I Broke The Baby

In the past four months or so, we’ve seen a dramatic change in T’s trauma-related behaviors. I think some of the transformation has to do with language acquisition. It helps that he’s often able to name the big feelings and to identify when he’s gone off the rails. There have been a few times lately that I had to contain him in public and he was able to say, I’m having a hard time.

For those of you not dealing with violent behaviors, when I say contain him, I mean I sit behind him holding his arms and his head (so he can’t bite) and I wrap my legs around his. I’ll tell you this about containing him- It’s horrible. It feels horrible; it looks horrible; people stare at you like you’re a monster. Purely for safety reasons, we used to have to contain him up to ten times a day. I regularly had bite marks on my chest and up and down my arms.

This is no longer the case (I say, doing a jig of glee). We now go days without a crazy violent tantrum. We can take him to the park, to the museum, to birthday parties. I don’t have to hover a foot away when he’s playing with other kids.

It’s a huge effort for him to control his aggressive impulses. Things that are a given for many kids are a true achievement for him. I see in his face how hard he’s trying and it can bring tears to my eyes. Both because I’m amazed at his resilience and because I still sometimes feel so helpless and sad in the face of all the pain he’s weathered in his short life.

In fact, his behavior is so much better that I can easily forget everything I know about his sensitivity to sensory input. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s easy to do when you’re having fun. There have been a couple of times in the past few weeks that I have seen the signs of dysregulation and let it slide. Last Sunday, Scott was out of town and T and I were having a big adventure day: museum, party, carousel. We ate about twelve gluten-free cupcakes. It was awesome. And it was WAY too much. He actually wound up so dysregulated at the end of the day that he was literally shaking and his eyes were rolling back in his head. I imagined I could see the smoke coming out of his ears from the short circuiting. I called Scott and said, I broke the baby. Luckily, the baby reset. But, man, did I feel like a jerk.

When his dysregulation gets that profound, I can clearly see its physiological component. The neurological aspect of T’s challenges is obviously an important thing to remember in our difficult moments, but I’m learning that it’s equally important to remember when things are going well. I’m not a person who’s generally known for my wonderfully balanced emotional life, so parenting T is a constant opportunity to exercise some underutilized muscles. Yet again, my kid is giving me every lesson I need.

6 Responses to 'I Broke The Baby'

  1. Essie says:

    Hi- I saw a link here on fb. I know exactly what you mean when you can see how hard your child is trying and it bring you to tears. It’s so difficult for them and so unfair that is has to be that way. My daughter is such an open book that I can watch her internal struggle on her face. When things are going well we want desperately to stretch it out, to get as much out of is as possible to carry us through the inevitable crash. Don’t be hard on yourself. You want to enjoy your son enjoying himself, it’s not a bad thing.

  2. Jess says:

    I saw the link to your blog on Owlhaven. I feel like I could have written a very similar post. I have a little 2.5 year old with attachment/trauma issues, as well as sensory issues. I know the violent tantrums all too well, and the need to contain him so that no one (including himself) gets hurt. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

  3. Felicity says:

    Untrained! I tried to use restraining techniques on my daughter (which I had learned at work) for mild tantrums. Not the best plan ever. So I can relate to how awful it feels to do it. <3 Big props to all 3 of you!

  4. Such a great post – I know so many of us can relate to that feeling of things that are a “given” for others being so much harder for our kids. I’ve loved being an occasional witness to his growth over this past year. He’s such an incredible, warm, fun, and loving kid, and you guys are doing an amazing job giving him the skills he needs to regulate.

  5. Heather says:

    Thanks for this post. I admire your ability to both identify and understand the behavior that to most (okay, me) would be overwhelming and debilitating. I don’t know what this feels like (our son isn’t home yet), but I file these posts away as Important Things Adoptive Parents Can Teach Me.

  6. Anne says:

    Thank you for writing with such honesty! I have been down the same road with my daughter. She has sensory/behaviorial problems and didn’t learn true coping skills until she was an adult.Keep doing what you are doing, trust your gut and don’t be afraid to challenge the doctors or therapists.
    It will get better, all of your hard work will pay off. My girl is now 23 and we are best friends.

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