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."
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 powerful...in control...safe.
But then what? How do they feel afterwards, when the damage has been done? I mean really, truly, deep down in their hearts...how 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.