This is the fifth Thanksgiving, the fifth Christmas, and the fifth New Year’s home for my two internationally adopted kids. Our first holiday season home with the kids happened less than six months into our journey as their parents. We thought we knew so much back then. We thought we’d “read it all” and “talked through it all.” We were so naïve. Even when our second holiday time with the kids came, we were confident we’d already weathered all the storms. We were secure that we were doing all the right things for our family. Really. We were. Well we were secure in as far as we had the knowledge to be, and as far as we knew our kids’ needs at that point. We were still doing it on our own though, and “trusting God” for wisdom. No therapy. No meds. We were handling it. Well, if being so stressed out that I had no time and no desire to do anything but be with my husband and try to keep things going at home is handling it, then we were handling it.
I didn’t want to pay attention to the signs that screamed we were NOT “handling it.” For example, our son knew enough language, and enough American culture by then, to take full advantage of our naïve state. He was sneaky. He lied. He was nasty to me and sullen towards his dad. He had no respect for us or his older brothers. He hit his sister constantly. He knew our expectations but he didn’t care about them. He was a teenager, strong and tall, but without the emotional maturity or world knowledge of his age peers, and our daughter was right behind him.
By our third Christmas, we’d been home just over two years. I realized, at that point, that God provided wisdom in ways other than just in our personal revelation or self-education. He provided it most directly in the experience of others, including doctors and therapists, and that He’d never intended for my husband and I to do this alone – or even with just the help of other adoptive parents (though it is truly a treasure to have you, dear friends). A child who was consistently hyper-vigilant, consistently lying, consistently sneaky, nasty, and sullen – or hyper-active, constantly talking and asking ridiculous questions, a child who could laugh at someone else’s pain, even while causing that pain -- was a child that needed more than my experience of raising four, really good biological kids who’d never given me any real trouble. These were children that needed far more than my prayers for personal wisdom.
God already had plenty of wisdom waiting for me. While it seems as though there were times we were making little progress, therapy has made a HUGE difference in my children’s lives, as well as my own. We have all learned SO much! I can see that it has made a world of difference in our quality of life, looking back these last couple of years. Medicine also HELPS my kids. It works to regulate their physical responses – biological responses – to the trauma that forever changed their brains – their psyches. Medicine is a very, very good thing when it is carefully planned, monitored regularly, and adjusted as needed.
Wow. This post is turning into something different than I’d intended when I began to write. Sometimes, that happens. Perhaps there is someone reading that needed to hear this? I know I’ve read blog posts by other trauma mamas that were exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
Maybe I’ll get to a description of holiday triggers and what to do and not to do later – even how triggers feel for our kids and for us. I’m pretty scattered, and I realize that. There is just SO MUCH floating around in my brain that I want to put into writing.
For now, let me just say I know part of taking back the holidays for me has been accepting help from professionals, as well as the wisdom of others who live with a hurt child, or have lived with a hurt child. If someone else has already walked this path, and they have tried things that work (or don't work), why would I not also give it a go (or avoid that which did not work)? If someone else is smart enough to clinically research therapy methods, or come up with medicines far better than any we’ve ever seen before, why would I not also check them out for my kids? Why wouldn’t you?