Anyone who is raising a child with reactive attachment disorder knows that love and caring is not always reciprocated. In fact, often the children are so hostile that we wonder what we are doing wrong and what have we gotten ourselves into? Raising Marie has been like that. Coming to us from living with a mom who allowed unspeakable abuse, Marie was not ready to love anyone. Not letting me touch her, in fact, shoving me away or hitting me if I tried, it took six months for me to reason with her that I needed to have a way to show her that I loved her. She graciously allowed us to fist bump. Our fists met with a minimal amount of touching as I signed “I love you” in American Sign Language with the other hand. As a mom, I desperately needed to be able to share my love with her, whether she accepted it or not.

Through the years, she allowed me to hug her. I would put all of my love forth in that hug, deep, sincere, emotional… Whether she actually got any of that through osmosis, or whether she just tolerated my hug, I never knew. But I felt better doing something to demonstrate my love.

When she was about 14 years old, we were at a carnival and she spotted a photo booth. She had always been fascinated with these contraptions, and she grabbed me by the hand and pulled me over to it, sticking her other hand out for the money to put in it. As we sat inside the booth and the camera clicked, a miraculous thing happened…she turned and KISSED me on the cheek. Whether it was her excitement over the photo booth, (and the demonstration photos on the side of people kissing,) or whether she really felt an emotion and wanted to kiss me, I’ll never know. But I choose the latter. In the picture below, you can see the emotion on my face as she does so. After SEVEN long years!

mom 1

Well, a couple of years have gone by, and she and I regularly hug and kiss (she offers me her cheek.) Not much had changed in that department. UNTIL I went to the open house at her school. She saw me walking down the corridor while she was standing with a group of friends. She came galloping towards me, wrapped her arms around me with such force that I almost fell over, and gave me a huge kiss ON THE LIPS! Then she proudly told everyone that I was her mom. SHE LOVES ME! SHE REALLY LOVES ME!



The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:

Comments on: "She LOVES me! She really LOVES me! (not…)" (61)

  1. Remmy Meggs said:

    that is so wonderful

  2. This is so sweet and touching and when you told about her affection toward you, my heart melted. SWEET!!!

  3. I don’t know you personally, but you must be an amazing woman to have such a profound effect. I know you’re enjoying (relishing, coveting) every single one of those kisses and hugs. Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Deborah the Closet Monster said:

    Sniffling a little here. So sweet!

  5. Jenna Salamon said:

    This made me tear up! HOW AWESOME! 🙂 🙂

  6. That is gold!!! So wonderful- for the both of you.

  7. A great depiction of mother’s love. Simply inspiring:)

  8. This is beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Storm Chaser said:

    This made me cry with happiness for you.

  10. Wow, that is so beautiful! I got tears in my eyes!

  11. I think everyone reading this has felt an emotional connection to you and Marie…bringing us all to tears of joy for both you and she. I can’t imagine the difficulty in having to “hold back” hugs. I’m from Hawai’i and we hug STRANGERS on a regular basis!

  12. Very, very touching!

  13. Love can win… even those who have trouble accepting/showing it. You done good, woman.

  14. That is so precious, wonderful and beautiful! I’m sharing this with my hubby who is beginning to work as a counselor with families and kids that have some pretty serious issues. I’m sure this will be an encouragement to some parent some day. All things come to those who wait and love!

  15. Beautiful! And how wonderful that you have a photo to remember such an incredible moment. Thank you so much for sharing this. 🙂

  16. The love from a child is so great, thank you for sharing.

  17. I LOVE this story! What a precious picture. I’ve worked with kids like Marie and I know it takes a lot of love to break through those walls. You are a blessing!

  18. Tales of a Twin Mombie said:


  19. What a lovely story! Thank you for sharing.

  20. beautiful moment

  21. I love to hear this! My niece has similar issues. She has only been with us a few months. She wouldn’t let me hug her, but I hug my other kids a lot. I wanted her to know I respected her boundaries, but I needed a way to show her I love her too. So when I hug my other kiddos, I ask her if she wants a hug or handshake. Usually she opts for the handshake, but lately, she has started to lean in for a sideways hug. I love your idea of using sign language to say “I love you.” I am stealing that one. So brilliant and easy and I am a little jealous I had not thought of it. This is inspirational and gives me hope. Thank you for sharing that beautiful moment with us! It is a good reminder that the roads less traveled are often make the biggest impact.

    • It sounds like your niece is already making progress if she is okay with the ‘sideways hug’! It just takes time, I’ve learned.

      • I know. I am really proud of her. I know it may take a while, but experiencing the wait is a little more difficult than I had expected. It may take months, years, or never, but I am hopeful. She has made quick progress, and I cannot argue with that! It helps to see that we aren’t alone too, though I wouldn’t wish trauma on any kid.

  22. Hello Ms. Petersen,

    My name is Lorraine, and I have enjoyed your blog for several months. Two and a half years ago, I started my blog, to share my experience with disability. have been affected by cerebral palsy since birth and use a wheelchair for mobility. In 2008, I started wheelchair ballroom dancing. I used to define my life in terms of things I could do and things I couldn’t do. .Dancing has changed my perspective about what is possible for me and changed all the “no’s” into “how’s.”

    I would like to inspire others to challenge their perception of what is possible, and to help diminish the negative perceptions than many have about people with disabilities.

    To raise awareness, my goal is to perform on the Ellen Degeneres show, and I’ve started a crowdspeaking campaign to spread the word. Would you consider reading my latest blog post and sharing my message?

    Please let me know if this story would be a fit for you.
    Thank you for your time.


    Wheelchair dancer on Ellen

    • I wish you so much luck in your endeavor. Your message will get shared on my blog by way of this comment…others will read it and may click on your link. Because my blog is just my own thoughts, I generally do not share other sites. But again, you have a worthy message and I wish you luck.

  23. Of course she loves you❤

  24. You must surely be an amazing mom…to know that her healing would take time. You never gave up. God bless you.

  25. what a lovely story.

  26. chachalouise said:

    Beautiful story. My son is similar: hugs seem painful for him, he gets stiff and does not reciprocate. I’ve always only been able to kiss him on the head and can not remember the last time he kissed me.

  27. Ok. I’m in tears! You are one special lady. Many would find this situation so difficult and I love the way you explained to her what you needed as well…..Love wins. Everytime.

  28. Wow. What an inspiring story. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have felt for all those years trying to navigate providing love in a way that felt appropriate for her, when I’m sure you just wanted to shower her in affection and adoration (like all mothers do!!!). It definitely sounds like your dedication and support paid off in the end. So happy for you both.

  29. What a precious story!! Brings tears to my eyes! Have a super weekend! Hugz Lisa and Bear

  30. Stephanie Wilkins said:

    What a beautiful story! Touched my heart!! Thank you for sharing.

  31. sunsetdragon said:

    Aww this bright tears to my eyes.

  32. I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Check out my blog post today for details. Love reading your blog. It makes me appreciate SO many things. Caitlin

  33. So beautiful to read about your patient love and how you always hoped for your daughter to show affection in return. Such a touching story.

  34. I’ve nominated you for a Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award. No obligation to participate, but if you would like to, here is the link to my post. There is no time limit!

  35. I am guessing that this honor has already been bestowed upon you many times, but I would nevertheless like to nominate you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Your compassion and humor makes it well deserved. I hope you are able to accept. To view the rules and the appropriate logo to post on your blog, please see my blog here:

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  36. This is fantastic! My son has autism and has a really hard time with saying “I love you”, but he does it in ASL because it is more comfortable for him. Over the years, he has also grown to like cuddling. Thanks for sharing!

  37. notsoquietmomma said:

    Awwww you made me tear up. I have 2 step daughters that are RAD and one biologial daughter with Bipolar and extreme anxiety. Trying to break through to my bonus daughters has been quite the fight.

  38. I felt the same when my daughter, who has a rare genetic disorder that causes vision loss among other things, looked into my eyes and smiled. 🙂 Amazing!

  39. I love reading about transformations of hurting children, growing to be able to accept love. We started with the “kidney punch of love.” A quick touch (everyone needs human touch!) that wasn’t “all mushy” was the break through for us. You are inspiring me. Maybe I’ll go write about “punches” as a way to reach kiddos.

  40. OMG! I’m a retired RSP teacher who worked with autistic and emotionally challenged youngsters for MANY years and thought I was a pretty patient, loving woman, BUT YOU, dear woman, have the award for that!!! God bless you for being the loving, kind person that you are!!!! If I could duplicate you a hundred-fold, I would! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!! 🙂

    • The true patient people are the teachers who have my kiddos in school day in and day out. I get to relax and have fun with them, THEY have to make them work!

      • OK, so we BOTH deserve the award! But you’re definitely the 1st place winner!!! I sincerely meant/mean it when I said, “Thank you! You’re a GIFT to these children!!” 🙂

  41. Sam Nelson said:

    Hi Linda,
    Wow this story is amazing. I’ve read about parents with RAD children since learning about the disorder in college as I got my BS in counseling. What a horible horible illness to have where the child has no concept of how to love others or express feelings safely due to the extreme abuse they suffered! It’s wonderful to read stories of parents fighting for their children and children slowly working through their issues to connect to parents! I think your ideas for showing love are creative, the fist bump and ASL thing. I believe you said Mari is deaf? Anyway I’m thinking of you and her and so hope she continues to grow and recover. As I posted in another comment I’m starting an e-mail list for anyone with a disability plus mental illness, blind/ deaf, physically disabled ETC. If Mari ever wanted to write me I’d be honored to get to know her. Same with all your kids.

  42. Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring message! My husband and I have adopted 2 children with special needs and I write about it on my blog. It’s an ongoing blessing and an ongoing challenge at times. I appreciate your willingness to share so openly and help me and so many other people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud