Badge of Honor

“Trauma Mama”, it’s a term used to describe a mother who is raising traumatized children, rather through unfortunate life experiences or through foster care or adoption. She’s strong. She’s a little damaged from witnessing things she can’t unsee. She loves hard and is constantly fighting for her traumatized child. She’s welcomed trauma and abuse into her home with open arms, all in the hopes to save one more.

But what about the other children in the home? The innocent ones. The children who’s biggest fear was the imaginary monsters under the bed. The monster that could be wished away with mama’s magical monster spray. Now, they unfortunately know monsters are real and aren’t just taking up residency under their beds. What about them? Do we have a name for those children, a badge of honor, like “Trauma Mama”?

If there is one, I haven’t come across it. Maybe we should call them “Little Warriors”or “The Blindsided”. Because that’s what they are, blindsided. They didn’t ask for any of this. It wasn’t their calling that opened the door to trauma. Innocent bystanders who watched foster children come and go, covering the grief, afraid to have a voice. They’ve seen the never ending battles, heart break and behavior that comes with this way of life.

They’ve sat back and watched their homes turned into therapeutic recovery centers, shelters, behavioral clinics. They are the quiet listeners behind the bedroom door as their mother cries into the pillow. They watch as the slow fraying of their parents begins, unraveling little by little. The small weaponless toy soldiers, they stand on guard.

“Be a good sport kids”, “they just need time”, “love on them”, “wait that’s too much love”, “give them some space”, “no, wait, include them”, “love will heal all wounds”, “put yourself in their shoes”; these all phrases that I have used at one time or another over the years. Some contradictory toward themselves as I learned how to do this. Their little heads spin as they too are trying to find their new normal in a place that used to be familiar, predictable and yes, safe.

What about them? This was a question my husband and I asked ourselves eight years ago when we started this foster care journey. How will this affect them? At that time we couldn’t have possibly understood the magnitude of such a decision and the affects that it would have on our birth children. They sat there wide eyed and smiling from ear to ear at the possibility of a new brother or sister, a playmate, clueless as to what lay ahead. We all were.

I remember praying, asking God to protect them. If this is what he was really leading us to do, save them. Save them the heart break, pain and keep their innocence. I didn’t care about my own heart, but knew carrying around their brokenness would be too much guilt to bare.

At that time I truly believed God would shelter them from it all. As the years past though, I watched as the anxiety replaced the joy in their hearts. I watched my sweet, innocent boys turn unforgiving, their hope turned to skepticism. Family game nights turned to children hiding in their rooms, avoiding the chaos that so often came with family time.

So what about them? What about my prayers? Where was God in all of this? Was he in their bruises and broken hearts caused by their traumatized siblings, doing only what they knew? Where was their protector, their warrior?

This question plagued me for years as I watched them slip further away. As I slipped further away, consumed with finding healing for our broken children. There was a verse in James that I stood on to get through these years. “James 1:2-3 (NLT) Dear Brothers and Sisters when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know when your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow.”

I can trust this verse for myself but why is it so hard to trust this for my children? Why is it easy for me to believe that God will take all that is meant for harm in my life and turn it to good, yet I can’t believe that for my sons?

Maybe because I forgot that they aren’t truly mine. They are His children and I have just been gifted with the responsibility of raising them. I forgot they have their own stories to write, their own testimony to share, their own path that God has laid out with much care for them. And yes, in that path are many trails and tribulations, troubles that will test not only their faith but mine as well and just like me, their endurance will grow as well, as promised.

God is shaping my boys, molding them through all of this. So yes, God was there. He was there in the middle of the fights, holding them on sleepless nights, comforting them when they hid from the chaos.

It’s been eight years since the day we signed those papers opening our hearts and Home to trauma through foster care. My birth children’s signatures weren’t on those forms. They weren’t the ones child proofing the house, making sure we had fire extinguishers, covered sockets, or screens on all the windows. They weren’t the ones attending the endless classes on mental illness, trauma, and behavior. But they were part of it all. God had a place for my warriors, all part of His bigger plan.

Six months ago, I found myself reflecting on my oldest sons childhood as he applied for colleges and planned his future after graduation. I became weepy as most mothers do when you question if they have done enough. “Have I raised him right? Did I give him enough of me?” Would he leave our home remembering the good? Because there was good. Sometimes it was overshadowed by chaos but it was there.

“Son”, I said, “I just feel like after everything our family has been through, well, I,….I…just feel like maybe I wasn’t there for you the way you may have needed me.” His response shocked me and forever changed me. “Mom, you are right. There were times when you weren’t there. You were busy trying to help the others. But I had everything I needed and I watched you. I watched as you loved children that couldn’t love you back. How you fought for them. How you were there for them even though they continually pushed you away. How you forgave. How you gave everything you had to help them and you refused to give up on them. And for that mom, I’m a better person because of watching you and how you loved us all.”

And there it is folks. Tears rolled down my face. There He was. The Man Upstairs, God, My Savior, My Warrior, our families Protector, there He was making it all for good, touching the hearts of his children through their struggles, through troubles, teaching them endurance through perseverance.

I’m not sure what God has in store for all my children, but I do know they are better people because of this. They are more accepting, resilient, more caring individuals. They can spot a hurting soul from a miles away. They know what trauma looks like but they also know what love looks like and what God looks like in the midst of it all.

There are still times that I have to ask God to help my unbelief. To help me believe his promises aren’t just true for me but for my children. To believe He loves them more than me. There are still moments when our world gets overwhelming and I find my boys yet again hiding in their rooms to escape, but I know He is there with them, comforting them, shaping their hearts and minds and preparing them for a future serving their Father in Heaven. I know they will be well prepared for whatever task he sets before them with a heart and faith that has been tested and an endurance that is continually growing, even now as children.

So whatever we call them; warriors, blindsided, the innocent, let’s remember who they really are and that they wear the greatest badge of honor that exists, “A Child of God.” Their badge lies in the fact that He calls them His.

Advertisements

I’m All Out of Spoons

I found the phrase, “I’m all out of spoons”, years ago on a popular autism site. It’s a phrase that parents of autistic children use as a code word to their spouse or friend letting them know they need a break, a parental time out, a Zanax, a nap, whatever your go to is. I honestly have no idea where the actual phrase comes from, but I’m sure there is a very interesting story behind it.

It worked wonders. No questions asked, just throw it out there and everyone knows mama is locking herself in the bathroom for a few. The best part is the child is never shamed or has a clue that you’ve reached your breaking point. It is a wonderful phrase that creates understanding, self awareness and adult break times with no judgement.

It was miraculous! Note I said, “was”. Here’s the kicker people. Code words are an absolute must when raising a child with special needs.

However, throw into the mix another child who suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder and the party gets real, very fast. I could go into a huge explanation of what Reactive Attachment Disorder or R.A.D is but that’s a whole other article.

For times sake let’s just say because of past trauma or neglect a child can develop R.A.D. Reactive Attachment is ugly. It keeps your child in constant fight or flight, afraid to bond, always having to be in control and my favorite, often punishes the “nurturer” (in most cases the mother), for every sin or wrong doing ever done to them or what they perceive has been done to them.

At this moment you are probably wondering where I’m going with this whole spoons thing. Bare with me. So you have an autistic child that causes you to need to use the term frequently, “I’m all out of spoons.” Another child who has R.A.D and is hell bent on mentally torturing the mother figure. Enter stage left a teaching moment for all you code word parents.

After hearing this phrase tossed around by her parents at least three times a week, when dealing with her brother, there was only one logical conclusion that my sweet little Radling’s mind could produce, “man, spoons must really be important to this woman!”

In true R.A.D fashion, one by one our actual, real life spoons went missing over the next weeks. It started slow and picked up pace as the days went on. We didn’t think much of it till one night we tried eating soup with a fork. My oldest son screams, “this is ridiculous, how can we be all out of spoons!?!”

At that moment, with soup splattered all over our shirts in wasted effort, my husband and I looked at each other. Knowing, wisdom, and shock crept over our faces. We turned to our Autistic child still trying his best to scoop up his vegetable soup with a fork, then to our sweet little Radling, daughter, who sat there with a spoon, the very last spoon I might add, with a cheeky grin on her face. “What”, she smirked, “looks like you all are out of spoons.”

Normal is Boring

One of my favorite memories…

Anyone that knows us well enough knows that my daughter and I rarely see eye to eye on well, just about anything. But today we had a moment. While walking out of the pharmacy. Jojo, who is insanely competitive with me decides she is going to run to the car, yelling, “I am going to get there first!!!!” Even though the odds were against her, seeing that I was only steps away from the car, she still ran as fast as her little legs would carry her.

I opened her door so she could hop in. She was running so fast with such determination that she didn’t notice the open door. WACK, a direct face-plant into the side of the car door. I thought for sure when she looked up I was going to see a face full of blood.

Instead she lifted her head and looked at me with a cheeky little smurk and said, “Well, at least I got here first…..” I responded with, “Yes, but isn’t that like cutting your nose off to spite your face?” As much as I tried not to, I started laughing hysterically. Jojo, trying her best to be angry started laughing too.

It was the first time we laughed whole heartedly together. Laughing at eachother, ourselves and the plain rediculousness of the situation. Two years of pent up laughter came rolling out in the pharmacy parking lot. Laughing about the fact that any “normal” daughter would not have taken a face-plant into a car door just to prove a point and that any “normal” mother would have asked if she was okay instead of having some smart remark.

And thats okay because we aren’t normal. Normal is boring. Normal doesn’t bring us moments like this, that even so small will last forever. Moments where you recognize your own faults and connect by laughing hysterically at them together in a parking lot. Years of blending our family, healing trauma, and trying to force attachment had taken it’s toll on us both. For that brief moment the pain was forgotten, the wrongs forgiven and we were just two crazy girls laughing together at our faults.

The Birch Trees

Summer, the trees all decorated in their fullness and vibrant, silky leaves. Like people shining full of grace and beauty. Oh, how they are loved.

Fall, they tell the tale of change, insecure in what lies ahead. They become showy, change their colors in hopes to rise above the inevitable. Maybe one last dance before the cold winter sets in. One last hope to prove their worth before dying. This may be the truest beauty. Living in their fight against time, using every last bit of effort to impress, to challenge the artist, the writer, the maker.

Oh how they must feel time slipping away. Wondering if they have left an impression long enough to last through the cold winter. Then as it was written by the poet, they fall. Leaving behind a raw canvas. A once full landscape hid all the sins behind it, now left with peep holes through the few leaves that remain. Holes into the gray unforgiving forest and the truth that waits on the other side.

The Oak could no longer fool you. The Maple held on as long as she could to shield you. The Birch, left standing naked with no beauty to show, revealing her slender, fragile body.

Everything is seen. She asks, “Do you love me now? Now that you can see through me?” You answer, “no, you have lost your leaves.” The Birch answers, “I’ve shed them, leaving myself exposed for you to fully know me.”

But still they do not love her. She dances swaying her barren branches back and forth in hopes to delight. It goes unnoticed. She becomes fixated on her scars and broken limbs. Now in full view for all to see.

Soon the snow comes and the Lady’s of the Forest are covered in white, alone, quiet, still. She sleeps.

The Oak forgets how she felt in all her spender. The Cherry, what it feels like to be adored. The tall Birch stands alone, weak, helpless to the harsh winter. All her sins revealed to the world, ashamed, unloved and unwanted. The solid trunks around her offer no assurance. For they too are now barren and have nothing left to offer.

The days go by more slowly than the next. No solace for the trees. The painted canvas once revered, now blank and dry. As with the seasons of life she manages to find hope in a barren place and healing in the pain.

Her body tingles. Her arms ache. Her skin irritated with the new coming season. She reaches up to touch the sun and notices the trace of vibrant emerald lace that will soon cover her body. Confidence a new as she forces each new leaf from her veins. Soon she will be dancing again. It is worth the pain.

She adorns herself, hiding her inequities. She shines for them, for the maker. She knows her lovers won’t last when the unveiling comes, when the cold winter is there. But till then she dances with her grace and beauty.

She asks, “Do you love me now? Now that I am hidden?” “Oh yes”, they cheer! “You are beautiful!”

In Love With the Chaos

I remember a time when I had it “all together”. I knew when I was coming and when I was going. Organization was my moto. My children were dressed with care from head to toe. Their hair neatly combed and styled. I made time for eligant date nights with the hubby. My car was spottless, my house the same. I could balance bills, work, baking, school, friends and family with grace and dignity.

Now I am late for almost everything, my children are lucky if they show up to school with matching shoes, if its not on the calender then it doesn’t exist. Date nights are at 8:15 when everyone is asleep and consist of watching 20 minutes of TV together before we fall asleep.

I’m lucky if I have a chance to do my own hair. My car is filled with Mc’D wrappers, crayons and something that smells really bad. I manage to get my kids to school on time by dragging them across the parking lot by the hoods of their jackets while they are still trying to put them on…….And guess what? I AM LOVING EVERY MOMENT OF IT! And learning that people who have it “all together” are just plain boring!

Did You Touch That?

Me to my daughter: Jordan did you touch that?

Jordan: No.

Me: Are you sure you didn’t touch it?

Jordan: Nope, didn’t touch it.

Me:Okay, cuz there’s chemicals on it that will burn off your skin, so are you sure?

Jordan: Nope, wasn’t me.

Me: Oh, good.I am so happy it wasn’t you, because I love your pretty little fingers and would hate for the chemicals to peel all the skin off them and leave you with nubs and bones for fingers.

Jordan: huh????……WHAT?????

Me: Yep, nubs and bones, nubs and bones……Soooooo are you sure it wasn’t you?

Jordan: OK, OK, OK…..IT WAS ME, IT WAS ME!! I TOUCHED IT, GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF…I DONT WANT NUBS AND BONES…..

Me: HA, I knew you touched it!!

(Ok, so maybe I’m not the most mature mom out there….but I’m funny : )

Big God

I am thankful that I have a very BIG God! I was reminded of just how big our God really is when I overheard my curious five year old reading a letter that he had found this morning. My first instinct was to take it from him saying, “this isn’t yours!”..but I didn’t. I hid in the other room listening to him sound out each word and reading a letter that was way above his comprehension level with little effort.

I stood there in amazement of God. How only a year and a half ago this little boy showed up on our door step. He was very small and delayed both physically and mentally. He couldn’t make words or understand simple instructions. They said that he may always be delayed, that they weren’t sure of the outcome. But God said something different!

We now have a five year old that weighs more than his eight year old brother, understands more than you would ever want him to, is physically and mentally strong, healthy and is testing ABOVE his grade level with no signs of delays in only 20 months! That my friends is a very BIG God!!