Monday, February 11, 2019

Description of a Mother/RAD Relationship

I have attempted an entry on this topic at least twenty times.  I have yet to finish it.  I am going to really try and actually get these thoughts out and published because I have had many requests for an entry on this particular area.

However, I am at a loss of how to articulate an answer to this question:

"What is it like being the mother to a child with RAD?"

I have come to the conclusion that there are no words or logic to answer this question.  I cannot describe it to someone that is not the mother to a RAD child because I struggle to wrap my mind around the complexity of the relationship myself.

There are two sides to every story and two hearts involved in each relationship.  Perhaps if I try to explain it from a each side it will be easier.

My feelings towards my daughter and how I express them to her and others:

I dread starting everyday with her and am tired of trying within the first 2 hours of the day.  I want to pull my hair out when she takes a simple task and turns it into a 3 hour long fight.  I resent that she has the power and desire to ruin any family affair that is not about her.  I am embarrassed by her behavior when we are in public.  I go to bed every night feeling as though I have failed her.

My heart swells when I think about the love I have for my daughter.  My eyes fill with tears when I think about why she struggles the way she does.  My heart burns with anger when I think about all the adults in her life that failed her and took her down the path that we now walk together.

I advocate for her with a passion that annoys all the professionals that are involved in her care, demanding she get what she deserves.  My brain is loaded with knowledge about RAD so I can navigate the best plan for her.  I take to time to explain her challenges and differences to others when it will benefit her and I tell people to mind their own business when I feel that is the best response for her.

I quit my full time job in an effort to educate her at home so she could reach her potential. I live paycheck to paycheck every month because the state does not understand the strain that RAD has on a family.  I never use the state respite care I am offered because it traumatizes her...and in turn makes my life harder for the following days.

I can be hit, kicked, and bit and still be as in love as before it happened.  I can hold a reckless child in a restraining hold while I gently sing a song and scratch her back.  I can carry my 10 year old throwing a fit through a store, check out, and load the car as if I was carrying sleeping baby.  I can hold her accountable while at the same time think it is so unfair that she is having to deal with the emotion that led to the behavior.

I love her with a love that can't be put into words and makes no sense to somebody that doesn't walk the same road.  My love is unconditional and unwavering.

My daughter's feelings towards me and how she expresses them to me and others:

She does not trust me or any other adult to keep her safe. She blames me for the pain that was caused to her early in her life, although I did not even know her then.  She feels the need to control every aspect of my life from my schedule to my emotions...or at least attempt to.  She fights me on everything, often physically.  She screams the most hurtful statements she can think of at me for the sole purpose of hurting me.  She lies about me to professionals.  She lies to me about trivial subjects.

She will throw a horrible fit so that I have to restrain her, but deep down she wanted affection and a fit was a less scary way to admit it.  She screams she hates me, but later denys it because she regrets saying it, but couldn't possibly let me know how she trult felt.  She cries about "wanting to love" me when she thinks I can't hear her.

She doesn't want to be close to me, but doesn't want anyone else to either because she is jealous.  She needs to brush my hair because she wants a physical contact without it being "affection".  She likes to twist my wedding ring because it is almost holding hands, but itsn't.

She tells me everynight "I'll see you in the morning", but she means it more as a question.  Too many times nobody was there in the morning and she wants to make sure I will be, but doesn't want me to know she cares.  She refuses a hug, but then gets angry if one isn't offered...just to be rejected.  She secretly loves it when a hug is snuck in before she has a chance to fight it.

She sets me up to fail because she is sure my love will at some point.  She believes that I will walk away like everyone else and so she pushes me away.  She  cannot understand that she is safe, loved, and wanted.

A RAD mother and child spend all day, every day fighting on opposite sides for the same thing:


I hope I have come close to articulating what it is like to be the mother of a RAD child.  It is the hardest job I have, but I woudn't trade her for the world.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Parenting RAD is like playing Chess

I always try to get up and get completely ready before I get our daughter up.  Mornings just seem to go better when she knows I will not get preoccupied with getting ready, leaving her an opening to stir up trouble.  Plus, I feel more equipped to handle her when I have myself ready.

Today, I told my husband goodbye and sent him on his way to work.  I was about to jump into the shower when my phone rang.  It was my cousin.  She lives out of state, but we are super close.  We do, however, struggle to find time to talk.  Our relationship consists of text messages back and forth that go unanswered for days.

I decided to forfeit my shower time and answer the phone.  Best decision I made all day.

I ended up chatting with her for almost an hour!  Completely uninterrupted.  Her kids were at school and mine were in bed.  It was like we had no responsibilities pulling us away from a good conversation.  Complete perfection.

As we talked about everything under the sun, she finally said, "so how is Kate doing?".  It was like she waited to ask about her because she KNEW I needed to talk for a while about ANYTHING but RAD. 

I went on to tell her all the latest tricks and tactics from my too smart for her own good daughter. 

After a few stories about Kate, my cousin said "You know, Lynne, your life with RAD reminds of playing chess.  You can't just wait to see what she will do next and then react.  You really need to know all her possible moves and then still assume there are a couple you have missed.  At that point you have to try and make your move so you don't lose."   

How true is this? Yes!!  My life is the most stressful game of chess ever against the world champion.  And truth be told, I knew nothing about Chess or RAD until she laid the game out in front of me.

So on days when I feel like I am completely losing, I am going to remind myself that Chess takes time learn and time to win and it isn't over until someone says "checkmate".

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Letter to my RAD

Dear Kate,
Here we are again.  Just you and me.  Home, while your dad and brothers are out having fun.  I wish I knew what you were thinking about .  I wish I could peek into your mind for just a minute.

You could be thinking that you succeeded in ruining the evening for me.  That brings you great satisfaction.  On more than one occasion  you have stated that you enjoy causing problems for me.  You say you like to fight with me, but when I ask what is it that you are fighting don't know.  If you are sitting in your room feeling satisfied that you ruined my evening, please know, you did not.  You see, I am your mom.  That means that where you need me to be is where I am meant to be.

Or you could be thinking that you don't care that you aren't having fun because you don't like any of us anyway.  You tell yourself this lie so often that sometimes I think you start to believe it.  You are not fooling me.  I know you would rather be out having fun.  I also know your biggest fear is me  knowing that truth.  Sweet girl, I have known it for so long.  Nothing bad will happen if you admit you actually have fun with the family.  Someday I hope you have enough trust to at least be honest with yourself.

You could be thinking that you wish you were out having fun.  Maybe you are regretting your choice that caused us to stay home, again.  I wonder if you are thinking about the times you did allow yourself to have fun, to be a part of the family.  I wonder if those memories bring joy to your heart or fear.  Do those memories tempt you to try trusting again or do they encourage you to fight harder against it happening again?

Those memories of you make me weep.  As I type this I wonder if I will ever see you smile with no inhibition again.  I wonder if the days of seeing all my kids having fun together are gone.  My mind goes to holidays and I wonder if we will have an empty space at the table forever because you would rather be alone in your room than have to be kind and pleasant to family.  I think of  Christmas 2 and 3 years ago and I remember JOY in our family as we celebrated with each other.  Was that the last time Christmas will be that way?

What happened?  What caused you to go from difficult to impossible?  What can I do to bring you back to happiness?  Are you content to live your entire life alone?  I want so much more for you.

So while I don't know what you are thinking, let me tell you what I am thinking.

Kate, I love you in a way I cannot explain and you cannot understand.  I get tired and I get frustrated and I mess up.  But I will never give up.  You fight with everything in you to push me away.  I will fight harder.  You say absolutely awful words to me.  But they do not change me.  I am too strong and smart to believe your words therefore they will not change me or my effort.  So keep fighting, little lady.  Fight me everyday.  Make me prove myself everyday for as long as it takes.

Someday you will believe that you are safe, loved, and wanted.

And I will be there that day...and every day until then.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Letter to Family about RAD

I had a conversation with my mom this week that has left me feeling hopeless.  I should be used to this feeling, but it still takes me by surprise.

My mom shared with me that my siblings had spoke to her about me...about my family...about my daughter.  They stated that they don't understand why we are not at family functions any more and when we do actually come, it is usually just me and my sons.  I leave my daughter at home with my husband.  My siblings admitted that my daughter, Kate, has come a couple times to a family event, but I had instructed her to sit at the table and color instead of going off playing.

That was unfair of me, they said.  

They are confused. They complain that Kate doesn't even know them.  They say I am being unrealistic in my expectations and my consequences seem to harsh.  They are confidant that if I would just try this or that Kate would do better.  They know that with enough love, Kate would be just fine.

They say they just want to help.  They want to support us.  They want to love on us.

Yet it seems that really all that is happening is they are judging us.  Not to be mean or rude.  I really do believe their intentions are good, but the follow through doesn't quite happen.

So to my family:

Let's get honest.  It isn't going to be fast and it sure isn't going to be pretty, but nothing with RAD is.

RAD does that.  It takes something beautiful like family and turns it upside down and inside out and makes it super ugly with bruises and black eyes.  Then it hands it back to you, unrecognizable, and you have to figure out how to heal it...or accept it as the new normal.


Imagine with me that: 

Maybe, just maybe, we didn't come to the birthday celebration because Kate could not handle the day not being about her.  Maybe we knew she would ruin you child's party so we kept her from it...because we felt like your kid deserved to have the day be about them.

Maybe, just maybe, we stayed home and celebrated July 4th alone so that Kate could go to bed and Jack and Sam could stay up for fireworks without having to leave early when Kate couldn't handle her sleepiness.  

Maybe, just maybe, we didn't come around for Mother's Day or Father's Day because those days are triggers for Kate and she had already verbalized her plans of how to ruin them for us.  Maybe Mother's Day at home in peace was what I wanted instead of "celebrating" with a tantrum out in public.

Maybe, just maybe, we came over for Thanksgiving late because we had been in a physical battle all day with Kate and needed to make sure she was calm enough to be safe around others.

Maybe, just maybe, Kate stayed home with a parent on Christmas evening because she was screaming, yelling, and throwing things around when it was time to come over.  Maybe, just maybe, we decided that she was clearly over stimulated from the day time festivities and she needed to have some peace and quiet for her own safety and ours...and yours.

Maybe, just maybe, we have Kate sit and color at the table instead of going and playing with other kids because we have seen her aggression and want to keep your kids safe.  

Maybe, just maybe, all the things you view as harsh and strict and unrealistic are actually done because of our love for Kate...and you.

Maybe, just maybe, loving a child with RAD looks different than loving  a child without RAD.  Not loving less, loving different.  You have to understand, Kate does not want to be loved.  She fights it with every ounce of strength she has.  She doesn't understand love.  In normal kids , you show them you love them and so you will keep them safe.  It is backwards for Kate.  We have to prove to her she is safe because she is loved.  She can understand safe.  We have to use that to teach her about love.     

Maybe, just maybe, the hours of classes and meetings we were required to take actually taught us a thing or two about RAD that you don't know.

Maybe, just maybe, the trained professional's opinion holds more weight in our parenting strategy than yours does.

Maybe, just maybe, the hundreds of days we have spent with her makes us know her and understand her a little better than you do.

And maybe, just maybe, if you really want to help us and support us and love on us, you first need to trust us.

We love you guys and we miss you too.  We would love nothing more than for Kate to be OK and us attend all family affairs with no hint of RAD, but that is not where we are.  RAD is real.  And at it's core, RAD goes against everything that is family.  Family is love and love is RAD's enemy.  

You don't have to understand RAD to make this work, but you do have to trust that we understand it. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Open Letter to a Friend of a RAD Mom

I know we used to be close.  We used to share conversations and enjoy meals together.  Remember how much fun we used to have when our families would get together?  Those memories are some of my most treasured.  It's a shame they are only memories.

I remember telling you about my daughter.  I told you all the information I read on her online profile and I showed you her pictures.  You were so excited for me!  Adoption!  It was a long road, filled with boring details of paperwork, but you always asked.  You always listened.

It was so amazing to introduce her to you after such a long journey.  She, of course, cared nothing about meeting you, but I know your heart was over joyed at meeting her.  I am so thankful for your companionship along that road.  You were a blessing to me.

We continued to get together, only it didn't work anymore.  We figured it was just going to take time for her to settle.  But after many attempts in became clear to me that this wasn't an easy fix. 

I began to pull away.  I later realized that you probably took that as you not being important anymore.  You must have assumed that I no longer valued our friendship.  I can not blame you for that.

After a while, I didn't just pull away, I was gone.  I was absent.  Even replaced.  I saw it happen.  It hurt.  But I didn't blame you.

I am doing better now.  Can I tell you what you didn't see?  Can I tell you what I didn't want you to see?

My family was broken.

My daughter had taken over.

I wasn't just failing at being a good friend.  I was failing at being a good mom.

All of the sudden I was the mom at the store whose child was throwing tantrums or stealing items.  I was the mom at play group whose child was capable of hurting other kids.  I was the mom that couldn't relate to the other moms.  It became too hard to try.

Maybe if I had told you the whole truth our friendship could have been saved.  Maybe.  But I was scared if I told you that my daughter talked about hurting people, you might not want her around.  I mean , what mom in their right mind would invite over a child that enjoys inflicting pain on other people?  No mom says "oh, yes, that sounds like who I want my kid to play with!".

If I told had told you that we watch her like a hawk because she can and has acted out sexually, would you want her around your kids? You have to understand, I don't just miss our friendship.  I miss your kids.  I love your kids.  And that is why I have to protect them from my daughter.

I know the world sees my daughter and believes that love can fix it all.  I know she acts precious in front of you.  But can you trust me that she has love poured into her everyday and she wants no part of it?  Can you trust me that her sweet personality she shows you is all a part of her plan?  She has no desire to connect with you or your kids.  She cares no more about you than the person bagging our groceries.  She charms you to get what she wants and then she moves on.  Sometimes what she wants is just the high of knowing she deceived you into actually thinking she cared.

How do I know this????

She tells me.

I hope someday you can understand.  It is not that I don't value our friendship.  It is not that I don't miss you.  It is not that I blame you.  I just simply don't know how to make it work.  I don't  know how to live my life the same as I did before my daughter, because she changes everything.

So, until I figure it out, please know that I have not given up.  I still want a friendship.  I still dream of life being normal again.  I understand this doesn't make sense to you.  I don't expect it to, but can you trust me?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

RAD and all the PEE and POOP

I cannot tell you how many moms have asked me about their child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (from here on out referred to as RAD) and all the peeing and pooping that comes with it.  Rather than continuing to share all this individually, I thought I might as well do a blog entry so everyone can read it. I do not have one magic trick that works, but I can tell you WHY they do it and give you all the tips I have.

I have 2 kids with this issue.  One of them is 8 and the other 9.  My 9 year old is 99.9% over this hurdle.  My 8 year old is about 95%.  Again, I do not have 1 magic trick, but we have come along way in our family in this area.  I am happy to share our journey in hopes it makes a difference for you as well.

First, lets tackle the why.  Easy...control.  Control is what drives every RAD behavior.  RAD kids associate control with safety.  Since they only trust themselves they believe they need to be in control.  As children, they can not be in control of very much, but they can be in control of 4 areas.

1.  Effort: they can control how hard they work at school or any task.  Nobody can MAKE them try harder.

2.  Hoarding or refusing food

3. Bodily waste

4.  Emotions:  theirs and others

Now when they pee or poop on themselves, hide messed in clothing, play in it, or even refuse to go the bathroom, they have, simply put, proved that we, as parents, cannot control everything.  And bonus for them is that most of the time they get to see us get upset which means they controlled our emotions (and time).

Do you see why this is such a common behavior in RAD children???????

So what do we do about it?

Below you will find a some situations we found ourselves in and what we did about it.


We took both kids to doctors and had multiple tests done to  make sure there was not ANY physical reason they were having these problem.

1.  Wetting at night

Our daughter was wet every morning at 6 years old.  Come to find out, it was all the meds the state had her on at the time of her adoption.  We took her off meds, she stayed dry at night.

Our son wet every night.  We started the normal chart to encourage staying dry.  He was able to start staying dry right away (proof that we was able to stay dry).  However, the chart went away and so did our dry mornings.
 After some careful observations of of husband, he developed a theory.  He said that Jack was wetting the bed in the morning because it got him 1 on 1 time before the others got up, a warm shower, and he was ready for school first so he got to play or watch TV.
So the next morning when he wet the bed, I had HIM take all the wet sheets off the bed and put them in the washer.  He then had a less than warm shower and was sent back to bed, that now had no sheets on it.  This was not as much fun.  He tried it one more time and then gave up...for a while.
Although, the behavior did not go away forever, I did enjoy the break.

This continued off and on for 3 years with Jack.  I am just going to list the consequences we did below, instead of typing out the story for each one.  Basically, he would be dry for months and months and then wet the bed.  Grace would be shown as all kids have accidents.  He would wet again the next night.  We would try a new reaction.  He would test it by wetting again and we would stand firm.  He would give up for 4 or 5 months and then try again.  I believe we are done this time, but who really knows.

When he wet the bed he ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS had to clean it up.  ALWAYS.  I would turn on the washer and dryer, but he did all the rest.

He always had a less then warm shower to clean up himself from the mess.

We used every ounce of self control we had to let him know that this behavior ONLY made his day worse.  Mine would be continuing on as normal.  When I see his bed is wet, I will say "Oh that's a bummer for you." and then I walk away.  He does NOTHING until he is clean and his sheets are in the washer.

*if something is already in the washer, they sit on the bed until the washer is available.  them cleaning up this mess MUST be the FIRST thing they do.

Another tactic was he had to sit in the laundry room until his sheets were done.  We are talking 2-3 hours of boredom.

I am not a pull up supporter, in this case.  If we had to buy some because of vacation, he bought them.  Sometimes that meant he had to do a job to earn the money or sell me a toy.  What finally did the trick (6 months ago) was the thought of him having to sell me his drone to buy himself diapers.  He decided it wasn't worth THAT and he has been dry for 6 months.  We are no longer even limiting drinks in the evening.  He is CHOOSING to stay dry.

2. Day time "accidental" wetting
 Kate never did this, Jack had a major struggle here.  I cannot tell you how many times he peed on couches, laps, car seats, carpets, and amusement parks.  Seriously so gross and so annoying.  Jack seemed to have an never ending supply of urine.  I took him to countless doctors and told them he had to have a problem.  I told them no child should pee as much or often as he did.

What it came down to, for Jack, was that he didn't like the feeling of needing to go.  He also didn't like stopping what he was doing 800 times a day to go.  So for him, it came down to teaching him to be OK holding it.  We went from peeing every 30 minutes for a few days to every hour for a  few days to every hour and half and so on.  Our goal was for him to feel comfortable only going before each meal and bedtime.

Once we got to that point, the accidents stopped altogether and we were able to not monitor it all anymore.  He has not had a day time accident in about a year.

3. Day time "purposeful" wetting
Kate has escaped most of this blog entry, but right here is her part.  She is textbook RAD and she would look right at me and pee if I told her no about anything.  She would throw  an enormous fit about cleaning it up.  It was a lot of fun, as you can imagine.

What works for one child doesn't always work for another.  This is especially true with RAD.  The 2 things that worked with Kate were:

She had to clean up and  GO RIGHT BACK TO WHAT WAS CAUSING THE PROBLEM.  That means that if she was in the kitchen trowing a fit and peed, then after she cleaned up herself and the mess, she went right back to the conversation or situation that started it.  It was making her see that peeing was LITERALLY changing nothing.  This made the behavior stop for a while.

The other thing that worked for her (that Jack couldn't have cared less about) was she didn't get to change her clothes.  My husband told her she got one pair of clothes for the day and if she wanted to pee in them, that was fine, but she didn't get new ones until bedtime.  Because she was wet, she had to sit on a chair, in the hallway.  She hated this.  She has not wet her pants in 2 years.

4.  Pooping
Kate pooped in her room and played in it twice.  We didn't react.  We didn't say it was gross.  We didn't make her clean it up.  (I cleaned it up when she wasn't around).  It was a behavior I wanted no part of, and so we made her believe it didn't bother us, therefore , it was no longer fun.

She will, on occasion, not poop.  When this happens, I just have her go try several times a day until she gets tired of it goes.

Again, this may not work for you, but hang in there.  If you have specific question, feel free to contact me and explain your situation.  I will see if I have any ideas for you.

Just remember to hold them accountable and most importantly, don't let them know it bothers YOU.  It needs to ONLY bother THEM, if they are going to stop.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The term RAD

 I would like to address something that has been brought to my attention.  In the circle of Reactive Attachment Disorder the term "RAD" is used freely in two contexts.  One of them is the stating the actual disorder.  For example "My daughter has RAD.".  The 2nd way it is used is as a way to quickly identify that the child you are writing about has RAD.  For example "My RAD is struggling at reading.".

It was said to me (by a RAD parent) that friends and family were put off by me using this term when referencing my daughter.  They felt it was wrong for me to identify her as her disorder.

 I assured the mom that I did not call my child "RAD", but used the term to distinguish her from other children...considering that was the point of the article.  I encouraged the mom to explain to her friends and family that it is no different than using the letters FD for foster daughter or AD for adopted daughter.  Obviously, it is used to help the reader identify all the needed information without me having to type it all out every time.

So to clarify, in case you were offended too, I do not use the term RAD in a derogatory way.  I do not call my daughter RAD.  And I use her name or the words "my daughter"  the majority of the time in my blog.  I am hopeful that this explanation has cleared up any ignorance about the term and I am confident that as I continue to use it, there will be no more confusion.