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Anger Print
Thursday, 15 December 2005
My 14-year-old Korean-born daughter has angry moments. She is not always able to explain her frustration, so without words, she became a tantruming toddler and child (and young teen, but less so). She is an imperfect perfectionist whose high standards that she sets for herself are bound to be impossible...a perfect 4.0 GPA this year, starting position in ALL soccer games, handwrite 5 page report in ink without any mistakes and no rough draft! Of course, parents are helpless to change the outcomes and if we ask for her to set a lesser goal, then we must not think she is good enough, that she is dumb or flawed. At times she has been out of control, raging for an hour, trashing her room, until exhaustion brings "weakness" and lets comforting begin. Is this typical for a child born 2 months premature? A child adopted at 4 months of age? How did she "learn" to be so angry, so physical, so inconsolable? Can she be "fixed"? Is she "broken"? What did we do wrong? Are we bad parents? Where do we fall in the nature/nurture continuum? Do all adoptees experience this?

With time I've found my own answers to some of these questions. We travelled to Korea on a "homeland tour" with close friends and about 2 dozen terrific strangers from all over the U.S. This was our 2nd trip to Korea, but it was the one that really touched on adoption issues continuously...it was so much a part of the trip, just woven in. One evening we were doing a few hours of volunteer work in the Baby Hospital...where newborns who have been relinguished for adoption are staying. It was on the floor below us in the Guest House. R and her best buddy A, A's mom and I were feeding newborns while two staff nurses kept us on schedule, and managed the whole unit (of about 40 infants). It was a wonderful experience. This was where A had been cared for, this was the type of place R had stayed for a time. The girls both loved holding the babies and helping them take their bottles. One baby was jaundiced and under a billirubin light...crying and crying and crying. I asked the nurses if I could pick her up and feed her...no...not time yet. This tiny 2 day old baby kept on crying, desperately and heartbreakingly. R kept asking me, why, Mom, why can't you pick her up and hold her, why is she crying? I tried patting her and touching her and talking soothingly to her, but she did not stop crying. I held one feeding infant in my left arm and kept patting the crying baby under the lights with the other. And I began to cry too, as I am now retelling this story.

R was so puzzled by all of this. To her, if a baby cries, you help it. But I reminded her. These two women have 40 babies to care for. If they don't stick to their system, some babies will not be fed or changed or held at all and other babies will take all their attention, so they have to do it this way to make it work a little bit for all of them. Yeah, yeah she understood. AND...I reminded her...this may be the way it was for you when you were in an incubator for 5 weeks in a hospital. Perhaps you tried to cry, but could not because you had respiration tubes in your throat, or perhaps you could cry, but it was not your turn to be fed or changed or held or talked to. R said, that would have been awful to have no one comfort me. Yes, and remember that is what LS, (the therapist from 4 yrs ago) said she thought might have happened to you to make you feel that you can't cry or ask for help because no one will help you (something R had said in therapy). R said, maybe that's what makes me so mad. Yup, maybe.

And then I added. But also, there may have been someone like you or me, who heard your cries, wanted to help, but had her hands filled with other babies because there were many babies for a small number of staff nurses. It's not that no one cared, they had to share their caring around. And maybe someone did try to help you, like we are trying to help this crying baby, but will this baby remember this evening? Probably not. Just the feeling of frustration and anger and being mad.

We talked about this baby a lot as we went to bed that night and again during other times on the trip. Does this explain my daughter's easy anger, fast temper, low frustration tolerance? Not completely, but it may offer a piece of this puzzle.

My daughter is a friendly, warm, social kid who is upbeat and fun to be around. She often states that her daily goal is to be happy or perky and she comes darn close to meeting that...except for her tantrums in the privacy of our home. To say that kids who are happy don't also have dark places, that hold sadness, anger, grief, frustration or bitterness seems to skim over the texture of who they may be. And I always have to remember that she does not/will not/cannot see the world and herself as I do...so I have to keep sharing my viewpoint with her, keep letting her know that the darkness is part of her, just as it is part of the day...you don't get one without the other.

IAT, used by permission

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Accepting RAD Print
Thursday, 15 December 2005
"What's so hard to accept about RAD (reactive attachment disorder)?"

The thing that is hardest for me to accept about RAD is this--I adopted a baby not knowing anything about being a therapeutic parent. I assumed that this baby would eventually grow accustomed to me and love me the way that any other kid would love someone that was their primary caregiver. I expected the usual "terrible two's" and no sleep and colds and fevers. I knew having a child was going to be hard and being a parent even harder. I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be parenting the way I am parenting now. I wanted a kid that would accept my love. I didn't want to teach a kid how to accept love.

Of course, I have no choice now. I'm doing what I need to do in order to heal my child and survive this myself. I've grown used to it and slowly accepted it. It took A LONG time though to do so. The emotional toll RAD takes on a family (especially the mother) is the hardest thing for me to accept. You get beaten down and feel like a failure. Why is it hard to accept? Because everyone wants the "normal" family. No one wants their child to have a tougher time in life than necessary. My heart breaks for my son. He's just a little kid, why does he have to have such a rough start? To me, RAD is no different than other special needs. But to others (who deny RAD), I think it's because it causes pain and fear in the very core of their heart and they think it is a reflection of their parenting. I know I used to.

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Thank You! Print
Thursday, 15 December 2005
It is probably most appropriate to open with a big thank you to all those who have visited us since we opened in August. We are thrilled to be approaching visitor number 15,000. We appreciate the kind messages that we've received and we are heartened that so many pre-adoptive parents are gathering information prior to their children coming home. Thank you!

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