December was horrific. In fact, it’s taken me the entire month of January to process it enough that I could even begin to put into a blog post. How can I describe to you a level of constant violence that seems near impossible to imagine in a small being?
The truth is, some of this is not shocking. Christmas is notoriously challenging for kids with early childhood trauma. Like clockwork, the moment post-Thanksgiving up until beginning of January he was not the child we know. He looked different, he acted different, he sounded different. He was mean, cruel, disconnected, and uninterested.
The previous December was when he was forced by the State to go to a “good-bye” visit with his birth mother in prison. Like clockwork, as soon as Christmas music started playing on the radio, little man started talking about his birth mother and seeing her in prison. It shouldn’t be a surprise that December was so horrific between the holidays (and all the anxiety that goes with never previously having permanence) and the physical body remembering this experience with his birth mother in prison.
The night before Christmas he was scared. He was scared we were not going to have enough food on Christmas. He was scared of the presents. He was scared of what would be in them or if he would have any at all. We already squashed the Santa thing because there was fear and confusion around this concept so much we just decided not to do that.
On Christmas, we had some nice moments. It was exciting to experience being a parent on Christmas, it was lovely to see him be excited about those moments, despite how tiny those moments were. That was all before 10am.
After 10am, he became manic and out of control. He tried to push me down the stairs (and almost violently succeeded). Eventually for safety we had to restrain him in a safe hold. He said he wanted me to bleed because I give him hugs and love. He then wailed. It was a blood-curdling sorrow. He cried a sound I have not heard from him in the almost year that we have had him. The heart-wrenching words:
“I not deserve a family or presents or love.”
As my wife held him, I cooed over him by wiping his face with a cool wash cloth and kept saying over and over, “you are safe. you are loved.” until he eventually slowed and regulated himself again. He then decided that he did not deserve my love and refused to speak to me or engage with me the rest of the day.
The entire following week he had off from school. Each day if I was with him at all he would immediately get violent. I am typically the person that does bedtime and for an entire week he did not want me to put him to bed. He refused to rock. He refused to do activities. He played alone and would not engage with us beyond our mandatory meals and care taking (if that).
Things are better. At some point in early January, our son reappeared. The challenging, quirky, pain in the butt that we love came back to us. Most nights I can rock him without problem, and I have been minimally hit. Those hits that I can think of this month were actually more of that toddler tantrum type and nothing like December brought. He has come back to engaging with us, eating with us, and having more good days than bad now. We have reached out to more support and we are going to be starting a child therapy that involves drumming. We are setting ourselves up with more supports.
It was easily the most horrific month of my life that my memory can recall. It’s nice to be on the other side of it, but I think putting it in text sets it in the past. I am finally releasing the weight of what has felt like a dirty secret.
Forward. With love.