, he doesn't need correction very often.  Maybe that's even part of the problem.  He tries so hard to be perfect so that we never need to tell him that he isn't.  So that he never needs to be corrected. 

Because being corrected by us feels like death to him. 

And sooner or later, it gets too hard to pretend to be "perfect". 

He can't hold it together forever. 

Eventually the pent-up emotions blow, and we find ourselves living with a child we don't even know: a child that isn't respectful for more than a moment at a time, rages about everything, instigates fights about the most insignificant of things and refuses to comply.  This is the child that often needs to be restrained as he bites, head-butts, digs with his nails, and pulls out hair.  A child that so badly wants to be in control of us, that he can't even control himself. 

This is the child that we voluntarily put into the mental hospital. 
So they could help him.

This is also the child who, in typical Attachment Disorder fashion, has not shown one single behavior like these to anyone there, and has painted a picture of life with our family that simply isn't true.  While he is quiet and sad and compliant there, his exaggerations and outright fabrications are easy for non-RAD-trained (or even non-RAD-endorsing) people to believe.

And so our power-hungry, will-do-anything-to-make-Mom-and-Dad-pay-for-the-crime-of-trying-to-love-me-and-raise-me son has scored a big, controlling, painfully earned and significant point today.

And I bet that tonight, this little boy becoming adolescent, the one that I love more than my own life, is lying there in his sterile hospital room...

feeling totally and completely alone.

Our hearts are breaking.