Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Emotional Container

Parenting is exhausting. So. Very. Exhausting.

I'm pretty sure no parent is going to argue with me on that. There are many exhausting things about being a parent.

Never-ending dishes from 5 people.

Toys. Oh, so many toys. Everywhere.

Constant refereeing.

The mountain of laundry that comes from having 3 little boys...the majority of whom wet the bed, nightly.

The ceaseless effort that goes into trying to raise them to be somewhat well-functioning beings.

Never sleeping in. Ever. Ever.

Yes, all of these things (and many many more) are what makes parenting exhausting many days.

But then there are those days. Days where "exhausting" doesn't even being to describe the day we've had, or how spent I feel. No, some days leave me far more than exhausted, they leave me weary.

Yesterday was just such a day. We've had many days like this. Sometimes it's because several of the many (many) appointments we have to schedule regularly happen to fall within the same 48 hours, and then, just for fun, all the boys decide to lose their minds. Other times, it may be because one of the boys is working through something difficult that we can't see, which sends him into a frenzy over the purple-ness of the berries in his cereal, which somehow today are much more purple than the every other day (yes, this actually happened). Sometimes it's a school thing, sometimes it's a trauma thing, sometimes it's a birth mom thing, sometimes it's a brother thing.

Well yesterday it was like an everything thing. It started at school -- complete defiance. All day long. Then it escalated at home into the mother of all tantrums (several hours of screaming, stomping, kicking, crying, insults, drawing on the walls, etc).

Lucky for us (and not so lucky for the babysitter), we had to go to a foster care training last night, after the worst of the tantrum was over, but before we had a chance to talk him through it. It was perfect timing in fact, because the training we are currently taking is to help better understand and respond to children who have experienced trauma.

This class is gold. There are so many helpful insights. But one thing in particular stuck out to me last night. One of the trainers, who is a former case worker as well as a seasoned foster and adoptive mom, said that foster and adoptive parents of children who have experienced trauma need to be emotional containers for their children. This means providing a safe environment where the children can feel and express the entire range of complicated emotions that comes with repeated trauma.

Often, my children respond in ways that don't seem to make any sense in a situation, or seem like gross overreactions, at best. But, then I remind myself of the things we know they've experienced, and I cannot begin to relate to what is going on in their minds because of the fact that they view the world through trauma-tainted glasses.

Being an emotional container is wearying. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But, if I do not allow my children to feel whatever they feel about what has been done to them (while teaching them appropriate alternatives to expressing those emotions), I am only solidifying in their minds the messages that their trauma has piled up in them -- you're worthless, no one loves you, you are not important.

I refuse to speak one more negative message into the lives of my precious children. So, we battle on through the hardest days. We brace ourselves, as emotional containers, for the onslaught of emotional vomit that has come as a result of years and years of trauma. And at the end of the day, we are weary. But I also know where I can find Rest for my soul and where I can find strength to do it all again tomorrow.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

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