Oppositional defiant disorder Reactive attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorderReactive attachment disorder

Reactive attachment disorder

Letters from Mothers

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Robbie, 16

The Biblical definition of hope is "desire plus expectation." Almost six months ago, I certainly desired to "find" my son (age sixteen, adopted at the age of sixteen months), but I had little expectation that I could do so. I sent frustrated, despairing SOS messages out into cyberspace, praying that someone would answer and offer help before the window of opportunity to establish a normal parent-child relationship closed. My husband and I believe the answer to that prayer was Aaron Lederer.

It has been four months since we began working with Aaron Lederer, and our work is not finished. But now I have a son who does not pull away when I put my arm around his shoulders, who does not leave the room when I enter, and who seems to want to be near me at times, to walk side by side. Are these little things? Are they insignificant? Not to a mother who knows how precious and important these little things are and who knows how disheartening their absence can be. I now have a son who stands straight rather than slouching and slithering around corners after-hours, like a "creature of the night," as we formerly described him, trying to find humor in a humorless situation. I am developing a sense of trust and confidence in the young man he is, and I am getting glimpses of the adult he has the potential to become.

Our journey is not complete, but I believe we are on the right road. With prayer, confidence in the expertise and methods of Aaron Lederer, and willingness to sacrifice, to work, and to do whatever is right and within our means, we will finish the course. Ultimately, we rely on God to bless all our efforts. The result of the process, we hope, will be a productive human being and a caring, compassionate soul. What more could any parent desire and expect?

About a year ago, I wrote, "Our journey is not complete, but I believe we are on the right road." Well, the time has now arrived when I may say "Our journey's end is near," and it promises to be a welcoming, comfortable place. During our last communication, Aaron Lederer listened patiently as I bubbled over with a positive report on the progress we had made in recent weeks. When he took the opportunity to speak and told me that we were coming to the end of our work and that our son was "as normal as he can be," I wept tears of joy. (It doesn't matter to me whether he meant "normal" for our son or "normal" for any teenage boy.)

My husband and I realize that our son will always have a reclusive nature-he will always need time to recuperate and refresh his spirit after socializing and being in stressful situations, but we have a better understanding and appreciation of him, and he of us. He knows he is loved and seems to appreciate that fact. He is cooperative and patient with his old "out of touch" parents-perhaps more so than your average teenager. He wants his privacy and independence, of course, but he seems to find security in knowing we are his safety net, ready to catch him until he is truly ready to be on his own.

He has also revealed some compassion, which in times past seemed nonexistent. For example, yesterday he wanted to make an extra stop on the way home. My husband said, "Your mother really isn't feeling very well-maybe that can wait until later." Our son said, "Oh! Okay." One might ask, "Well, how revealing can those two words be?" But it was the tone of his voice that touched me. There was a sound of surprise and concern that Mom might not feel well. Perhaps the fact that I could feel ill was something that he had never thought of, or if he had, it had never mattered to him before.

And surprisingly, our son's memory seems to have improved. Several days ago, I told him that some real estate agents were coming to look at our house on Wednesday morning and that I needed him to do me the favor of being up and ready by 8:45. Nothing more was said about it, but on Wednesday morning at the time I had indicated, our night owl was up, showered, and dressed, and his room was straightened (except for the unmade bed, of course-he still doesn't do beds!).

We have now joined the ranks of "parents of a teenage boy"-yes, one who is somewhat of a turtle and who still seems to find the world somewhat mysterious and threatening, but one who is venturing out more and more and who also finds the world to be alive with potential and possibilities.

Where would we be if we had not found Aaron Lederer? I don't know, but now, at the very least, I do know that we have done the best we could possibly do for all of us. The knowledge and training Aaron Lederer has given us has changed our lives so much for the better.

It has now been two years since we ended the treatment. All three of us are working with the TV network, and Robbie is doing a good job. Right now, he is training a new editor to assist with the growing production demands. He seems to get better consistently, gradually, and steadily as he matures, and our lives are good right now. Of course, there are still the times when Robbie recluses himself, but there are also many good moments that make it all okay.

Our holiday activities have stretched out over an extended period since Thanksgiving, when our married daughter and her family visited. We had a great time. Robbie was an integral part of the fun-except, of course, when he was out with Kitty, his mystery girlfriend. One day he even took his sister's family, except the youngest, out to play paintball. Our daughter videotaped the event, and we so enjoyed watching the good time they had. They are all amazed at the changes in how social Robbie is, and I believe we have Kitty to thank for many of those changes. Also, Robbie seems to get taller, more muscular, and stronger all the time-more comfortable and confident in himself, and it's not just a lot of pretense and bravado.

Stephanie, our other married daughter, came to visit with her family. They arrived later than expected the night we were to exchange gifts, so we postponed our exchange until the next morning. Robbie had already used his days off work to go to Texas with his paintball buddies the previous week, so he had to go to work the next morning. So we gave him his gifts that night before he and Kitty went out for dinner. After receiving his gifts and giving his nieces and nephew their gifts (bought by me, though he reimbursed me at his suggestion!), he went upstairs and returned with a gift and a card that said "To Dan and Denise, from Robbie and Kit."

For the first time in his life, Robbie gave his dad and me a Christmas gift! He said, "This is from Kitty and me-well, mainly from Kitty."

I had mentioned to him at some point that I thought the Dance Revolution game looked like fun and good exercise; I had seen some boys playing it at an arcade in Houston. Well, that's what we got, and though I look rather silly trying to do it, I am determined to master it just because I value that gift so much! Robbie even let me hug him and give him a kiss on the check. That had definitely not happened in a long time!

I thought that the nieces would be real little nuisances to Robbie in their efforts to meet Kitty, but he has been playful and patient with them, teasing and tormenting them in return and acting very normal. Robbie also continues to attend worship services with us. He still doesn't drive, but he apparently has a girlfriend and friends willing to transport him wherever he wants to go. Of course, our communication still has to be casual, indirect, and nonintrusive, or we risk his withdrawal.

Now we have been finished with treatment for three years. Robbie has been talking about getting a car for many months now, but he has only discussed it, never really making any actual moves toward it. I thought he only wanted to satisfy the expectations of his friends, who have their own vehicles and are driving. But today, he walked to the driver's license testing station and passed the test to get a learner's permit. I think he may be on the way to completing this project!

Robbie is still a pain many days, though perhaps just a typical teenage pain, although he is now twenty years old. He still gets himself up every morning for work and completes a full day at his assignments, but he usually spends his paycheck as fast as he gets it. He is always ready for every church service, but he is not always as neat in appearance as I would like him to be. Then again, that may be a normal teenager/parent kind of issue. He has some friends with whom he plays games on Friday or Saturday nights. Sometimes he camps out in their apartment, but he always comes home on Saturday nights, turns out our signal light so I know he's in, and is ready to go to Sunday worship with us on time.

At times, I need to snap him into shape. Today, when I saw the disgusting appearance of his newly renovated room, I remembered Aaron Lederer's permission to occasionally express myself freely and give him a tongue-lashing, as we call it here in the South. His attitude always seems to be improved after such an event.

Thank you, Aaron Lederer, and may every parent you help ultimately feel the gratitude for you that Dan and I do.

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