My son’s behavior has been improving. It’s really quite incredible when I think about the progress he has made in such a short amount of time. There has been no hitting. No biting. No long-lasting rages. Very little swearing. Still. When my adopted child cries for his birth mom, my heart breaks.
He’s constantly agitated, like someone wound him into a tight little ball, but I can tell he’s trying not to take it out on us.
I know we will have many ups and downs, bumps, stops and starts. When school starts, that will be a huge adjustment, especially depending on where he attends.
The last couple days have been tougher, though. He’s keyed up.
He went to animal therapy yesterday and dealt with some tough stuff about his younger brother and boundary issues. They have a co-dependent, irritated relationship with continual friction.
Tonight my son is pushing up against the line with his behavior.
Slamming doors. He throws his keyboard and his watch — two special items.
He slams his door, open, shut, open shut. The door alarm is on since it is bedtime and it blares incessantly.
So. freakin. annoying.
He used to do this all the time during rages but he hasn’t done it for weeks.
I have learned from Aaron, our attachment therapist, that if I escalate my tone somewhat, it actually calms my son down.
This can be tricky. I cannot be angry.
I have to be totally calm, but I get a bit — just a bit — in his face and I raise my voice. “Hey, what’s going on here? How old are you acting right now?”
I challenge him a little. It works. I let him know I’m not afraid of him, and I’m asserting my authority — matching his energy.
Kids with PTSD are frantic on the inside.
They control out of fear, but they are craving outside control and structure, even though they aren’t going to ask for it. Their controlling behaviors are purely driven by fear, anxiety, and agitation.
The more controlling they are, the more they are showing that we need to show them authority, understanding, and structure. This doesn’t mean be a drill sergeant, but show we have got the situation handled and under control.
When we do this, they calm down.
So once I get my son calmed down, he throws himself on the bed in his room and bursts into tears. “I miss my birth mom.”
He often talks about his birth mom but hasn’t for a while.
“I miss her so much and I just wish I could spend one day with her. I love you and I love our family, but Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, because I really love you, but I love her just a little more. Does that hurt your feelings, Mom? Because I love her just a tiny bit more. Just a little.”
Are you allowed to lie to your own kid in these situations? I know the “right” answer, and then there is the truth.
I think for a moment and then respond to him.
“Well…you are totally allowed to love your birth mother. I totally get that. And you can talk to me about her any time. Of course you miss her. I admit it does hurt me a little bit to hear you say that, but I understand it and it’s really normal, all these feelings you have.”
My son rubs a hand on my arm. He gives me a half-hug.
“It’s not fair I can’t live with my birth mom and the other kids in our family get to live with you, and you are their birth mom. I would give anything to have just one day with my birth mom.”
I asked him what he thinks it would be like.
“I think it would be awesome because we never spend any time together. She would be nice to me and not strict like you guys are.”
“Ah. I think we should call Aaron and talk to him about this tonight.”
I notice my son has picked a scab until it’s bleeding again. That behavior had been improving.
We call Aaron and put him on speaker phone. My son tells him about the throwing and slamming. He gives Aaron a brief overview of our conversation.
Aaron tells him he needs to find strategies so that when he thinks about his birth mom he can calm himself down before he gets out of control.
Then he tells him, “Look, I know you feel guilty about these feelings, but you have nothing to feel guilty about. The enemy, Satan, he wants you to feel guilty about this, and he wants to take something away from the amazing person God created you to be. Every adopted kid has these same feelings. I bet your mom and dad told you it’s totally okay to have these feelings and they understand.”
My son looks over at me with a grin. The relief on his face is visible.
We end the conversation. I tuck my son into bed and kiss him goodnight.
I am so beyond exhausted.
I know all this is the right thing to do, but man, it hurts.