adoption

Where Do All the Foster Teens Go?

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Sean, at 13, playing with Mary in a pile of packing popcorn.

The month of March leaves me thinking about our former foster son, Sean. He turned 16 a few days ago. We received a copy of the latest foster review for him and the youngest sibling of our children. I assume it was sent to us by mistake, as our 2 have already been adopted. In the review it mentioned all of the things we tried to tell DCF, although they wouldn’t listen. He ran away, was hospitalized for suicidal ideations. I still worry for him.

The worst part was that his reunification had failed. Now his goal is “independent living” rather than reunification. Apparently, Sean had disrupted from his biological father’s home with police called for the fight they had. I had been so hopeful that the reunification would work out for both of them.

I heard from the siblings’ former foster mom (our kids call her “Grandma”) that he contacted her and requested to move back in. She is still a huge part of all of our lives, and our kids visit her for weekends sometimes. She wasn’t able to take Sean back. She had other children in the home and he had already made an abuse allegation once about her (just like us) years ago. That was right before leaving to come to our home for adoption with his siblings

His worker told her they had nowhere to put him and he had been diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder.) In the end, Grandma just couldn’t take the risk. This is all information I got through Grandma, I haven’t heard from him. I thought we might get a phone call, too, but we never did. We probably won’t because he and Marcus are estranged, and we maintain a relationship with Marcus.

So where is Sean now? Staying with a friend’s family who must have agreed to take the foster parent classes in order to have him there? I wish I knew for sure. He is so charming. It’s so easy to get drawn in. I wonder how they will feel about “saving him,” (as he so often said to me) in a year or so. The report stated that this is the first place he has lived that he didn’t feel like he was a “foster kid.” I can’t lie, that one stung.

But still, in all honesty, I just want him to be happy. I want him to be OK. And I really, really, want him to learn to love deeply. I think everyone in this world needs at least one person they can truly count on. The more people you can trust, the bigger your safety net is, should you ever fall. I hope he allows himself to be loved. I wonder often if he is still “shopping” for the best deal he can get with a family. How I wish he had let us adopt him.

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Luke, at 14, with Sean and Carl at our favorite Hibachi grill.

I thought about this as I called my own mother. She was taking me to my neurosurgeon’s appointment. I was scared about getting the results of some recent blood work. There is a fair possibility that my body may be rejecting the titanium implant in my spine. I was so nervous, I asked if my step dad could come too. It always makes me feel better when both of my parents are there. At 35, I still need a mom and dad. And I have them. I’m lucky.

What about the all the other teens in foster care? The ones who never got therapy? The ones with a failed reunification? The ones who just don’t know how to trust in love? Where do they all go? Do they ever stay?

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Sean being his funny, silly, self.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

 

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adoption, family

Hating Mommy: Adventures in Displaced Anger

I have done the unthinkable thing. The unforgivable thing.The thing that cannot be undone. I have gotten sick.  What’s worse than that? The fact that I am already “mom.” These two things are the worst things that one can be, according to Carl. These two things combine to seal my fate.

As far as Carl’s experience goes a puking mom is a drunk mom. A mom who needs to sleep in bed probably won’t get up for days or weeks because she is using. Therefore I should never be sick. What’s worse is that in Carl’s experience, moms hit kids. They don’t wake up to take their children off of the school bus. Moms are scary and unavailable and unpredictable. Therefore, I should never be “mom.” Too late.

First Mary and Luke got sick, then Carl, and then me. Because of his past experiences, Carl is over-the-top mad at me. He is convinced I am drunk and I am lying and I must be plotting against him. He thinks I have stolen his toys and forgotten his dinner. His rages and anger against me this week are off the charts.

When we sit down to dinner he hates the food. He hates me for making the wrong food. He can’t eat without a fork. If I wasn’t so stupid, I might have gotten him a fork. No, he will not eat that. I only ever listen to Mary. No, he will not apologize to Mary. No, he won’t have a “do-over.” No, he won’t shower. And if he must shower then, no, he will not be using soap. When he has to go back in and try again it is only because I am ruining his life. This is in large part due to the fact that I am stupid and mean and drunk. Oh yeah, and someone needs to “put me in my place.”

Last night he was raging in the car. Luke was working the overnight shift and Carl was refusing to be left with me. I was stuck driving him home from practice while daddy went to work.  After demanding several late night no-nos like donuts, he gave up and began to beat the car with his fists and his feet. He screamed at the top of his lungs that I was a liar and he hated me. I was a big fat stupid old lady and I didn’t love anyone.

I simply said, “I see that you are feeling mad and I love you too much to argue with you.” Then I cranked up the Bob Marley. Mary and I sang along while Carl screamed and raged and kicked the seat in front of him. When we got home he threatened to punch me and then began a rather serious fist fight with his bedroom door. I let him know that I was there to keep him safe and I would talk when he was ready. Eventually he took a shower and apologized and went to bed.

All in all he wasn’t unsafe and that’s a win for us. I was able to let him know that I loved him even when he had big feelings. Basically, I felt like we were able to narrowly avoid a mobile crisis call so I’ll take it as a small victory. Of course, he has been like this all week. He avoids me at every chance unless he sees an opportunity to make a demeaning comment or show me in some small way that I can’t possibly love him.

This week I feel like I am at the end of my rope. I am tired of being hated and threatened and screamed at. I am tired of all the property damage and drama and noise. So I do the thing that so many others would do in this situation for comfort. I go to my mama. I go crying to my mother’s house for hugs and understanding and unconditional love. That’s when it hits me. Of course I go to my mom because I have always had her support. Where does Carl go?

This week I feel like I am at the end of my rope. Imagine how Little Carl has felt these past 10 years.

NoBohnsAboutIt

<a href=”http://www.nobohnsaboutit.com&#8221; target=”_self”><img src=”http://www.nobohnsaboutit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/AdoptionTalkButton2016-e1452013232524.jpg&#8221; alt=”NoBohnsAboutIt” width=”225″ height=”225″ /></a>

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

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adoption, family

Let the Hunger Games Begin: Sibling Rivalry in Adoption

It’s no secret that siblings fight. Arguments, disagreements, the pilfering of someones favorite toy or hairbrush are common themes in sibling relationships. The siblings closest in age are typically the biggest competitors.In a stable household siblings may fight and argue, but at the end of the day there are enough resources to meet their basic survival needs. Even in stressful situations they have adult supervision, enough food not to go hungry, and no imminent threat of physical danger.

For siblings raised in consistently traumatizing circumstances, the opposite is true. Our kids spent their early childhoods in a very scary and unstable place. There wasn’t always enough food. Carl and Mary spent toddler years climbing in the kitchen and reaching whatever they could in order to eat. When Mary first came home she thought Baccos Bits were a good lunch option. Sometimes affection came in small doses between their birth mom’s mental health episodes. If Carl or Mary didn’t get her attention then, they would have to wait weeks and even months for her to get out of bed and start interacting with the family again.

This all leads to a different type of sibling relationship. Mary and Carl are fiercely loyal to each other and protective of each other. In outside settings, they cling together and block out the world around them. Throwing a mom and dad into that relationship shifted their dynamic. All of the sudden they had a resource that they both desperately wanted. Deep down, they still believe this resource is fleeting.

That brings us back to this week. It’s been disastrous in terms of health. The stomach bug has swept through our household like a plague upon humanity. Mary was sick first. I cradled her head in my lap on the bathroom floor for about five hours. She was feverish, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, and snuggled into me for all she was worth. Mary alternated from deep sleep to intense vomiting the entire time. I held her hair back, cleaned up her face, and rubbed her back until she slept again.

Meanwhile, Luke was fast asleep with a fever as well. He wasn’t sick to his stomach…yet. Carl was fine. He wanted to play with me outside. He was utterly mystified that I needed to stay in the bathroom with Mary for hours. This is where his trauma history and attachment problems came out to torment him. Soon Carl was convinced that I didn’t love him. I only enjoyed being with Mary and I would never want to be with him again. He yelled at me for never loving him and stomped away downstairs.

I’d like to say that he found something constructive to do. I’d be happy to think that he played with his hundreds of toys or read one of his many books or even played outside. Mostly, Carl watched TV all day and complained that he needed a better family to spend more time with him. Every attempt I made at comforting him was met with thinly veiled contempt. By evening time, Mary was so dehydrated that Luke had to wake up and take her to the ER for IV fluids. The poor girl couldn’t even keep down ice chips. I spent the evening worried about her. Carl celebrated that she was gone. At 8:00 PM he gleefully suggested that we could go outside to play now that she was “finally gone!”

Of course, it was time for bed. I did my best to give him some extra snuggles and mommy love. My aching back protested and my energy was completely drained. Still, I withstood hurricane Carl’s emotions as he railed at me for the unfairness of bedtime. He voiced his disdain at parents who didn’t know how to “do anything right” or spend time with him.

The next morning, Mary stayed home from school. She was sick in the bathroom with diarrhea while Carl was getting dressed for school. He stormed through the house screaming at her for smelling so bad. He yelled that he shouldn’t have to have a sister like her because she stinks. He was mad at me for going to work. He was mad at Luke for staying at home. He was mad that Mary was home from school because, “we loved her more” and just “wanted to spend time with her.” Carl was convinced that he was missing out on a great party we were all having without him.

The thing is that Carl cannot see beyond his own fear. He confuses his wants with his needs. He feels like he NEEDS time to play outside with me, no matter what is going on. If his sister is getting attention then he NEEDS to be there in order to ensure she is not taking up all of the love and attention that is supposed to be his. He believes this. He is afraid we will stop loving him. I am afraid my back will never recover after 5 hours of sitting on a tile floor.

So here we are. This is just one of the many times we will weather the storm of Carl’s trauma. It isn’t rational, it doesn’t come at the opportune times, but it is there nonetheless. Yes, we can give him extra attention. Of course we will try to show him how much he is loved and valued and treasured by us. We will delight in what he does and love him. Families have to bend, though. On this day and many more to come, our family had to bend in order to take care of it’s members.

I cannot erase his past trauma. What I can do is just continue to be there even when his sister seems to be “winning” in the attention department. Even when I’m tired and depleted and I’m pretty sure my backside has a permanent tile imprint on it. I’m still here for Carl. I hope someday he knows that. Until then? May the odds be ever in his favor!

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

 

 

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adoption, family

“He Was Probably High”: Adventures in the Prodigal Adopted Son

There are probably a million and one ways to fall in love. But falling into motherhood is a unique situation. Falling out of motherhood is a fate I wish upon no one. I’m speaking from personal experience, of course.

It’s been about 7 months since Marcus disrupted out of our home. When he left he was clear about never wanting to see or hear from me again. He had made up his mind that he did not want to be adopted and he did not want to be in our home.

Since then I’ve heard from him in starts and stops. He is usually looking for money or material things.  Once, he asked how his younger siblings are doing. Once he contacted my husband, high as a kite, to talk about his new career as a rap artist. He offered to get us tickets to his next show. Of course we said we would go.

He’s 18 now. He’s making choices. We have to trust that he can make them for himself. He is still in high school and I am beyond proud of him for that. School is hard for him because he has never reacted well to rules and structure. We sent him money on his birthday. He and his girlfriend used it to get matching tattoos. He proudly sent us pictures.

I spend half my time wondering if I will ever stop missing him so terribly. He was my son. I was his mother. It isn’t supposed to be this way. I spend the other half wondering if I will ever stop being relieved that I’m not responsible for him anymore.

His story changes so often it’s hard to keep up.

The day he left:

“I hate you, you f**king b***h. I hope you die! I’ll bury you in a hole. Get back before I f**king kill you!”

Last week:

“Don’t ever think you’re a bad mom you’re not you’re a great mom don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not”

7 months ago:

“You’re a f**king whore! I’m gonna break every bone you have!”

Almost 2 years ago:

“I don’t want you and dad to give up on me. I feel like your gonna give up on me”

2 years ago:

“Mom. Mom? White mama?”

7 months ago:

“B*tch”

Yesterday:

“Ma”

He asked to come back for family dinner. He claimed he’s been missing us. He wanted to thank me for helping him when he was sick. He wanted to thank me for helping his younger siblings.

He wanted to apologize. “I remember when we talked about taking responsibility” he said, “I want to take responsibility. I want to apologize face-to-face.”

 He sent me a beautiful text message. He told me all of the things I longed to hear. He said he was sorry and that we had been good to him. He thanked us for giving a better life to his younger siblings. He let me know that he trusted me to take care of them.

Afterwards my husband and I talked. He brought me back to reality when he said, “I’m glad he was nice. He was probably high.” It’s true. these are the moments when Marcus most often makes contact. He needs something, something has gone wrong, or he is high. Who knows? All I can say is that I needed to hear his words. I did thank him and reassured him that he is loved. I’m not ready to start letting him back in. We all tried our best and it didn’t work. It’s too soon. It’s too hard on the Littles when he is back and forth. If I’m honest, it’s too hard on me.

I will still hold his words close. Maybe he wasn’t entirely sincere. Maybe he was high. I don’t know. What I do know is that I needed to hear those words. No matter the circumstances, I needed to hear it.

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

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family

We Survived!: Adventures in the First Year of Adoption

marriagehands

Survival is the name of the game in that first year. I remember our first year quite well. My husband and I were exhilarated and overjoyed to bring our little chickens home. Parenting was a beautiful experience we got to share for the first time. We were also exhausted, overwhelmed, and alone.

What foster and adoptive parents are not told are how many supports they are apt to lose in the process of parenting a traumatized child. Especially in that first year home. It never stopped amazing me the lengths my children went to in order to scare people away from our home. And it worked. Our loyal and steadfast group of friends stopped coming over. In the beginning, the children weren’t safe enough in the car to go a lot of places. Staying close to home in a familiar and safe environment was the best thing for them. But for us? It was isolating. I just wanted to have a cup of coffee with my girlfriend while the children played, even 15 minutes would have been great!

Our traumatized children could not stand to share our attention. The thought that they might “lose” a parent to another person becomes a real threat to their very survival. At least, in their minds. Our son and daughter would fist fight, scream, and put holes in the walls when we took phone calls. Their rages were legendary and could last for hours. If families came to visit, they would threaten our friends’ children or steal their toys. When someone would pull into the driveway they would panic, “who is that?!” To our guests they would say, “When are you leaving?” Mary spent an hour and 45 minutes slamming her feet against a door and threatening to kill me once when a girlfriend stopped by to use our printer. Carl and Mary would crawl all over my lap and shout in my face while I tried to carry on a conversation. They would punch each other relentlessly. They were scared to lose my attention even for a second. After all, they were survivors. They finally had a mama and they didn’t want to lose her.

I tried to nurture my friendships with “built-in supports” after the children went to bed. The first year that they were home, I hoped to have a girlfriend come by and have wine with me at 8:00. Unbeknownst to me, my hyper-vigilant children had already heard me on the phone. They knew this was coming and were fearful about an interloper in our home. Bedtime came with a series of epic tantrums. They destroyed their bedrooms, screamed for hours, and refused to sleep. She left, of course.

Eventually, friends trickled away little by little. The first year that our children were home was just too intense and our friends had no idea what to do or say. My husband and I were consumed with keeping our little family afloat. Our ship had sprung too many holes. We were too busy bailing out water to remember what it meant to have friends.

Eventually, I had a friend who couldn’t be scared away. By the second month my kids were home, we were in full-on survival mode. Our lives were filled with mobile crisis services, trips to pediatric in-patient psychiatric hospitals and intensive outpatient therapy. I was home with our new family additions for the summer. My husband was working long hours and I was often alone.

She and I had met in foster parent training. Even though DCF had never trained us for anything close to what we were experiencing, she felt prepared. She was planning to adopt from foster care and was not scared away by the kids’ behavior. We presented it to the kids that she was coming to visit them. She met us at parks and played basketball with us. She braided my daughter’s hair in a French braid. She was always excited to see them and never visibly flinched at anything they did or said.

Some days, when I was absolutely sure I couldn’t make it through dinner on my own, I would call her in tears. “Can you please come after work?” I would beg, “I can’t do dinner with them alone.” She came every time. I think she saved me that summer. Some day I hope I can repay the favor.

In those early days, our chickens were so fiercely protective of finally having a mama, they’d do anything to hold onto me. Literally and figuratively. They only slept for 45 minutes at a time. They sobbed when I went to the bathroom. They growled at the mailman when he tried to say hello to me. I never slept. To put it simply, they were so starved for “mom” that they couldn’t bear to share me. That summer was so isolating. I missed my friends. I envied them their parenting “struggles” that amazingly left them without bruises all over their bodies.

Other than this one friend, people backed away. We had to scramble during hospitalizations, because our dearest friends didn’t feel safe enough to watch the other kids. My mother-in-law cut a visit short once because she was afraid that the children could hurt her. My husband and I were essentially trapped in a house that now had every single closet door broken from it’s hinges. All of the rooms had damaged drywall. Therapists came to our house because transporting the children together by vehicle wasn’t safe. And. We. Never. Slept.

When vacation bible school came I signed the Littles up with a desperation that probably scared the church. The first night I cautiously drove them right down the street to the church. I was praying we made it inside. Once they were engaged in an art project I stealthily slipped into the parking lot, sat in my car, and cried. I was so isolated and alone. That period of time just seems like my husband and I were down in a foxhole together weathering a storm.

Thankfully things changed. The kids got better and began to feel more secure. A combination of intense therapy, medication management and therapeutic parenting led us to a better place. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. My parents moved halfway across the country to live in our town. Now we have Nana and Papa as backup. We started to be able to take some time to ourselves. The children were OK if Mom and Dad went on a date. They began to believe that we would always come back. Finally, we weren’t surviving anymore. We were thriving as a family.

It took a solid year. Suddenly Luke and I are sort of on an isolated island looking around and wondering what happened to all of our friendships. All of the un-returned phone calls and the visits where our friends fled in terror have caught up to us. We have emerged from the trenches but now our friendships have vanished along with afternoon naps and disposable income.

I can look back now and feel absolute amazement at how far we’ve come. We survived the first year. Now, Luke and I are trying to rebuild our support system and nourish those other relationships that fell by the wayside. Not all of them can be repaired. In this year, friends lost jobs, had babies, moved away, and even divorced. We missed all of it. Even as we reach out now we acknowledge that not all of these relationships can be repaired. It’s OK. Not everyone even understands the type of parenting we are doing. It’s OK. We have our little family. We survived. Things will never be exactly the same but it was worth it.  I’m done looking back. I’m ready to look ahead.

We survived and you can, too! #AdoptionTalkLinkUp

No Bohns About It

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

*If you have ever thought about foster or adoptive care, I encourage you to start your own adventure.

 

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adoption, family

Today Was a Failure: Adventures in Accepting My Limitations

loveask

Sometimes I have to make a really hard judgement call. Today I had to decide, “Are they safe to be in the car together?” I also had to ask, “Will they stop screaming and acting out during the service?” The unfortunate answer to both of these questions was, “no.” I had to make the judgement call not to go to church. 

I really love church. I love the calm, quiet prayer. I love being reminded that I am not alone on this journey. I love the fact that for 45 minutes, someone else takes my kids to Sunday school and I have a small break. I love the fact that someone else takes those 45 minutes to try and teach my children about love, kindness, and something bigger than themselves.

Today, I was devastated to lose this. Our kids’ trauma was running at full speed today. They screamed, smacked each other, kicked things, said the most hurtful things you can imagine, and spoke to my husband in a way that was beyond disrespectful. They were way to dis-regulated to attempt a public outing. The whole thing would have overwhelmed them and made their behaviors worse. Today their trauma was winning this battle. I know that we are fighting a war against trauma, but every lost battle just feels like such a loss. I know this. I know my kids. But I also know myself, and I know that I really needed my church today. 

I also have a friend visiting from the other side of the country. I want my friend. I want the carefree outings we used to take. I want the late night talks and margaritas and chocolate lava cake from restaurants. I want to watch and critique a movie with my friend and have zero meltdowns occurring in the same room. Of course, when my kids are having a hard day, none of this is possible. And having a friend over whom I’d like to pay attention to? That causes my kids to have a hard day. 

Sometimes being a Trauma Mama means making sacrifices. Sometimes it means giving up on the things I want in order to meet the needs of my children. Sometimes? It makes me mad and resentful. I have given up so much of myself to be their mom. It’s worth it a hundred times over but on days like it kills me. Today I feel resentful and angry. Today I feel tired beyond belief. Today I wonder how we have ever managed to make it this far.

I stayed at home with the children today. they cleaned some areas in the house where their things were. I listened to Chopin at full blast on my iPod while my daughter screamed for an hour that she “hated this family,” and wished she were with her “other family, even when they did drugs!” I sipped chamomile tea and considered spiking it with something stronger. Nah. I lit lavender scented candles instead. I practiced regulating my breathing while my daughter tore apart the office and then put it all back together again. I took a bubble bath.

My mother stopped by after church and talked to the kids about following rules during Papa’s birthday tomorrow. It helped, but the day was just plain hard. I’m pretty sure the only thing I achieved on this day was surviving. Tomorrow is another day. And through it all? I’m still here. This mom isn’t going anywhere. We all have our bad days but I am still here.

 

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

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family, Star Wars

Does Kylo Ren Have Reactive Attachment Disorder?: RAD and the New Star Wars Movie

****SPOILER ALERT*****

I know I can’t be the only trauma mama out there rooting for the new villain, Kylo Ren. When I watched the new star wars movie, my heart lurched when this new character removed his mask. The new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens,” is rife with analogies for Reactive Attachment Disorder. Perhaps I over-identified with the character of Kylo Ren. Perhaps I have been in the trenches too long, and see RAD lurking around every corner. Perhaps I’m just a mom who can see the potential of a lost boy behind the villain in a movie.

I don’t really know anything about Star Wars. I’m not a movie critic. I’m just a mom identifying with a movie. The character in the movie isn’t adopted, and wasn’t written to be a person with RAD, as far as I know.

Whatever the case, I was riveted to the screen. I predicted the boy’s treachery  long before it happened. The first glimmer of attachment disorder came in a scene relatively early on. The character Kylo Ren had the female protagonist, Rey, captured in a cell. He was attempting to draw information out of her. She said something along the lines of she couldn’t tell if she was talking to a “man or a machine behind that mask.” So he took it off. There was Kylo, a perfectly normal boy. He didn’t have any facial disfigurement, scars, or any visible reason to hide his face. So why the mask?

It was in this moment that I began to see the mask as a protective layer between his emotions and the world. If he kept a barrier between himself and others, then he could continue to wield his power as if he were something other than human. But human he was, at least to me. In the scene where his mask is removed, the hero, Rey, looks into his eyes and begins to see his true fears. Kylo recoils instantly and retreats to his mask once more. After all, sharing feelings, allowing emotional intimacy, these are scary things for those with RAD. This is where I sensed a “disturbance in the force,” so to speak.

Later in the movie we learn that Kylo Ren is really the son of Princess Leia and Han Solo. In this scene, Kylo is alone in a room with Darth Vader’s melted mask. He is begging for strength to remain with the “darkside” while lamenting that the presence of Han Solo was bringing up old feelings. I know I’m not the only mother who experienced this very thing from a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder. A child tries to renounce their love for a parent or primary caretaker. They panic when feelings towards this person begin to surface. I knew in this moment, that the character of Han Solo was doomed. I knew it for the simple reason that I could see there was no way that RAD, the dark force, or whatever you call it, would allow this boy to feel love towards a father figure.

That struggle is real for kids with RAD. The scariest thing they must face is their own growing attachment. To feel love, even a little, for a caretaker seems deadly to them. In order to get rid of the threat (love) the person with RAD must take very drastic action to sever the attachment. I know when our teenage boys got too close, they took drastic measures. They said anything, did anything, and in the end, physically hurt me, in order to burn that tie. I am no stranger to death threats, plans for my murder, and other homicidal ideations. After all, the bigger the love, the bigger the action will need to be in order to be rid of it. That’s how I knew Han Solo would die.

What I didn’t plan on was the absolute perfection of the RAD metaphor played out in Han Solo’s murder scene. I couldn’t look away. It’s only a movie after all, so how could they have gotten this so perfectly, truly accurate as a metaphor for RAD?

Han Solo calls to his son and approaches him. The boy removes his mask. There it is. The vulnerability. The human connection. Kylo says that he is being torn apart. He doesn’t want to feel this pain anymore. How many attachment-challenged children have felt the same way when confronted with the love of a parental figure. Kylo asks for his father’s help, and of course, Han replies that he will “do anything.” In so offering up this unconditional love and support, Han literally aides in his own death. He holds the lightsaber, with his son, as Kylo slices it through him. Our own giving is too often our own undoing. We give without thought to our own needs. As parents, we put our children first. Children, of course, deserve nothing less. But RAD? Rad will take this from a child. RAD will twist this into something terrifying and threatening.

The most poignant moment in the whole movie, or at least for me, is not the stab itself. The slice through Han Solo’s chest is just like so many parents have felt their own hearts town asunder. It’s what happens next that seals the RAD metaphor for me. Han Solo, now impaled,  reaches a hand up and and cups the face of his son. In this moment, he shows his unconditional love. He still sees the boy he loves, no matter his actions.

Parents who are in the trenches with me will empathize. I know I had absolute empathy for that moment. No matter the actions our children may take, they are not villains. They cannot defeat our love. Yes, they can sever ties, and destroy relationships, and walk away seemingly unscathed. But I know the truth. It is not our children who are the villains. It is the RAD inside of them that can do this to a family.

As the movie ended I found myself in a strange position that so many other RAD mamas are probably in. I was rooting for Kylo Ren. I am pulling for his redemption in future movies. I don’t believe that his character is beyond hope. In him, I saw a boy who was afraid to love. In him, I saw the two sons I lost. He may be the new antagonist where the Star Wars franchise in concerned, but not to me. Never to me. I will always see RAD as the true villain.

**Image courtacy of idigitaltimes.com

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