Cha-Ka Khan wrote:This American Life, a great show produced by Chicago Public Radio, has an episode called "Unconditional Love" that explores the story of parents loving (or not loving) difficult children.
It starts off with a short retrospective of Harlow's famous experiment in the 50s that showed how baby monkeys strove for their mothers' love, even if the "mother" was a terrycloth doll with a cue ball for a head, or if the surrogate mother would shoot metal rods out of it's body while the baby tried to hug it. If the baby's didn't get love from the mother, they literally withered and died.
It then tells the story of Daniel Solomon, who, for the first 7 years of his life lived in a crib with another boy in a Romanian orphanage... receiving no love, no toys, no comfort (he had to sleep sitting up so both he and the other kid could fit).
This kid's story should be made into a movie. What happens to him is unbelievably heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. He's interviewed as a teenager, and to hear him describe his early life, where he had barely any understanding of what life even was, is extremely telling, especially after hearing about the monkeys, and thinking about how this boy no family, not even knowing the names of the orphanage workers who would come in to feed them. He didn't go outside, he didn't go to school, and the only time he left his crib was to eat and go to the bathroom.
On his crib-mate:He was more a shy kid, he didn't really say much. It was kinda weird, but it was fun to have him in there. I don't know what we even did, but we were there for seven-and-a-half years and we got along I guess.
On looking out the window and discovering the city:There was one window where you could see the city, and I don't remember exactly when I started thinking about it, but you kinda started thinking about "What is that?" You know, at night you'd see all these car lights, and all the lights in the city, and I think I started thinking about "What is that?" and "Why am I here, and not there?"
He doesn't remember yearning for a family, because he had no concept of what a family was. Eventually, he gets adopted, and his adoptive parents decide to celebrate his birthday. He doesn't understand, because he never even had a concept of what it means to be born. His parents try to explain it, and he ends up getting confused and thinks that his adoptive parents were his REAL parents and THEY put him in the orphanage and left him there for 7 years.
Of course, his world suddenly comes crashing in around him and he has a mental meltdown... and their dynamic is never the same. He turns into a devil-child, attacking his mom with knives, breaking her nose and smiling, etc. She has to have a bodyguard when he's in the house. No matter what they try, it gets worse. He's diagnosed with Detachment Disorder. Eventually, he understands that the adoptive parents are not his real parents and they are trying to help him, but so many years of animosity have taken their toll. He has rage against his real parents, and it has to be directed somewhere, so he aims it at his adoptive parents. So they go through yet some more extensive and unconditional therapy.
And amazingly, it actually begins to work.
I won't give away the ending but if you make it to the "big scene" and are not teary-eyed when you get to the end of this kid's story, then you are a cruel and heartless bastard.
The ending isn't as "happy" as Hollywood would probably want to make it, but man, does this kid overcome some emotional strife. Easily one of the most compelling stories I've heard.
You can hear the entire thing by clicking the "Full Episode" icon on the web page. If you need something that will really make you reassess your position and priorities in life, I urge you to give it a listen.
I've heard of This American Life but I've never listened to it. That sounds pretty interesting though. Thanks Cha-Ka.