Prayers for my reactive attachment disorder children

I face this story every day, every moment of every day:

Once upon a time there were two teens. They both came from stories of neglect and abuse. Someone had hurt them by not giving them safety. Others by transgressing the most basic law of love–don’t hurt a child.

They hooked up. Had kids. Wandered into ways to dull the pain and longing in their hearts.

The children were so young but they still remember hunger, watching their parents leave them locked alone with a single cupcake to share among them all.

Longing. We all long for something–love, truth, justice. But what if that longing is never heard? A child cries but no one holds him? A little girl lives with a gnawing ache for food.

What happens when the search for love and safety comes up empty before they are one or two or three?

I watch her face in each picture. She never smiles. I want to say to her mother–pick her up, snuggle with her, talk baby talk to her and feed her. That is why you get wic, so she can be full.

Break the cycle, girl, for God’s sake, break the cycle.

What is it like to be raised by wolves?

Better than this. Wolves are social animals, willing to hunt for their young.

I search for answers, but there are few that satisfy. I cringe at memory–my own exasperation, impatience, and exhaustion. So many things I would do better.

I say that ruefully knowing that the maxim I had at 27 was true and mattered–regardless of the raggedy look of things. You must hold on. They need years of you just being there.

I am here. I won’t ever leave you.

He asks if we can meet. I say yes, but only me. The others are not ready.

Ready is a placeholder for heartbroken. Reactive attachment disorder can seep into the lives of everything it meets. It takes no prisoners.

I pray. I pray all the time. I pray they do not hurt or kill or disfigure. I pray for safety. I cast about for anyone or anything I could enlist to save them…from themselves. The longing for mother’s love turns to drugs, alcohol and reckless touch. Wires in a machine all shorted or circuited wrong.

Nothing will work but love, and by love I mean compassion. And by compassion I mean Jesus. I do the only thing that makes sense when the disease at the heart of your child is terminal–I cling to the feet of God and say, Save these babies, resurrecting God.

Nurture parenting

The agency told us they had been severely neglected, possibly abused, definitely exposed to awful stuff.

They were sent to us after a disrupted placement–their foster mother had had enough.

The sole piece of advice they gave us: be consistent, don’t give in to bad behavior.

Not bad advice, but not nearly enough. I am not sure that RAD and fetal alcohol issues are fixable….but if they can be mitigated then caregivers need to nurture.

I am an elementary school teacher– a nurturing type, so I know I tried. The children often did not respond to cuddling, hugs, or carrying the way other children do.

I spent hours carrying them on hikes and I have a rich store of memories of being hit, kicked, punched, and verbally assaulted for no other provocation than carrying them. Most young children have the sense to know that a good, patient Sherpa mama is worth something.

Not these two. A simple hug was never simple.

I think the explanation is that neglected children have a fight or flight instinct that kicks in when it shouldn’t.

Babies need a lot of love, a lot of cuddle time. Without that their brains get messed up–the coldness and hostility of a nurture-deprived babyhood translates to a lot of sturm and drang.

We gotta do better for these wounded souls. But my experience was brutal…

Wish I could have hugged them more.