We spent two full days with my friend, J., and her family. J and her most excellent husband have adopted three children from trauma backgrounds. Their youngest is very close to Hope in age and behaviors. The two girls became quickly inseparable. GB and J.’s two oldest also enjoyed being together. It was good to spend time with J. and meet her husband. It was good for The Dad to have the opportunity to be with adults who “get it”.
Canada is a beautiful country. I have driven through parts of it before as we drove to Michigan, but this is the first time I have seen Canada in daylight. The reds on the turning trees were beautiful. Beautiful old homes and vast fields with wooden fences that were different than any fence I have seen before. I have always assumed Canada was just like the USA, like a far north state. It is and it isn’t.
J. and her family were so warmly welcoming it was like coming home. When Hope’s first trip to the bathroom resulted in a shaving cream cans worth of mess, there was no surprise. Hope continued to be Hope and J. was ready for it and the time flew, with everybody enjoying themselves. The acting out behaviors were just a ripple in our time together.
When we had to leave this morning, Hope did not take it well. We stopped at a Starbucks for coffee right after leaving J.s. Hope started raging in the car and continued on the side of the drive thru lane. It lasted for over forty five minutes. Once she was done, it was still six hours to home. She was nasty and miserable for the rest of the ride. When we stopped to eat, The Dad took Hope to sit at a different table to eat. It should not have bothered me as Hope was being so nasty I didn’t really want to deal with her. It did.
J. lives in the middle of nowhere. One thing J.’s husband said last night, as we visited over (good) wine, was that they could never raise kids from the hard places in suburbia. Living in a place where 12 or more neighboring families hear your kid rage is stressful. Part of it is the knowledge that sooner or later CPS will show up on your doorstep is wearing. It also makes putting your child outside to rage an option we don’t have.
J. has offered to take Hope in respite for a while. Other people I trust have also offered. My fear is how Hope will react. It is not yet a rational fear. I still have some processing to do.
A Trauma Mama is an ordinary mother who chooses to parent a child from the hard places. For various reasons, our kids have experienced things no child should have to experience. Abandonment, abuse, overwhelming neglect. Trauma. Children from Trauma can not be parented in the ways society takes for granted that neuro-typical children are raised. Ordinary parenting does not work with children of trauma. You need to have a whole different perspective on parenting.
Children from the hard places are different. They have never learned the world is safe. Their internal tapes are filled with shame, anger and worthlessness. They have no self worth and instinctively sabotage any good that comes into their lives.
As a Trauma Mama, my parenting is based on years of hands on experience. It is also based on years of literature, past and current. Not only books, but every scientific article I can find. I attend seminars that introduce new techniques that might be useful. And I have my other Trauma Mamas who share their hard earned knowledge with anyone interested.
Being a Trauma Mama is not for the faint of heart. It is 24/7, it is intense, it is relentless. And when I am not sure I can do it another second, my Trauma Mamas are there to tell me I am doing an awesome job and to breathe, I can take the next step.
A lot of Trauma Mama’s have multiple children who came from trauma. Our children do not define us as Trauma Mamas. How we chose to react to their behaviors and the commitments we make to them are what defines us.
That is why I am proud to be a Trauma Mama.
I am on my way to Orlando! This year, I am not feeling nervous. Maybe a little excited. Mostly, I am experiencing the peace of going where I belong. I will share some of my Orlando experiences when I get home, but this weekend I will be too busy being to blog.
There is a new post or two on the other blog.
I feel your pain when you worry about your child’s future. I have been there. My oldest is 29 and I remember feeling sucker punched when they told me he was Bipolar I with psychotic features. I spent the next ten years trying to get him ready for the real world and making sure he ended up with that diploma which is so necessary to success.
I want you to know the future is not as scary as I feared and not as bright as I once hoped. My son can hold a job, is raising a family, and has been married for 4 years. He doesn’t earn a lot of money and his family will only have the extras we choose to give them. He usually stays on his medication, except when he doesn’t and has a regular therapist. He stays on the right side of the law. Sometimes he is even happy.
He still drags the weight of being bad and stupid around from his childhood. Mind you, he was never either.
If I had it to do over again (and I guess, in a way, I do with GB), instead of focusing so much on the future, I would stay in the moment. I would make sure my son had regular, if fleeting, moments of happiness. He had these moments and remembers them all. But these moments were incidental, things that happened while I was keeping my eyes on the future.I should have taken the time and intentionally made these moments.
My goals for GB and Hope are different. I work had to ensure GB is learning everything she is capable of learning, that she is aware of her progress, and also aware that she is accomplishing so much because of her effort.
I also monitor the good things in her life just as carefully. When she enjoys something, I make sure she notices it. We talk about possible activities, not only from the view point of will she enjoy them, but how those activities contribute to her happiness.
I am careful to acknowledge when things are hard but doable, and point out that her perseverance will enable her to accomplish things she never thought she could. I also keep my eyes open for situations in which she can’t succeed, no matter how hard she tries, and either change the situation or get her out of it.
GB started on atypical anti-psychotics before her fourth birthday. She has always known they were to keep the psychosis away and each time she has had a psychotic break, afterwards we talk about her medication which is suppose to keep that from happening. We adjust the medication and we have months free of those breaks… and make sure GB is aware the change in medication helped. Psychotic breaks are as scary to her as they are to us. And she has some memory of each one.
My goals for Hope, who has no known biologically based problems are different. I pay very little attention at all to academics and focus on working through the trauma. Her RAD is severe and without enabling her to trust and attach, she has no future anyway.
You are a G.R.E.A.T. Trauma Mama. You are doing the best you can and that is enough. Leave the rest in God’s hands. I admire and love you and am so glad you are my friend.
Being a Trauma Mama is hard. I am 55 years old and I have done some hard things in my life. I live with constant physical pain. I have lost friends to all kinds of cancer. I buried my brother and father within 2 weeks of each other. I nursed my mother for the next eight months and buried her too. I have started over in places where I knew nobody. I know my sister and I have the same genetic disorder that killed my mother. Being a Trauma Mama is the hardest thing I have ever done.
I love my children. It does not make parenting trauma easier. It makes it harder. Not only am I dealing with the fall out of a child who can’t change his/her behaviors, but at the same time I am watching someone I love in excruciating pain and I can’t stop it.
Most of my family truly don’t understand what my children have experienced before I brought them home. They try to be supportive, but their faces give them away. Children who have experienced severe trauma need a parent 24/7. It takes a lot of experience to change the expectations of a child who already knows parents can’t be trusted. I give up a lot of “me” time. The Dad and I give up a lot of couple time. My children require that each day be modified so that they can experience success. There are many days where my needs don’t hit the radar screen.
I plan time for myself and I plan couple time. Is it enough? No. I am more stressed out then is good for anybody. My marriage is periodically ultra-stressed. I chose this life. The Dad chose this life. We feel called on to help children who have survived things no child should have to survive, heal. We do it with our eyes open and knowing the cost.
It is easy for the outside world to judge us and our children. IRL, people do it all the time. Hope’s new school therapist was sure through September, October, and most of November that we were projecting our problems on to Hope. Then Hope’s honeymoon with him ended. Neighbors, acquaintances, and even people we considered friends are sure if they took my kid for two weeks, they would have no problems.
Then there is the internet. I blog to share what my life is like, so that other parents on this difficult road know other parents share the same struggles. There are readers who judge me lacking. I am far from perfect, so there are times they are right. Then there are those people (commonly known as trolls) who have never tried to live my live, but spew crap all over me. The worst of them hide behind “Anonymous”.
I have had a lot of practice dealing with these people and they rarely get me riled or fuel my self doubts.
It bothers me when trolls and “anonymous” leave comments on other Trauma Mama Blogs and hit them when they are struggling. To all my Trauma Mamas, I want to remind you that people who judge without knowledge, or worse, hide behind “Anonymous” have nothing to give to you. Judgement is never that easy.
A lot of my friends are “trauma mamas”. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Orlando last year (You can read about it here) and met the most amazing people in the world. They were also parenting traumatized kids and they “got it”. They knew at a level beyond words what my life was like and how much energy I pour into my girls. I still have regular contact with a lot of them and that contact keeps me sane, especially when the world is telling me, in one form or another, that I am the crazy one. I am blessed by each one in my life.
One of the women, who happens to be a cornerstone in my life and the life of many others, has hit a rough patch of her own. All of us trauma mamas get it.
Most A lot of the outside world does not. And without knowing what our kids have lived through, the obstacle courses we have run, looking for help, and the behaviors our families have had to deal with while trying to heal our traumatized kids, people who know nothing about our world pass judgement. Some of them, acting out from their own hurts and fears, get very nasty about it. So to my friend, I say “You are an awesome human being. Mean people suck. Do not listen to them”.
And if you happen to be friends with a trauma mama, today would be a good day to go give them some love.