This past summer, we visited our daughter's church in SC. We were excited since we've heard messages delivered by this pastor before, but never at one of the church locations. The sheer number of people was a bit overwhelming, but then I was really thrown when I was informed that I HAD to put the kids in their children's rooms because they couldn't accompany us into the service. One of my children immediately went into meltdown, & I informed the woman that they really should revisit that policy based on extenuating circumstances involving children of trauma. I wanted to say more, explain more, but it's hard when your child is right there and you are caught off guard (I did say more in an email later). The effects of trauma can run deep, and parenting children of trauma can look very different to onlookers. This post makes some excellent points about how it can look like we are being too hard on our kiddos or nitpicky about behavior (which we have been questioned on regarding the way we parent one of our sons)...I would also like to add that it can also look like we're being too soft. The woman in charge of children's ministry at that church probably thought I was caving into my child's perceived temper tantrum when in all actuality, I was reacting to her fear and inability to trust that the adults she's left with will keep her safe.
The timing of the above referenced post (I read it late last night) was on the heels of another tough encounter. My two littlest princesses were all dressed up and excited for their Christmas preschool program. Just look at their cuteness!
In the midst of the cuteness and excitement, I am prone to forget and let my guard down. There were 3 preschool classes performing songs together, so you can imagine how full the space was with people. The teachers brought the children out from the gym and lined them up on the stage steps. I noticed that KA kept biting and licking her top lip and thought, "Shoot, I should have given her a tissue" because I thought her bit of a runny nose was bothering her. She did this the whole time, and it still wasn't registering with me. When they were done singing, they were taken back to the gym and one parent was to go pick up their child/children to avoid too much chaos. As I got closer to KA, I noticed something was off. When I asked her what was wrong, she immediately began sobbing. I cursed under my breath because it hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though she is almost 6 years old, I scooped her up and held her like a baby. She battles often with a fear that her family will disappear, and last night all she could see was a sea of unfamiliar faces. As I collected KH and we were walking out, I was getting all these looks and 'knowing' smiles like, "Aww, she got stage fright" and all I wanted to do was scream, "NOOOOO!!! SHE THOUGHT WE WERE GONE FOREVER!!!" But there is no time to explain when you have kicked into high gear trauma damage control. Had I been on my game, I would have marched up there right in the middle of everything to say, "We're here. It's okay." or even just taken her out of the whole thing and held her. But even knowing what I know--that things are not always what they seem--I got lost in the cuteness and excitement.
You might be wondering why we can't just explain it to her. Believe me, we reassure often. But the thing is, you can't talk children out of trauma. Childhood trauma is an ugly thing that causes false beliefs and survival behaviors. The hope is that time and growing trust will negate most of the insecurities, but in the meantime, we do things different. Right after the program, we had to head to the high school for the rest of the JV and Varsity boys basketball games. KA wanted to play with my hair, which she tends to do when she feels anxious. So right there in the middle of many people at a basketball game, she was running her fingers through my hair, twisting it, fluffing it, you name it...and all the while she was singing her Christmas songs in my ear. To some, it may have looked like a mother not attending to a child making a mess of her hair; in reality, it was a mother allowing her child to perform her Christmas program in safety.