Love Lessons: the Moving Tale of a Mother Who Tried to Love a RAD Child from Russia – Part I

Excerpt from the Foreward from “Love Lessons,” a Soon-to-be-Published Book

Part I – August 2009

  • A mother’s journey.
  • A child’s pain.
  • A mother’s heart being shredded.
  • A child who thinks she is protecting herself.

Great family, great parents, great loving marriage… The family believes it can help others less fortunate. Then… the traumatized child is brought home, and mother’s love is tested, challenged, doubted and put through the fire, like non-traumatized birth children can never do.

I explained to Victoria that I thought I was prepared to bring her into our family. I wanted her here but when she came, she was mean and angry. “ I tried so hard to love you until I became mean and angry. I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know what to do for you and I am sorry.”

Jodi Bean has given a gift to the general public and to the field of psychology and human development. A recent 20/20 gave America a glimpse into the homes of families, who have adopted children, especially from Russia. Many thought it was startling to see the rage and explosiveness of these young children. Most of the families, who have adopted traumatized children made statements about the documentary like, “That was mild. I wish my children were that good…”

From the outside, none of us can appreciate how difficult the families’ journey truly is. Teachers, neighbors, even relatives see how “cute” the child is. We, who work with these children and families, have come to know cute as the “C” word. The families we work with can not stand to hear the “C” word anymore. The “cute” appearance hides the tragedy and trauma within. The “cute” persona conceals the torment and torture this child is putting the family and herself through.

“We were at relative’s home. Victoria came up to me on the couch and was being very affectionate. This was unusual at this point. Later, when we got into the car, I asked what that was all about. She replied, “I wanted them to think I was nice to you.” – p. 71

It is hard for most of us to imagine that children can be so destructive and so tormented. But we need to “GET IT!” as a culture, as a people, and certainly as an industry that endeavors to help families and educate children. Children are innocent until … they are not. Once they have been neglected, hurt and abused, once there have been assaults to developmental progressions, there is really no limit to the amount of damage that can be wrought.

“Love Lessons” takes us inside the home, the hearth and the heart of a family determined to love a child, who has been programmed and conditioned to not accept love and family. The strategies a hurt child can employ for rejecting this love are endless and countless. The pattern is painfully predictable and shared by all. The children create “tests” for the parents to fail. Then the child can remain secure with the belief system, “I knew I would not be loved. I knew it would not work out. I knew I belong alone. I am different. I do not deserve this family, this love, or any family, any love.…”

Conscience development can only happen when a child internalizes their mother, father or primary caregiver. When an infant child suffers “sanctuary trauma” i.e. trauma at the hands of the one, who is supposed to keep the child safe, and in the home, where the child should find protection and sanctuary, then that child can be expected to be programmed not to trust. The values and belief systems thus internalized, even for a pre-verbal child, are that adults and the world can not be trusted.

Many of these “children from hard places” are brought home by families, who believe they can love the unlovable. They firmly believe their love and their faith can heal the most wounded. Mom and Dad seem to believe, “I can love anyone back to faith in love, and trust in people and God.” As the children have the exact opposite programming and core belief, what can follow is sometimes a clash of Olympian proportions. Miss Bean, brings us inside of this struggle. She has the courage and integrity to openly disclose the terror and gut wrenching pain that a mother faces, when she starts to “hate” her child. A mother who never knew she could hate a child, much less her own. The self doubt and self deprecation that follow are ever so poignant, powerful and painful.

There was something else I knew I had to deal with and that was my good friend, guilt. I felt sorrow–– deep sorrow for her beginning in life and her beginning in her second life. I don’t usually live with regrets. I had avoided them for most of my life or let them go, but there was one hanging on for dear life–– my initial responses to Victoria were the opposite of everything I thought I was. That is why for so long I didn’t even really know who I was. I was angry, mean, yelling, vindictive, depressed, anxious, and clinging onto control that was slipping away. I felt weak. I felt like I was everything I had vowed not to be. It was completely breaking my heart and my spirit. These responses to her and my quest for justification brought me to the depths of sorrow.

As soon as I began to learn the motivations behind her behaviors, the first thing I had to do was walk that ever personal road of repentance and forgiveness. I, with miracles working in my heart, was able to completely forgive her for the things she was not even accountable for. I was able to let go of all the animosity and resentment. I did not hang onto any anger or justification. I had no idea how it was going to happen but it did. And that was the easy part. If there really was one.

Even with that knowledge, I could not let guilt go. The guilt that followed me would not let me go. I began to put conditions on when I would release the regret and accept the forgiveness. I would let it go when Victoria was better.

This served no purpose. In fact, she couldn’t get better until my heart was free to help hers. It was personal. It was long in coming. It was sweet in releasing. Do I wish it had been different? Of course. – p. 163