“Invisible wounds are the hardest to heal,….their closure depends on the love of others,….and patience, and understanding, and…. the tender gift of time.“
-Jennifer Worth ‘Call the Midwife’
When we adopted our oldest son at 4, we knew some of the names doctors used for mental illness. Syndrome. Disorder. But, it’s nice to call it something. I called it, “Dennis the Menace times ten!” or “All afterburner and no rudder, the boy has no governor!” I didn’t know how true this was.
His first four years were lost, so we needed to reclaim infancy to some extent. Cuddling and reading to him were daily. There was time to adjust, nurturing, clear boundaries, and consistency. We are ranchers, so there was lots of daddy time. I committed to homeschool and told the social workers, “give me thirty days at home, then you decide.” They all agreed our family identity immersion was best! He seemed okay,… wild, but okay! Still, there was always this underlying unwillingness to cooperate, take instruction, and generally mature. There was no stop to the “mean” playing, the destructive behavior, and the puzzling lack of self-regulation. His dominant personality wanted to control. His ability to care about consequences was broken. He understood them, but just didn’t care.
Some call him a R.A.D. kid. Reactive Attachment Disorder. Now, also diagnosed, conduct disorder with a little ADHD and FAE thrown in. I found the following on a treatment center’s website:
“Certain things must happen during a child’s early stages of life, from birth to three years old. Healthy growth and brain development depends on interaction with a constant caregiver, cooing, loving touch, eye contact, consistent feeding and a dependable comforting presence. The lack of this interaction presents an issue for growing boys. Children may have great difficulty in forming lasting bonds with anyone.”
A baby cries, he is soothed and his needs are met. A child acts out inappropriately, he needs correction or instruction. The R.A.D. brain kicks in and says “Fend for yourself. I’ve seen love and I don’t want it.” Their ability to self-regulate and emotionally mature is broken. Your love for them doesn’t matter, nor does a relational bond that could be ruined. They sharply lack the ability to understand empathy or altruism, to give something up or do something for the sole benefit of another.
But, how do we function in the daily aspects of life? Is there hope for boys suffering from R.A.D., among many other issues, such as drug or substance abuse, behavioral issues, academic problems, and family issues?
Now, the rubber meets the road for our family. Chronic problems wear down the system and deplete our energy. Yet, relationships are the vehicle for change. God knew it would be this way and He allowed us to be his parents anyway. “We” can’t fix him, God just asks us to be obedient.
I asked his four younger siblings, “What would you tell a family who wanted to adopt a boy like your older brother?” They said, “Give him lots of hugs and kisses,”… Ahhhhh, and here’s the blessing, “…even when he’s screaming.” His thirteen year old sister said, “Find his love language and then go all out!” Invisible wounds do depend on the love of others to heal after all.
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