Its been almost three years since my three boys came to live with me.
We have been through so much together, but lately I have been feeling stuck. I was feeling like we weren't moving forward as a family, we were just going through the daily motions. I found myself blaming the boys, if only they listened to me, if only they got along, if only they would just calm down. Between the three of them they had brought along so much baggage, speech delays, ADHD, RAD, PTSD, Bipolar Disorder; if only their birth parents hadn't screwed them over things would be ok. However, this weekend I had the biggest awakening that although they had come into the family with all of these "problems" right now the biggest problem was.......me. This weekend Joel, my youngest, was playing around on the computer and came across some old videos of Matthew from the first year he was here. To say that they struck a chord with me would be an understatement. I had a full on revelation of biblical proportions. One video in particular was taken several hours into an over 12 hour rage. The house in the background was a disaster due to Matthew throwing everything that wasn't nailed down at my head. He ran up to his room, climbed onto his dresser and was attempting to "fly" while hurling toys in my direction. At one point in the video you can even hear me desperately telling him to practice his deep breathing he had been learning with the "therapist", "Come on honey, Smell the flower.....Blow out your candles." HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The kicker of the video is when he is hiding behind a chair, he pops his head up and in the calmest voice with a huge smile, he says, "I'm going to get a gun and shoot you." As I watched this video I realized something, we have come SO far. The kid that stands before me today is NOT the same child so why was I still parenting to that child in the video?! I mean I know things had improved, but it took that video to make me realize just how far we had come. I realized that I had been suffering from my own version of PTSD. I had been parenting my kids like we were still in that crisis mode. Every little infraction would cause my body to tense and send me flying back to those moments where I lived in fear, fear of my child, fear of the safety of the other children, fear of judgment from family, friends, social workers and therapists, fear of failure. I would overreact and yell and stress out as if every infraction was going to lead us back to a 12 hour rage ending in a hospital stay or an all nighter stationed outside Matthew's door to ensure another fire wasn't set or a knife hidden. It was necessary then, I had to be hyper vigilant and overly cautious to protect everyone and help Matthew feel safe. However, living in a constant state of crisis comes at the cost of a happy family. We were merely surviving. I now realize....we have SURVIVED! We are by no means perfect, but it is time for me to let go and transition into HAPPY. Happy experiences, happy memories, happy kids, and a happy mommy. If every slight infraction immediately sends me back to that state of crisis management imagine what my child feels and the places his trauma leads him to remember on a daily basis. Its time to let go a little, time to focus on the battles that are important, time to give up a little control and help Matthew manage his own behavior. Are we still going to have moments of sabotage, lying, stealing and defiance? Sure. But those moments are just moments not 12 hour rages that leave me emotionally drained. Not rages that leave me covered in bruises and bite marks. Not rages that result in safety plans and hiding spots for the little ones. I am ready to move the boys beyond the trauma to a place of happy and maybe (just maybe) do it all over again.