I’ve been following a Christian blogger, Brenda Yoder, for support in parenting and life. While catching up on my email, I read her personal letter to subscribers, “Running on Empty.” Normally I would not respond to her blog, but this time I felt led to share a link to another blog that has brought me great solace–the Institute for Attachment Disorder out of Colorado.
I shied away from starting my own blog because of feeling inadequate–the biggest hurdle being a lack of professional education. And, living in a small community, the fear of gossip. It’s more efficient than social media. As an advocate for children, my motto has always been “If I would ever hurt a child, I would never forgive myself.” This is even more true for foster/adoptive children. They have already experienced way too much trauma. The last thing they need is for a blogger to discourage potential foster/adoptive families from pursuing a forever family.
I’m a mother of adoptive children, and I’d like to encourage other moms.
Up until this past year, I knew the pain I was dealing was real with while raising my adopted children alongside my biological children. Painfully real. Mind boggling real. I. Needed. Support. But, I didn’t have the ability to verbalize it.
What was I dealing with?
Was I losing my mind?
Why didn’t anyone else seem to struggle the way I did?
Why did I celebrate when my adopted child would leave for respite?
Why didn’t my husband see what was going on?
Why did I feel like I was aging faster than I should?
Why did I have an adrenaline rush and butterflies when my child would return to my home?
I would share some of the difficulty with my husband, but felt like I was always dumping on him. Occasionally I would catch him telling the children to disregard my instructions. I would talk to him later, away from the children, and ask him why he was telling them to not listen to me. I explained it undermined my authority. This made my stay-at-home-mom- job nearly impossible to be efficient.
So the weeds grew more than the neighbors. My unfinished piles grew, making me appear to others as though I was an unfit parent. When my personal items started coming up missing, I put pad locks on containers. When my notebooks and computer files were invaded, I used passwords or went underground. I either didn’t write anymore, which took away another layer self help, or I found a way to journal where no one–not even my husband–had access. When phone technology encouraged you to use an easy access app, I would refuse. Instead, I would password protect my social media and email to protect my privacy. I was always having to think ahead to the next situation that needed guarded.
I reached out to a national ministry at my congregation because I felt that it was Biblical to seek wisdom. As hard as church leadership tried, no one really knew what I was going through. Despite this, some of the most life giving support I received was through an occasional email telling me that I wasn’t alone.
That meant the world to me.
Added to this stress was the job of care-giving an elderly parent, who is my biggest supporter. I was really struggling to find support. As my siblings and I cared for our parent, we became very close. This opened a door to a new level of support for one of my siblings and me. We were able to combine our resources to help each other cope with both of our broken families.
But, I still could not verbalize what I was dealing with.
My biggest-supporter-parent had been equipped by listening to Christian talk shows on the radio. I, too, would listen to every show hoping to gain some insight. But I found nothing. Why didn’t they touch on this subject that I so desperately needed to hear about? Were they just like me–afraid that talking about it would cause a barrier for foster-care and adoption? After all, parents of adoptive kids are the grown ups, and we need to be the strong ones. Right?
But, how could I be strong when I felt so torn down after so many years of the sandwich generation? I still didn’t know what I was dealing with or how to verbalize it.
Little by little, situations with family would blow up in my face. I stood firm against these storms, resting in the knowledge that I was called and equipped by God to raise my children to the best of my ability. But just as often, there would be little breakthroughs. Family would come to me in tears and apologize for other family members’ bad behavior. I dwelt on this information without emotion. I suspected others were judging me but apparently it was much worse than even I suspected. I remember a conversation with my husband one evening. I asked him, “What are they basing their opinions of my parenting on? What have I done that makes them think that I am such a bad parent?”
You see? I wasn’t just imagining people were gossiping. I actually had people angrily approach me and question my parenting. Knowing these people didn’t know me or my situation, it was obvious their information source was gossip, I knew I couldn’t explain even if I did know how to put it into words. They had already decided I was guilty. Why wouldn’t family and friends come to me and ask me nicely? What were they being told? I knew that if I would wait on the Lord, that eventually the truth would set me free. So, I rested in that.
As I waited, I studied everything I could get my hands on. Little by little, I would find similarities in what I was reading. But, it wasn’t until after my adoptive children became adults that I started finding the names. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a very common disconnect for children that had their first two years of life disrupted. This broke my heart. During their growing up years, I tried to be as intentional at parenting as possible. I was fair, consistent, available, and a prayer warrior. But, it wasn’t enough. I was unable to bond with my adopted children in the way as I had with my biological children. Yes, I have been scolded for saying that, too. No matter how consistent I was, they still didn’t trust. I had raised one with the fear to attach and one with the fear of abandonment. It took me years of anguish, years of wrestling with God to accept that no matter what I did, the damage was done before I had met my adopted children.
But, why was I the only one that was being manipulated and mistreated? Why didn’t anyone else, including my husband, see it? You see, even though my children were grown, I was still feeling the residual effects through broken relationships with other family and friends.
The answer came only recently through a family member, one of the very same family members that had come to me in tears just a few years ago. The family member had a friend who was dealing with similar issues and had found a resource on social media. There’s a new term trending called “Children of Trauma.” Children who have had a disruption in their early years often suffer from trauma. Disruptions come in many forms: abuse, neglect, divorce, and abandonment to name a few. To cope, they often manipulate, triangulate, lie, steal, hurt themselves and others–especially the primary caregiver. These children of trauma suffer the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What is more is that the primary caregiver often times suffers from raising a child with PTSD because the child goes undiagnosed and the caregiver doesn’t receive the respite care needed to protect themselves.
There is a reason why God tells us to be still and know He is God. We need time to heal. Make it your life’s mission to rest and to educate others. The next generation depends upon it.