Time to confess some things. When I first started this journey of parenting a child with trauma, attachment, and other issues, I read everything I could get my hands on. I joined groups, attended classes, and went on retreats. I was determined to do everything right to help my son heal. From my reading, I got the impression that it was like a math problem: if I simply followed the steps and plugged in the right things, I would get the result I needed. Simple, right?
I know. I hear all you experienced parents laughing.
Here’s a crazy thing. Years later, I am the one blogging. Some people ask me for advice, which is totally crazy to me because I don’t feel like I have answers. But, I will lay down some honesty. Stuff I wish I’d seen in the blogs I read back then. I’ve become friends with some of those bloggers and learned what they didn’t write. I am going to write those things. I am speaking as myself here, not on behalf of ATN or any other organization.
Confession 1: I’m going to jump right in with the big one. I mess up. I mess up a lot. Way too often I am not therapeutic. Sometimes I lose my temper, yell, and/or say things I should not say. Sometimes I punish my kids when I know I should be teaching them. I know the stuff I’m supposed to do and say, and probably even feel. But truth is, this stuff is darn hard. It’s like how I know what I should or should not eat and how I need to exercise and stuff, but I kind of stink at that too and so I’m far. I’d like to think I’m a little better at parenting than taking care of my body, but truth is, I’m not great at either. Eating junk food and letting my kid watch too much TV makes life a little easier. It’s not just that I lack answers. I also sometimes forget to use the ones I know.
Confession 2: In my guilt-ridden moments, I fear this is related to my first confession, but when I really think and listen, I know it’s not. My child is not healed from his early trauma and attachment issues. He is better in many ways, but he is not healed. He is not attached. He is nearing adulthood, so the likelihood of him never healing is high, although some kids heal as adults, and I still have this hope for my son. We have tried many therapies, hospitalization, medications. Whatever alphabet soup of diagnoses and treatments you might have running through your head, we’ve tried them. But the truth is, he doesn’t want to heal, has no desire to change. And even though the therapists knew it, I didn’t want to listen. So I kept trying, but I couldn’t, cannot force him to heal. A patient recovering from a leg injury has to be willing to put in some work, and also willing to accept some help – other people, crutches, walkers. The same is true of our kids. Even if I was a perfect parent who had done everything the therapists said every hour of every day, it would not have been enough to force my son to heal.
Confession 3: This is the fun one. I sometimes hide in my room. Sometimes I cry in there, sometimes I watch mindless TV or read, and sometimes I eat hidden junk food and drink things I probably shouldn’t. I stay up way too late and I have a secret stash of chocolate. Other times, when the kids stay with my husband so I can run errands, I park at Sonic and get a soda or junk food or ice cream. I sit in my car with my music and read Facebook for a while. Or I take my time in the store, going up and down every aisle. Sometimes I let the kids have cereal for dinner, or else I order pizza.
There are other confessions too, but I’ll save those for another day. Things like my first-day-of-school breakfasts, how much I hate school projects, or that band concerts aren’t exactly my thing. For now, though, there you have it: the first installment of confessions of a trauma mom.