My Escape

It’s nighttime when I escape. This day has been a hard day. Bad news, back pain, and an oppressing sense of defeat have followed me through the house today.

After tucking Carl into bed I creep out of the back door. Luke is working on splitting each of my pain pills in half. I’d like to try a lower dose if I can. They always make me feel so sick.

Now I seek freedom. Once outside, the darkness is complete, blotting out all else. My footsteps are amplified by the tapping of my hot pink cane

The back door clicks softly shut behind me and I’m enveloped in blackness. On our porch, deep in the New England forrest, there is nothing but the night. It embraces me.

Slowly, so painfully slowly, I hobble down the back steps. The cane clicks along with my weary feet. Thump-clip-thump-clip one step at a time.

I ease onto the graveled driveway and marvel at the smells of pine and maple. I double check the stability of my sneakers on uneven ground. I’ve affixed a flashlight to the cane only to show my feet the way. It does nothing to detract from the sanctity of my night.

I love this time of year. My cheeks are rosy, chilled and crisp. The silence is complete save for the rustling of tree leaves

The air here is cold Enough to see my breathe. Everything is so fresh. In the darkness, even my scars are hidden.

After what seems like an hour I reach the end of my driveway. Here is where I can turn and look back upon the house Luke and I have made a home. The soft yellow light seeping from our windows barely makes an impact on the night.

I’m finally alone. In the quiet. In the dark. Here I can raise my head as high as my spine will allow. Here is where I can see all the glory of the stars above. They twinkle and dazzle against an expansive canvass of black.

No streetlights exist out here in the woods to steal their glory. Headlights do not appear to marr the brilliance of my stars. This New England night-scape belongs only to me and to my stars.

Out here I find the peace in my world. Out here it is quiet enough that I can listen to my own thoughts.

“Keep going,” they tell me. “There is beauty in everything, even in the dark.”

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

adoption, family

Wherein I Suck

Here is where I suck. I want to be therapeutic as a mom. I want to help my children. Being a parent is a huge part of my identity.

But sometimes? I suck at it. I just want to have some fun and enjoy my family. Having kids with trauma, kids with teenage hormone changes, kids with psychiatric conditions or basically just human children prevents that. I can’t have the fun Mom experiences I feel like everyone else (but me) is having.

Marcus had been in a great mood since starting his new job. He is making friends, feeling good. So I’ve done what no sane mother would do here. I’ve avoided him. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until it occurred to me I hadn’t seen Marcus in three days. I skipped our nightly Phase 10 game with him. I took a bath, instead.

I think I’m scared that Marcus’ pattern will continue. I’m protecting myself when I should be connecting with him. He’s older and he needs more connection experiences to feel grounded and safe. And I, apparently, need another bubble bath.

Carl has been waking us up in the middle of every. Single. Night. He’s also been having meltdowns over nothing. If something goes wrong, like when he broke the third can opener, he yells at me. It’s clearly my fault. If he isn’t drinking enough water for his lacrosse practice it’s my fault. Did I mention he threw a plastic cup filled with water because of this? Also my fault. I’m not sure you can hydrate your body via carpet, but, whatever. His choice.

The next morning Carl yelled and snapped at me all morning. I refused to engage. He kept at it. I quit helping him. He kept at it. I stated that we would discuss his restitution later when we were both more calm. He did the eye-roll-snap-at-mom-for-being-stupid combo.

So I did what any sane mom getting sucked into a pre-pubescent argument would do. I yelled back.

“You’re grounded!”

“FINE!!” he screamed back as he got on the bus for school.

Those were the last words we said to each other as he walked out the door. Great. It’s been a theme this week. I’m fairly certain I need another bubble bath with my Eucalyptus aromatherapy suds.

Someone else, please take a peak around. Am I still a mother? Do I have to?? Because this week I really suck at it! This week I’d rather do something else, please. Are any positions open for a professional bubble bath aficionado?

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

adoption, family

The Weight of the World

It takes a village to raise a family. Logically I know this, but sometimes I don’t ask for help. I’m not sure why. My family life is complicated. Sometimes it feels like it will take an army rather than a village!  I’m protective over our children because not everyone understands their trauma. I’m hesitant to let others into our little world (outside the bogging community…obviously!)

After injuring my back at work, I’m starting to see how much I can’t do on my own. This scares me. 

At church this Sunday, our Reverand prayed over me. She offered prayers of healing for my back. It went something like this:

“Dear Lord, please help Abigail heal. She carries the weight of so many on her back. The weight of work, the weight of her family, the weight of responsibility. Heal her and watch over her. Amen.”

The Reverand is right. Sometimes it feels like the weight of the world. Parenting is hard work. Work is hard work. Heck, being a grown-up is hard work! The thing is, I’m not alone on this journey. I have a strong and loving family. 

Over the holidays my parents made the journey from the mid-west to our little New England town. They sold their house. They left their friends and their church behind. They came with their cat to live in a house they’d seen only on the internet. They did it for our family. For me. 

My mom has flown out to visit us in the past. She’s offered me backup when we were in crisis mode. She’s visited Mary in the psychiatric unit of the hospital with me. My mother has seen the Littles rage and anger. She also sees their love and creativity. She has never once questioned their place in this family. She just loves us, warts and all! 

My parents now live about ten minutes away from us on the other side of town. They come for dinner, we go to church together, and they take our Littles occasionally to give Luke and I some alone time. My step-dad makes “black cows” for the kids with coke and ice cream. My mother reads aloud to them as she did for me so long ago. My husband takes my step-father to doctor’s appointments. It’s family. We aren’t alone out here, not anymore. 

I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have my mommy when I’m hurt like this. She’s offered to drive me places or come with me to work. She keeps me company when I’m stuck at home. Sometimes she makes me coffee with a bit of Kaulua in it. She loves me. When I’m with her I am reminded of a time when I was safe and small and someone else made the tough decisions. 

Luke and I are not alone. I don’t have to carry all of the weight on my back. For now, my body is telling me to slow down. I’m hurt but I have my family. 

I only hope that one day I can be the kind of mom who radiates safety and love. I want to be the mom who shares the weight of the world. When I finally grow up? I want to be just like my mom. 

**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved. 

adoption, family

Mommy Needs a Time Out: Adventures in Self Care

It’s my job to remain regulated when they are dis-regulated. And sometimes? I want to quit. OK, maybe I don’t really want to quit my job as “mom.” It’s more like I just need a personal day. Parenting kids with trauma means lots of tantrums. Lots of yelling and crying. Lots of aggression. And LOTS of work.

Our kids have some very very large emotions. I want to be as responsive as possible. I acknowledge their emotions, reflect back their statements, help them to label their feelings. I encourage them to let it all out.It’s my job to act as if I am their frontal lobe. It’s my job to bringing these children back to the here and now.

Mary yelled at her homework because it was the same math sheet she always gets. She threw her pencil to teach it a lesson. Apparently the 81st math sheet was one worksheet too many? Carl yelled at the fridge and kicked it because it contained an apple that he would have to eat after his shower. I tried to watch an HGTV show about buying homes in Montana. Mary yelled at me for loving Montana more than I love her. I spent a better part of the day processing everyone’s feelings about homework, the fridge, and Montana. Then I iced Carl’s foot for awhile. Sometimes when you fight with the refrigerator, the refrigerator wins!

On Friday night I knew I needed a break. I could feel the frustration building. I love my kids so much, but sometimes I just crave a bit of piece and quiet. My children interpret this to mean, “Mom doesn’t love us anymore and will soon leave us.”

I should have been more in tune with my own needs on Friday when I began to feel this way. I wasn’t. I was guilty of something that many moms are guilty of. I forgot about myself. I tried to push through like a super hero. I am not a superhero. I am a sleep-deprived, overworked, exhausted mama. And by Saturday, it showed.

In trying so hard to be present with my children, I forgot to be present with them. Instead of really connecting with them, I was going through the motions and feeling cranky and resentful. The kids picked up on this right away. They began to feel unsettled and afraid. They began to vie for attention by picking each other apart. They tattled, they fought, they stole food from each other. Because I was dis-regulated, they became dis-regulated. I had basically backed myself into a lose-lose situation. I triggered their anxiety.

The solution? A mommy time-out. I put myself upstairs for a time out. Luke told the Littles that I was taking space. He brought me a picnic style dinner to eat in our room. I skipped family dinner. I watched trashy grown up TV. I took time to myself and I did not emerge until it was time to cuddle the little chickens and tuck them into bed. They missed me, sure. They were worried that I didn’t love them and that’s why I was taking a “time-out.” But guess what? We all got through it and I believe we were better for it. As I tucked them into bed, they both complimented me on using my “coping skills!”

Sometimes, getting sucked into the quagmire of their trauma means that I am so busy responding to their feelings that I forget to respond to my own. I’m not suggesting that every mom needs to watch Bravo TV in order to feel good. I’m suggesting that we, as parents acknowledge ourselves and our emotions as part of the intricate framework that makes up our families. We, too, are important.

The road of parenting children with trauma is not an easy one. Therapeutic parenting has it’s own set of challenges unique to us as Trauma Mamas (and Papas!) As I sit here sipping tea and listening to Chopin I know that I am taking care of myself. I am alone. I am not ashamed to take this time for myself.  And I know that I am worth it.


**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

*If you have ever considered foster care or adoption, I encourage you to get started on your own adventure!