We knew taking Spuds on a long trip this early could be a huge trigger. We knew visiting with family and friends along the way could be a huge trigger. Let’s face it, the last time his last family took him to a park to meet new “friends” he met us. The last time they took him on a trip, it was to meet us. Trips + new people = trigger. We knew that was possible, even likely; but what could we do? We couldn’t leave him behind. And? He’s been doing so, so well that I think we were overly optimistic about how the whole things would go.
So far, he’s had six major meltdowns. Four of them were today. Of the six meltdowns, I have held him through one of them and my saintly husband has held him through the rest. Anybody who has a traumatized child understands that “holding” that child through a meltdown can feel more like a wrestling match. It is exhausting both physically and emotionally.
McH is just plain beat after today. He held Spuds through four very public meltdowns: Temple Square in Salt Lake City, City Creek Mall (x2), and Bed Bath and Beyond. He was so unbelievably calm and good with Spuds through all four episodes, even when the BB&B manager kept coming back to check on him and kept sending employees back to check on him. I understand they want to make sure a child isn’t being abused in their store. I understand they want to make sure their merchandise isn’t being destroyed. I understand they don’t want other customers to be scared away. But? The husband and the kid were sitting on the floor, tucked away in a corner of the clearance bedding, and there weren’t that many customers in the store (we were shopping about 45 minutes away from the university to avoid the college crowds). After a couple flybys with no evidence of child abuse, maybe just leave a man to restrain his child for everyone’s safety in peace, you know? The comforters will be just fine.
Anyway, the husband is exhausted. The now quite happy kid isn’t. The surprising thing to me? I am exhausted. I am exhausted because we were with friends all day — friends we only get to see if we are visiting Utah — and so, while my husband was doing the hard work, I was pretending like everything was okay. Just a normal day with a hurt child. It’s okay, nothing to see here, I’m not embarrassed, everything will be fine, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty that we are doing things that are triggering him or that my husband is bearing the brunt of it all right now. I didn’t know what else to do.
Just to be clear, I’m not exhausted because of the friends (oh how I wish we all still lived close together), I’m exhausted because of the acting. I don’t know how actors can do what they do and not loose it. Maybe that’s why so many of them wind up in rehab or Scientology.
Ha! I joke. I really know nothing about Scientology except the weird stuff I hear; but how many people know nothing about my church except for the weird stuff they hear, and how much of that weird stuff is just not true or taken totally out of context? So I try to keep an open mind about other “weird” religions, but I digress.
Everything wasn’t okay. It wasn’t a normal day with our hurt child. I wasn’t okay. There was a screaming, kicking, scratching, trying-to-bite child to see. I actually wasn’t embarrassed, believe it or not. I worry that everything won’t be fine, or that it will get much worse for a long time before it gets better. I feel immensely guilty that we have put Spuds in this situation that is triggering him and that my husband has been dealing with it all while I pretend everything is ok.
But I don’t know what our options are or were. We couldn’t leave Spuds at home with grandparents while we trekked west. What message would that have sent? We can’t not shop while we are here, because A~ needs stuff, and we couldn’t buy it all ahead of time and haul it across the country because, with six kids in the car, space is limited. I suppose we could have been total hermits and not visited any family or friends while we are here . . . but? I don’t know. Maybe we should have just been hermits. Maybe we have screwed up royally. I hope we haven’t. I hope that this will help him learn that he can trust us to not give him away to new people. I mean, I know this one trip won’t do it, but hopefully it will be the beginning of a foundation of some kind. Hopefully, somewhere in that scared and vulnerable psyche of his, he will remember all the conversations I’ve had with him about meeting new people and how we wouldn’t send him away with any of those people, and then he will see that we didn’t, and then, maybe, a little tiny corner of his subconscious will start to think, “Maybe these people will be trustworthy, maybe.”
So many maybes.
At one point, during the last tantrum, he yelled at McH, “You all hate me and you want to get rid of me!” or something like that. Oh, how wrong he is. He has no reason to think we aren’t shopping him around. I know this. It breaks my heart. I hope someday he stops just hearing me say that we want him and love him and actually feels those words. In the past he was told that he wouldn’t be allowed to stay with his family if his behavior didn’t improve. I keep telling him we’ll love him no matter what. I can’t wait until he believes me, deep down in his heart believes me.
This evening, since we’ve been back at the hotel, he’s been fine. No more meltdowns. I took him out in the hallway for a little chat away from the other kids and, once again, reassured him that he is going home with us and staying home with us. He doesn’t like having these little chats where I ask him how he’s feeling and reassure him that we love him. He doesn’t like to talk about anything that involves any kind of introspection or feeling. On the up side, the chat did not lead to another meltdown (they never have before, so I felt pretty confident about chatting again). It did lead to an apology to his dad. Sure, I suggested it, but he agreed that he needed to do it. The apology was semi-mumbled and delivered quickly, lest he should accidentally feel something in the process, but he did it.
I joked today about moving to Utah so that we could live closer to our good friends out here. Spuds immediately piped up, “No! No, I don’t want to live here. I want to live in Canada South!”
Leaving A~ behind is going to come too soon, but getting Spuds home can’t come soon enough.
Tewt the Newt will not permit any more road trips for a long, long, very long time.