I’ll let you in on a little secret. ALL moms have to go to the bathroom sometimes! Mom-in-the-bathroom can be a huge trigger for our 10-year-old, Mary. Most children with developmental trauma come with “trauma triggers.” A warning will sound off to them, even when there is no actual danger present. We adopted our children from foster care. They were older, and remembered living with their biological mother during their younger years. Despite the many things they’ve been through, losing a mother is the most traumatic wound they were dealt. Fear of losing another mom sets of a warning bell to this day.
“Where are you going?!” Mary demands in a panicked voice.
“To the bathroom,” I say.
She’s been having a lot of trouble being more than a few inches away from me lately.
Mary will guard me ferociously from her brother, growling and yelling at him when he comes near. Mary could spend a whole hour by my side, just staring into my eyes. They are not that remarkable. Trust me. I am neither a celebrity or a beauty queen. I’m a mom who needs the bathroom.
After about 60 seconds this becomes rather uncomfortable for me. Having her this close also reminds me to spend more time with her working on brushing those teeth. Even after snuggles, hugs, and butterfly kisses, she balks at the idea of moving away from me. Even when I need to go to the bathroom!
It can be rather difficult to keep her this close, especially because I need my walker to get around. That automatically takes up too much room for her liking. It keeps me an arm’s reach away from her, but even this can be too far. She has been known to duck under the walker and pop up directly in front of me, squished between my belly and the horizontal bars. Silly me. Here I was thinking walking was difficult before I had my back surgery! Now I have to wield a walker/child around in order to move.
In therapy, Mary mentioned to her therapist that she feels like I am going to run away. She admits that I probably won’t get very far, but she still worries about it. This kind of anxiety isn’t her fault. She has literally lost one mother already. It doesn’t matter if she logically knows I won’t leave her. She is scared, just the same.
Therefore, it is time for me to run (read: clumsily shuffle) away from her. That’s right. I’m going to run. Mary needs to see the worst case scenario played out in front of her. What would happen if I tried to run away? What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? Well let’s find out.
So I run from her. I wheel myself haphazardly through the living room and dining room. Mary chases me, gasping for breath between big belly laughs. We practice my “running away” while she is seated at the table. She catches me. We practice in the kitchen, around the island. She catches me. We practice starting in different rooms. She still catches me. Even when she cannot see me, she hears the tell-tale squeaking wheels singing my escape.
She can catch me every time. We pause to catch our breath and collapse on my bed in a heap of giggles. Working on things through play is the best way to beat fear. Our cheeks are rosy and our smiles are big. Even better? She made it about a foot away from me. With no complaints!
“See?” I say to her. “I’m still here. You’ll always be with me. I will never leave you.”
So, yes, I recommend running from your adopted children. Play hide and seek. Play “catch the mom” or tag. Have fun. More importantly, use play to show your child that you will always be there. And if they are speaking too close to your face? Take that as an opportunity to bring up dental hygiene. I know I did!
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.