It’s already 2 weeks into summer vacation and I haven’t had a second to write anything. I have been finishing school myself (taking a vocational course so I can remain at home to work for the duration), for the forseeable future putting my son in after school care or camp is just not an option. Although, I always remain hopeful for the future, after all sleep-away camp is a right of passage for millions of pre-adolescent American boys and I don’t want him to miss out on something so fun at his age.
Anyway, with the strategies we now have in place, specifically helping him to confront his trauma and talking openly about his Birth Mother, helps us to discuss and diffuse his intense anger over the situation. Not to mention relieving the guilt he feels almost constantly. I think his brain still struggles with how to reconcile his feelings for me as his Mother, while also being able to love his Birth Mother as a mother too. It is a constant battle of “is this ok, and what does it mean if I let go of that, how would she (either me or his Birth Mum) feel”. There is no doubt, he deeply loves us both. Whatever is happening inside his head he is managing to reconcile his feelings better and we are now light years ahead of where we were just 12 short months ago, even if we have significant ground left to cover.
It’s my opinion now, that last summer was the culmination of his little brain finally awakening to the full-extent of what and why he was feeling the way he was. August 2010 was positively the hardest time I have ever endured in my life, and there have been some tough times! Even though helping him navigate through his grief has so far been emotionally challenging, I would even say arduous, we are moving forwards. Last year was different, I was lost, totally lost, and he was more lost than I. The end of summer saw the pure unadulterated anger and aggression in him, that allowed him to rage for hours and hours and hours. It is a time we are all grateful to move beyond. Since we started helping and allowing him to both recognize and address the grief process, he hasn’t had a single tantrum that has lasted more than 15 minutes. He no longer hits me, there is no more spitting in my face, no random stomach punches. He is still more goofy and inapropriate than a boy his age, and he totally refuses to leave the house save for much begging and bribery on my part, but I know this will all resolve in time. Baby steps. Baby steps.
We are moving shortly, within weeks, and I have been packing the contents of the house, slowly I might add, much slower than our real estate agent would like for sure. Anyway, as I have been packing I am finding all these memories, his baby pictures, his adoption paperwork, his first years of school. He looks happy in most picutres of course, laughing loudly or cuddling his sister, moments in time that have been all too brief during his toddler years. His aggression not totally apparent and his loveable side not yet come to fruition. I still very distinctly remember the first time he actually reached for me, the first time he chose to come and cuddle me. He was 2 years and 1 month old, I was sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace at our new home, he toddled over and put an arm around my neck, silently squeezed and then walked away. My husband and I sat in stunned silence and of course, I cried. In the past 2 or 3 months he is finally holding onto me if I pick him up, before he sat like a dead weight, no touching, no holding on. Today in the petstore I held him up to look at a snake and he held his face close to mine far longer than he ever would before. He is finally coming to terms with his emotions I think. It was good to relive some of the other memories, the Halloween parades, the pumpkin patches, the little tiny handprints, the swim lessons, the Christmas’s, the school events. It’s been very cathartic for me to look at these things and remember just how far we have come.
Things are a little more difficult at the moment, he recently fractured his growth plate, actually at a party on Memorial day, he was having a hard time interacting with the other kids and his Dad took him out to get out some energy. It happened in a second as he came down too hard and rolled his ankle. The 1st day of summer no less! I was expecting nothing but misery, after all he can’t go to the pool, 4 weeks with nothing to do. Turns out I worried for no reason. He is managing just fine. He is becoming a Mario Cart expert of course, and his Lego towers are something to behold, but overall no real problems at all. Although remember he also doesn’t like much to leave the house, so this at least hasn’t been a big issue.
Mostly summer is marching on as a ‘typical’ summer. I am in awe and wonder at how much has changed in such a short time. Addressing the trauma has been paramount, healing at home has been the key. We are down to one counselor, yes from $1,500 a month in fees to a simple $90. Amazing.
I have been watching the show “Obsessed” on Netflix. People suffering from OCD are given cognitive behavioral therapy to relieve their obsessions and anxiety, in addition they are taught coping strategies. Interestingly I see such a correlation between my son’s anxiety and how we have been helping him heal and the way that the behavior specialists address the OCD behaviors in the people on the show. Not to say my son has OCD, but underlying both is great anxiety. It’s an interesting look into the mind of someone who is significantly anxious about life in general and in turn that helps me to see and understand even more how my son requires coping skills not harsh punishments.
Anyway, summer is not even halfway through, but I suspect this year is going to be a good one or at least the best one so far. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has some great information on helping children cope with stress, and how to help adults recognize when a child needs help. I am beginning to learn that meeting the stress head-on helps far more to diffuse a situation than ignoring or placating the situation.