Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Friends Don't See

That title would probably more accurately read, “What Friends Don’t GET TO See.”

I received a lovely phone call from one of my best friends last night.  She wanted to tell me how well my two youngest kids behaved yesterday afternoon.  They were responsible and mature.  Pleasant.  Appropriate.  Studious.  They were everything a parent could possibly want in a child. 

This friend is also the mom of an older, internationally-adopted child.  Fortunately, she knows better.  She knew I’d see something different.  This behavior is not my children – not to me, anyhow.   She knew this behavior would not last once the children were out her door and in our care again.  She knew our kids would be stressed.  She knew I was stressed.  She just wanted me to know that I didn’t need to worry about how they’d behaved while she had them.  ‘Made me feel a little jealous, but it was nice to know.

The reason this friend had my kids yesterday is because I spent the day in a hospital emergency room with my youngest biological son.  He is two years older than our youngest son, but many years “older” in social and emotional development.  They are four school years apart.  Youngest son feels his most competitive towards this son.  He feels most threatened for our love, time, and devotion with this son over any of the other siblings. 

Yesterday, our 18-year-old was dehydrated from food poisoning.  He’s still pretty sick this morning.  He’s sleeping now, as I write, but it’s been a long night for his mom.  I am thankful for a school day today.  Even with all the therapeutic parenting tools in my toolbox, I don’t think I would have done well with my hurt kids this morning.  I knew there would be fallout from yesterday, but that doesn’t mean I have the energy to deal with it.  My daughter was “bouncing off the walls” hyper this morning, being too cute, and using her baby voice.  She could not leave me alone and demanded near constant attention.  My youngest son would have nothing to do with me.  He was surly and withdrawn, wouldn’t look at me, let me know he didn’t need me, and didn’t say a word to me – not even when he got the trash without being asked and I thanked him for doing so.

I have to tell you, these are the times I feel most like smacking him upside the head.  (Yeah, I wrote that.)

But here’s what I know and what my friends don’t get to see:  My kids were scared spitless yesterday.  They’re still scared today.  They got notes in the middle of class, telling them someone was getting them from school other than me.  (The note from my daughter’s school office was AWFUL.  “X picking you up.  Red Suburban.  Don’t get violin.  Come right out.  Mom with student in hospital.”  She didn’t know WHO was in the hospital or why.  To say my daughter was terrified is putting it mildly.)  Then, they got taken to my friend’s house and they stayed there until after supper.  While she explained to them what was going on and reassured them (and they behaved appropriately concerned in front of her), they were triggered by past trauma.  Very, very triggered.  They still are.

“How sick is my brother?”  “Is he going to die?”  “Can my mom take care of me?”  “Is my mom going to die?”  “Does my mom still love me?”  “Does my mom love my brother more than me?”  “Do I still matter?”  “What about me?”  “Where’s my dad?”  -- Sounds like the thinking of a 2-year-old, doesn’t it?  That’s trauma.  That’s exactly the emotional age at which my children are responding to their brother’s illness, to my being less available, to an abrupt change in their routine yesterday, and to thoughtless notes from distracted school secretaries.  I cannot expect them to behave like 13 and 16 year olds today – or probably for days to come.  Trauma stinks.

Tired as I am, they need me.  They need to be reassured.  They need me to walk them through a process of process.  Even when I don’t feel like it.

This, my fellow trauma mama friends, is why we need one another.  Do not isolate yourself.  Seek out friendship.  Find other blogs online.  Maybe even sign up for Diana’s find-a-friend project.

I am very blessed to have a good friend who is also an adoptive mom nearby.  But this is a recent blessing.  Through most of my journey, it has been (and still is) my online friends who have always “been there” for me.  YOU are the ones who get it.  You are the ones who know this walk.  It sure can be exhausting, but it’s a lot easier when you know someone has your back.

Thanks for that.  (Thanks especially to my friends who helped yesterday.  You know who you are.)

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