How Do You Stop a Freight Train?

We could see it coming for a few days. You only wonder when it’s going to happen. The explosion- the full blown temper tantrum of a traumatized child- is something that as a parent I’ve come to expect. It doesn’t mean that want to see it, and I wish it would go away.

What are the warning signs for us as parents? Usually verbal disagreement with any simple request is a start. My daughter didn’t want to go to the store with me to pick up pet food for the cats. She roamed through the pantry and refrigerator for a snack and drink as if I didn’t exist. When I didn’t offer assistance for her homework because she commanded me to help her in a yelling, frantic tone of voice. It didn’t get any better when my wife arrived home from work.

The part that remains difficult for me is the screaming. I know it’s a primal release, I know she’s attempting to save herself from her past memories. It’s as if she’s lost all sense of who she’s with now and re-living the birth family trauma on a looped motion picture. The people close to us know she’s not being hurt- but I fear outsiders believing that we are harming her.

We tell her after she’s back in good space to just talk to us before she feels like she’s going to lose control. We’ve never punished her for reflecting or difficulties with birth family memories. Although I don’t know what it feels like to have to be removed from my birth home so young, I do feel like I’m a safe place to fall when she needs reassurance, comfort, love and support.

Words are her greatest weapon of choice- and boy she’s been coming out swinging over the past couple of days. Because I work overnights, I’m at the mercy of when certain stores open to take care of the household needs. Grocery stores of course are open by the time I get home- but a pet store doesn’t open around here until a couple of hours after I go to sleep. So I wanted to run errands when my children came home. She went to the older cat and said that “Your dad is a loser because he hasn’t got you food.” A couple of hours later I became a bigger loser when I wanted her to break out her agenda to solve a simple multiplication problem on her homework.

Some days, it’s tough not to take the toxic atmosphere personally. In Deborah Norville’s latest book, The Power of Respect, she mentions ignoring negative behavior as a great lesson for children to understand that this type of attention will not get them the results they desire. That’s oh so tough to follow in practice with traumatized children- who day in and day out look to spread their pain and unhappiness on to others.

I want the freight train to slow down. I want her to start doing the healing work necessary for her to have a healthy adult life. I can’t wipe away the decisions her birth mother, birth father and extended family did or did not make when I wasn’t her father. I know in her mind, there are no do-overs. She feels like she’s trapped in the life that she currently has with no hope for change.

Yes I’m venting- but I need to do this to let people know that raising children of any kind is not a by-the-book experience. I’m on the outside looking in at a daughter with so much promise, so much energy, so much resilience- only if it could be channeled in the right direction. To be continued, as I’ll keep you updated with the progress.

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