Trauma. It's a hard word for me to say. It is even harder for me to relate this word to my sweet little boy. For the past year and a half I have refused to entertain this word in my thoughts. I have purposely left it out of my parenting plan. I have attributed my youngest son's "issues" to lack of structure, to DNA. Structure and DNA most likely do play a part in what is happening in his little body and his strong mind. But a few weeks ago I came to understand that I need to allow for another answer to the behavior puzzle. Early life trauma.
A year ago, when I should have been embracing this word and all that it implies, I was running from it. I knew about the parenting philosophies geared towards traumatized children. It is hard to be a part of the adoption community and not hear about Beyond Consequences and other parenting plans. Yes, I knew it was out there, but it wasn't right for my family. I wasn't parenting a traumatized child.
After months of struggling, after visits to doctors and behavior specialists, after meetings with daycare teachers and more tears than I care to admit, we sought help in a different direction. And while I still don't know exactly what we are looking at, I do know that when I sit down to read another chapter of the first Beyond Consequences book I feel as though it was written for me. About me. About my family. About my son. About how I feel. And about what I worry about.
I watch my young son playing with his older brother and I smile. I watch them race around the house, laughing and screaming. I watch my oldest son using parenting skills I wish I had in negotiating a toy exchange or the right to pick the radio station in the car and I smile. I hold my tiny three year old tight against me as he screams at bedtime, myself exhausted from the day, and sometimes I smile and sometimes I cry. I watch him playing by himself across the room and I wonder. What is he thinking? Why is he repeatedly sticking out his tongue? Why does he like to rip paper so much? Will he make good eye contact today? Will he let Mommy make even one decision for him today? Will he go to sleep? Will he eat today?
I listen to his ever increasing speech and language skills and I marvel at how far he has come. I welcome his endless questions and his constant desire to "kiss Mommy". I smile, I worry, and I cry, like every mother does, I suppose. Sometimes I do all three in one day. Sometimes I do all three in one hour.
When my little angel has fought me at every turn and I am at the end of my rope I worry about his future. The horror stories of internationally adopted children growing up into unstable adults are plentiful, if you know where to look. I love my children. I want them to grow up to be healthy, strong, compassionate and loving men. I want them to be a blessing to others, not become something others fear. I want my sweet young boy to be seen for who he is underneath the trauma. He loves music and Curious George. He loves to dance and is quite the little jokester. He gives amazing hugs and kisses. He is so much more than the arm that sweeps the toys to the floor or the anger behind the hitting. He is more than a tiny child screaming as a weary mother fights to stuff him into his car seat after a particularly difficult trip to the store. He is more than a shoe flying into the front seat or a crib broken at his hands. He is more than food thrown on the kitchen floor. He is more, my son.
Other mothers have felt this way. I am sure the now deceased mother of the young man who has caused so much heartbreak for so many families in Connecticut felt this way. We don't know what happened there, and we probably never will. And let me be clear: I do not think my son has mental illness. But now, finally, I agree that he has suffered trauma. I have let that word into my world and I know that we are all going to be OK. A few weeks ago we had gone from many good days in a row to a few terrible ones and I was sitting at the kitchen table, dinner uneaten, defeated. My sweet husband showed up behind me, put his hands on my shoulder, and reminded me that we have the kids we are meant to have. God gave me this, and he will walk with us through it, if I let him.
It's a relief, really, to finally feel as though we are on the right path. Our new approaches, while still in their infancy stage and certainly not habits, yet, are slowly starting to work. Whether these are short term solutions or techniques we will use for many years we have yet to determine. And who cares. If it works, I will gladly do it every day. To see my youngest son smiling more than screaming, to see him becoming a part of the family, wanting to help and showing compassion towards us, more than we see him staring through us with cold vacant eyes is reward enough. I am learning that it is OK to not be just like me. I am learning to be a little more patient. To slow down and take a little more time transitioning from one of life's activities to the next. I am learning that we are all brilliant, in our own way. As the parent we so often feel as though we have to impart our wisdom on our children. That if they are not successful then we are not either. I know that it is God's plan for me to help my son, sure. But I'm beginning to think that it might also be His plan for my "traumatized" son to teach me a thing or two as well.