Three buckets of our current parenting experience.
Bucket 1: Toddler-ism
You know what this looks like. Tantrums, screaming about the banana being broken, screaming about the disappearing maple syrup into pancakes. You know the stomp of defiance, or the favorite jump/scream/booger dribble. The many, many, many changes of clothes. Probably related to the pee on the floor right in front of the toilet. The love for broccoli and the ultimate hate of that very same broccoli the next day or even within the same meal. The constant energy, questions, curiosity. The cuddle-bug, “I love yous” and wonderment of the world. The excitement of everything, simply because it is! The mindfulness that is so exactly natural and arrives easily. Excited about eating, because we are! Excited about playing in the sandbox, because we are! Excited about Legos right now, because…yes!
Bucket 2: Trauma
This is an elevated scream. It can be many hours of screaming. The screaming that involves being mad and upset but wanting a hug at the same time as not being touched. It involves inconsolable responses. Throwing things with a tenacity only learned from witnessing violence. Physical responses that are from learned experience of being in a headlock, punched, pushed, and smothered with pillows. This involves a patient validation technique of acknowledging his current behavior and also having empathy for his past lived experience and sometimes being able to call it out in the middle of what appears to be an ambush of toddler-ism. This requires an ability to keep your emotions in check when your heart breaks when he tells you what he’s been through. He needs to be coddled and soothed–sometimes what looks like a much younger response. He craves the response he didn’t receive when he was younger.
This also requires what feels like 50 million techniques and responses in any given day (okay sometimes within the hour). Right now “crisis walking” often works when he is particularly out of it. We take him outside (regardless of the weather or time of day) and we start walking around the yard. Eventually he follows, his cries reduce, and whimpering questions about the sounds or sights happens and that’s when we know he’s ready to go inside.
Bucket 3: DCF Involvement
With DCF involved until August/September of this year, we freak out at every bump and bruise. This makes us helicopter parents to the umpteenth degree. We worry it will look bad on us, we rush to document and communicate every breath that seems a little funny. We have had him living with us for 3 months now and we’ve already gone to the doctor 3 times out of hyper-vigilance. This also means that DCF has to send his social worker to put “eyes on” and check him out in our house each month. While he is excited when he sees her (because she has been in his life literally from the moment he was born) he ultimately gets triggered. The resulting few days afterwards involve processing some of his history. He tends to have some challenging behavior, lots of potty accidents, and just an all-round hard time for a few days. We know this because we document it. Obviously.
None of these are harder than the rest. The challenge is to have all three buckets in our life. It’s a lot of things to juggle and manage. None of these things make me feel regret. I would do it again 100 times for this kiddo if I had to. I also know that I feel empowered to do it again with more kids. Because we will. It is hard, but dare I say carrying and birthing a child is also hard. It’s just different, and not as commonly talked about openly and with transparency.
Some of this is about documenting for the him to read and experience through our eyes down the road. Some of this is simply to share because I like to blog. Some of this is also part of a larger community of foster or adoptive parents searching for something similar to let them know they are not alone or crazy. And yes, I’m here to tell you it’s totally okay to circle your yard for 10 minutes, half-dressed for work, while your screaming toddler soothes himself (hopefully dressed, but if he is not that is also not a surprise). You will make it.