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Once Upon a Time

bonding camp stories of hope Oct 28, 2022
woman rubbing temples

Dear Nancy,

Once upon a time, I thought when you had a baby, that they automatically loved you. We brought our beautiful blue-eyed little bundle of joy home. She cried a lot. She had ear infections. She cried day and night and in between. I tried new formulas, different bottles, positions and rooms. She choked half the time, either too much or too little. When I cuddled her, she stiffened. I looked at her and she looked around the room. I did not sleep. This was not going to be like the last baby. I was missing something. I felt like Skinner’s rat. I got a shock no matter what I did. I was growing more and more frustrated.

I took her to the doctor. I said that something else was wrong, besides ear infections. He showed me pictures of chronically ill children and said that these are sick children, implying that there was nothing to be concerned about with my daughter. He made me feel guilty. I felt like I was doing something wrong here, because I couldn’t handle this little baby. What was I doing wrong?

My husband wasn’t much help. He spent more a lot of time with his job. In the midst of this, he started a second business. I was envious; I wanted to escape by working outside the home, too.

My daughter’s crying was making life unbearable. And we were faced with other problems, which made my life difficult. My father was dying in a nursing home, my husband’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my pre-teen daughter was having pre-teen challenges, and I was pregnant again. It was a sad time.

As she became more mobile, she also became more determined. We had a dangerous stone fireplace, with hard sharp corners, and she would crawl up to it. When I would pull her away from it, she would go right back. I experimented with this by taking her into another room and setting her down. She crawled back to the fireplace fifteen times in a row (object permanence). Throw that theory out. This way the way that she approached anything she wanted – forcefully.

She did not stay with me when we went places. She would walk ahead of me and never look back at me. She would not stay by my side. I eventually quit going places with her.

At home, I would spend hours stopping her from touching the television. Then her father would come home, and allow her to play with the knobs. I’d start over the next day. I would say no, he would say yes. I became stricter; he became more lenient. This dance continued.

I noticed how unsteady she was. She could hardly climb stairs without falling. She fell in the driveway so many times, that I lost count. Her teeth were all broken, like a jack-o-lantern. I needed a break. I put her in a small day-care for two days a week. Work was easier than taking care of this child. I felt like a failure.

The day-care provider noticed some problems with my daughter, at age 2 1/2. I took her to be tested. I took her to a therapist PHD, an OT, MDs, ear-specialist, eye specialist, developmental behavior specialists, and on and on.

By third grade, she was becoming more distant and difficult. It was hard to like her, and I didn’t like her. I would tell her to go to her room and she would refuse. I would then force her to comply. Her dad ignored her behavior. I was growing tired of fighting both my daughter and husband (about our daughter). I was getting suggestions from my mother and friends, telling what they would do about it.

I was still not sleeping and with another baby three years later. I was on this kid’s emotional roller coaster. I would cry in my room.

My daughter would not have conversations; she would talk to disturb us.

I began to think that she was bi-polar or had some other mental disorder. Was I the problem? What was I doing wrong? I went to parenting classes. I learned new skills and began to identify things I could do better.

She started hurting animals. I was afraid she would hurt her sister or me. My husband did not see it.

She continued to refuse to go to her room, and I would drag her to her room and sit on her to keep her there.

The tantrums continued. I was supposed to volunteer one day for my daughter’s class, but instead I went to pick her up. Ten other neighborhood mothers happened to be in the hall, putting up pictures and student artwork. I learned that three people had to physically remove my daughter from the classroom, and that a good many, if not all of these moms had witnessed this. I felt overwhelmed as I passed them. I felt hopeless, guilty, and shameful. I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide, to move far away.

What had I done that was so wrong? I had read many books on parenting, attended six week courses, more than a couple of times, went to various counselors on numerous occasions, and nothing was helping. What was I doing wrong?

At this point, the laughter, the fun and the normality of family life were gone. If this child continued along this path, she would take herself down, and three other people. I felt that time was running out.

We went to the new psychologists, this time it was a team of psychologists. They told us that this child triangulated us. She was conning and manipulating others to feel sorry for her, but showing me her rage. My husband and I began to work on getting on the same page. I knew that we needed to do this, but at the same time I recognized that our child needed something more.

I found a Love and Logic book, with information about RAD. I bought a book, cassette and video on the subject. THIS WAS IT! I recognized immediately that this could help me. It was the plan that I needed. I needed a day-to-day structure that I could follow.

It took me a couple of weeks to make all the preparations. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, having to change my reactions and following this strict regimen.

The entire family spent two weeks with a RAD professional, in her home, with her family and pets. Allowing me to observe firsthand, throughout the complete day and evening, as she responded to the challenges our daughter put forth, allowed me to gain the skills that I needed to enable me to turn this kid around, from a kid who could not love or smile, into a loving, sometimes caring kid, who can now smile.

She has begun to learn to hug, smile, help out around the house, comply, and care. She is having a good year in a new school. She has moved into a mainstream classroom environment and is having a good fifth grade year. Pictures now show a genuine warm-your-heart look, as opposed to the old distant gaze. Things are almost normal at times. We have covered a lot of ground; things are 200% better than they were last year at this time. We recognize that we still have a lot of work to do, but we know that we can get there from here. Our little blue-eyed bundle of joy continues to be a wonderful work-in-progress. I count my blessings by the minute.

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Photo courtesy of  Karolina Grabowska

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