I wrote a blog earlier this year about how adoption is the road between beauty and brokenness. Although adoption is a wonderful thing and I devote my life to the cause of orphans and adoption, adoption is only possible because of loss. Our three kids have their 11 year adoption day coming soon, and it saddens me to still see so many effects of their great losses. For those of you out there who know about RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) you’ll “get” this. For those of you who aren’t familiar with RAD, you may not understand.
I love my three kids dearly, and I pour myself into parenting them. We’ve completely depleted what would have been a college fund on attachment counseling for 6 years with a counselor who specializes in working with adopted kids and attachment issues. Although he’s done a fantastic job and we have seen progress, our kids are still not attached. They still do not trust me. Their brains still tell them that it’s safer to fend for themselves. They still have a hard time with eye contact. They still assume the worst of me. They still can’t truly believe that I really do love them and want what’s best for them. They still tell lies about me to others to make me look bad. Their broken hearts still shut me out when they need me the most.
Every night for almost 11 years, I’ve tucked my boys into bed with a hug and told them, “I love you.” Every night for almost 11 years, I have waited to hear, “I love you too” but have only been met with silence. Every night, I’ve left their room feeling sadness- yes, sadness for me but sadness for them and what they’re still missing. When my kids have bad dreams at night, they rarely come and get me. I hear about the bad dreams weeks later when they tell me very matter-of-factly like they were telling me what they had for lunch. When I reply, “Oh I wish you would have come and gotten me right away! I would have snuggled you back in bed and sung songs to you until you fell asleep again” I’m met with blank stares. Does not compute.
Most kids with RAD struggle with social relationships. Our kids still struggle- A LOT. They don’t have a close friend. They can’t. Close friendships require trust and giving of oneself. Friendship requires an ability to see things from another person’s point of view. Friendships require communication. Tom and I work with our kids almost every night at dinner on how to have a conversation. One person starts talking. The other people listen and then respond with a comment or a question. After about 9 months of practice, we’re starting to see some progress. But it’s grueling work. It seems so forced. But who else will teach our kids how to converse?
The saddest part of parenting kids with RAD is that I cannot make them see themselves as valuable. The voice inside their heart still screams, “You’re worthless! You’re a bad kid! No one will really love you!” I have spent every day of the last 7 years telling them that they are valuable, lovable, and priceless. They hear it from my mouth every day. They have it written on the wall beside their bed. They have been told thousands of times that their value comes from God and that nothing can lessen it. I remind them every time they make a wrong choice that their actions can never change their value, my love for them, or God’s love for them. But when I go to bed at night exhausted from attachment parenting, I know that they still believe the lies. Their counselor describes our affirmations and truth like rain at the foundation of a house. Eventually if it rains hard enough and long enough, it’s going to seep into the basement. I’m praying every day that the truth seeps into my kids hearts and minds.
Until that day, I keep the rain pouring down. I keep loving, keep praying, and keep taking them to counseling. And on days when I really stop and think about the difficult parenting job that God has called me to, I cry for them.