Friday, September 19, 2008

Sometimes I'm a Little Slow

Tomorrow Roland and I are taking Andrew to college. We all three fly out early in the morning. I am coming back in the evening, and Roland is coming back Sunday morning. Gary has known about this for months. I had told him before to consider who he might want to spend the day with, if we had to have him spend the day with a licensed foster parent. Then I told him that I had an idea of who could stay at the house, which he said he vastly preferred. Two weeks ago I assured him that I had found someone.

And I didn't really think about whether our leaving would be a trigger for any of his anxiety and pain.

I mean, really? Why would the parents of the family packing suitcases, taking off in an airplane and saying, "Don't worry, we'll be back" trigger any trauma in a kid who has experience abandonment and rejection?

Like I said, a little slow.

He keeps everything under control. He doesn't let anything upset him. He accepts disappointment with the calm that comes from long practice. He doesn't get angry.

But this morning he said, "when exactly are you two leaving?"

I said, "About six am."

And then I saw it -- that anxiety in his eyes. It was a flash, but it was there.

Consciously he knows that he is not going to be abandoned. He believes we are coming back. But PTSD triggers aren't rational. I know, I got a couple myself. Most people have something like it. I fell and hurt my hand once. For months after that whenever I walked that path I would realize that I was holding my hand close to my body. That is not PTSD, but maybe you get the idea. It isn't that I was rationally concerned that I might hurt my hand; it was just an emotional reaction to a situation.

So Gary needs some reassurance for the anxiety, but at the same time he will need respect for his rational understanding.

Does that make sense? If I treat him like he really doesn't believe that I am coming back, I will insult him. If I ignore his anxiety completely, I won't have harmed him, but I won't also be an effective parent.

So I think what I will do tonight is to put Gary in charge of all the information to reach us at any time - just in case the "teensitter" who is coming over needs us. I'll give him whole itinerary, where we will be and when we will be there. What times we will be on the plane and unable to answer the cell phone, and assurances that if the teensitter needs anything, or if he needs anything, he should call. I will also give him all the emergency numbers to call in case anything were to happen. I think that all that will help.

You know, especially if I don't act like I think HE needs all that information. Cause he isn't a baby you know.


  1. Great idea. That way he is doing YOU a favor, by being responsible and all that. I think you should give him some assignments too. Or perhaps you could just plan to "forget" a couple of things that need to get done while you are gone. Oh my gosh, I rushed off so fast, I forgot to feed the dog, could you do that for me? Oh I am so glad you are there, I don't know what we would have done without you holding down the fort for us... kind of thing. What do you think?

  2. You never know what is going to trigger that anxiety either. When We first got our Foster kids we were going on vacation and I went up in the attic and pulled out the big brown suitcase....not thinking about it being such a big deal until 3 of my 4 had melt downs in about 2 hours.


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