The Little Prince
              Surviving Life with Reactive Attachment Disorder

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  No Conscience

I knew that something was wrong when I called my son for dinner and he didn't answer. My first thought was that he had wandered out of the yard again, so I immediately ran outside to search for him.  I knew that he couldn't have gone very far because I had just seen him playing with his trucks on the big dirt pile just a few minutes earlier.  I started to become a little worried though when he still didn't answer my calls. 

As I walked across the side yard, I caught a glimpse of him sitting on the ground behind a bush.  I again called his name, but he still didn't answer.  As I approached him, I immediately sensed that something was wrong.  He was quietly sitting there, staring down at his hands... seemingly unaware of my presence.  As I knelt down beside him... in was then that I discovered the bird.  He was holding it firmly with one hand, as he sat there pushing thumb tacks into it's tiny body with the other.  "OH MY GOD... WHAT ARE YOU DOING???????"  The words flew from my mouth before I even had a chance to think.  Obviously, my words appeared to startle my son as much as they startled me, because he very quickly dropped the bird onto the ground beside him.   There was a very long and awkward silence as I stood there looking back and forth between my son and the dead bird, that was lying there with at least fifty tacks sticking into it's little body.  There are no words to explain the thoughts that were going through my mind as I tried to make some sort of sense of this bird incident. 

My son was very quiet for the remainder of the night.  He just sat and stared at me blankly as I questioned him, and as he continually denied killing the bird.  When I asked him about the tacks, and why he would ever think of doing such a horrible thing...  he casually replied, "I don't know." 

The bird incident was only the beginning.   The beginning signs of a child without a  conscience. 

The Butcher Knife Incident

Who does she think she is....
trying to tell me what I cannot do?
Just who does she think she is?
I'll show her a thing or two.

I guess I wasn't thinking
as I grabbed the butcher knife.
I just really needed her to know...
I wasn't taking this all in strife.

Cuz... nobody tells me what to do...
no-one bosses me around.
So I had to send a message...
I wasn't taking that lying down.

Copyright © 2002 Suzanne

Our teenage daughter was a little hesitant to baby-sit for The Little Prince after the butcher knife incident.  Needless to say, we were also a little hesitant to leave him alone with anyone after that day.  The "Butcher Knife Incident" really opened our eyes to the seriousness of living with a child that didn't have a conscience... a child that could no longer be trusted.   I began to wonder if anyone in our home was actually safe anymore.  The words, "Will someone die if this happens?"  and "Where will I live if all of you are dead?," suddenly began to take on an entirely new meaning.  I used to think that his questions were somewhat normal concerns for a child.   Especially a child who had already lost one family.   Yet, as time went on, and as we started to see more and more "incidents..."  I really began to worry.

After those two incidents, I knew that it was very important to keep my son close to me.  Yet, I found out very quickly that no matter how carefully you try to pay attention, bad things can still happen... and sometimes even right under your nose.   On this particular day, my son... my granddaughter... and I were riding to the store in my van. My son was sitting right next to her in the seat.  Knowing what I know now, I realize that that was a really stupid thing for me to do, yet as cruel as my son was to animals... he had always loved babies.  He was very protective of babies... and very gentle... especially with my granddaughter.   Everyone always commented on the attention that he gave to her, and how sweet it was that he was always cuddling with her... and letting her run her fingers through his curly hair.  Yet, on this particular day, my granddaughter appeared quite irritable and seemed to be crying a little more than usual.   It may have been sheer luck that I happened to look into my mirror at just the right time, but I did, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  My son had reached up and grabbed a handful of my grand daughters hair and was pulling it very hard.  As she started to scream... he quickly removed his hand and sat there with that usual blank stare.  I quickly pulled the van over to the side of the road and moved my son into the back seat.  As I yelled at him, he continually denied that he had done anything to hurt her.  

From that day on, I was very careful to pay very close attention to my son and my granddaughter when she was visiting with us.   Yet, sometimes things just continue to happen no matter how closely we think we're watching, and as time went on... more things did begin to happen.  In fact, there were many other incidents regarding my son and my granddaughter, and all of theses incidents occurred while I was driving.  I guess my son was bright enough to know that he could get away with more when my attention was on the road... instead of on him.   I honestly thought that I had things pretty much under control by having her seated in the middle seat, and him in the far back seat... but I was wrong.  I had even learned to have my rear view mirror pointed directly at my granddaughter, so I could quickly check to make sure that she was okay... but even that wasn't enough to keep her totally safe.  I guess you might say that my timing was good again on one particular day because I looked up into the mirror just in time to see my son putting a marble into his mouth... making a gesture to her.... and smiling.   As I looked over at her, she was starting to follow his lead and had put a marble into her mouth too.  There wasn't much doubt in my mind that my son had given her that marble, and was trying to get her to swallow it.  The big question was... why?  Why would he want to see her get hurt?   

On that same car ride home, there was yet another incident.   As my grand daughter started screaming... I knew that my son had done something to her but I couldn't figure out what he had done.  As I began to check things out a little closer, I discovered that he had reached his hand up by her carseat and had managed to dig his fingernails into her hand.   Again... I was greeted by denial... and that same blank stare.  It was on this day that I decided that it just wasn't safe for me to babysit for my granddaughter anymore.  Sadly, I had to come to terms with the fact that it was not only small animals that were at risk of being hurt by my son... but also small children.

I think it was that butcher knife incident that really gave me the big wake-up call though.  I had already removed all of the animals from our home, and explained to our foster daughter that I could no longer baby-sit for her daughter, but I hadn't in any way corrected the problem.  I had merely put a band-aid on it... to make our lives a little less chaotic.   Yes, we no longer had to deal with the dilemma of protecting small children and animals... but the problem wasn't gone.  It was quite clear that our son didn't have a conscience.  He was still doing some very mean things to the other children in our home, and I think I knew that it was only going to be a matter of time before somebody was going to be seriously hurt.    The big problem was... we didn't know what to do to help him.  We didn't even know if we could help him.  All of the professionals that we were working with didn't have a clue as to how to help us.  We found ourselves frantically jumping around from professional to professional... desperately looking for somebody that might be able to help.  His teacher was calling me every day by 11:00 AM to come get him, my other children were miserable, and even my marriage was beginning to suffer now too.   Our entire life revolved around this child.   I began to wonder if we had made a terrible mistake by trying to save this child.  I had always thought that if we just continued to love him enough... that things would eventually get better.  Yet, it wasn't getting better... it was actually getting worse.

So... how do we break through these walls?  How can we continue to love a child that doesn't want to be loved?  How can we continue to help a child that we can no longer trust?  A child that steals from us... breaks everything in our home... kills animals... and hurts babies?  What does the future hold for a child without a conscience?   These are all very good questions.   In fact, for many years I've asked myself all of these same questions.... and many more.  I've spent a lot of years riding the RAD roller coaster... and sifting through the loads of questions and fears that come from living this RAD life.  I've watched my own emotions quickly spiraling as I struggled with the guilt of not wanting to be his mother anymore.  I've had to deal with the intense anger that I was feeling towards his birth-parents for screwing him up... destroying his spirit... and leaving me here with this awful mess that they made.   Then to make matters worse, I had to live with the fact that I had pushed really hard for this adoption... even though some of my immediate family members were hesitant to move forward with it in the beginning.  So I had to wade through all of those emotions too... because I felt very responsible for all of the chaos and heartache that this child had brought to our home, to our other children, and now...  even to my marriage. 

is the inner voice
that warns us
somebody may be looking. 

-Henry Louis Mencken