Saturday, February 15, 2014

Traumaversaries and Collections

TT has been struggling a little bit lately. Out of the blue the other day (and I do mean COMPLETELY out of the blue), he said, "Ya know, I was really worried when Dad had that motorcycle accident."

Interesting enough, he was only 2 weeks off from the anniversary of the actual date of the event.

Traumaversaries are very, very real.

I don't have any links to scientific data. I can't explain much about them except for the fact that they are real and I do believe that all people can experience them. Simply put, the body remembers the trauma and "big feelings" result on the annual anniversary of the event. Thus...traumaversary. Sometimes the big feelings are anxiety. Sometimes depression. Sometimes anger. Sometimes a person can be aware of the reason behind the feelings. But when it comes to kids, they often don't make the connection.

For example, I bet that every summer Dude and Dolly will feel a deep sense of abandonment sometime around the month of June. They have two traumaversaries: the original date they came in to Care and the summer they were abruptly removed from me due to the bogus investigation. I noticed it in both kids last summer. They both got a little wonky right after school got out for the year. And I'm guessing, but I bet next September doesn't flow too well for them in Dallas because of the memory of court and having to move to Grandma's forever in 2013.

Anyway...the traumaversary of the motorcycle accident (coupled with life in general and a visit from my parents) has TT all stressed out. And when his stress elevates, I become acutely aware of other issues that may or may not be due to the fact that he is adopted.

I don't like to pile everything negative on top of adoption. But I've got to be honest, the negative stuff often is connected whether I like it or not. TT was abandoned by his first family. (TT was adopted through the foster care system but it was really more like a domestic infant adoption that just happened to be orchestrated by the foster care system. But as pretty as that all sounds...that there was no abuse, neglect or exposure to harmful substances...he was still abandoned.) That abandonment is no easy feeling to escape. He never really will. And the fear of abandonment permeates life regularly.

In fact, after 10 years of parenting TT, I just personally made another connection between TT being adopted and some of his behaviors.
See the two sets of brown shelves above...can you guess which set belongs to TT?

How about these?

I'll give you a clue....the sets of shelves that are covered with more things belong to TT.

Herman is a collector too. He's always had a messy room. I've always had to help him clean up. I just figured that TT was the same way. A little messy. A kid that likes to keep things.

I never made the connection.

But here we are in the middle of high anxiety due to a traumaversary. We're talking about abandonment and loss a lot. We're trying to remind TT that we are here for him and that he's safe. We're pointing out the obvious - that Daddy is OK and we all survived that scare a year ago.

Through it all I was trying to get the house clean too. And one night, when I looked at the crazy messy shelves FULL of tiny things that TT just cannot bring himself to throw away, I got it.

TT can't throw things away because any kind of loss scares him more than the typical child.

It's been right in front of my face all along and it took me years and years to make the connection.

It was bedtime and I was making the mistake I make 7 nights a week. My mouth always gets the better of me at bedtime and I sit and point out all the stuff that needs to be taken care of.
"Bart, hang up your towel."
"TT, you put your socks in the laundry all in a ball. Please fix that."
"TT, don't leave your jeans all wadded up like that."
"Bart, pick up your robe."
"Bart, would you please wear your pajamas or put them in the laundry?"
"Boys, must you leave ALL the Legos all over your floor like that?!"

Most of the time I do this after the boys have actually crawled into bed. Often I go on entirely too much. (It's really quite pathetic on my part. I'm working on it.)

On this particular night I was looking at all of TT's little trinket things all over his shelves. I was looking at things that were broken, or had missing parts, or were really insignificant and old....things I personally would have thrown away. I started in on him about needed to cull his collections and for the first time ever I saw the pain in his face. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

I stopped myself and looked at TT. I said, "Do you want me to tell you why you like to keep so many things?"

Mr. Amazing sort of rolled his eyes. He's not a huge fan of going over big issues like this right at bedtime. But I swear...that's when they turn up 99% of the time. During the day everyone can gloss over the big stuff but once the lights go out the big stuff comes bubbling over the top.  I think it's true for most kids. I'm convinced Herman can't tell me anything about "life" until after 10:30PM. And it's especially true for TT and any of his big feelings.

So we did the prayers and the singing. Mr. Amazing kissed the kids and went back downstairs. I bent down to kiss TT and he asked me if I'd tell him why he keeps so many things. I think he already knew but he wanted me to put it into words for him.

I crawled into bed with TT. I put my arms around him. I said, like I always do, "This is big feeling stuff. If you don't want to talk about it right now I understand."

He said he wanted to talk about it.

His eyes welled up with tears when I told him the connection of loss...abandonment...adoption...and his things. I said that he hurts so bad inside because he lost his first mom that it scares him to lose other things too.

The next day I didn't make him clean his shelves off any more. He did a good enough job the first time around and he's got room for all the things he has now so it wasn't necessary.

I just have to pray that next time it IS necessary to cull the collection that I will be more sympathetic!! I have to remember the connection myself. Because if I can help him remember his truths, it might be easier for him to throw away school notebooks from three years ago.


Funny story...
Daisy's new bouncer toy arrived in the mail yesterday. TT wanted to put it together himself. The directions were a little bit confusing and he ended up needing some help. But overall, he did most of it by himself. He was quite proud!
When it was all put together there were two screws left over. Everything looked right so we assumed they were extras. We directed TT to throw them away. He got up with the miscellaneous bags and bits of trash and took everything to the garbage can.

Right before I put Daisy in it for the first time I grabbed one of the toy bars to move the bouncer. The toy bar lifted right off. Puzzled, I turned it over to see exactly two screw holes in the bottom. I looked at TT and asked him if he had kept the screws.

His answer, "I disobeyed. And now I get to save the day."

The turkey couldn't bring himself to throw away two tiny screws. Thankfully he didn't.
But at least now I understand why!


MamaFoster said...

Oh that sweet boy of yours.

Deb said...

What a sweet story about the screws.

I remember our 6 year old foster daughter would keep EVERYTHING! Drove me crazy but I tried to understand it as she had nothing when she came to us and was happy to have something even if it was just the cardboard box her birthday present came in.

So glad you made the connection with TT and his things. Hope it helps in days ahead for both of you to handle all his collections.

Bessy said...

Loved that you stopped to explain the "Why" too him! I find that is when we make the most progress, helping them make those connections and put them into words. Keep up the great work!

Foster Mom - R said...

Parenting win! I have a collector right now. He lines everything up so he can look at it. We phase getting rid of stuff as "donating". So clothes or toys get donated. Sometimes I make the executive decision of donating them to the garbage and don't share that with the kids.

Last Mom said...

Stuff is so hard for my girl, too.