On Safari . . . at Home

by:  Gari Lister

safari1Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be able to go on safari in South Africa.  The most important component of our visit was two “game drives” each day – essentially several hours riding around the preserve looking for animals in a specially equipped land rover.  And if you are a parent to traumatized kids, you will not be surprised to learn that, even though I was thousands of miles from home, deep in the African bush, my mind wandered back to my children  (one was with me and two were at home).

Sometimes on game drives you go out and see wondrous things — seemingly dozens of mind-boggling animals in the course of a few short hours.  The first trip, we saw a beautiful leopard,  a baby elephant with his mother, a baby rhinoceros suckling and more – there just seemed to be wildlife everywhere we went.  And the adrenaline rush of taking photograph after photograph and being surrounded by such amazing sights is tremendous.  The second trip was similar — lions, hyenas and a herd of wild buffalo.

But sometimes on safari you go out and drive in circles for two hours and feel as though you have seen nothing.  We spent one afternoon trip searching for a pride of lions, and the next morning we spent the entire trip tracking wild dogs.  We found neither.

And life with our children can be like that.  There have been months – sometimes in conjunction with a new therapy, sometimes not — where I am amazed at the progress my daughter makes.  And the feeling of watching her blossom is exhilarating, just like seeing all those animals.

But then there are days, and even weeks and months, when I realize that she STILL cannot go to sleep before midnight and even the easiest math problem STILL sends her into a panic, that it is oh so easy to become disillusioned and to lose hope.

But the truth is —  in those game drives where you see “nothing, ” you are in fact seeing things,  just not what you expect.  You are seeing hundreds of impala, and absolutely beautiful scenery.  You are there.  And in those slow times of change, when your children seem to make no progress at all, they ARE making progress – just not in the way you expect.

Just like on safari, you’re not driving — they are.  As moms and dads, all we can do is help our kids, with therapeutic parenting and with therapies; our children have to do the real work themselves.  And the best way to enjoy the journey is to appreciate what you DO see and know that if you drive around in circles long enough, you WILL see amazing things.

Touching Trauma at Its Heart is a blog written by Attachment & Trauma Network’s voices: a collection of parents, professionals and volunteers who represent a variety of perspectives and experiences related to attachment issues and the effect of trauma on children and on families.

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