What I want you to know about the damaging effects of child neglect

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Melody.
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My son is a beautiful, articulate seven year old child. He is magnetic and draws people's attention almost immediately. He has been my child for 6 of his 7 years and yet that first year of neglect has left a permanent trauma print on his brain. I can't fix it. I have a Ph. D. in Psychology and I can't fix my baby.

Early neglect makes a child feel "invisible". Early abuse makes a child feel "unlikeable". People have the erroneous assumption that "if you get them early enough then it is no different. " But the thing they don't understand is that these baby's stress systems are over-activated. Corizol (main stress hormone) is neurotoxic. The effects of this neurotoxicity continue throughout the child's life. Whenever they face a stressor, even a mild one the corizol attacks and kills hippocampal neurons. The hippocampus is important for memory related tasks, takes part in mood regulation and other things.

I have loved my child fiercely and consistently since he came home. I quite my job to be home full time with him. He is currently in school and we spend 50% of my salary on his particular needs and we do all of this gladly. The hardest thing about parenting a child like him is that no matter what I do, he still feels "invisible".

The other day a teacher said something to him to hurt his feelings. When he was telling me about this, he looked at me (seriously, but without accusation ) and said, "you would have never let that happen to my little sister!" IT BROKE MY HEART! He thinks that I am all powerful and yet I chose not to protect him. He thinks he is on the fringes of our lives instead of the very center of every decision we make, every neighborhood we choose to live in, every social activity we become involved with.... etc.... It is all about him and he may never see that.

Usually, I plod ahead as though I know this is all going to get better in time. But sometimes I cry. Sometimes I despair. Sometimes I wonder if he is going to remember when he is an adult how much I fought for him. Sometimes I wonder if he will resent all the interventions we have sought for him. Sometimes I wonder if our daughter will resent all the time and resources we put into our son. It is so hard.

It is so hard to parent him, but I know that it is harder to "be him". Some days, I feel like he is a broken vessel that we keep pouring into, while it just drips out the bottom. People don't understand why he can read on a fourth grade level but cant remember a thing he has read. They don't understand why he cries so much or so easily. They judge us. They give us parenting advice. They stop having us over.

He is special needs, but not in any way that elicits compassion from most. I love my child and would do this all over again for him. He has come such a long way, but he still has so far to go.  Still I keep working like everything depends on work and praying like everything depends on prayer.

We also have a daughter (also adopted) without any of these issues. This suddenly seems important to point out, because the truth is that no matter what I know intellectually, emotionally I feel responsible. He is my child, I should be able to seal the crack in his vessel. I SHOULD. I am hard on myself for not seeking interventions sooner, for not giving him infant massages, for not carrying him around in a baby bjorn, for everything I could have done differently. I am not sure how to define myself as a mother without attaching that to my child's successes or failures.

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