Updated: May 1
Like most parents, Parker and I put thirteen-year-old Walden and 10-year-old Walker as our top priority. We took parenting seriously. Other moms commonly turned to me for parenting advice. When a family friend decided she wanted to adopt a child, she told me she thought I'd be the ideal person to help with babysitting.
Within months, our family friend had been matched with an adorable 5-year-old little boy named Angel. As planned, I babysat regularly.
But just three months later, our friend called me again with astonishing news. "I don't want Angel anymore," she said. "I'm calling the social worker to have him removed”. They were so close to transitioning from foster care to adoption. Appalled and saddened, Parker and I decided that someone needed to do the right thing. After all, Angel had already been in five different homes in 13 months.
I asked if she could adopt the boy.
Three days later, Parker and I had completed all the necessary paperwork, fingerprinting, background checks and home studies. Two social workers planned for Angel to stay with our family while the paperwork processed.
Angel didn't seem concerned at all during this time. He acted like any other 5-year-old little boy. Six weeks later, past parental rights had been terminated and Angel was officially "placed" in our home.
When his social worker told Angel that Parker, Walden, and Walker and I were his new family, he was excited and immediately asked if he could have a ‘W’ name like his brothers. On a warm summer day ten months later, Parker and I officially adopted Angel as Wesley.
Just like that, they were a family of five.
The transition for Wesley, while seamless at first, began to unravel. Of course, I figured, it was to be expected.
When Wesley started kindergarten, I began receiving calls from the school to pick him up. He was disruptive in some way or another. The school stopped asking me to pick him up after a while, however. The occurrences were just too frequent and they felt Wesley needed class time to succeed academically. Instead, they called me at home or discussed the day after school. The talks about behaviors always went well in front of the teacher or Parker.
When Wesley and I were alone, he acted much differently than with other adults. He was defiant, quiet and sneaky. He lied regularly.
I tried to discuss Wesley's troubling behaviors with Parker and my parents. They said I was too hard on Wesley. That I should “learn to let some things go”. Frustrated but determined, I tried my best to back off and try a different approach.
Time passed but matters grew worse. By the summer of second grade, Walden began having problems with his new brother too. I started to notice how Wesley purposely caused Walden to get in trouble. When I reprimanded Walden, Wesley watched from afar with a sly smile.
But one mid-summer day, I felt like they had made a breakthrough.
It had been a long day of struggling with Wesley's behaviors. Tired but hopeful, I tried to just sit with him and sort out his feelings. Surprisingly, Welsey shared things about his past. I did my best to comfort and reassure him that Parker, the boys and I were always there for him.
That evening Walden and Walker went to a friend's house. I decided to take Wesley to their neighborhood pool—just the two of us. Our walk there together was quiet and calm for once. We got to the pool, put down our things and got into the water. It was nice to spend time together that day.
Wesley proudly wanted to show me how he could tread water in the deep end. I joined him and praised him for his swimming skills. We began goofing around, laughing and splashing. The sun warmed our faces.
And then, Wesley swam behind me. He pushed me beneath the water with all of his strength. As I pushed to the top of the water for air,
he pushed me back down again and again. I was suddenly terrified.
I was gasping, flailing, fighting for my life.
After several minutes, I got free and climbed out of the pool. Coughing and crying, I yelled for Wesley to get out of the pool. He swam away from me.
When I went to the other side of the pool to get him out, I stepped on a rock and felt instant pain. I had broken my foot. I called Parker, hysterical, and yelled to Wesley to go to a friend's house nearby.
I returned from the hospital hours later in a boot cast. Walden and Walker ran and hugged me. Wesley stayed back and watched from a distance.
Still in shock, I could not pinpoint exactly what had happened. But I definitely knew I had been attacked by Wesley.
When Parker asked Wesley what happened, Wesley said he was slipping and tried to hold onto me in the water. With nothing concrete, the culprit simply became the rock.
Days later, the friend who had stayed with Wesley the evening of the accident came over. She asked if she could talk to me alone.
My friend told me that Wesley said I had hit him and showed bruises.
I defended herself. Those bruises were from his scooter and skateboard, not me.
My friend was not fully convinced, saying she knew I had been struggling with him. She wanted me to know that Welsey told many people I had hit him. I was dumbfounded, confused and mad. I knew I was heart-broken. But I didn't know I was living with reactive attachment disorder at the time.
...story continued here.
p.s. - If you're living with reactive attachment disorder, you're not alone. Find hope and community at the RAD Advocates first conference coming soon (see below).
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