On the last day of summer vacation I brought Carl to the lake, all the while keeping a diligent eye on my son. It was hard to peg him at a distance. Carl spent the summer outdoors baking in the sun until his brown skin perfectly matched the dock color.
I hate to admit it but I panicked a little. Where did my kid go? I could see the headline now: “White Mother is Complicit in Hispanic Son’s Drowning.”
He kept bobbing in and out of sight as he swam away, and then back to, the dock. Drowning statistics were running through my head. Doesn’t it only take 30 seconds or something? The peaceful water lapping at the sand became suddenly ominous.
Through my sunglasses I glanced at a sign that read “Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult.” This gave me pause. I realized in a flash that Carl turns 13 in two weeks. He will be a teenager. He can technically, by the law of the lake, swim alone in two weeks. What on earth was I panicking about?
Also, what could I even do if I saw him in distress? Paddle slowly over to him at the speed of an octogenarian or snail? I certainly couldn’t pull or drag him to safety. My back injury would completely sideline me on a rescue mission. So basically, I spent a good hour on the possibility that I might just watch my son drown. In this situation my mom skills were nonexistent.
I settled back in my ergonomic beach chair to contemplate my role as he ages. The house seems strangely quiet these days. Out of 5 children only one remains at home. Soon he will be a teen. I think it’s time to re-evaluate my skills. Let’s face it. I am most certainly not always up to the task of parenting. Sometimes I am magical and wonderful and thisclose to being Mary Poppins. Sometimes parenting adopted children from trauma gets the best of me. My report card is as follows:
Areas where I am crushing it:
- Persistence- I don’t give up on my kids. I advocate in schools, in psychiatric hospitals, RTCs, therapists offices and so on with the persistence of an emperor penguin. No, seriously, an emperor penguin. These animals are persistent AF. Google this!
- Scheduling- I can remember to throw laundry in overnight on the delay timer setting. I switch it over in the morning and go from there. I can rotate chores, emergencies, sports schedules and my medical treatment like a boss. I should probably admit here that Siri helps me.
- Using Siri-I am totally counting this in the mom-skill plus column. Yeah, she can do anything. Enough said.
- TBRI- Its a form of therapeutic parenting known as “Trust Based Relational Intervention” and I’ve gotten pretty good with this over the years.
- Research- I’ve read books, taken classes, and done many a webinar on developmental trauma. I can quote Deborah D. Gray, Bassel Van Der Kolk, Karyn Purvis and Heather Forbes verbatim. I LOVE reading.
- I bake my own bread- Yes, this one is real. It’s also not as cool as it looks. I have a bread-maker so I just add 4 ingredients in the morning and set a delay timer. Voila! Fresh homemade bread for dinner and it is hot out of the…er…oven.
- Crockpot Usage- I am a crock-pot ninja.
- Saying “no”- I don’t mean to my kids. I mean to everyone else who wants something from me. My kids have worn me out with trauma drama. I’m sorry. I can’t volunteer for you. I just don’t want to.
- Naming and validating feelings-If you’re having a tough day then I am here for you. I won’t advise. I will name and validate your feeling and then ask you (therapeutically of course!) how you think you might handle the situation. I can validate your feelings like a boss!
- Apologizing- I’m not above it and I need to do it a LOT.
Areas where I need to take the remedial training:
- Naming animal facts- see above under “persistent.”
- Sports- Umm, I can totally get you there but I don’t know what you’re doing. Hooray for ball points!
- TBRI- Hey, some days I’m a therapeutic master and some days I am back to grasshopper status.
- Research- I’ve read everything I could find. I still don’t have all of the answers when it comes to helping my children heal from trauma.
- Making dinner- OK, being the queen of the crock pot and the delay timer on our bread maker are my ONLY cooking skills. The stove and I have a tumultuous relationship that once ended up with me melting a leggo on the back burner.
- Saying “no”- When it comes to a therapeutic recommendation or treatment for my children, I have a hard time saying “no.” Even if it isn’t evidence-based or isn’t helping I’ve given just about everything a try. This has the unfortunate effect of working me to the bone while the children either ignore or actively evade the treatment.
- Naming and validating feelings- I forget my own all the time. I think our entire family would be better off if I could admit to having feelings rather than waiting until the boiling point.
- Apologizing- I just HATE to be wrong. I’m sorry, Luke. See? I can do it.
- Letting go- This is the hardest one. I can’t actually do the healing for my children. At some point I need to give them more freedom to make decisions and hope they make the right ones. You don’t want to go to therapy (Carl) anymore? OK well then it’s up to you to practice the skills you’ve learned. I’m not staying up with you until 3:00 AM because there might be maybe a bug alive somewhere in the world. You want to live in your car (I’m looking at you, Marcus!) for no apparent reason? I’m going to sleep in my nice memory foam mattress and love you from over here.
All in all I think my report card breaks even. I’ll just give myself an A and pick up takeout.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.