Learning to navigate the Holidays and Trauma

Most people mean well, in fact they are pretty supportive. They just don’t understand and I know that. Yesterday I found myself at work in the bathroom with someone who said boys are so much easier than girls. That may be true, but any child with trauma is a whole different level. I know that people don’t get it not unless they have a child with trauma. Some think that I am too overly accommodating to Carter and his trauma at the holidays.

The truth is, I know that Carter needs to feel in control especially at the holidays. You know he has had some pretty traumatic Christmas and Thanksgiving Holidays. So I have learned how to pivot to make this a better experience for both of us. In other words, I give choices we discuss our holiday plans. I also have learned to allow Carter to make choices that are going to make our holiday less stressful for both of us. For example, he went to his adopted grandparents house on Christmas Day and stayed there for a few days. This was hard for me, I want him to be with me all day on Christmas. I also knew that if I didn’t make it an option then my time with him wouldn’t be great. Meaning is it really worth it in the end?

Instead he got up we opened presents and went to church. After church I brought him to his grandparents. It was hard for me to drop him off. Yet he was so excited to go. I want him to be excited to go there. They love on and spoil him in just the right ways. I need to let him make better Christmas memories. I need to let him have choices, he isn’t a little kid anymore.

I started making sure we did all the things earlier in the month. Asking him his opinion, yet subtly guiding him. So we made cookies and decorated them. We had our friends judge them. We went Christmas caroling. He was in the church and school Christmas concerts. He went to youth growth Christmas party with his girl friend. We went and blessed a family in town as we always do. We went in the car and looked at Christmas lights. We did all the things. We did all the things on a timeline that works for both of us.

You have to understand, when Carter was growing up it was constant chaos, and uncertainty. Life is uncertain and I know that. I also know that during stressful times that remind him of that very chaotic time he seeks control (aka any holiday). So I have really learned to go with the flow and give up control. Which because of my traumatic childhood isn’t always easy either. I can choose to pivot and give him what he needs or I can try to force him into whatever it is that I want to do. Have you ever tried to force a teenager? It doesn’t work out so well. They can literally refuse to move, and then be a pain and make everyone around them miserable.

It occurred to me one year that I could get stuck in a power struggle or I can give him some control. Now don’t get me wrong there are certain things we just do. I have also learned that if we put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving it helps to get him out of his bad mood. Putting up Christmas is a bad memory, brings up emotions but Thanksgiving is one of his favorite holidays. So decorating before Thanksgiving helps him to snap out of the bad mood putting up decorations can cause. This year was the easiest year yet. My hope is that over the years, it will continue to be less hard and more enjoyable for him. I’m trying to change the script.

Forcing him or the issue doesn’t help. Let me tell you he has been a real stinker these last few weeks. School and church Christmas concert- Mary never let him do that stuff. He feels like he missed out so he often takes that out on me. I am real with him, I tell him don’t let her ruin the fact you have it now. Instead latch on to the fact that you can have it now. Try to get him to enjoy what he has now, instead of dwelling on what he missed out before.

It also means we still do “Santa” and his elf comes every year. For him it’s a chance to relive and reinvent holidays for himself. I’m hoping that it will help heal his heart over time. It’s a process and it is hard. I want healing for him. I want him to have great Christmas’s with his wife and kids some day. I’m hoping that doing it in a way that God is leading me will give him that. I know only God’s healing and wisdom can heal Carters heart and break the chains of our family sin patterns.

It also means that I set my expectations low. That even on great days and moments it is going to come with a lot of attitude. For example, Carter has wanted a real dresser for a while now. I found one on Facebook marketplace for cheap. It was amazing. We cleaned out the car and went and got it today. You would think this would be amazing that he would be so happy. You would be wrong. He was happy but he was also mad, crass, and snarky.

We were taking apart his old dresser and setting up his new one. He was miserable, complaining about how long it was taking (it took 10 minutes), and about how he just wanted to relax. I wanted to explode on him. He literally had a friend over all morning into the afternoon, I got them lunch. Then took his friend home and then we picked up the dresser. He had a great day, and yet he was being miserable about the dresser he wanted.

Finally I said to him, what are you so miserable about. I told him that from where I stand he had a great day and also got a dresser he really wanted. That’s when he said it, but the dresser makes me upset. I asked why. He replied Mary never got me my own dresser let alone replace one and made sure I liked the new one. I never had my own dresser before, I always shared with Mary. You never make me share. To which I replied well we share a closet. Carter said yeah but you don’t have a dresser of your own, I shouldn’t complain about sharing a closet. I asked him so what is bothering you. The fact that I don’t have a dresser or the fact that you now do. He replied that you put my needs first and Mary she just couldn’t.

That’s what I call a light bulb moment. He isn’t being a spoiled brat, he is processing the shift that is happening in his world. The shift where his needs come first, his needs matter, and that he matters a lot to me. I told him I don’t need a dresser I just need a closet. To which we both laughed. Then I said I don’t care if I don’t have a dresser, I am fine with a closet. What makes this hard is I went out of my way for you to have this dresser, when you act like this is makes me feel like you don’t appreciate it. Carter then said I do appreciate it, and I appreciate you so much. He then said I just wish Mary could have been more like you. I wish I had been born to you from the start.

I didn’t reply maybe I should have, I just feel like sometimes we just need to feel it. We don’t need someone to fix it or make us feel better we just need someone to acknowledge it. So that’s what I did, and then I did my best to transition us into New Years Eve celebrations.

Carter has stuff he is dealing with, it spills into a lot of our day. Yet it has been spilling less and less into our day. That is progress, and I pray that we will continue to move in the direction of healing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: