The Trauma Van

by:  Craig Peterson

trauma_vanI chose to laugh, not cry.  My minivan looks like a wreck.

But the two of us could never part ways. We’ve shared too much history together.

In 2001 with two new sons in tow, my family of seven needed more space. So while the rain came down in sheets, I negotiated one heck of a bargain on a two-year-old Mercury Villager. A steal, at least I thought at the time.

Everything seemed perfect – a forever family in a fully-functioning maroon minivan.

Within several months the far back seat became the first victim. Someone – unknown to this day – removed the cup holder, urinated more than once and then replaced it. For weeks I tried to locate the smell before stumbling upon the secret place.

Whew!

From that day forward, I locked all the doors after pulling into the garage. Problem solved.

Then the first vehicular rage occurred when one son refused to come home with me after school. Finally two staff members carried him to the van with his arms locked around a chair – eventually forcing him through the sliding door.

On the “long” 30 minute ride home, he became violent and tried repeatedly to bust the side window – the kind that works on a hinge. But the window fought back as I reminded my troubled son that he was safe. The only injury was the latch – which caused the window to gently flap in the wind.

Almost like in a ghost story.

My other children were never so happy to arrive home – in one piece, no less. As I turned a corner the following morning, the window fell off – with the “safety” glass shattering into hundreds of pieces.

A symbol of the brokenness of early childhood trauma.  The key holes were next. One morning I couldn’t insert the key into either passenger-side door. Not going to happen! Thankfully the driver side door was spared.

I had several possible suspects, but no actual proof.

Then another son who loved to slash sheets, clothes and furniture took his anger out on the back of the driver seat – while I was in it. Within several days a huge piece of the upholstery disappeared.

At least I don’t need to look at the hole while I drive.

That same son kicked the front fender – then the back – to leave “his mark.” To this day the passenger door is difficult to open.

A third son – who sits upfront with me to stay connected – tore off the visor, broke the clock and dented the dashboard. Why the airbag didn’t inflate is beyond me.

Sadly, the list of smaller dents and dings could fill another page.

In hindsight, I should’ve never bought a nice vehicle but drove a beater like I do now.

The truth is no one took care of my kids early in life. So how could I expect them to take care of our van – when they hadn’t yet attached to me?

Lessons learned – wishing I had another chance.

D. Craig Peterson is a retired ATN Board Director. You name it, Craig has a story to share in achieving success and learning from mistakes as he raised six children to adulthood...all while maintaining faith and believing in unconditional love. He understands the ups and downs of learning challenges, special education, psychotropic medications, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, sexual abuse, juvenile justice, residential placement and so much more. In his upcoming book Adopting Faith: A Father's Unconditional Love, Peterson details his journey in raising six children who brought unbelievable challenges from their birth families and the foster care system. His parenting is a combination of typical and unconventional strategies." His blog is here: https://adoptingfaithafathersunconditionallove.org/

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