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Playing with Fire

by Teresa Guerard – Orlando, FL

I was a single parent at the age of 25. My daughter, Breana is now a wonderful young woman. She is currently 17 years old and is the “perfect” daughter. I often tell people that she is the daughter that everyone dreams of having when they decide to get pregnant! There was a time, however, when I played with fire…

I am a therapist and have learned about RAD through work I have done with my clients. It was not until I started working as a therapist with this population that I realized the risks I had taken with my daughter early in her life.

When Breana was 3 months old, I had an opportunity to go on a week long ski trip in the Colorado mountains. I live in Florida, so this was quite an opportunity. I was also a single parent with very limited funds which made this mostly paid vacation even more attractive.

Being a rather progressive mother, I felt it important to prepare my daughter for our upcoming separation. One week before I was to leave, it was a Sunday evening, I sat her in her infant seat, knelt down before her and explained to her that I was going to be going away for one week. That meant it would get light and dark seven times (I didn’t think she understood the concept of a “day” at that time) and then mommy would return. She would stay with Joyce and Lamar (the couple that watched her while I worked) and that they loved her very much and would take very good care of her. I told her that I loved her very much and that everything would be just fine.

The next day I went to work. At the time I was a real estate agent and that day, I didn’t make it home until after dark. As I walked up the steps to Joyce and Lamar’s apartment, I could hear Breana screaming inside. This was very unusual for Breana as she was a very “easy” baby and rarely fussed.

I walked inside and Joyce met me at the door. She was totally frazzled. She explained that Breana had started crying when it had gotten dark. They had tried feeding her, changing her, rocking her, walking her around the apartment, singing to her and anything else they could think of. Nothing worked. They finally gave up and put her in the back bedroom hoping maybe she would cry herself to sleep. I walked into the bedroom, Breana looked at me and she instantly stopped crying.

The next day, the same thing happened. The following day, it happened again.

Thursday morning I called her pediatrician and explained the situation. In desperation I asked if there was anything we could give either Breana, or Joyce and Lamar, to get them through the upcoming week. Or, I would have to cancel my skiing trip to Colorado.

The doctor told me “First, you do not drug a perfectly healthy child. Secondly, your caregivers will be fine. You will go on your trip and you will have a wonderful time. What your child is doing is called ‘guilt manipulation’ and if you cancel your trip you will pay for it for the rest of your life.” And so I went on my trip.

I was away for seven days and seven nights, each day calling home to see how Breana was. Amazingly, she was the perfect child, did not even fuss the whole time I was gone.

The day I returned, Joyce and Breana met me at the airport. I grabbed Breana in my arms and held her up to look straight into her eyes. As I did so, she abruptly turned her head to the left. I turned her so I was again looking into her face and she promptly turned her head to the right. I couldn’t believe it! My three month old daughter was giving me the cold shoulder!!! It took about an hour or so before she would look into my eyes and take in the love I had for her and to accept my joy at being back home with her in my arms. But I learned a very important lesson – never underestimate the abilities, the understanding and the communication skills of a three month old infant!

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