It’s hard to describe how we survive mornings at our house. It feels like we might all die before making it out to our school and jobs, respectively. Mornings have always been difficult. It is the time of day when the Little chickens go to school and we go off to work. Our entire family is splitting up. Even though it’s only temporary, for kids with trauma it can still be scary. Their fight-or-flight response kicks in and, sadly for us, Carl is a FIGHTER.
Yes, I promise that we will all come home at the end of the day. No, I will not leave you for another family. I promise I do not love my students more than my own chickens. Yes, I will still send you to school if you refuse to wear pants. Yes, I will put you on the bus even if your hair is messy. Even if you are in your pajamas. Even if you are naked. And yes, even if you are hitting me, and I have to carry you onto the bus.
These are all things I have actually said. To my own children. Luckily I have never had to carry a naked child onto the bus. At least, not yet…
My lovely, adorable, traumatized children. They don’t always know we will still be there at the end of the day. They don’t always know what a family does. The one thing they do know is how to survive. When threatened, they will do anything and everything to preserve what is theirs. This family belongs to them and they will fight before they let us go to work.
So how do we get them out of the door every morning? I’m not really sure. We do have a bag full of tricks to help us out, though. We use a combination of secure connection, visual supports, prayer, and special-ops schemes to get us through.
Some days are easier than others. lately, I really miss those days. So far this week, Carl had woken up yelling, screaming and making wailing siren sounds. For fun. He says it’s because he “likes to test us. It’s fun.” He has broken his closet doors. Again. He had gotten into a fist fight with his dresser. Again.
Every morning this week Carl has run right up to his sister and burped in her face, yelled at her, slapped her, and gotten into her “bubble.” (When are kids get too close into personal space, we tell them they are “popping someone’s bubble.”) On Saturday, Carl and Mary got into a fist fight over the TV remote. He scratched her to the point of blood. They punched and slapped at each other and Luke had to pry them apart.
Weekdays are the worst. Carl will wake up screaming that we are all “losers” and “meanies.” He slams doors, kicks walls, and throws things in the bathroom. He yells at Mary that she’s, “STUPID!” or “ugly” and that he hates us all. Carl talks back, screams that he hates us and we are so mean. He called his sister a loser and so on. He tries to find a rule to break just to spite everyone. He tells us we are so mean for making him go to school. Keeping his hands to himself proves to be impossible. The little guy is just spoiling for a fight.
We’ve given him a sensory box with a “mystery” inside. It’s supposed to help him feel loved in the mornings. He had to reach inside and feel the object before taking it out. We put in a stuffed animal or one of our dirty shirts that smells like mom or dad. Yesterday morning he just yelled at the box and then at me for giving him the box.
We have tried every trick in the proverbial book. He has positive behavior supports, rewards, some connected time, sensory solutions, etc. I try to snuggle him awake with hugs and kisses and kind words. Right now, Carl just cannot get through the morning without damaging something.
Carl is right in the middle of his trauma narrative in therapy. He is facing big scary issues from his past. We know from experience that he will improve after the course of this therapy. It’s just surviving this part that’s hard. In the middle of treatment the behavior is always worse. His fear and anxiety are worse. He has become fearful once more that maybe we won’t really finalize the adoption. Maybe we might give up on him. He told me that he “just doesn’t get loved” in the mornings. I asked him if he really felt like we didn’t love him in the mornings? Carl replied that it just feels this way but he knows we love him.
It’s a roller coaster ride and we just have to hang on. Just a little longer until he gets past this part. Seeing and realizing that his behaviors are coming from a place of fear helps me to understand. It doesn’t make mornings any easier, it’s just easier to understand.
Like I said, mornings are hard. But I know he loves us. He just hates mornings.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.