Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Bad Holidays

'Tis the Fourth of July again. It is my trigger holiday, although I think I am too wiped out to have much emotion one way or another. Last year it bothered me more than usual, and I think I am back to my typical pattern. My emotions are subdued (maybe in part because I am so tired after the respite care marathon), and once again the holiday is today has caught me slightly by surprise.

I know it is because we don't celebrate it. I don't, like with all the other holidays, think in advance about what we should do. I don't plan a menu, bake pies in advance, keep an internal count-down of the days as I engage in preparations.

What I do do is think about triggers and foster kids.

See, something really bad happened on the fourth of July twelve years ago. I have processed my feelings in multiple ways. I understand that nothing bad is going to happen today. I will not have an anxiety attack or cry. Well, maybe I will cry, but it will just be a few quiet tears, not sobbing. I will however think about that day. I will wonder where he is and how he is. I will calculate his current age (15 or 16) and wonder if he is doing the things that other kids his age do. Perhaps he re-learned all the skills and knowledge he lost that day. Perhaps those who know him now would never guess. I will wish that I had not lost contact with his mother. I will wonder if she simply stopped writing to me, or if talking to me is somehow painful. I do not think that she thinks poorly of me, but I could believe that thinking about me involves thinking about that day her life also changed. So maybe it was just easier for her not to think about me. Maybe that is why she did not contact me after she moved years ago.

I will feel sad and I will try to shake that feeling. I am an adult, and I will deal with my feelings in a way that does not affect other people (aside from my not planning any appropriate celebration). I might vent a little on the blog, but I will spend the day looking and acting pretty much the same way I do on any other day.

And I will think about all the children we care for. How many holidays are like this for them? Do they have powerful negative emotions associated with all of them? The holidays are usually excuses for excess.

We often have unrealistic expectations for the children we love. We hope that while in our care they will heal from the trauma they have experienced. We hope that it will somehow go away. That the past will stay in the past, and they will come to enjoy the events once associated with pain.

Though that is possible, I think it is unrealistic. I think instead our goal should be that they will understand their triggers so that when those triggers come around they will know why they feel the way they do and will be able to take care of themselves without hurting people around them.

And that is a lot.


  1. I thought about this today when Callie asked me what our family does regarding food on the fourth. She really wanted to make cupcakes but nobody would ever let her because they weren't typical fourth food. Then yesterday she saw some family members while we were out shopping and she got very upset. I'm not sure what triggered her and I really didn't feel like going to the store with everyone, but now she is making cupcakes and is happy as a clam. Reminded me that it is about adapting to the needs of the child instead of them trying to adapt to fit in with your preconceived notions.

  2. I just read last years post...what a sad story. This is just the type of thing that can so easily happen (and does!) and there is little that you can do about it. Waiting for a minute and feeling frustrated at being the lifeguard for everyone is a normal healthy feeling, and when you realized something was amiss you jumped right in and saved that boy's life! Funny how you focus on the negative, isn't it? (not you you but the collective you).

    And yes, I think that most holidays are huge triggers for kids in care.


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