Tuesday, May 15, 2012


There are SO MANY blog post topics floating around in my head.  It’s been like this for quite some time.  Yet, I’ve been scattered, and physically not up to writing.  Still, when I think of all those topics, they really just boil down to is a sense of immense gratitude.

I am so very blessed.

I finished teaching a parenting class at our county jail today.  One woman completed the entire course.  She’s had a rough life up until now.  Some of the scars show.  Some of the walls she’s had to build up over time are still there.  But oh, what a beautiful person shines out from inside.  She WANTS to do well.  She is smart.  She’ll make it.  God, I want her to make it.  She has taught me so much.  This is the gift of teaching – you learn when you teach.

I am grateful for the lessons along this journey.  Some were fun and exciting.  Some were terribly painful.  Oh, how I’ve learned!

Will you count your blessings today?  Mine are so many.  I will begin with my sweet husband and my children (Oldest Son and his wife, The Teacher, our sons, Computer Man, The Actor, The Song Writer, Youngest Son and, of course, The Princess).  I am grateful for a home, for my needs met, for an opportunity to keep learning, and for the spiritual gift of teaching.  I am grateful that God sends people to me everywhere I go -- folks who chose me to tell their life story to, though I do not understand why they do this.  I am grateful for loving friends – those I have and those I’ve lost.  I am grateful for a heritage of faith and generations of mothers before me who poured that faith into their children.  They have a remnant in me and my kids.

I am grateful for the blessing of adoption – for the struggle before it and the fight during it.  It has changed my life and the way I view the world.  I am grateful for the things I’ve had to learn because of adoption, and for the ability to pass some of that along to others.  I am especially grateful to those who went before me and were patient with me while I learned – while I still learn.

I am grateful for sunshine as well as for rain.  I am even grateful for “fertilizer” because it, together with the rain and the sunshine, help me grow.

I am especially grateful to God. 

  “You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world” (Matthew 5:8, MSG).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear Birth Mother

When people ask me if I know “what happened to my kids’ ‘real’ parents,” I tell them that yes, I know what happened to their birth parents.  Sometimes, I smile and say, “Hubby and I are real.”  Mostly though, I let it go and just use proper adoption language in hopes they’ll get it.  Often, people will press for details.  I only share details on a need-to-know basis  (either my need or my kids’ need, depending upon the situation and the person).  Usually, I say, “No former orphan has a pretty story.”

My kids do not have a pretty story.  Honestly, most of what I know of their story is pretty ugly.  I haven’t heard a whole lot of good.  However, I know there was good.  Surely, there was good because my kids are awesome! 

Still, Mother’s Day is always hard around here.  They struggle.  I often wonder what I would say to their birth mother if I had the chance for some one-on-one time with her.  Even as recent as last Mother’s Day, I probably would have reamed her up one side and down the other.  Now, even though the things that happened still make me quite angry when I think of them, I have more compassion.  I wonder how I would have handled having the kind of life I know she’s had, and the kind of life I imagine she must have had to be where she is now.  I’m not so self-righteous anymore.  I know now I cannot know what I have not lived – not really.

So now, if I had a chance, this would be my letter to the woman who gave birth to my two youngest children.


Dear Birth Mother,

We celebrate Mother’s Day in America on the second Sunday in May each year.  It’s a little bit like Women’s Day, which is celebrated in most every other country around the world, including in Eastern Europe.  Mothers are honored on this day.  We receive cards, notes, and gifts.  Sometimes, we are taken to a restaurant by our families for a nice lunch or dinner.  Granted, it’s not like this for ALL mothers in America.  Some struggle.  Some are raising young children alone.  Some grieve on this day.  However, I am blessed -- very, very blessed.

You and I have never met.  All I know about you are the things written in court documents, or the things told to me by translators who have visited people who knew you.  All I know are the things my children remember about you and have shared with me.  Quite frankly, none of it is good.  Still, I believe – I truly believe, there MUST BE good in you, because my children came from you, and they are very, very good.

I understand your life has been unbelievably difficult.  However, I am no longer shocked by much.  I can believe the things you’ve gone through – the things people tell me you go through now, and it breaks my heart.  I want you to know I wish peace for you.  And health.  A home.  Redemption.  Self worth.  Forgiveness.  Love.

I also want you to know my children love you.  Quite frankly, that scares them.  I won’t kid you.  But they do love you.  My Youngest Son, your first born, cares very much for your well-being.  He often asks me if I think you are doing better.  He dreams of finding you one day and helping you to be better.  My Princess, your second born, remembers a pair of shoes you gave her once.  She loved those shoes.  She believes she gets her love of fashion from you.  She certainly doesn’t get it from me. 

My children are beautiful – truly good-looking kids, lovely inside and out.  They are healthy, smart, talented, intelligent, caring people who want to do well in life.  They are healing from the hurt they’ve been through.  We are working on it together.  There is so much good in them, and I am so blessed to be their Mom.  I know there are things I cannot give them – things that came from you and from their birth father.  I know these are good things. 

Mother’s Day is really hard for my kids.  They have come so far.  I know they love me, but they love you, too.  It’s hard for them to understand they can do this, and to feel like this is okay, because of the hard things they’ve known.  I want you to know I’ve forgiven you.  The kids are still working on it, but they’re getting there.  I am teaching them it is okay to love you even though they hate the things that happened.  They are learning your hard life didn’t “just” happen.  They are beginning to understand you had a rough start, too, and that you did not have anyone to help you overcome that.

I want you to know I am teaching my children to honor themselves, because they got so much of what is good in them from you.  I want you to know I am teaching them to honor you for that.

I also want you to know I understand it was never your plan for Youngest Son and The Princess to become my children.  But I am grateful.  I love them so much.  I cannot imagine my life without them.  Youngest Son has come so far.  He’s grown so much!  You’d be amazed at the changes in this boy these last four and a half years.  The Princess is a sweet, sweet girl.  She, too, has grown tremendously.  She is SO smart and she is an amazing care-giver.  I love to watch her with little children or small animals.  She is so good with them.

I also want you to know we pray for you on Mother’s Day.  We pray you’ll know we are all thankful. 

  The Lord bless you 
    and keep you; 
   the Lord make his face shine on you 

    and be gracious to you; 
   the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace. ”’ – Numbers 6:24-26

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Self Care

I am relearning to take care of myself, to like myself whether some other individual likes me or not.  Getting beat up often and over and over again can take its toll.  It took its toll.  But in the basic nature of "flight or fight," I lean most firmly toward the fight.  So, I'm fighting back -- reclaiming me.  It is a process.  It is two steps forward, and sometimes one giant step back.  But it is.  Trauma and attachment issues take their toll.  Now I'm taking mine.

I think anyone reading this, should also read Christine Moers' blogpost HERE.

I also think anyone reading this should investigate tapping and EFT (emotional freedom therapy).  Don't knock it till you've researched it and given it a try.  Here's a video to give you a an idea of what I've been doing the past few mornings:

Then, after you've learned a little bit about what tapping is, try this video to start out.  It's done especially for care-givers.

Let me know what YOU think - but don't knock what helps someone else.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

TMT Answers a Reader Question on “Borrowing”

“Dear TMT - I am wondering if you have any advice to give about dealing with one of our children who "borrows" things from siblings without asking.  The siblings are really becoming annoyed because the "taker" does not share her own things but feels that everyone should share with her.  We have talked about how she would not like it, how it is wrong, and she grudgingly admits this, but does not change behavior.   All four of our children were adopted at the same time, and are chronologically right on top of each other.   We have tried to use something "important" to the taker as the consequence for this behavior, but have not come up with anything that seems to work.  Hoping for any wisdom or insight you might have.   Many thanks, Sandy”

Wow Sandy, that’s rough.  We’ve been through some of that kind of thing around here.  You might want to read some of my earlier posts on stealing and lying.  We stopped allowing anyone to call taking someone else's property without permission  “borrowing” and called it what it was – stealing.  If you or I “borrowed” our next door neighbor’s car without asking them, and without them giving us permission to do so, they would have every right to report us to the police for grand theft auto – whether we returned the vehicle or not.  So, my first suggestion (since you asked – wink, wink) is to call the action what it is.  Your daughter is stealing.

As therapeutic parents, our first and foremost act of love, including discipline as love, is to CONNECT.  (See yesterday’s post on Dr. Michael Popkin’s FLAC method of dealing with behavior issues.)  Our traumatized kids often feel as though they are missing out somehow – on something.  My daughter, when she is dysregulated will tell us we do not love her because we have not given her some of the possessions her older brothers have.  Youngest Son went through some of the same kind of crud last year.  He was stealing iPods, his adult brother’s external hard drive, computer equipment, wires out of drawers in my office, flash drives, and pretty much anything else he thought he could use to rig up his hidden computer lab – while also stealing internet connection from a neighbor that used our street name as their network password.  (Youngest Son is quite cleaver.)

It was really, really hard.  I wanted to whomp him upside the head, but he needed connection.  He needed to feel safe, no matter what, before I could ever teach him anything, and before he could ever understand the restitution and restoration he had to do to make things right in the community and in our home. 

Some people teach parents of traumatized kids to hide any anger from their child while reassuring them they are loved.  After all, it is about them and not about us.  Ehh, I'm not so hip on that -- not in all cases, anyhow.

I don’t know how old your children are.  Mine were nine and 12 years old when they came home.  They are 13 and 16 now.  Their birthdays are in the summer, so they’ll be 14 and 17 all too soon for my liking.  Our fifth year anniversary home will be in August 2012.  

With Youngest Son, I felt as though I didn’t have a whole lot of time left to teach him that stealing was not only wrong, but that it could land him in heaps of trouble.  So while I reassured him I loved him no matter what – that he was my son no matter what, his behavior was not something I loved.  In fact, I hated it.  I would not accept it.  It embarrassed me and made me quite angry.  I would not allow him to continue on that path by “fixing” things for him and letting him be the victim, or the "poor little orphan boy who didn't know better."

When I found he'd stolen the iPods, he returned them to authority figures in the places he “found” them.  (He has never yet admitted to stealing them, but we still call it what it is.  He didn’t “find” them.)  We involved the school police officer in one case.  Youngest Son got a lecture about jail, and I told him I would not bail him out if he got arrested.  I meant it.  I still do.  As for the internet usage, I marched him across the street and had him tell the neighbor they needed to change their password to something a lot less easy to guess.  His relationship with his older brother suffered for quite a while.  This adult son is my most easy-going of the older children, but even easy-going people don’t like to have their stuff taken.  Thankfully, Youngest Son got it - eventually.  We didn’t let it go.  We talked about it again and again.  We took opportunity to discuss it when we saw "stupid criminals" on the evening news or when some other kid got in trouble at school.  We talked about choices.  We talked about consequences.  We talked about the real world – and that people in the world were not going to give him the benefit of the doubt he'd gotten in the past in therapy and at home.  We talked about how he’d missed out on a lot of things,that he could not live as “the victim” all his life and enjoy the success he wanted and have the THINGS he wanted.  We talked about responsibility and how freedom and “big kid” stuff like electronics come with maturity and respect for oneself and others.  Again, it wasn’t easy.  There were a lot of days I thought he’d end up in jail sooner or later.  

Today, I took him driving downtown for the first time.  He has his learner's permit.  He’s had a great school year.  He’s matured.  He’s straightened up his act.  He’s been responsible and has shown genuine care for others, their belongings, and their feelings.  He’s ready for big kid stuff because he’s grown up and has proven he is ready for them.

What we did with Youngest Son is not what a lot of therapeutic parents would tell most other parents to do.  Some kids with more severe RAD issues may not respond to the way we handled things as Youngest Son did.  However, if your child is older – a teenager who needs to grow up and take responsibility for her actions, perhaps, then my biggest suggestion would be to stop allowing her actions to be called “borrowing.”  She is stealing her siblings’ belongings.  Connect with her.  Tell her you can see by her actions she is feeling like she needs a better connection to you, or her siblings, and that you want to be that connection for her – material items won’t fill that need.

Figure out a way to limit her exposure to her siblings belongs.  Place limits on EVERYONE so that the entire amily understands what belongings are special things that should not be touched by anyone else.  Be clear about your expectations.  What can your family tolerate?  What limits do you want?  What limits can you live with?  If she steals someone else’s mp3 player, for example, can you live with stripping her room of all electronics?  Can you limit electronics (or whatever it is she keeps taking) to use only in common areas of the home, such as the family room?  (We don’t allow computers in bedrooms, for example – not even the parents have a computer in the bedroom.)

Come up with some alternatives as a family.  Are there some belongings the siblings CAN share?  Are there some personal items that are okay to use, even if someone isn’t around to ask or grant permission for their use?  If I want to spiral curl my hair and my sister owns a flat iron that she keeps in the bathroom that we share, is it okay for me to use that flat iron without asking her first?

Discuss consequences BEFORE the next temptation to steal.  Logically, I would think that would include returning the item, giving some kind of service to the person who was wronged, and paying for any time or costs involved in making things right.  Talk about how the other person feels and what they would like to see happen for restitution for taking the item, and most importantly, what is needed for restoration of the relationship.  The problem should be owned by the person who broke the relationship to begin with, but the one who was hurt needs to be willing to reconcile for restoration of the relationship to begin.  The person who is repentant can be completely remorseful, even do everything biblically required of them to restore the relationship, but if the other person is unwilling to move forward, to forgive and to love, then no one is going to heal.

Our pastor talked about justification and redemption this morning.  He gave an example of the story of the prodigal son.  When that young man returned home, his father did not say, “You wronged me.  You did me harm.”  He accepted the son’s apology and welcomed him home with open arms.  He even threw a party.

Celebrate when she “gets it.”  It’s a big deal.  Teach the other kids to celebrate her successes, but not to minimize her actions or accept unacceptable behavior.

I hope that helps you.  If you want to add more detail below about the ages of your children, please do.  I hope it is okay with you that I copied your comment and pasted it above as a new blog post.  I ask my readers to not include our family’s names in comments if they know who we are.  I want to be as open as possible to help my readers as I help myself sort through things when I write.  Thanks for understanding.  Just call me “TMT.”  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sum-sum-summer Time: Transitioning Traumatized and Attachment Disordered Kids from Routine to Vacation

It’s interesting to me that the most read posts here over the past week are those having to do with IEP meetings, adoption issues, and teacher education on trauma and attachment.  In order, these most read posts are:

It seems a lot of my dear readers are busy preparing for the next school year, lining things up for their child to make for an easier transition into a higher grade, or even a higher level school.  It is good to prepare for this.  It is good to learn and to teach those who will teach your child what they need to know.  It is good to let them know your child has different abilities than typical students.  However, there is something else we parents need to do as we prepare.  We need to prepare for the transition of school routine into the more laid back and take-it-as-they-come days of summer.

If your family is like mine, you may already be seeing signs of stress in your kids as the school year winds down.  My kids get out of school the third week of May.  My daughter-in-law graduates from college next weekend, too and we plan to travel to attend her graduation.  In response to that stress, things have begun to ramp up around here.  The Princess has gotten into trouble at school and she’s had more issues at home more often.  She is struggling with peer relationships again.  She complains of being bored often, but will not respond to any suggestions to break that boredom.  Youngest Son is, so far, handling this time of year the best he ever has, but even he has gotten more snippy and has even less tolerance for his little sister than normal. 

Dr. Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D.
So, if you’ve recognized the summertime transition stress rearing its ugly head in your home, here are some things we’re trying to employ in our family.  Maybe some of these things will work for you.  These tools are based on Dr. Michael Poplin’s FLAC method of active parenting.  (I teach his Active Parenting course to parent inmates in our local county jail.)  For the purpose of parenting my hurt kids, I also intertwine things I’ve learned from Dr.Karen Purvis, Dr. Bruce Perry, things I learned in grad school as I studied the “old school” psychologists such as Alfred Adler (the individual as an indivisible whole), Erik Erickson (basic trust vs. mistrust), and a little of what Heather Forbes teaches as well.  Below is a brief explanation of FLAC as practiced in our home:

F L A C 

Connect.  Connect.  Connect.  (The “F” of FLAC – Feelings.)  Remember the parenting mantra of the 80’s?  “Quality is more important than quantity.”  Well, it’s bunk.  Ten minutes of so-called quality time does not equal one hour of real face time.  Our kids need us around them to connect.  Relationships take time.  Relationships need time.   Karen Purvis teaches that traumatized and attachment disordered kids are lonely kids.  They need connection.  They want connection – even when they push connection away.  Connect.  Connect.  Connect.

When Youngest Son comes in from track practice, I stop whatever I’m doing.  I touch him.  I put a hand on his shoulder or his head.  Sometimes, I put an arm around his waist and give him a sideways hug and joke with him that it “smells like” he had a good work out.  We laugh.  He tells me about his day.  We connect.  It makes us both feel good.

When I pick The Princess up from school at the end of the day, I watch her body language and her facial expressions as she approaches the car.  If she looks stressed, I tell her so.  If she is hyper, I ask her if she’s happy about something that happened at school – or if maybe something happened that frightened her a little bit.  Sometimes she talks right away.  Other times, she waits.  I take her to a fast food drive-in that has a “happy hour” where the drinks are half price.  We share a strawberry lime-aid.  We giggle.  We talk. 

At home, especially when things get more stressful, we try to spend even more face time with the kids.  Even if we’re sitting on the same sofa and watching a movie together and NOT talking, we’re together.  We’re connecting.  It feels good.

The World Gets a Little Smaller.  (The “L” in FLAC – Limits.)  Those who know trauma and attachment issues know when stress increases, the world needs to decrease.  It helps our kids feel safe.  It helps them regulate themselves better.  It helps them deal with a larger world later.  As parents, we need to set limits for our families.  What works for us may not work for another family, and that’s okay.  This year, for us, that means allowing Youngest Son to run track and have a little bit of free time with some buddies after practice is over, but he gets home by 5:30 and is here to set the table for dinner.  It means he has the freedom he’s earned as he has matured and done so well in school and in the community, but he’s got to be home when he's expected.  It means he only taking driving lessons from Mom (Dad drives him crazy in the car), and not just anyone over 21.  For The Princess, it means one-to-one play dates with trusted kids from stable families – kids in whom she can find a mature-for-their-age and positive role model.  It means thrift store shopping dates with Mom and craft sessions making bracelets.  It means rules that work for our family and rules we stick by.

In the past, when things have REALLY gotten out of control, limits have included removing bedroom and closet doors and accompanying teens to and from (and sometimes during) all activities.  You do what you have to do when it’s appropriate to do it.  You let lose the reigns a bit as the child is able to handle it.  For Youngest Son, that has meant a lot more freedom since this time last year.  He has matured far more than I ever imagined he would at this point and he is handling it well.  For The Princess, things got harder this year.  Middle school was rough.  We’ll spend some time regrouping.  She’s a smart and motivated kid.  I know deep down she’ll get there, too.  For now, her world is smaller than it is for typical 13 year old girls.  She is a hurt kid dealing with a lot of stuff.

Be Ready with Choices.  (The “A” in FLAC – Alternatives.)  Even though our kids are sometimes so out of control it’s crazy-crazy, they NEED to feel as though they have some control over themselves and their lives.  So much of their early life was out of their control.  They had no choices.  They were victims.  In our family, we often say we don’t want to be the victim anymore.  We don’t want our kids to grow up being a victim.  As they’ve gotten older, they understand what that means. 

Alternatives can mean giving a child a choice between two things.  For example, my daughter LOVES the battle of the clothing war, especially on Sunday mornings.  One of our “L” (limits) in our family is that we dress modestly.  For us, that means no cleavage and no spaghetti straps unless they’re layered over a top that covers more.  It means no short-shorts or short skirts unless they’re layered over at least capri-length leggings.  My daughter often gets into the mode of “forgetting” what the dress code limits are.  Now, we give her alternatives the night before.  She has the freedom to choose an outfit, but we have the freedom to add to that outfit, or suggest alternatives.  If her choice is inappropriate for our family’s limits, she gets to choose between two alternatives decided upon by us.  Does it keep her from pushing her father to buy her a bikini every time they go to Walmart to pick up milk?  No.  But she knows the limits. 

Choices can also mean a choice between compliance or a choice to miss out on something they want.  For example, one of my daughter’s chores is to empty the dishwasher when she gets home from school.  She also loves to play on the Wii after school each day.  The LIMIT is that she needs to put the dishes away BEFORE she can play on the Wii.  She can choose to put the dishes away right away and play on the Wii before supper.  Or, she can choose to put the dishes away later, but then there is no time to play on the Wii because then it’s dinner time, shower time, and Dad & Mom’s TV time.  She has choices within our family’s limits.

Back it Up With Natural Consequences.  (The “C” in FLAC – Consequences.)  When our kids fail to comply with our LIMITS or don’t agree with the CHOICES (Alternatives) we allow, there are natural consequences to their behavior to teach them the discipline they need to learn.  An example Dr. Popkin gives in his Active Parenting course is one in which a older child is instructed to put his bike away and not leave it in the drive way.  The first time it happens, his dad tells him how leaving his bike out is inconvenient for his dad.  When it happens, Dad has to stop the car, get out, and move the bike before he can park the car.  He asks his son to remember to put the bike away and asks if he agrees to do that.

When it happens again, Dad is more firm.  He uses “I” messages to tell his son how he feels when he comes home and has to move the bike.  He tells his son he feels like his son doesn’t care about his feelings.  Again, he (more firmly, but still calmly) asks his son if he agrees to put the bike away.  However, when it happens a third time, Dad takes the bike and locks it up for a period of time (one day for each year of emotional age of the child is my suggestion).  This is a natural consequence for not taking care of the bike.  Since the son was not interested in doing it, Dad took action and took care of the bike in a way that solved his problem and demonstrated to his son that he needed to take responsibility.  Our actions (or lack of action) have consequences. 

Natural Consequences Scene from "Active Parenting" by Dr. Michael Popkin

When we have the routine of school, FLAC seems to be much easier to accomplish in our family.  Our attachment disordered kids thrive best with routine.  Summer isn’t so routine around here.  We’re going to try to do better with that this year, even as we give our Youngest Son more freedom and monitor The Princess to see how she’s doing.  Here’s what we’re going to try with our teens during the work week:

No later than 10:00am- Out of bed, breakfast, dress, etc.
10:30am - Some free time to “wake up.”  None of us are morning people.
11:00 - Daily chores (straighten bedroom, straighten common areas of house)
11:30 – Screen time (Wii, TV, or computer)
12:30pm - lunch
1:00 - Library, Pool, Rec Center to play ball, or volunteer position at animal shelter (time with friends in more structured environment than just “hanging out”)
4:00 - Free time at home – Can have a friend over
5:30 - Evening chores (Youngest Son sets table.  The Princess empties the dishwasher.)
6:30 - Dinner with family
7:00 – Evening activity or free time with family
9:00 – Shower time for The Princess
10:00 – Shower time for Youngest Son *unless out with youth group on planned outing, Bed time for The Princess
11:00pm – Normal bedtime for Youngest Son (and parents)

You’ll see our planned scheduled is structured only to a certain extent.  There’s a lot of time in the schedule for flexibility within the structure.  I find that when my kids have too many activities and events planned, we run into irritability and resistance.  I want them to enjoy their vacation.  However, I don’t want them to feel “lost” during the summer.  We’ve made that mistake in the past.  My kids like to know what happens next.  Youngest Son especially has ALWAYS needed to know “the plan.”  Vacations where the whole family goes away to relax and take things as they come, drive him nuts.  They are especially stressful times for him.  Still, every 16 year old, whether emotionally 16 or not, needs down time.  If he gets up before 10 a.m., that’s okay.  I’m not going to make him get up earlier, however.

Having this more structured time over the summer I hope will also help my kids make the transition into the next school year more smoothly.  The schedule will change, but at least we’ll be going from schedule to schedule – not from “whatever” to schedule.  That’s the plan.  I’ll let you know how it goes in August.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


You will keep in perfect peace 
those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3

 I do not rest in “perfect peace” for very long, or very often.  My mind whirls around “what if’s” more than it is ever steadfast.  I would like to believe I do indeed trust in God.  However, I’m sure there are some who would tell me the PTSD I’ve developed these last five years or so, and the hyper-vigilance in which I live much of my life, proves otherwise.  It is what it is.  I am who I am.  Some people love me.  Some aren’t so fond of me.  I am learning to be okay with that.

I wish so much that my hurt kids – your hurt kids – could learn to be okay with it, too.  I guess if I’m still learning to "be okay with it," then it is a bit much to expect it out of someone so much younger than I, who has been through so much more than I.

“Wait a minute, TMT.  You’re saying YOU have PTSD?  I thought it was your kids that were dealing with complex trauma and attachment issues.”

Yes, Grasshopper.  I have developed my own full-blown case of PTSD.  Going through what I went through in Eastern Europe to get my two youngest children home was enough to develop the disorder.  (Just ask my friend, Diana who had a similar experience.  Like her, “I’d rather shave my legs with a spoon than go through THAT again.”  However, it is the 4.5 years that have followed, parenting two hurt tweens into their teens, that have brought me to my own very real state of not-so-perfect peace. 

For anyone reading who may be a pre-adoptive parent or a newly adoptive parent, PLEASE understand this:  It is still worth it and I’d still do it all again if it meant having The Princess and Youngest Son as MY children.  Heck, I’d go through that and more.  Well, now I would.  (Being honest here.)  Now that I love them and they are fully mine.  But it took time.  We didn’t bond instantly.  I didn’t feel as though they were “mine” for a very long time after they were home, and even that came in stages and is still a process because attachment is a two-way street.  It is worth it.  But it’s not for everyone.  Don’t do it because adoption is the call of the Church, or because all your friends are doing it and are having an okay time through it.  Don’t do it because the kids are cute.  Don’t do it because you want to make a difference.  Do it because you are called and it is your life to do it.  Do it because you know these kids are yours, even if they don’t FEEL like they’re yours and it takes a long time.  It’s worth it.  But it’s not for everyone.  And it’s stinkin’ hard sometimes.  It’s frightening.  It’s not easy to dwell in perfect peace.  Trust is not a steadfast understanding here all the time.  Trust is sometimes hanging on by the fingernails for dear life because you’re completely spent and there’s nothing else to do but hang on.  Sometimes, trust is letting go. 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
 and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways submit to him,
 and he will make your paths straight.  – Proverbs 3:5-6

 Whenever I begin to try and understand what it really means to raise two teenagers from another culture who have been through the abuse and neglect my kids have been through and yet, are still standing, still thriving the best they know how, still trying hard – really, really HARD – to make it in this world, and that I get to be a part of that with all my faults and failures, I am blown away.  Words don’t come.  Still, the path is far from straight.  So I hang onto the promise that He will make it straight in His time.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
 neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
 so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

 I definitely have PTSD.  I have been through things with my youngest children that I never really believed I’d be through when I was in the process of adopting them.  They have had reactions to things that have triggered them into post-trauma that took me a long time to understand.  Their actions and words, the fear of “what if,” and the times they did things like “disappear” on me leave me with my own sense of hyper-vigilance.  I am triggered by things I never imagined.  I know am not alone.  You are not alone.  People who parent hurt kids with RAD, PTSD, ADHD, etc. often end up with their own PTSD and even depression sometimes.  Here’s an article to read:  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Parents of Reactive Attachment Disordered Children.  If you really want to dig in, here is a Google link with several scholarly articles on the subject.


Back to PTSD and my own triggers.  I know of more than one girl with PTSD and RAD my daughter’s age that is expecting a baby.  We’re talking 13 and 14 year old girls.  Granted, I know that even girls raised from the womb in stable families sometimes get pregnant at very young ages.  However, I imagine kids from hurt backgrounds have a much higher chance of it.  The girls I know about who are pregnant are from hurt backgrounds.  Am I afraid The Princess could make me a Gramma before my adult sons ever do?  Yes!  I’m scared spitless.  I actually lose sleep over it.  I am not at perfect peace.  I don’t want to raise a baby at the age of 50+.

Am I afraid The Princess will go off with “a friend” and get into Lord-knows-what kinds of trouble?  Yes.  She was at an orchestra competition today and the teachers let the kids roam the school, unsupervised while they waited for their events.  She met some boys and “made friends” with them.  Oh, but don’t ask her their names.  She doesn’t know.  She has no clue how much this kind of behavior triggers my fear for her.  She really doesn't see why I'd be upset by knowing she did this.  

For those of you who’ve lived through this, or are living through it right now, know I am praying for you.  I admire you.  You are awesome. 

As for my purpose here with this blog, all I can do is share my own struggles.  I can let you know you're not alone.  I can encourage you to hang onto the promise that our paths will become straight.  I can suggest that, perhaps, "perfect peace" is manifested in the ability to just keep going -- to just keep loving -- to find people that can "be there" for you when things are the toughest, people who will not leave when you need them most -- and to hang on by the fingernails when there's nothing else you can do.  When those times do come, please let me know.  I'll pray for you and I'll be a loyal ear.  We trauma mamas need to stick together.