November 14th, 2007
Posted By:
Categories: Ages and Stages

I used to be an active participant in ATN’s list serves—heck, I used to benefit as much or more than I contributed. I needed the outlet when I was still in the thick of parenting Amy … Currently, I am not reading our lists regularly, although I do check in as often as I can. I simply can’t keep up with the exploding number of new members, new lists, and new crises.

I also occasionally visit another community forum, although I have essentially backed out of that one as well. But upon occasion, I will pop in to see if there are any parents who might be in need of ATN’s support and willing to access the help. The latter part is the issue … while there are many parents on this board who are addressing and researching attachment and trauma issues in their children, there are many other parents who would rather their child have something else—anything else—than attachment problems.


Recently a mom posted about how her early elementary-aged son (adopted 4 years ago) is “making her crazy with his lack of listening.” She asks him to go upstairs to his room and bring down clothes he will need for school tomorrow. He returns with his pajamas on. She asks him a second time, and he returns wearing a superhero costume. She asks him a third time and he comes down in a completely new “regular” outfit that he has already gotten dirty—still without the clothes Mom asked for the very first time. His sister joins the fun, and offers to help him … and together they come back downstairs yet again, this time with the little boy wearing the clothes he had on at the beginning of this ordeal. Still no school clothes for tomorrow. Lastly, this mom states the children wear a uniform to school, so all this kiddo had to do was get a clean uniform shirt and pants.

She also says this happens over, and over, and over.

Now here’s the rub … every single response to this mom—nine so far—has told her this is normal. Some have even said it reminds them of their husbands! Many think this is “age and stage”.

I didn’t post a response. I used to, but I don’t any more. I would be the Lone Ranger among all these other moms … not that it would prevent me from speaking up, but I have less energy these days for continually swimming upstream. I don’t think this is normal behavior. What do you folks think?

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19 Responses to “I’m tired of being the Lone Ranger”

  1. fenyimom says:

    Since every minute of every day for me is a power struggle, I say this kid is deliberately tweaking his mom to exert power over her. I would have had the kid strip off the first outfit he appeared in and told him that was what he was wearing to school tomorrow, and then made him wear it.

  2. pat johnston says:

    Of course it isn’t “normal” but the problem is that it IS one of those symptoms that “overlaps” into several possible diagnoses, including, but certainly not limited to attachment issues in general and RAD in particular. ADHD, for example; PTSD, for example; ODD, for example.

    Do these moms on that board (and I know which one you mean, Nance) often play ostrich? Yes, they do! But not all of those hoofbeats are zebras, either! Getting a proper diagnosis is hard. At least this woman (and others) are reaching out for help.

    Post! Give her something to think about and research, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to me that you should assume that because her kid’s adoption situation makes him vulnerable to RAD, he might not have RAD, but something else.

  3. I didn’t say this was attachment-related for sure, but I can see where it appeared I was saying that … but what I really wanted to convey was that this is NOT normal and all those folks telling her it IS normal are doing her–and her child–a disservice.

    Good points Pat. Perhaps YOU can post? I’m out of gas …

  4. romee_1101 says:

    Normal? I guess I wonder why she gave him four tries to get it right. I give my two year old one time to follow directions (sometimes two), and then it is time out (or time in). It is so hard to say what might be going on without a whole lot of information about the child’s other behaviors. However, I wouldn’t necessarily give even a “normal” child four attempts without some type of proactive intervention. Isn’t that setting up a child who might already have issues?



  5. Othertheresa says:

    I also know the forum to which you are referring, Nancy. There was an thread entitled “clueless parents” last week, speaking about folks who see behaviors that are clearly not normal as normal, or transitional, or “because he was swaddled in the orphanage”, or ADHD. Basically, anything but the “alphabet soup” acronyms of diagnoses our kids often carry, including attachment difficulties.
    The folks they were posting about were not members of this forum, but I have seen a distressing number of “clueless” posts on that forum from posters as well. ( Flaming on that form is a major problem, so I mostly lurk). Sort of like the preadoption classes where I talked about attachment issues and got blank looks, or avoidance, or a confident “yup, we know what to do about THAT”. When I see them later, with their child, clearly struggling, they are often overwhelmed and dealing with several issues simultaneously, including the dreaded attachment difficulty. It’s so sad that even at that point, some can’t accept what’s happening.

  6. Julie says:

    Hey Nancy — lookin’ good in that baby blue outfit there with the mask! After your relaxing massage, you’ll be refreshed enough to jump back in the fray.

    Now get in there and give those parents something to think about…you know you want to!

    And somebody needs to tell them!

  7. getting old says:

    well, the dressing problem seems so minor to me. At least he isn’t 15 and coming back down naked..

    boards you have to watch.. I got caught up into one associated with a person claiming 100% success, who has back away from ATTACH, etc… though was one a big supporter and on the board of ATTACH.. and those people actually reported us to our local CPS…

    I have 3 children I adopted from public foster care… 2 did pretty good and are doing well with just 3 years or so of bad stuff… the other one, is honestly, at this point, 7 years into it… a living nightmare…

  8. getting old says:

    oh, and I was asked to leave foster parent training last fall because I was sharing all our wonderful experiences…. and they said I was getting too many people to drop out…

    I always said I could loan them my son for a few days, and they can see if they really want to get into it..

  9. If my birth son did this, even as a preschooler, I would be wondering what was wrong with him, and having some serious concerns. At elementary school age, unless the child has mental handicaps, they should be able to understand and obey simple instructions. Anything else in our house is a bad choice, and carries consequences. No I wouldn’t think it was normal, and would be trying hard to discover what we were dealing with, and then handling it accordingly.

  10. mmarschner says:

    I went to a meeting for parents of cleft children this past weekend. Talk about Lone Ranger. I also spoke with a mom who adopted a cleft palate 14 month old from China. But it seems my DS is the only one that has ANY issues. OK OK..maybe our children struggle with SID, ADHD, need ST and OT, autism…..but there is definiately no trauma or attachment issues going on.


    Well shortness of breath is indicative of many things, but no ones uses it to diagnosis anything; it is part of the diagnosis. The thing is if SOB (shortness of Breath) comes from an advanced case of Lung Cancer, well, you have a problem. The problem is convincing people that you have a problem. They see is an a symptom of some benign thing; they don’t see it also as a symptom of cancer. They just need to live with it for a few months to be educated. For that reason, I just stay cloistered and like you, Nancy, don’t even try to explain. I have found a Mona Lisa smile helpful when I get questions as to some of the strange behaviours my son sometimes does. Words fail me….in so many ways…


  12. nancyderen says:

    I’m amazed that so many people would think this could be normal. There are several different issues that that kind of behavior is classic for-FAS, ADHD, ODD, RAD, a hearing or language processing impairment- but if the kid was willing to keep going up and down the stairs without getting frustrated or expressing that he didn’t understand the direction, it sounds like a good chance of RAD or ODD style provocative game-playing. I feel so badly for this mom being told not to worry about something that could be a sign of serious problems.

  13. getting old says:

    the problem seems so very minor… yes nutty, strange, most likely playing her.. and when he can play control games and get to her that is so bad… normal? no

    not that bad… didn’t bring down a dead cat, she can trust him enough to go upstairs by himself … and he came down with clothes on…

    and we’ve lived 7 years in an insane assylum… so who am I to judge (the seven years meaning, the seven RAD-man has been here)

    I hate that his sister feels she needs to help him and get caught up in his crap…

    my mom, my son’s grandma… has recently taken to pointing out any child younger than him doing a job (raking leaves, taking out trash, etc..) right… and asking him why he feels the need to act more incompetent then a 2,3, 5 year old, etc..

    I think he loves every minute of that also

  14. Lindy says:

    Nancy…a little off the subject. I don’t have my head in the sand and we (as a family) are ready to make some drastic and painful choices re: our RAD….possibly terminating parental rights. I need your expertise and advice.

  15. Lindy, email me directly at and let’s set up a time to talk, ok? I’m so sorry …

  16. condo-mom says:

    Wow — what a response !! To tag onto Patricia’s cancer imagery . . . perhaps people reject or “can’t hear” the suggestion of rad or attachment issues, because they Refuse to Go There. Because if they Go There, they next have to ask, “So how do we fix that?” And similar to cancer (which we all know now has higher cure rates than ever before, but still kills an awful lot of people, my Mom among them) the answers seem to be Many and None.

    I’m convinced that our daughter struggles with a mix of attachment issues and fae, yet of the 2, lately I find myself reading books and having conversations about fasd, rather than her attachment problems. (I read/am reading Anne Ford’s On Their Own.) Both are attachment issues and fae awful, but somehow fae seems a tad LESS awful. This despite my concerns for her — will she ever have common sense or learn from experience or keep a job or live on her own? I tell myself it’s kind of like mental retardation — she can’t really help it, and I simply have to stop expecting certain things and figure out what she’s be good at. I have worked with mentally handicapped adults, and some were enjoyable, pleasant and industrious individuals. I’m not so scared of mental retardation.

    However her attachment issues point to a future without friends (currently almost all provided by me and her siblings) and authentic, caring relationships. No reciprocity. And she’s sick of a mom who makes a Big Deal of this all the time — why can’t Mom get over her Stupid Expectations and just Leave Me Alone? She’d definitely prefer to raise herself, and has felt that way since arrival at age 5. In my nastier moments I figure she’s got 4.25 years until she gets to try it.
    She does not seem to want to be any different than she is. The fae (meaning its symptoms: poor retention, inflexible thinking, not learning from experience or consequences, not much common sense, etc.) causes her frustration — I can really see her anger with herself some days. However, 98% of the time her attachment issues seem to bother her Not At All !! The moments when she will not only Admit that she isn’t happy living a semi-detached life, but will also Take Some Responsibility For It (or even Think How to Change It!) are very, very, rare indeed.

    Sorry so long . . . looking for healing for my daugher, and me.


  17. nancyderen says:

    Kids with FAE and FAS very often don’t like to admit that something is hard or that they are not happy about themselves, because they know that in some ways they look more “normal” than they really are and feel ashamed deep inside at what is really going on. It’s not uncommon for kids with these issues to have trouble trusting and attaching partly because of the shame and desire to hide impairments. FAS and FAE can also cause such weird and frustrating behaviors that this causes lots of relationship problems. I’ve worked with lots of kids who have FAS and FAE, and I think you’re on the right track to focus on that, because the more you learn about how to understand and accomodate the FAE issues, the less crazy the behavior is likely to make you, and that will help with attachment. As she matures and you have figured out more and more of what is FAE, then you’ll have a clearer sense of what are the attachment issues and what is really manipulative vs. FAE. Sometimes when parents see FAE behavior as manipulative or oppositional, the kid gets more and more ashamed and tries to hide the limitations and confusion more and more, and just becomes more hardened and cut off from really relating. Books and lectures by Daniel Dubovsky and Ann Streissguth are good resources.

  18. condo-mom says:

    Nancy –

    Thank you for helping to shed some light on the connections between issues of attachment and fasd. I’ve read Dubovsky, and will go find some Streissguth. I guess I need to look waaaay back to jr. high and how I worried about what other kids thought of me — then multiply that x mongozillion, to see how my daughter might feel about her issues. We certainly don’t need any more “hardened and cut off from really relating.” Ultimately, I worry that she could become hardened and cut off from HERSELF, and then we are truly in a mental health wasteland. Thanks — Rachel

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