Victories and Struggles

Your child’s story is his to share….

It is and much of it is also our story.  Trust me only those closest to us know the deepest and darkest parts of our story. There are valleys of sadness that aren’t shared, mountains of victories left unsaid, days of desperation that only a few have held us through. Moments of great grief that I was literally carried, like, physically held and carried by family and friends, because I Just couldn’t. There are things ahead of us that most know nothing about. But I strongly believe our lives are meant to be shared and I hope I always share our story with dignity and truth, without compromising anyone’s own story. Sharing the hard parts comes with sharing the good. Isn’t it deceiving just a little to only share the victories and blessing, while leaving out the valleys and the storms? I have shared very openly of my childhood of abuse but I also left out a million pieces to the story and yet, what I did share, helped many, healed myself deeper and led me to a healthier and better version of me. A book came from it, a non profit was started and friends were made that will hopefully last a life time. All because I chose to share my heart. We live in a world of secrecy, privacy and where we only share what is safest with those that are safest. But what if our stories have bigger purposes than just for ourselves to learn from? What if what we walk through can help another person? Would you share differently if you knew it would? I know for me personally I am drawn to people that let folks into their own struggles and not just their victories. I share our world openly, because that’s me, I enjoy writing, I love what it has done for me personally and I love you all enough to let you in. One day I hope to share more of it and I pray it helps someone that’s also in the trenches of life. So many of your struggles and victories have blessed me and encouraged me to do more, love deeper and be braver than I was the day before and I am thankful you trusted me enough to let me in. Sharing parts of most areas of our life isn’t a bad thing, it’s an okay thing to do, even if it’s a little terrifying. Each and every time I have shared a part of us, I have always been scared with being so vulnerable, but so far, I have never regretted letting folks in.FullSizeRender

It’s a RAD world

Welcome to Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as we awesome parents like to call it. Take RAD, mix in PTSD, anxiety, conductive disorder and oppositional defiance disorder, add a bunch of good hearted, well meaning adults, and you have the perfect storm for  CPS to be called and investigations to be done and false judgment by pretty much everyone that is not in your inner circle.

Children with RAD are masters at triangulating the adults in their lives. They thrive on controlling the situation, and learn from an early age (like babyhood) how to manipulate folks to get what they think they need. If that means turning the rest of the world against the people that love them, who would die for them and are fighting like hell to help them, that’s ok, it’s all about surviving life the way they think they still have too. You can’t blame these kids for it either, it’s how their little broken brains works after their early years of trauma. But, knowing all this doesn’t make it any easier on the parents who are watching themselves become the no longer good parents of the neighborhood, by child’s therapist, at school, with family. These loving parents that would do anything for this child have people questioning their hearts. Here is why, the child with RAD is telling everybody what horrible parents they are with words and in actions, all day, every day, it’s what they believe they have to do. I call it shopping for parents, when the child are trying to charm and manipulate every person they see. But really what it comes down to, we (the parents) are no longer safe, because we are pushing emotions that scare the heck out of them, calling them out on behaviors that are not acceptable, expecting them to be authentic and feel those big scary attachment emotions. Any outside adult, friend, family, stranger, teacher, mailman etc. RAD is trying so hard to convince them all, they are good, cute, perfectly behaved and that you do want to take them home. For a better or perhaps lack of words, they are selling themselves to you.

My son, that has reactive attachment disorder is prostituting out his heart, his mind and his body every chance he gets, not so much in a sexual way, but in a real way, because you are safe to him, he can control you, manipulate you with his charm, with his sweet voice and perfect manners and soon you will start doubting what we as his parents are saying. You will start wondering what it is that we are doing wrong or why he is so good with you and horrible with us. You will soon start to wonder if our hands are just too full with the other kids and your heart will feel such sorrow for him. You’ll think he’s starving, he will eat so much and keep asking you for more that you will start to wondering if we are withholding food from him. He will tell you lies upon lies, all to see yours eyes soften and for you to pull him closer to yourself. He will come across as starved for affection, attention and love. He will be a model child for you and he can hold this façade together for awhile. He did all those things the first few months he lived with us too, it wasn’t until we started catching on to his behaviors and calling him out, while having real expectations of him, did we start to see the real side of him. Once he started to feel emotions and have true expectations, we were no longer a safe place because, he could no longer manipulate us and that’s when our world turned upside down. Every time we have a new evaluation, therapist, doctor, coach, teacher or someone new come into our lives, I feel I have to over emphasize that we are good parents in the hopes they will believe us, because, I know once they meet him they’re going to wonder if what we were telling them, is even true. Until you have been questioned about your ability to parent correctly, you can’t fathom how frustrating and lonely the road of trauma can be. It isolates you. Your circle of trust becomes smaller and smaller and your world is forever different. You have now seen firsthand trauma, brokenness and mental illness in your child, a child that you love more than anything in the world, in such a real, raw way and you are forever changed. You quickly realized how uneducated the world is on early childhood trauma, and the devastating lifelong effects these children have to face and the families have to walk through. So the parents keep outsider at arms length a little more, they protect their family unit and do what they know is right because at the end of the day they are what matter the most.

Welcome to the world of RAD.

This is the very real world of reactive attachment disorder. It’s not uncommon, they’re so many parents that have adopted children or have biological children that have experienced severe trauma early in life and this is the world they live daily. The parents that are walking this road are forever changed and yet, most of these parents would still say they would do it all over again, most don’t regret saying yes, most go to bed each night exhausted only to wake and ask God for extra wisdom, extra patience, and a giant extra dose of love to make it through another day. Mental illness isn’t just panic attack, depression and ADHD sometimes mental illness in children is scary, it’s devastating and it’s a lifelong sentence. Let’s keep this topic going, let’s shine a light on mental illness and early childhood trauma, so more people understand it, more people show compassion towards it and maybe more doctors and therapist expand their education about it. ribbon

Healing may look different for him

I struggle.
That sentence on its own is and could be the beginning and the end of this writing. It’s how I was feeling and wondering how to over come it all. I struggle with so much lately, well lately, might be an understatement, perhaps, more like the last 34 years, but who’s counting, right? I want to be open, transparent and vomit some of my heart on a few of you safe folks, with what I am going through, but in that lies the real struggle. Sharing my heart would mean, sharing my children’s lives, pains and exposing their brokenness and as a mom, I want to be the holder of their pains and that is hard to do sometimes, because holding on, means not letting go and I need to let go. I have three children with pretty big special needs, two of them have more obvious abilities, and one has an invisible illness. Mental illness, sucks, it’s hard, it’s invisible and devastating to walk through, but as a mom, to watch your child walk through or really be stuck in the depth of this illness is heart breaking and a level of frustration I can’t even begin to explain. It has brought me to my knees, rage, tears and back to joy and some times I go through each of those emotions in a single day. The amount of trauma some children have walked though or better yet barely survive through in order to have so many broken pieces is heart breaking for me to grasp and I thought I knew trauma. I mean doctors at one point in my life, labeled me with all the letters of the alphabets. Healing has mostly been attainable for me, but can or will healing always come? Will healing come to our small innocent children that never asked to be filled with all the inner turmoil they carry inside of them? What if healing looks different for them, what if it doesn’t come the way I beg God for? What will our lives look like, feel like and be, as the years past?
After the last while of asking God, “will this get better,” and feeling as though I am failing daily at parenting one of our kiddos. No, really, I mean failing for real, whether I really am or not, that’s how I feel so often. Recently while sitting in a doctor office for another one of my children, I started crying to the doctor about my fears, my failures and my heart to help one of my children win at life. This Dr. probably wanted to prescribe me some happy pills but honestly, it was what I needed, I needed to cry, vent and feel validated and then walk out knowing, my child will see healing one day. Maybe not how I want him too or maybe even better than I could have hoped for, but he will see healing, he will! I know this, because I know he will always know love, unconditional love, he will never again feel the pain of unthinkable abuse, neglect or the fear of not having Ben or I meet his basic every day needs. He will never have to question if he belongs, if he is wanted or how deeply he is being prayed for. His mind might not know how to trust all these thing just yet, but day by day, year by year, his heart will begin to see that he can trust and let his hyper vigilant little body relax in his momma’s arms that are so desperately waiting for such a chance.
I said I always wanted to be open and I do, I really do. Its been life giving to me to be more transparent. Adoption for us has been one of the most beautiful roads we have ever been on and yet, some of the deepest pains, lost dreams and many tears have entered into our lives over the last two years. Somehow, mental illness isn’t talked about as easy as other illnesses are. Maybe, it’s because it makes us feel weak or there was something we could have done differently, maybe we feel like we haven’t prayed hard enough for healing or maybe it’s just too damn painful to talk about but, we need to start talking about it, because it’s real and it’s stealing lives and breaking families apart and if I have breath in me, I will not let it win in our home. One day, maybe not for awhile, I will be able to say just how far he has come, how deep he loves and how big he trust, all while being wrapped up in my arms. There is always two sides of every story and every story has the beauty and heartbreak, sharing both is equally as healing and life giving.

Be carful what you ask for…

Standing in God’s will looks different for each of us, depending on where He places us. Ben and I are in a season full of blessings and love, but also sleepless nights, crazy tantrums and a open house full of social workers and therapist. We feel so called and yet somedays so inadequate to withstand the calling placed within our hearts. As I am up so often every night comforting our baby that because of her start in this world, sleep has never been a big part of her life, another that is often up crying for reason that right now only God knows why, and an immune system that seems to have forgotten how to work, I question if I am enough for these children, if my body can keep this up. If others not walking this path would even understand if I talked to them about it. We are normal folks, we love sleep, lazy days, date nights and all those simple things, but this season is different for us, it’s hard at times and I find it can be a lonely road because, talking with most people I find myself wanting to explain so much in hopes that they will see a glimpse of the reality in which I am describing.
Last night after I tucked in one of our littles who is a sweet, bossy and very independent little person, I found God working on my heart to see her as He see her and to have the kind of patients for her as He has for me. This was a few hours before I walked into her room and found her not wanting to sleep but, instead wanting to play. “Funny God, I get it. I wanted more patience, so you gave me a beautiful opportunity at 1:30 in the morning to practice using this gift I asked for.” This was all while we were still up with a very fussy baby that didn’t want to sleep, which isn’t unusual at all but after the patience test, i had to laugh in order to not cry. Shortly later I found myself laying in bed with our beautiful 9 month old princess, who was breathing very heavy while squirming with what seemed like pain on my chest. I hummed softly in her ear and that’s when she did it, when she reminded me how crazy love is, she laid her arm across me and patted my chest until she finally feel asleep early this morning. Even though I was dead tired, I laid there in that exhausted moment and thanked God for this kind of love and humbleness in my life. I don’t always like the dirty parts, but I will never be caught saying, that I don’t love this season because, Ben and I, even though today are completely dead tired, have still caught moments of looking in each other’s eyes and both saying the same thing with a look, “we are so thankful for all of these children that are teaching us more about love and getting out of our own wants than any other thing has ever done. Oh, and that we should take turns getting a nap in today.” 😉
I was guiltily once upon a time of thinking people that were walking this path were just being to hard, to strict and that all they had to do was give a little more love. Love does win and it will cover a multitude of sins, but it isn’t all that is needed in putting very broken children back together. They are fragile, they have sharp pieces of glass that can cut and hurt us all over them. They are younger mentally then their age and yet know so much more then their tiny amount of years should know. I was wrong for thinking I got it, I was wrong for doing anything more then being a good friend with two open ears. I was wrong to say, love is all you need. We need patience, endurance, Jesus and a few good friend that even if they don’t get it, understand enough of what a phone call or text of encouragement will do for a very tired soul. Thank you to my few that some days are what God uses to carry us through. ❤

Stolen Voices

We have six children in our home, three of which are under three years of age, as you can guess, life can get crazy busy and hectic around here at times. Sometimes we feel as though we just don’t have enough time to follow through, to go the extra step or always be consistent, but we don’t have that option, at least not with some of our kiddos. Our two toddlers come from horrendous abuse, neglect and because of this, the results are, they don’t communicate well, they shut down, they hide, they run, they have melt downs for what seems like no reason at all, to the unknowing eyes. As the parent, we will ask a simple question, in which we get a blank stare that is often filled with fear. It goes something like this, “Hey sweet heart, do you have to use the restroom?” In which, we get two glossy eyes starring back at us and usually an accident to follow, because of the fear an adult talking to them will do. One of our littles is an amazing talker, she sings every word to every Frozen song there is, she talks and talks the ears off to our children, but the moment an adult, whether Ben or I or her preschool teachers speak to her directly, she shut down, instantly. It can be so frustrating to say the least, but not at the children as much as the horrible adults that caused these pains in these babies. I often wonder if these adults could see the day to day horrific pain they have caused, would they get it? Would they weep with remorse, would they give up the fight and let these babies go to a better home? The external scars on these babies have all healed up, but the day to day fight by us, of being constant, being present, working tirelessly to connect and restore has just begun. Everything isn’t better the day they are removed from the care of their abuser, to me, it seems that’s the day the pain really begins. These children are use to the chaos, neglect and abuse, so bring them into a home with rules, love, boundaries and little, to no chaos and they will fight it, they will crave it, they will demand it to return, so they can feel normal and at peace again. So what do we do? We resist, we love, we fight them and we stay constant, day after day and night after night, until one day it starts to click. We say, “I love you” several times a day to our children and one of our littles response is always the same, she turns her head, says, “no” and walks away, until last night, she looked at my daughter and said the words back to her. Maybe she has never heard those words before, maybe those words were always attached to pain, there are a million maybes of why they do what they do and maybe we will never know, but today my heart is frustrated, broken and determined to give these babies back their voice. I hate what they have gone through and I hate that so many abusers get so many chances at the cost of children, but right now, they are here and while they are, if all they ever receive from us is to know what love feels like and find their voice, I will know we have done our job. #lovewins

You are worth it

Loving a child through their pain and brokenness can be hard. You don’t always get to see the end result, the reward of your hard work. Sometimes you are just a stepping stone in their journey, a small but mighty ripple in their ocean. So often what people are doing to help broken children is an invisible act of love not seen by others but remember it’s always felt by the child.

To the teacher that brings in extra food for the child she knows hasn’t ate a meal in days, the neighbor that always invites the ‘troubled child’ over to hang with her family so often she feel like she has an extra child or the foster/adoptive parent that are in the trenches picking up the pieces to their child’s broken past. Thank you! You may not hear that from the child today or see your seeds of love growing in them just yet, but one day it will happen. The next time you’re having a hard time walking in love towards this child, grab them by the cheeks, look them in the eye and tell them they are worth it, because they are. Once upon a time I was worth it and I am forever grateful to all the people that looked me in the face as a broken child and said, “you are worth it, Nicole!”  Today, I completely agree with them, all their endless acts of love were worth it. So please don’t give up the fight even when it seems overwhelming. Broken children, have broken hearts, but when someone tells a child they are worth it, watch and see the broken become whole again.