“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.