Sometimes Love Isn’t Enough for Kids: {Part 2}

by GfG on February 6, 2014 · 19 comments

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{Sometimes love isn’t enough to parent.  Yesterday I shared part 1 of our story in foster parenting a wonderful boy for six years.  You probably will want to read it first.  Today, the story continues….}

The pain of not connecting with Daniel in a forever love kind of way was great.  It still hurts every once in awhile, but we knew that age twelve is pretty iffy on re-parenting, so it wasn’t really a surprise.    We grieved and we healed.  

We moved on.  I know that may sound horrible, but please stop and think about what it would mean if we didn’t move on emotionally.

It would mean that we were discontent with how the situation was/is, how Daniel had chosen, and how God had laid out our path.  Letting go of the hope of being loving parents for Daniel was peace bringing for us and for him.

We continued to love and parent Daniel.  His behaviors forced our hand in an area and so we had to send him to the School for the Deaf two hours away for his last year with us.

When he declared that he wanted to leave as soon as he turned eighteen, it was all confirmed.

Family July 4 2000 WEB

As the months and years grew between us and Daniel, so did our peace.

He has never once contacted us.  We did go visit a few times after he left, but the conflict and discomfort were all over his face.  He simply couldn’t reconcile the two vastly different lives and the bond wasn’t there or it wasn’t strong enough to hold on to.  He needed us to let go permanently.

We ran into him years later.  He came over to the house with a friend after that, but we haven’t seen or heard from him since.

He’s been gone eleven years now.  He turned 29 a few days ago.   Many of our friends never knew us as Daniel’s foster parents.

The pain still comes back every once in awhile, not from Daniel or our decisions, but from the looks on the faces of Christians who look shocked, sympathetic, and a bit ashamed of us when we tell them, “No.  We’ve never heard from Daniel again.  He went back to his biological parents and didn’t look back.”

Their eyes widen.

Their jaws usually drop.

Their faces display disappointment.

That’s when the pain sneaks into my heart.  The judgement from Christians that surely there was a lack of effective, loving, and God-centered parenting for Daniel, causing him to not love us, or at least not love us enough to stay in touch, is a bit of smack to my heart each time.

I know in my head that these people just don’t understand.  I know in my head that they probably have no experience with RAD or foster parenting an older child.  I know in my head that they probably haven’t studied the possible long term effects of late adoption.

Still… it hurts.

It hurts to have someone look at you as if you weren’t a good enough mom.

I know, I know.  I can’t know another person’s heart truly.  I do know that.

Yet, I also know that facial expressions are often incredibly communicative.  When you’ve seen the same ones again and again and again in connection to a specific conversation, you find a landing spot.

Today, I find myself really heartbroken for the parents who are walking the path I only walked for six years, yet they have been walking it so much longer and/or in much more greatly invested ways.

They are adoptive parents who are facing RAD with their children, even though they were adopted much, much earlier than twelve.  As toddlers even.   Mere babes.

Still… the brain needs what the brain needs and if it doesn’t get it by a certain age (specific to that child), then some attachments will never form.

Some children with RAD never form loving attachments, while others just can’t make the attachment to the parents. Usually, the mother takes the brunt of RAD, but both parents can find themselves left at the wayside of their child’s heart.

Some children are overly attached to others outside the home and some make normal attachments except with the parents.

It varies.

I watch these parents bear the brunt of judgement and it makes me want to weep.  

The lack of compassion, lack of benefit of the doubt, and lack of the call to love one another is  hard to bear for these mothers and fathers who have invested so much into children that walk away from them (if not physically, then emotionally) and then the same from their friends, church family, and extended family.

They often have to make incredibly gut wrenching decisions to place their children in residential treatment centers or boarding schools because the friction between the children and the parents can completely destroy any familial relationship still intact.

Their pain is doubled when their parenting is then also rejected by friends/family.

Instead of support, these parents receive harsh judgement.

Instead of love, these parents receive uninformed criticism.

Instead of sympathy, these parents receive cold shoulders (or disapproving frowns).

Oh, to describe the pain I feel for these mothers.  Mothers who will never receive back the love they have invested in their children.  Sigh.

It’s just heart breaking.

To heap on top of their pain of rejection of their mothering by their own child also the rejection of their mothering by other Christians … horrible.

If you know a mother who has or is raising foster or adopted children who came after the first six months and there are some “behavior issues” and/or you see the children not responding to their mother and/or father in loving/affectionate ways…

First pray for that mama and her family.

Secondly, believe the best about her mothering.

Thirdly, remember that we all parent differently, within Biblical parameters.

Next, consider that the child my have an neurological issue that manifests as emotional problems caused by neglect at an early age.

Finally, read about RAD and learn.  Step outside your life’s experience to glimpse something new.  Learn to give grace to the child, mother, and father.  Bless the hurting by encouraging in love.

While love can’t cure RAD, it can cure a hurting mama’s heart that needs support and acceptance.

Have you experienced RAD in your life?  How can you bless someone in your life facing this?


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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Mahoney February 6, 2014 at 11:01 am

I knew it was coming. I thought. Love you. More than you know. Thank you.


Robin Castillo February 6, 2014 at 11:23 am

Needed to hear this, Mindy.
My step-brother has guardianship of a 5 year old that he and his wife have had since the child was 10 months old. I know very little about how this little boy was raised during those first 10 months of his life. Unfortunately, the time spent with my step-brother and his wife has been a far cry from being raised in a stable, god-fearing home. But, hearing this side of the story, some of the ways this precious boy acts may not be just from the time spent with my step-bro and his wife. I am keeping this little guy in my prayers constantly and have really been praying for the only family he knows to fall head over heels in love with him. It is a good reminder that some of the behaviors I see exhibited in this child could possibly be because of missing out on bonding at an early age.

Thanks for the reminder!


GfG February 6, 2014 at 11:27 am

Oh, I’m so glad to encourage you.

Also, consider that some of the parenting “flaws” may be in response to the lack of bonding by the child. It is very difficult to parent a child that doesn’t love you back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing poor behavior or parenting, just saying that it’s a lot like loving a spouse that never shows you love back: incredibly difficult and can set up stumbling blocks. KWIM?

I’m so blessed by your heart that is open to hearing.


Annette Q. February 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

Your words are so powerful. I had no idea of the depth of Daniel’s struggles. What a broken, fallen world we live in. My brother married a gal who has two children. Their dad died in a horrible accident, the daughter was 2 and the son was 9 months old. The trouble that both these kids who are now 11 and 9 stir up is unbelievable. I know it is not for lack of love or parenting, but because their tiny hearts were broken, and their mama could not cope with grief and parenting for several months. Thank you for your explanation of RAD. I really had no idea.
(I still have an awesome pic of Daniel, Michael, Mitchell, and Sarah at my wedding. Daniel actually got the third dance.)


GfG February 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Lots of wonderful memories. :)

Thank you, Annette, for commenting.


michele February 6, 2014 at 11:50 am

Thank you for sharing your experience! I suspect we have some RAD issues at my home and it’s encouraging to know someone who can relate to some of my own current difficulties.


GfG February 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Michele, If you ever want to talk, just let me know.


AmyM February 6, 2014 at 12:04 pm


Thank you so much for putting into words our exact experience!! My husband and I adopted 14 children, in addition to our 5 biological children. All but three of those children have become adults and all but one have gone back to biological families. Some we adopted young, some older. 7 (2 still at home) had/have RAD. We have been falsely accused, spent lots of time in court, etc., etc… Children we poured our lives into left and most have never looked back. Its a hard life but we have seen one of our RAD kids bond. He thanks me constantly for the hard work that was done for him. Blessings to you-



GfG February 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Amy, I’m so sorry for your long road of pain. I am blessed by your perseverance and you call to love the difficult. in Christ!


GfG March 14, 2016 at 5:42 pm

A new to this pain mama, Beki, just posted a comment and I thought you might have some encouragement for her. <3


Wanda February 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

What a heart breaking story. It hits way to close to home.


Jan Tessier February 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Sniff, sniff. Oh what an important story to share! Such courage, not only in telling it, but in LIVING it. Wow. Thank you for all of it…parenting Daniel…what sweet memories I have of him. So thanks for that. Thanks for bringing that HUGE smile into my life…even though it brought you and Paul much heartache (along with the joy…that smile, right?)

I daresay, this story is not complete and won’t be complete this side of Heaven…where it will be fully redeemed in all its beauty. I love you.


GfG February 6, 2014 at 1:45 pm

There was lots of joy, yes! He will forever hold a special place in our hearts. You and “the crew” were so fabulous in supporting us and loving him. I’ll never forget the night we told all of you were were getting him.



Leanne February 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Thank you for sharing your painful story. My husband and I adopted 2 prenatally exposed boys from birth. I couldn’t have read your post at a more needed time. We’re going through a very difficult time at the moment and your words provided a lot of much needed reminders. I firmly believe that by sharing our stories others can understand and respond in love rather than ignorance.


GfG February 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I’m honored to encourage. Truly.

Prayers for you, your hubby, and your two boys.


K February 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm

There aren’t many of us, but we are out there. Parents who give their hearts to children too threatened by the gift to be able to accept it.
You are amazing parents. You are brave, strong, and selfless. Thanks for risking transparency to encourage the rest of us.


beki March 13, 2016 at 10:09 pm

Thank you so much for your story. I am a struggling new mom of a 6 year old little boy who came into our home a little over a year ago. My husband and I have struggled with infertility for the last 6 years with numerous IVF tries ( we have done everything under the sun). We were blessed with him by God no doubt through friends of a family member. We were told he might have RAD but we thought thats something just love and consistency could help, man i have never been more wrong. He came with a pretty bad history of abuse, fetal abuse, etc. but like every naive parent who is dieng to give love to there first child regardless of where they come from, expecting love back then having a rude awaking that its not going to happen was the worst punch in the heart i have ever felt, especially the same punch i get daily with no release. I think my heart hurts the most is when he chooses my husband over me 98% of the time, as if he will never do any wrong, but me i am the wicked mother who makes him obey, disciplines him when necessary, makes him eat properly, makes sure he learns manners, does homework. I tell my husband i am always the bad guy in his eyes because i am constantly having the reigns tightened, while he doenst and this boy plays him like a fiddle, and sticks his tongue at me saying i got my way yet again. We have now been in counseling for sometime which i think is helping. More a less teaching me to not take every little thing to heart which is beyond hard!! All you want to do as a first time mother is kiss bobo’s, cuddle every chance you get, be the #1, know every detail about your child, teach them every song, show them how to love, dance with them in the kitchen. But when your child doesnt want any type of affection from you but only from your husband, always wants to be in control every chance they get, makes you angry and frustrated at the drop of a hat, makes you cry like your an emotional roller coaster (which by the way, makes you look crazy! ha!), and then to have a spouse tell you alot ” its not that big of a deal”. its as if he fell off the back of the truck one day and we found him, to be blunt and frank. I have never felt so much depression, resentment, anger, distrust, hurt, longing, doubt, constantly questioning my ability, looking at myself in the mirror, thinking am i truly a bad person/mom for not being able to handle this? thoughts of he needs to go back in the system. All done by a small 33lb 6 year old boy. I have read so many books, blogs, posts, etc in the last year all telling me pretty much the same thing, lots of counciling from the right people, tons of time, consistency, dont lose hope or faith and eventually, hopefully he will turn around for the best. I hear the moms get the brunt ALL the time, so true!! I understand the utero thing and it makes complete sense, which makes sense to the ones who i guess didnt have a crappy time in the womb vs. the ones who did, its amazing what you learn, how you become an advocate, how others truly dont understand, how relationships are lost due to it. All i say and think to myself God havent i struggled enough? I also think will i ever truly be able to let my guard down and love this boy? because like everyone else theirs amazing days where it feels as if he has all the love in the world to give to you, just you, then you reach out for it and in an instant it is gone and your back to square one again…

Thank you again for your story and the pure honesty, i think we dont get enough of that. I hope eventually my heart heals from all of this and with Gods power, prayer, patience and counseling life will turn around for the good. Maybe God will bless us with another miracle from my own body that will no nothing but Gods grace and love.


GfG March 14, 2016 at 5:40 pm

You are on one heck of a ride and I’m sorry, but I really do believe Christ is sufficient for your struggle… to heal your hurting heart, to help you handle the days, and to help you let go of the expectations. Because, if you keep mothering him with the expectation and/or demand that his heart change, you are probably in for more heartache. Not for sure, of course, but probably. And if something else, on the wonderful side, happens, then you can rejoice in that gift. My advice is to love him and parent him only out of love for him and your Amazing God, with no expectations or demands. It’s wwwwaaaaaaaayyy easier said than done. You’ll have lots of tears and hard times, no doubt, but if you can do this for God and for Him alone…. you’ll be in a better place. Yours will have to be the truest form of unconditional love. And it’s far from easy.

Is the counseling addressing how your husband responds to you? I think that is majorly important. Majorly.

I am sorry you are not surrounded by those who understand. Please know I just prayed for you and I am here if you want to email/chat.


GfG March 14, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Also, I hope some of the other moms who responded here chime in, though it’s been awhile.


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