TT, Bart and I spent three weeks away from our home in deep South Texas. We spent three weeks away from Mr. Amazing and Herman too. As much fun as TT and Bart had on vacation in Iowa, they missed their daddy and their big brother an awful lot too!
Friday night was re-entry. Squeals and hugs abounded. Then, each little one cuddled with Daddy on the couch for awhile while watching part of the Olympic opening ceremonies. They went off to bed with smiles on their faces. It was good to be home.
And then there was Saturday.
Herman had signed up for an all day hunter's safety course. Daddy and Herman saw the little cherubs for only a few minutes before they had to say goodbye. Then Mr. Amazing came back home to swap out vehicles. He took his motorcycle to a rally he had made arrangements to attend a couple weeks ago.
These events don't usually bother my boys. And silly ol' me, I figured TT and Bart would be fine on Saturday. Originally we weren't going to be back until late, late Saturday night. Surely the boys would remember that. Besides, Daddy wasn't going to be gone all day. He was planning on being home by 2:00 in the afternoon.
Silly ol' me.
TT started getting wound up. Then Mr. Wonky came for a visit. TT couldn't seem to do anything without falling. He tripped every time he walked. He flopped on the ground. Baby talk was all he could muster.
I tried as hard as I could to stay therapeutic. I tried to meet his needs first. But the flopping. The falling. The fussing. The whining. I mean really - I told him to pick up his backpack with the colors in it and he couldn't figure out how to do it. He kept stacking the paper, tapping it on the ground and then throwing it up in the air because he "couldn't do it". The behavior became draining quite quickly!
Thankfully I figured out the trigger quickly. This one was pretty obvious to me. So I asked him. (I try to never TELL him what brought Mr. Wonky in for a visit. These are his feelings, not mine. But I will help him go through possibilities if he wants.) Well, TT looked at me as he flopped all over the living room and said, "I'm mad! I'm mad Daddy isn't here."
I looked at TT and said, "That's really hard buddy. You know why this is making you feel so incredibly upset don't you?"
He paused and indicated that it would be OK for me to continue. And, in TT's case, putting reality out there quickly usually helps him calm down faster. He's responsive to hearing the truth in the matter and doesn't fight me every single time. Most of the time he's aware when he's dysregulated and most of the time he wants to get out of the funk. (Not all kids could handle diving into the "deep" stuff as quickly as I toss it out at TT though. I'm very aware of that! We made a lot of progress last fall and winter when things were quite sticky on an almost daily basis.)
Anyway... I looked at TT and told him, "Your first parents couldn't parent you. They left you. You feel abandoned by them. That feeling never goes away. And now, after being gone for three weeks, you're mad that Daddy went away today. You feel abandoned – very abandoned!"
He turned and screamed at me, "Why do you always say it's about adoption?!!"
I replied with confidence, "Because this time it is honey. This time you're super mad because of adoption. And it's OK."
He continued to fuss and flop. He kept screaming at Bart and me to leave him alone. My response to that was, "Children that want to be left alone will go to their rooms. Children that are in the living room will have to deal with the others around them."
He ended up flopping up to his room. I wish I knew how to better convey what I mean by "flopping". It's a strange combination of walking, running, tripping, bouncing back up and walking a few steps before starting it all over again. For a child as athletic as TT is, this behavior is a huge indicator that things are very dysregulated. I did follow TT to his room. This was for a few reasons. First - and I'm being very honest here - it's because he's known to throw and break things when he's super dysregulated. I'm tired of stuff being broken all the time and if I stay close he doesn't ramp it up as bad. In the back of my mind I also knew that me staying close would help him calm down the fastest no matter what. A few years ago TT used to get violent just so I would restrain him. Then, after fighting me in a restraint for several minutes, he would melt into me and just let me hold him. He often needs physical touch, and a lot of it, before he will fully relax. So I need to be there in that exact moment he's ready for a hug or the dysregulation can carry on far too long. (I spent many months telling TT, "Darling, if you need a hug just ask for one. Please don't attack your brother, throw things across the room and scream at me just so I'll restrain you and then hug you. Hugs by themselves are sooooo much better than restraints.")
TT went through all that it takes for him to calm down. First he needs to stay mad at me. Then, he'll do the hard work and take deep breaths. Often he'll snuggle up to me. I usually try to get him to snuggle up with me spoon-style with his back against my chest. I tell him to listen to my breathing and try to match it. Then he'll typically "own up" to his poor behavior. And last, he'll tease me so that we can wrestle. Very rarely can he fully calm down without a beat-up session. He likes to be tickled and rough-housed with. Like I said, he needs a lot of physical touch!!
It wasn't a particularly profound visit from Mr. Wonky this time. Everything was par for the course. We go through this regularly enough. Sometimes I know the trigger. Sometimes I don't. Either way, I try to always give him an opportunity talk about things if he wants to. And yes, that means adoption is often brought up. Separation anxiety and feelings of abandonment affect TT quite strongly.
You can't hide the truth though. It is almost always "about adoption". As wonderful and amazing as it is to have TT in my forever family, he will deal with the pain of losing his first family for the rest of his life. I plan to give him plenty of opportunities (and not all yucky ones like this) to discuss his story. I'm hoping as he grows the yucky parts are fewer and farther between. But never do I want him to bury those feelings. So many adult adoptees say that they fear talking about their adoption because they don't want to hurt their adoptive parents' feelings. (My research is via the book 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. I also discussed this with Rainbow, who just also happens to be adopted.)
Thankfully TT calmed down and the rest of the weekend went well. Even when Bart thought it would be fun to mimic some of the behavior that had flown into the house, TT stayed regulated. Here's to hoping the rest of the week isn't too chaotic. (Though, we still know nothing new about Pumpkin, Dude or Dolly so the possibility of full-on crazy is quite eminent!!!)