Monday, March 21, 2016

She turned 18

When I started this blog 13 years ago, it was the beginning of an adventure I never expected would take some of the twists and turns it ended up including. Of course, I already knew children seem to take forever to grow up so fast.

But here we are, Makaylah turned 18 and will graduate from high school in just a few short months!

I realized this morning I had stopped sharing as much as I once did about OUR JOURNEY together. There came a time when it just didn't seem right to write so much about our personal struggles and the issues we faced. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), is never a story about just the child in fact RAD is almost always a story about the whole family.

This past weekend I was thinking about the RAD part. And, realizing that some way and somehow she and I are doing very well. In fact, I believe I was able to find a way to her heart. I actually think she has found some positive attachment behaviors and that she and I may be okay from here on out. It's hard to identify attachment disorders in the first place, and sometimes as the "primary caregiver," it's hard to recognize this little person I met when she was nearly 5 years old does not really even remember those early days that are so clear in my memory. It feels like yesterday sometimes and while nearly every day of the past 13 years are etched permanently in my mind nearly as clear as yesterday for me--for her it's the blurry memories of a little girl who hardly remember her life before me.

I also realized that as the mother of an 18-year-old I have nothing but PROUD to feel about this last stage of parenting a "child." My youngest daughter has turned out a lot like me. To brag, she has become a wonderful young lady! She has strong values and respects herself and I have noticed over the past few years--My daughter with RAD respects ME! Can I get a Wow!

She follows the rules. She tries to listen to direction. She doesn't run away. She doesn't use drugs or drink or smoke. She gets permission and calls when her plans change. She successfully fought to leave 100% Special Education to attend the public high school full time for her last half of her last year in high school. I have not had a phone call from school about inappropriate behaviors, in a few years. It has been a year or so, since her IEP Team recognized some of the behaviors she had early on--were no longer necessarily negative. In fact, some of us women on the IEP team actually agreed some of her behaviors had transformed into behaviors we wanted her to retain as an adult woman. What was once a huge power struggle had become personality traits most of us women need in our lives. No one is going to walk all over Makaylah in life. She will probably not end up as a man's doormat. She will have confidence to ask for a raise and want to move up in her life. She will be able to walk away from things that bring her down.

It is difficult to find the words or correct way to express why I feel she has overcome RAD. Just like it was always difficult to find the right words to say why it was clearly RAD when it was. I think it is kind of like "porn" hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

She and I were talking a few weeks ago, about the tantrums she once had for five or six hours every day, when she was little for five years in a row. She doesn't really remember. To me, those tantrums feel like yesterday, and she hardly remembers! At first, there was a part of me that was pissed off she didn't remember. Because  I sure do and sometimes I can still feel the pain of something that occasionally hurts as a result of some of those dark and terrible days. She brought out the worst in me back then. She scared me, I was scared for her, mostly. There were times I wondered which one of us was going to end up snapping completely. I was pretty sure she was going to be the first one to make me a grandmother.

I remember the "door alarms" I had to use on nearly every door in the house. For her protection. For my protection. For the protection of her baby brother. For the protection of the cat. For a break! It has been a long time since a door alarm was needed.

I remember the heartbreak I felt when I had to make the decision to place her in residential treatment. It was more than heartbreak it ended up being the end of my marriage. I could never have made it to now in that situation. I had to choose HER or my marriage. No one needed to tell me I had to make that choice, it was obvious to me and all the support system I had in place. A child like Makaylah needed a life I could not offer her in the marriage I was in. I really did not want to give my little ones another trauma in life, like divorced parents. Especially, divorced adoptive parents. But, for her--she needed to see me stand up and make the healthy decision. It was bad enough she was dealing with RAD the last thing a RAD child needs is a primary caregiver who "appears" to be living in a dysfunctional marriage. She had a magical way of bringing to light every single problem there was in my marriage. RAD kids are amazing about spotting the weaknesses and working them.

So far, the divorce was the right thing to do and child support has been adequate to support the home I have put together. I could not have done this without my brother. Together we have literally provided a 24/7, line-of-sight, safety plan -- with two adults at all times. I don't think most people would be able to put together the support system my brother and I managed to create. It came at a huge cost for all of us. It brought benefits for five of our combined seven children. My brother and I managed to stay on the same page the whole way. We both have sacrificed the quality of our own personal lives. We both have reenacted the values and standards of the childhood we shared. We both have done whatever it took to get these children up and on their own feet.

A united front is probably the most important thing a child with RAD needs. Somehow, someway between the excellent therapy she received at Scarr Jasper Mountian and the time she spent with her therapeutic foster mother to the services she was able to receive through the Beaverton Oregon Public School system and the changes I had no choice but to make in my life and the support system I managed to figure out--SHE is doing Awesome today.

I am looking forward to posting her graduation pictures. I am looking forward to SEEING where she takes her own life. Most of all, I feel amazing that today she tells me she isn't not ready to run out the front door and sow her wild oats. She wants to stay with ME awhile longer and she was afraid she would not be able because of all the things she hardly remembers about the childhood that was pretty darn traumatic. I mean, really--she was taken from her mother at the age of four and then placed with me nearly a year later. Who would not be traumatized just by that?

-- three kids grown and one to go.

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