Sunday, January 12, 2014

Our RADical life. Something not much talked about...

So, after a long, hard, trying week, I decided I need to blog about it.... About our RADical life. Radical... Hey- that's one of my favorite books by David Platt! But I'm not talking about that kind of radical. Not the wow-my-life-is-rad-dude! kind of radical either...

This is NOT to scare adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents. This is for awareness. This is for those adoptive mommas (or daddies!) who feel alone. This is for family and friends who know someone who has a child with RAD, but you don't quite understand... When you adopt, it's usually required to take a few online courses on parenting and attachment related topics, but to be honest, there isn't a lot talked about with RAD, especially from adoptive parents. From my personal experience, it's because it's hard to talk about a side of your child that hardly anyone else sees. I also fear that it will turn people away from adoption. But I've realized that it's important to talk about. It's important for people to know and understand and for other parents going through RAD that they are not alone. It's also important for family members and friends to realize what is going on at home, how to help and things not to do.

So here we go... RAD. What is it? RAD stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder and is most common in adopted or foster children. "RAD kids have learned that the world is unsafe, and that the adults around them can’t be trusted to meet their needs. They have developed a protective shell around their emotions, isolating themselves from dependency on adult caregivers. Rather than depending on their parents or other adults to protect them, the protective shell becomes the child’s only means of coping with the world. Dependent only upon themselves for protection, they come to see anyone who is trying to remove this protective barrier as a threat, not to their emotional well being, but to their very lives. They turn on those who seek to help them the most."

This explains my everyday life as Eyob's mom. It's not uncommon for our day to be filled with screaming tantrums that can last anywhere from 5 minutes to over an hour. It can occur over just about anything. Asking him not to poke our cat's eyes, telling him to please put his pants on, suggesting for him to play with a toy (any toy!), not allowing him to go out the front door on his own... Literally anything can stir up a control issue, resulting in a screaming fit where sometimes he can try to hit or kick, and if not me, then he turns on himself and will try to throw himself on the floor, bang his face on the floor or even run into a wall. This is why it's not unusual for him to have a bruise on his forehead or a bloodied lip.  Then after the fit, he can do a 180 and be perfectly fine and normal again as if nothing ever happened, just for it to start over again sometimes just 5 minutes later. It began to be normal for this to happen 10, 15, 20 plus times a day. I thought I was doing something wrong, because it seemed like no matter what I did. No matter what I provided, not matter how much I tried to love him, to show him I loved him... Nothing helped. Nothing worked. The more I tried to show love, the worse it seemed to get...

For many of you who know Eyob, this probably sounds like a completely different child to you... He is known for his sweet, charming attitude and his cute, flirty smile and eyes. He is one of the most "loving" little boys. To everyone else, but me. This is a common symptom of RAD.

"Superficially charming and engaging, particularly around strangers or those 
who they feel they can manipulate 

Indiscriminate affection, often to strangers; but not affectionate on parent’s terms"

It was so hard to see how it seemed like he wanted nothing to do with me, but any chance he'd get, he would go to any other person, especially women. Even strangers! And he would be the sweet, loving little boy I had fallen in love with when we first brought him home. Everyone at church would tell me what an amazing little boy he was and how much they loved him and how lucky I was to have such a good little boy! I'd politely smile, try to say thank you and walk away, with my heart in my throat, wishing desperately that the little boy they saw was that same child to me at home. This is why it was hard for me to talk about in the beginning. I went months without saying anything, not even to Michael, because even HE never saw that side of Eyob. I thought it was just a phase or that it was because he was nearing his twos. As the months went by of no improvement, I began to feel like I was in a dark, lonely place in my life. I opened up to Michael when he began to see issues with Eyob. And I began to question our adoption and to be honest, I began to question my faith. I knew without a doubt that we had done God's will and purpose for our life, but the human side of me wondered, "God, I did what you asked me to do! Why is this happening? This isn't what it was supposed to be like!"  It wasn't unusual for Michael to come home, ask me how my day was and for me to burst into a sobbing, crying mess. I thank the Lord everyday for such an awesome husband... Many days he didn't even have to ask. One look into my eyes and he knew. And that sweet man, full of grace and understanding, would quietly bring me into our bedroom, tell me to lay down and he'd go out, shut the door and take over, fixing supper and taking care of the kids. Other times he would hold me and let me cry and just pray, when I felt like I could no longer pray.

As I questioned God and His perfect plan and purpose, He began to reveal to me that, yes, adoption is a beautiful thing, but also reminded me that adoption must occur because we live in a fallen, sin-filled world. The cause and need for adoption is due to death, abandonment, sickness, disease, tragedy, heartache, and just awful situations. God never said "Adopt these two beautiful boys and your life will be great, perfect and easy." God said "Adopt these two precious boys that I love so much and your life will be great, but difficult. Your life will be amazing and beautiful, but filled with heart wrenching stories, backgrounds and trials. You, Amanda... YOU will get to witness what true unconditional love is like. YOU will get to witness what it is like to love a child who doesn't love you back, who fights you, who feels like they don't need you. Just remember. You are not alone. I am with you. And most of all: I understand... More than you could ever know. I understand! "

Day after day, I'd silently wish for the day to hurry so bedtime would come, and yet dread morning, knowing it would all start over again. Fits. Screaming. Hitting. Kicking. Trying to protect him from hurting himself. Fits over nothing. He'd sit in front of me rocking, screaming, and crying, not allowing me to even touch him, as I'd quietly tell him over and over "It's okay, Eyob. Mommies touch. It's okay, Eyob. Mommies hug. It's okay, Eyob. Mommies LOVE. It's okay, Eyob. Mommies hold." As he continually screamed and revolted at a single fingertip touch to his arm or cheek, as if it burned his skin. His eyes glazed over. For minutes. For hours. And then all of a sudden, a blink, eyes cleared, screaming stopped, and touch was okay. For a little while. Until it all started over again. That was/is my day, repeated over and over...

A song struck me once months ago in the van... "Oceans" by Hillsong. The lyrics stood out to me and it felt as if this was the song I needed to be singing, as I drove home in tears...

"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior"

I began to open up and found out that I actually wasn't alone... I knew that God has never failed us, especially during our adoption process and He would certainly not fail me now in the midst of hard times. I began to realize that what Eyob was doing wasn't "normal" so to speak. We eventually took him to be assessed by a specialist who almost immediately diagnosed him with RAD as he met almost every one of the signs/symptoms such as:

  • Superficially charming and engaging, particularly around strangers or those who they feel they can manipulate
  • Indiscriminate affection, often to strangers; but not affectionate on parent’s terms
  • Problems making eye contact
  • A severe need to control everything and everyone; worsens as the child gets older
  • Hypervigilant
  • Frequent tantrums or rage, often over trivial issues
  • Demanding or clingy, often at inappropriate times
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Destructive to property or self
  • Abnormal speech patterns; uninterested in learning communication skills
  • Developmental / Learning delays
  • Problems with food; either hoarding it or refusing to eat
  • Sneaks things without permission even if he could have had them by asking
  • Triangulation of adults; pitting one against the other
  • A darkness behind the eyes when raging (this is one of the biggest things that triggered to us that something was not right. His eyes would almost glass over)

Many wonder how Eyob has it when he is so little. RAD can come at ANY age. And you must remember, that for the first months of his life, his needs were never met. It has been ingrained in his small little brain that none of his caregivers ever met all his needs. He wasn't always fed when he needed it. He wasn't always held when he needed it. He was never left with ONE person. People came and went in his short little life. His brain is telling him that he shouldn't get close to me. I will eventually leave or eventually I won't meet the needs he has. RAD can literally be a coping mechanism! He cannot trust me and is too scared to try...

We were assigned with an attachment therapist and I began to feel a little more hope. We've been having therapy for a couple months now. While we still don't have much improvement, I still have hope that things will eventually get better. Despite that hope, I still struggle a lot with hard days. It's normal for a mom to have hard days... And with being a mom to 5 little ones under the age of 7, having a newborn (which results in many sleepless nights), homeschooling 2 of the older ones, dealing with just everyday life as a mom and wife, and then throwing in RAD? It'd hard, to say the least. This past week was a particularly difficult week. His tempers had increased and you can see some bruises, scratch marks and bites on me from him... But I have hope. Hope in Jesus Christ. Hope that love will conquer all. I will admit, though. Loving unconditionally has been hard, and I sometimes do a terrible job at it. I'm thankful I get to retry every single day, though, and I pray that God will teach me to love like Him... And as crazy as it sounds, I'm thankful for the opportunity for God to break me from my content attitude and humbling me to be able to be more like Him... And totally thankful for Eyob... 

"A child born to another woman calls me mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me." - Jody Landers

I know we still have a long way to go, and I know that not everyday will I go forth with such a great attitude, but again, I'm thankful for His grace and am thankful that He is here by my side every step of the way. I'm thankful that "His grace abounds in deepest waters, His sovereign hand will be my guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, He has never failed and He won't start now." 

***** ~ ****** ~ ****** ~ ******~*****

Are you a friend or family member to someone you know who is dealing with a child with RAD? Wondering what you can do to help? Here are some ideas:

What to do:
Pray. Pray from afar, pray over the RAD child, pray for the parents. Cover them in prayer as often as they come to mind. I truly believe RAD is Satan's way of fighting against adoption... 

If they're having a hard day, bring them a meal. Believe me, at the end of a difficult day, it's almost all you can do to function enough to think about food. Often times, I want to curl up in a ball and hide in my closet! But that could just be me and my coping mechanism! ;) My sister has done that for me after a really hard day. It meant more to me than I think she realizes... Especially knowing she is busy herself, as a mom of 4!

Watch their kids for an hour or two so they can have a break. Seriously, breaks are needed SO much for the well being and sanity of the main caregiver. A day of constant crying, tantrum-ing, screaming, and attachment issues can wear down a mom/dad quickly, but dealing with that day in and day out can drain a person more than you can imagine... Trust me! So an hour or even an evening out for RAD mom and/or dad is great! 

Be supportive and encouraging. Let them vent or talk without casting any sort of judgement. Encourage them and tell them they are doing great. Chances are, they feel like they're not. Chances are, they feel like one of the worst parents in the world. Even if they may not believe you, the encouraging words help.

What to NOT do:
If RAD child is in the middle of a tantrum and you are there, walk away and let child and parent deal with it alone. If child goes to you, ignore and walk away. PLEASE let the caregiver deal with it. Remember that the child will try to manipulate anyone they think they can. They know they can't with mom/dad, so they may try to go to someone else. It's important for their attachment that only mom or dad deals with these tantrums and that you don't even look at or talk to RAD child and don't question the parenting techniques that are being used.

If you haven't been through it, don't say you understand. I haven't dealt with that, but some have, and not only is it frustrating, but it can be discouraging. It's nothing like a normal two or three year old temper tantrum. It may seem like it to you, but there's much more to a RAD tantrum than that. 

If the parents are there, do not give RAD child food, drinks, change their diapers, etc. This is an attachment thing in general, not just for RAD kids, but for all adopted kids. It's SO important for the child (whether a baby or a big kid!) to understand and learn that their needs of food, water, clothing, love, and more comes from Mommy and Daddy. No one else. It's very common for RAD children to "mommy shop", meaning shopping for another mom (or dad) who will give into their every want and it's common for RAD child to go around a room "begging" and putting on their sweet, flirty face trying to find out who will give them what they want. For example, if RAD child asks you for a cookie, please say something similar to "I'm sorry *insert name*, but I can't give that to you. Go ask your Mommy/Daddy! They give you cookies. Not me!" 

You may be in a store and see a tantrum-ing child. Don't always assume it's a "bratty spoiled child".... It very well could be. Or it could be just a tired, overwhelmed child. Or there may be other underlying issues, like a child with RAD. Instead of giving disapproving stares, whispers and pointing fingers, I'd really encourage you to instead give mom a gentle pat on the shoulder and say "It's okay, momma!" and walk away. Believe me, the last thing you need is a stern, judgmental stare when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and cry in the middle of the store, knowing there's nothing you can do to stop said child from their fit. And being a mom with 5 little ones, including a newborn, when you're by yourself in a store with all the kids, it's not easy to take all 5 of them out of the store at the time, and many times the fit must be dealt with in store (or doctors office, waiting room, etc.). 


  1. Not sure why my last comment didn't go through... so sorry you are going through this! Eyob is so special and we love him so much (and all of the kids!!!! And you guys!!!!)!!! We will be praying! Please let us know if you need anything;)

  2. I will be praying for you every time I think of you. I know how hard some days are with children who don't have RAD, and to add that constant stress of trying so hard to love a little one who i scared to love you back and lashes out in so many ways...I can only imagine what that must be like for you. <3 You & Michael have truly been called to this and I am so thankful for your honesty and transparency. Is there any kind of local support group for parents living with children with RAD? Thanks for educating all of us in how to respond if we are around when a child goes into a rage. God did choose you to be Eyob's mom, and no one else could do it better than you do. You are doing a great job! Even when you mess up, even when you lose it, even when you question God, He is your Rock. You are not alone!

  3. Amanda, thank you for sharing your heart, struggles, and hope here! I so wish these issues were brought up more.... adoptive parents going through these, or similar, struggles need to know they're not alone. It's a lonely place to be!

    We have three biological children, and then we adopted a 5 year old little boy, through the state, 2 1/2 years ago. Without writing a book on your blog.... it's been the hardest period of our lives. He was diagnosed with disinhibited RAD sometime before he was placed with us. Thankfully, he does not have the rage that so many with this disorder have.

    My husband and I, too, have gone through the emotions you write about.... and continue to struggle with them. There are some issues that we were informed of before the adoption, but so many that we were not made aware of (that we continue to unravel)...and I struggled with something else. .. bitterness. God, is THIS really what we were supposed to do?! I mean, of course we knew it would be hard... but THIS hard?!

    God has been showing me a picture of myself through our adopted son. God continues to love me despite me daily failing Him, repeatedly... on the same issues. I will forever be a work in progress... but am so very thankful for a God that doesn't give up on me!! It's a constant surrendering of myself to Jesus, so that I can love Carlos, the way that Jesus does. .. through His power!

    Again, thank you.... and I'll be praying for your family!!


    Also- your sister and brother-in-law were our old neighbors... you ARE so blessed to have them close♥