I am feeling down, isolated and unsuccessful. As you know, I am a parent of a child who lived through abuse, neglect and the loss of their biological family. I see your watchful eye taking in all my short-comings as I try to navigate through the world of my child’s trauma in my role as a foster /adoptive parent. Please look up from your clipboard and hear me for a sec’.
Let me attempt to give you a window into the life of the motherhood of another woman’s child. If my child is in a state of hyper-vigilance, I am in a state of hyper-vigilance in order to diffuse his undesirable behaviors. If my child is enraged, angry, frustrated, I’m using all my resources to remain calm. I am on 24/7 clean up duty after he has unleashed his anger on someone or something for a perceived injustice. If my child is bored – which is often – I am either juggling my responsibilities while keeping him entertained or suffering the consequences of his boredom. Strangely, I feel like I am walking on eggshells in my own home, which leads me to feel jumpy and snappy.
You have reminded me that if I’m feeling this way, imagine what my child is feeling. I get it. My husband and I wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t understand completely the hows and the whys, But if Mom is the person keeping everyone moving and I’m feeling down, then what?
I have turned myself into a clay-like substance constantly being smashed into what works for one child instead of the entire family unit. Because whether we like it or not, one child’s trauma and challenges are creating trauma and challenges for the rest of my family. This, too, is adding to my pile of guilt. I’m always trying to keep the balance for everyone. I have modified myself so much to meet my child’s needs that I have lost a bit of my sense of humor and a sense of my self. My self-esteem is resembling a game of Jenga stretched to it’s fullest height and ready to topple at anytime. Anyone who has played this noisy game and has been the unlucky player to pull the losing piece knows the jolt it sends through your body. I’m trying my best to hold my pieces together. Trust me.
What? You think I should be calmer? Speak with words that are completely thought through after my body and mind have absorbed hours of hateful comments and a barrage of destructive behavior from a child who is using every ounce of their existence to make me feel the pain and trauma trapped in their heart and looping over and over in their mind? What? You think their behaviors are caused because I’m not providing enough nurturing moments, not providing more patience, not providing more fun, too much discipline, not enough discipline? STOP! Just stop. What is actually happening is a rebuilding of a child who is at ground zero. I got news for ya’: their behavior is not their fault, nor is it mine. It’s due to the residue of trauma which the bio family left in their wake. Stop blaming me for the toxic bleeding. My child is hemorrhaging. Time is the only cure. What you get with me is a caregiver who is my child’s lifeline while he is going through this life-long healing process. Where will my child be after your time with them is done? I will tell you where will they be… wrapped in the love and support of this family.
I know your time alone with my child is nothing like my experience with my child. They have smiles for you, they even share their thoughts and feelings with you. YOU and you only possess the magic my child needs to be happy, because they tell you and show you nothing but charm and warm hugs. You say their manners are superb? Imagine that?! I say good for you. You are providing a safe place for my child away from the responsibilities of life. I have an arsenal of NO’s and irritating reminders for my child to assist them in staying healthy and educated. You are supposed to spend your time with my child in a different role and will not have the opportunity to see my child’s inability to regulate or to stay on task, especially when we have a deadline or an appointment such as yours to get to.
My child’s wonderful behavior isn’t due to your hero-like qualities, but because of the blood, sweat and relentless power of this mom. Yes, me. Despite what my child might lead you to believe or the snippets of moments taken out of context your “own eyes” have witnessed, I have been in the background guiding and nurturing my little one through the most unloveable moments of my child’s life before you arrived on the scene. So instead of saying, “I have never witnessed your child being anything but sweet and helpful” after I have spewed my morning’s injustices between myself and my child, how about trying these words out for size: “You are one of the sweetest people I know and it’s obviously rubbing off on your child.” Ha! This is where your real hero powers will be of good use… in the support of a parent who desperately needs it.
The truly frustrating part for any parent is that we truly won’t see the benefits of what we are putting into our child until he/she is an adult. Right now, all of this molding I am doing of myself is making me constantly doubt myself and zap the precious energy I have left. Unfortunately, this makes me a perfect target for my child’s antics. He knows that I love him and I will do anything to make him happy. My child is inadvertently exploiting my best and worst qualities to meet his insatiable appetite for attention and instant gratification. And yes, you have pointed out to me countless times how all kids do this, but my child does it with the frequency and ferocity of a machine gun. Come live my life and tell my child “No” just one time. I dare you.
There has to be a happy medium for both child and caregiver. Right now, the answer alludes me. Just know, I will show up despite your lack of support or understanding of me. But here’s the irony: if you can’t show me grace, understanding and support in my moment of need, what makes you think you truly are the hero my child needs? Because my child needs grace, understanding and support provided unconditionally. And if you can’t provide it to me, you will not be able to provide it to my child in his unloveable moments. We are in this together. Exactly what I live out loud for my child every single moment of the day. Although if you are absolutely sure you have a surplus of unconditional love, then my child is covered; but there are thousands of children still in the system that could use your supply.
Don’t underestimate the stick-to power of a mother. I made myself vulnerable and trusting of your services when I sought out your professional advice. This might be your opportunity not just to be a hero for my child, but for my entire family. Choose your words wisely.
A mom who loves her child with every fiber of her body