He stood there looking at me with pale, icy blue eyes, staring as if through me. He clutched the meager selection of clothing he chose for the one small duffle bag of possessions he allowed himself to carry that fateful night he left the family he had known for the last 11 years. This son of mine, age 18, who I loved from the moment I met him, and his twin, as a seven-year-old boys from a Russian orphanage.
“You don’t have to leave like this,” I pleaded, “you can continue working this stuff out in your head and still live here with your family.” But his jaw was set in that way I knew meant my words would have no impact; it was something he had been thinking about for a long time.
“But what about all the kids still left in that orphanage, what about them? Why was I chosen and not them?”
Did he really think I had the answer to that? Would he believe me if I answered?
There were other words he said that night. Strong, clear words of his that he’d been taking 11 years to be able to say. Words of a deeply thoughtful, but guilt-ridden, troubled child now legally a man. My son.
The night he moved out, he took a piece of my heart with him, and prayers from me that he might feel that part of my heart, as it went with him into the night and into the unknown.
“It might be a while before I see you again, Mom. I’ve got a lot of things to figure out and I need to do this on my own.”
Though only one of my sons has formally been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), they both suffer from this difficulty to attach. I think most people underestimate the value of attachment between children and parents. Attachment is the glue that keeps a family intact, the motivator behind children wanting to do the things their parents ask of them. It is the reason people want to be kind to one another. Remove attachment and you might have a reduced ability to develop integrity, empathy, or real love for another human.
Through no fault of their own my sons were subjected to severe trauma, coupled with extreme neglect from birth to age 7, such that their brains literally got wired for distrust. “And I need to do this on my own.” So each of my sons struggle in relationships and trusting the very ones who are the most capable of actually helping them. And in the midst of parenting two sons who are terrified of trusting again, I learn about “joy in the journey.”
Many times over, I am taken to a crossroads. For the sake of my sons, I find joy in the journey because the end is nowhere in sight. For their sake, I retrain my own brain and find joy in THIS MOMENT of victory over the monster of RAD. The crossroads come each time to offer me the choice not to wallow in the ‘what it should have beens’ while missing out on the joys in the little progresses toward connection that they have made since we adopted them and brought them into our family. Because quite frankly when raising children with RAD, there is only the journey you have right now, only this moment in time; and in these times I don’t want to look the other way only to see instead the uncertain future staring me in the face with cold, detached eyes.
The beauty in this moment is that I come to the end of myself and relish every victory today regardless of final outcome. I can live in all of the beautiful little THIS MOMENTS. Raising sons with RAD teaches me the journey IS beautiful. Every time either of them call me, “Mom.” It is a journey of beauty. Today I have, “Hey Mom.” And today, that is enough. More than enough.