Carter and I woke up today. Had a great morning, laughing and joking around. He even spent some time using his Bible app, he had it reading to him. Then something innocent made a turn for our day.
I began singing the song “I’m bringing home my baby bumblebee”. I don’t know why it came into my head, but I sang it aloud none the less. Carter instantly came into the room and rudely stated “Don’t ever sing that stupid song again, I hate it.” Now while I can appreciate that he was clearly triggered in someway, I could tell by his body language and his close to tears look in his eyes. I calmly (although I wanted to raise my voice to his and unfortunately don’t always stay as calm as I should) stated that I didn’t like the way he was expressing how he was feeling, and asked why he was so upset. He angrily said no reason which I knew wasn’t true. I was sitting on the floor dusting so I replied, when you normally don’t like a song I’m singing you ask me nicely not to sing it aloud. This clearly had a much stronger responce so I’m sure there is a reason. I said that if he wanted to talk I was here, and if he wanted me not to sing that song or another one he needs to ask me nicely. He then although with aggravation in his voice stated Mom can you please not sign that song. I said sure.
Unfortunately, I knew that while it was good that he could say it nicely, that if he didn’t express what was wrong that he would act out. I reminded him of our three and talk rule. Meaning if he continued to act out that after the third time we needed to talk about it before we moved on. He said he knew and again that nothing was wrong.
Sundays are kinda a morning where we ease into our day, this snowy Sunday day was no different. We have an evening service right now at our church. So we often stay in PJs until we shower and get dressed for church. Carter knew he had to get in the shower, before we went to church, as it was the super bowl after and we wouldn’t be getting home until late.
He began to find ways to pick a fight with me. I’m not going to shower, and I replied that’s your choice. Then he said so you won’t give me an unhappy face. He was referring to his behavior chart where he earned smiley faces for game time. I said you are free to chose, but if you chose not to shower you know you will get an unhappy face. Of course at this he started slamming around the house in anger. I told him that was one. He said no it’s not. I ignored him. Then he started by trying to argue with me about video game ratings. I simply said you know the rules I’m not going to fight with you about it. He got rude again. I told him that was two. I asked if he needed a talk or a hug or something else that would help him. He said no I don’t need anything, nothing is wrong. I was listening to a book on my Alexa he came out and rudely turned it off. He said I don’t want to listen to that. I said then go in your room and close your door. It isn’t on loudly and you can close your door and you won’t hear it. I don’t want to close my door. I said that is your choice but I’m not turning off the audio book. He got furious saying that he can’t do anything right, and he never gets his way. I said well not when your trying to picking battles with me. You are upset and when you get upset you try to pick battles. I then said that is three.
Now you maybe looking at this as normal teenage behavior, and sometimes it is. The truth is I knew I triggered him with that song. I didn’t mean to but I did. It is hard to describe because it wasn’t just his response it was his body language and look he gets in his eyes. He wanted to talk I’m guessing because he was trying to pick battles with me. For when I said that was three. He sat down in a huff but resigning himself to a talk. He has at times refused and walked away and thrown more of a fit. He has gotten a lot better and honestly I think he wanted to talk but I still wasn’t sure why he still can’t just say that.
He said I’m sorry. I said why are you sorry. He said because I just was trying to get on your nerves. I asked him why. He said because I really don’t like that song. I asked him why and he hesitated. I said do you know why and he nodded his head. He said it reminded him of his mom. That she used to sing it all the time (this made sense because back in the day we both worked in the same preschool and we often sang this song at school). I asked why it upset him though. He said that when his mom was upset she would sing that song to try and calm down. That wouldn’t work and then Carter would eventually do something that upset Mary. Unfortunately, Mary would then hit him. It was no wonder why it had triggered such a strong response. I said I’m so sorry sweet heart no wonder why you got so upset. That was very wrong and it shouldn’t have happened to you. I told him I was proud of him for being brave and telling me. I told him I’d do my best not to sing the song anymore. But that we needed to talk about this is therapy this week. Also, that there are better and more productive ways to express his feelings. He agreed and apologizing for his behavior we went on throughout our day. His behavior was good for the rest of the day. When we got to church he took a little snow off the car and teased he’d throw it at me. So I got some snow too making a snow ball, telling him I would return the favor. He touched me with the snowball on my back but I thought he had thrown it at me. So I took my snowball and put it down his shirt. We went into church laughing and carrying on.
This was a good outcome and it was solved relatively quickly. However, sometimes he can carry on for a whole day or days when something like this triggers him. Especially if he is triggered and I’m not around. If I can tell something triggered him I can comment on a similar situation or ask questions. When I don’t know what happened it can take a lot longer to get to the meat of it. Carter is a great kid, and I am learning and have been learning about how to deal with his trauma responses.
Resources to help deal with a child’s trauma:
https://childmind.org/guide/helping-children-cope-after-a-traumatic-event/ . This is a great resources and helps you deal with the trauma also giving specific advice for different age groups.
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubpdfs/child-trauma.pdf. This was another great resource I found.
Another resource was a book read “Healing the Heart” by Christine Fonseca