Educating the world about Reactive Attachment Disorder through experience, hope, humor and love.
(Warning: nothing here should be taken as medical advice)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hardest job in the world - step-parent to RAD

I see quite a few people end up here after searching things like "Step Parents and RAD" so I figured I would put something out there.  I don't envy you.  You have one of the hardest, most thankless jobs known to mankind.  I've watched my wife go through it.  You want to love them but they will do everything in their power to thwart that.  They don't want it - there is no Love, only Pain.  And they won't let you forget it.  But I don't want you to think it's hopeless.  It's not.  But you're going to have to earn it.

My wife and oldest daughter started off with a really rocky relationship.  For the very reason above.  My wife loved little girls and did her best with my daughter.  She tried reading to her, she tried making things with her, she tried anything to bond.  But it just wouldn't happen.  For years she tried, only to meet resistance time and time again.  And it wasn't just passive resistance - my wife was made out to be the true evil step-mother / witch that wouldn't think twice about sticking children in ovens.

Which hurt.  A lot I imagine.  But she didn't stop looking for opportunities to bond.  For years she seemed to get nowhere.

But after years of hurt feelings, loss of trust, physical fear, and utter disrespect, things began to change.  For the better.  My daughter began to show signs of respect for her step-mother.  With time, those began to show more and more.  They began developing a rocky and frequently adversarial relationship, which became less and less so over the next year or two.

I can't tell you how many times my wife threw up her arms in frustration or disgust and screamed "I can't do this any more".  But more importantly, for each time she said it, there is also a time when she stayed.  And kept trying.

I've spoken with other parents where that didn't happen.  They had it bad up until the magical age of 18 no matter how hard they tried.

But there is hope.  I know there is.

As for my wife and her step-mother?  Today, they have moments where I'm almost jealous of how close they can be.  It doesn't happen a lot, but I love it when it does.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


If there's one thing I will never truly understand, it's the self-sabotage that seems prevalent among children with RAD.  I've seen it time and time again, and it is truly heartbreaking to watch.  Recently my daughter turned 17 (yesterday in fact).  As one of her birthday presents we (reluctantly) agreed to let her go to a concert with a friend.  At night.  In another town 30 minutes away.  She was soooooo excited.  We had only one caveat - she prove to us over the next 3 days that she could be responsible enough to go.  We didn't think that would be difficult.  She HAD been doing great.  Finished schools with almost straight A's, had been working hard to get her first job, and been relatively pleasant to be around in general.

Until we said we would allow her to go.  The *very next day* she had a job interview, and then was to go to the library afterwards, where my wife would pick her up.  She was told if she changes her plans just to let us know so we knew where to find her if we needed to.  She changed her plan but didn't bother to tell us.  We had no idea until my wife showed up at the library and the mother of the girl who our daughter had been hanging out with all afternoon came out and said Hello.  Since they had never met before, my wife was taken by surprise, and when she asked our daughter what was going on, she said "Mom I just talked to you on the phone" with a little eye shift.... apparently, the other mother was under the impression our daughter had called us and gotten permission to go.  But she hadn't.

Then today, she was supposed to go to her "prep day" at the High School she is transitioning to next week.  But even though I woke her up before I left for work, and called 2 hours before the event was set to begin, she didn't manage to get up and get there on time.  These are, in the grand scheme of things, perhaps small things to some.  But to us, they are just more of the same - whenever we try to give her just a little more freedom, she shows us time and time again that she isn't able to handle it.

But she can.  We know she can.  She has gone weeks with no problems.  The only difference there was that she wasn't looking forward to something like going to a concert.  No reason to self-sabotage.
Sometimes I think this is one of the harder things to deal with.  Knowing that deep down she doesn't feel ready to handle some very basic things that many 17 year olds take for granted makes me very sad.  Sure, I'm disappointed that she won't get to go (of course, she likely thinks I'm happy about it - she has said as much in other situations) but if we can't trust her for 2 hours, I'm certainly not ok with her going to a large concert in another town with a friend.  Does that make me mean?  Sometimes I feel like the meanest parent in the world.  But with her lack of boundaries and history of self-destructive behavior, we need to be able to trust her.  And that just hasn't happened yet... :(

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Looming Transition

Soon the transition begins.  One more week of DTC, then a break for one week, then the fall session begins.  And with that comes the transition to the general High School  It's only 2 classes a day (after lunch), and after speaking with another parent whose daughter recently transitioned, it sounds like they have good support in place, but my daughter didn't do so well at the general High School before.  So we are undoubtedly anxious.  My daughter definitely has it in her to succeed if she chooses, it's just that she doesn't have the best history of making the best choices.  As with most children afflicted with RAD, it's all about the instant gratification, the NOW - consequences be damned.  Those can be dealt with later.  And that puts an incredible amount of strain on a relationship, no matter who is involved.  Few things are as painful as loving somebody who doesn't care about their self.  Certainly much progress has been  made over the past couple of years - even with the move.  Definitely we are happy to get her out of her current program where she seems to have stagnated.  But the fear that things will return to where they were before is very real.  The police, the social workers, CPS breathing down our necks - all because of the choices made by a teen. 

She still enjoys playing the pity card - and that's what got us into trouble to begin with.  When you're a kid, what better way to get attention from people than to tell them your parents "starve" and "torture" you?  Although I think she has come a long way, she still wants people to pity her - and that could lead us right down that same road. 

But it's a chance we'll have to take in order for her to continue healing.  She doesn't deal well with change - even little change.  If things such as changing seats at the dinner table can set her off, changing High Schools is going to be no piece of cake.  If all she does is return to cutting, is it still a success?  In our case I'm going to declare that a win...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Job Corps?

Well she turns 17 in a couple of weeks.  I can't believe it.  I remember being 17 and my life was so much different than hers.  My life wasn't perfect and I wasn't exactly a "good kid" (was going through a lot and probably had full blown PTSD by that point), but I had more freedom and was more responsible.  It's not that she can't - she just won't.  We've tried and tried to get her out there and get a job, to have friends, to DO things, but she seems perfectly comfortable where she's at - which is home, with us, all the time.  Not content.  Not by a long shot.  But comfortable.  Comfortable enough where she's not willing to make the effort required to change things.

This doesn't make us feel overly confident for when she turns 18.  Will she be ready to live on her own?  I think the answer to that is a resounding NO.  There are certain aspects of her life, such as diabetes management, where I know she'll do fine.  It may take a while for her to get into the swing of it, but I know that she knows what to do.  It's the other things... getting a job, paying bills, continuing her education - all the "adult" things that she has no clue or desire for.

Enter Job Corps.  We hope.  We've started the process to get her in there.  We don't qualify under their income requirements, but they make exceptions for people with disabilities - I'm hoping between the type-1 diabetes, the erbs palsy in her left arm, and her emotional issues that she will qualify.  We just aren't sure yet.  I'm hoping her DTC will be able to assist with getting her in as well.  They should - they've done it for other children and if anybody should be able to weasel her in it would be social workers and counselors. 

Not only would this move her out of her comfort zone, but it would give her the life skills that we've been trying to foster in her.  Of course, as parents, nothing we say or do makes any difference - we're the bad guys.  So hopefully when it comes from somebody else it will make a difference?  I think it will.  She'll be forced to be responsible for herself and that's what she needs.

The beauty of it is they have a Culinary Arts program - which she is really excited about.  Did I say "excited"?  I guess I should say "interested in a nonplussed kind of way" since she rarely gets "excited" about anything.  I think I'm more excited about this than she is.  But she has a friend from her DTC that is there so at least she'll know somebody (assuming they end up in the same place).

Who knows... either way, it'll be an adventure she will carry around with her for the rest of her life.. with any luck it will be a positive, life changing adventure...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

little things that add up

Had to drop off my daughters lunch at her school today.  One of her teachers saw me and asked "rough morning?" and chuckled.  Because he gets it.  And it WAS a rough morning, but for all little things.  Little things that don't mean a lot by themselves.. annoyances such as a library card that disappears and then reappears magically, things that supposedly get used but the user can't tell you where all the pieces are, just little stuff.  But the problem is that when you add up all the little things, it paints a picture of somebody who is still playing games and, as hard as it is to accept, isn't ready to cooperate honestly. 

As the parent of a RAD, this isn't uncommon.  It's nothing we haven't dealt with for years (and years, and years, and...).  give a little, lose a little.  Slowly we ARE gaining ground, but slowly is definitely the key word here.  And we're running out of time.  We're going camping next week, and the oldest daughter doesn't want to go.  She's never been a big fan of camping and we have always tried to accommodate her, knowing that if she doesn't want to be there, and doesn't HAVE to be there, it's more pleasant when she's NOT there.  This isn't to say we don't enjoy spending time with her - if I had my way, I'd love for her to come - I love spending time with her.. but I already know how it will turn out.. she'll be miserable and that makes everybody miserable (we're already going to get enough misery from her sister).

So my sister graciously agreed to allow her to stay there for the week.  Which is pretty awesome, especially since she is already having guests over that week.  But at least with her we know she's safe and in a warm, loving environment.  So that has been the carrot. 

But ogres don't like carrots.. and when the oldest daughter gets in these moods, that's what she reminds me of.. A big, grumpy ogre.  Rather than be honest, she would rather continue to play her games and miss out on going to her Aunts house.  And it's not like she'd get in trouble either - we already know what is going on - it's not like she is hiding some shocking news that is going to piss us off.  But we can't ignore the game either.  Well.. I suppose we could.. we could let her have her way.  But the real world doesn't reward games like that - not if you're going to work for somebody.  Not if you're going to rent a place to live.. pretty much nobody you deal with is going to let you get away with those games for long.  So why should we teach her it's ok? 

Besides, if we can't trust her with a library card, how are we supposed to trust her with her diabetes?  Especially just a couple of weeks after finding 4 syringes filled with insulin that she was hiding from us and injecting herself with randomly?  I can't, in good conscious, just drop her at my sisters with all that going on - my sister has enough to deal with already without having to follow her around 24/7 to try and keep her safe.

Of course it's OUR fault.  WE are the ones who smother her.  WE are the ones who don't let her do anything.  WE are forcing her to do things she doesn't want to do (i.e. go camping).  Again we're back to the lack of cause and effect thinking common among RADs.  It just doesn't exist (at least not at levels found in neuro-typical children).  And no matter how far along I thing we've gotten.  No matter how much progress I think we've made.  We are, time and time again, reminded that some things are just too deep to fix easily....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I can do it - but don't want you to know...

Well, it looks like the transition to the general HS will be delayed.  Am I disappointed? Yes.. Surprised? Not at all.  It has always been the pattern.  When there is something good to be gained, my daughter works hard for it.  Then, when it's almost a sure thing and she has done so well, she sabotages it.    We aren't sure whether this latest round will be enough to keep the transition from moving forward since there is still time to pull it together, but my daughter has definitely told me she is anxious about the move and hopes this "puts off" her transition (her words, not mine).

The thing is, there is something that needs to be done.  That "thing" needs to be done within certain parameters as set forth by doctors and social workers, with minimal interference from parents and teachers.  Only then can we move on to "freedom".  We already *know* she can do that "thing" - she has proven it to me several times.  But, when she doesn't do it within the guidelines, we can't be sure of her safety, hence the restriction (the guidelines were put in place after some near fatal mistakes she made - we don't just put them there arbitrarily as some have though).  A restriction which we're all hoping we can dump sooner than later - all she needs to do is do the "thing" within the guidelines.

But she refuses.  So we have to keep starting over from square one.  Being in square one may or may not prevent her from transitioning, but it's certainly going to make the transition much harder on her than it needs to be.

She's a teenager.  I get it.. she wants to do things her way.  I certainly did.  But if somebody had told me "you need to do A and show us so we can move on and you can have your freedom with it", I sure as heck would have done it and said "look, here it is now leave me alone".  But not her.  She would rather do it, and hide it from us.  Make sense?  It does to her... yeah, I don't get it either.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

destruction and drama

Came across a photo last night.  It was an old photo - maybe 15 years old, where the wife, oldest daughter and I were all standing in our Halloween costumes.  Or at least that's what it used to be.  Both the wife and daughter had been torn out of it. 

Since we (well, we being the little sister) found it in a box of stuff in the garage that belonged to the older sister, it was pretty obvious who had done the 'pre photoshop style editing' job.  So we asked her about it.

Instantly she became really upset.  We weren't accusing her, we weren't even mad at her.  We were just a bit shocked and definitely confused.  Why did she do that?  It's not like her love-hate relationship with her step mother is any big secret.  Some days step mom has a closer relationship with her than I do, other days.. not so much.  (thankfully, there are more 'good' days than not, but it hasn't always been that way). 

But why rip up the photo?  Obviously she was mad at the time.  Ok.  Got it. 

But it wasn't the ripped photo that carried through the night - that was pretty much addressed and done with.  But daughter refused to eat dinner.  Said she didn't want to listen to people whispering about the photo (eh?).  She refused to tell me when or why, saying she didn't understand why people are upset.  After all, "it's just a picture".

And it is "just a picture".  And in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter.  Nor does the When or the Why it was ruined.  Those are pretty easy to figure out and are pretty much par for the course when it comes to RAD.  But I can't figure out her reaction.  Was she upset at herself for ruining the picture when she was mad?  Was she upset that I was upset that she ripped step mom out of the photo?  Was she just upset about.. well.. I dunno?!?!  Is she PMSing?  Is something going on at school? (oh wait, yesterday was the first day of Summer vacation - at least we didn't have THAT blow up.. yet)...

Just when I think I have a handle on this thing, I find that's only on the surface... underneath RAD is a whole world of WTF...