Hope’s life is a filled with trigger land mines. I’ve learned where most of them are; every now and then a new one will pop up. I make a mental note and try to just push on.
It’s hard though because sometimes I feel like I have to give up some aspect of my life in order to avoid triggering her.
Sure, parenting is full of sacrifices. There’s always something, right? I try to remember that someday I’ll get to live fully again, but the reality is that I know that this parenting thing is life altering. Once some things are gone, they are just gone. I won’t go back to them. There are simple luxuries that I miss, like not having the same sad story told a million times because we stumbled over a trigger.
I mean, yes, I get it. Yes, I try to appropriately respond; yes, I know that it’s a good sign that Hope feels comfortable enough to tell me and share things over and over again.
All of that is true, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t grate on my nerves. #realtalk
So, of course the end of the year holidays are a trigger-fest.
Trigger, trigger everywhere!
So, Christmas Eve, Hope and I open presents (or rather I open my 1 present, she opens her 25 presidents). This kid has a vendetta against headphones. She breaks every pair that she take possession of, even the borrowed ones. After buying her what feels like 872 pairs this year, I ponied up and bought her a decent pair of over the ear headphones. They have bells and whistles and were reasonably priced at Ross.
Cool. She oohh and ahhh’d. And then it came….
“I used to have a pair of blue Skull Candy headphones, but a foster parent took them from me. I got them at a giveaway and she really liked them so she just took them.” Hope frowned as she was looking at the box of new headphones.
I’ve heard this story many times. It’s one of the reasons I went with over ear headphones rather than more earbuds. I guess I knew it would trigger her, but I thought maybe she might have moved a little bit forward. #nope
She hadn’t. So I prompted her to, “Yes, sweetie, I know that was hard for you. Someone took your stuff and that wasn’t right. Now you have a new pair of headphones that are really nice. I won’t take them from you. They are yours forever.”
“I know…but…she…” “No, Hope, look forward, you’re missing out on opening that box and checking out the ones in your hand, right now. They are yours. This is real.”
It took her 2 days before she opened the box to really take a look at them.
Sister M has a new dog, a gorgeous, 6 month old pit bull puppy who is goofy as all get out.
“I had a red nosed pit bull puppy once. She was pretty. She was supposed to be mine. But they gave him to my dad’s girlfriend’s son. He was supposed to be mine.”
I’ve heard this story what feels like 1000s of times.
“Yes, Hope. I know that was rough. You lost so much stuff along the way. I’m sure the puppy was special to you. I know that she can’t really be replaced, but remember that you have a family now and Yappy is a part of our family. Aunt M’s dog is a part of the family too. We will go visit him and one day, when you’re grown you can get your very own puppy.”
“I know but that puppy…she was mine.”
“Yes, I know sweetie.”
At the jewelry show…”I want a watch like my dad’s.” We visited 10 watch booths. None had an exact replica of her father’s watch, which she seems to have trouble describing.
I was pleased to see that this year she didn’t cry when we didn’t find the watch.
Could we find a watch “kinda” like it? Was this one close enough?
Nope. It needed to be exactly like her father’s watch.
After three years, I’ve gotten much better at being compassionate and empathetic during these moments, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also trigger a place in my own brain that screams, “Oh God when will we be able to move past this?????”
Of course, it’s only been three years after how many difficult one’s she had? Um, yeah, more than 3, quite a few more than 3, so I guess I had better get over myself.
But the repetition, the triggers, they always make me feel like we aren’t making progress. I know that’s not true, but it’s hard. You push through to some new stuff and you feel like your kid is doing the dang thing and whoops, you trip over a rock and out comes the story you’ve heard a million times complete with all the emotion that was there the first time you heard it.
It’s a bit demoralizing.
More than anything I want Hope to heal from her trauma. I know that this is part of getting there. But I’m impatient, easily annoyed and occasionally, really selfish.
The truth is that in many ways these three years feel like I’ve lived a whole lifetime because there’s been so much upheaval. I’ve got a lot more gray hair. I’m carrying another 20 15lbs or so. I’m tired. I’m on more antidepressants. I have more crinkles around my eyes. I feel like 10 years have passed.
On the other end of the spectrum, this time has flown by. I struggle to remember how many Christmas’ we’ve been a family. It’s hard to believe that The Furry One has been gone nearly 2 ½ years and that Yappy has been with us for all of our Christmas’s. I’m shocked that it seems just yesterday I was enrolling Hope in 7th grade and now she’s in 10th.
The journey has my sense of time all jumbled up, which also makes my expectations of Hope’s healing speed a bit messy as well. Why isn’t she healing from the trauma as quickly as it feels like I’m aging while trying to help her heal from the trauma????
The upside in all of this is that I know what most of the triggers are, and now, Hope is stronger and can talk to me about her triggers. That’s progress. Actually, that’s a lot of progress.
While I can see and acknowledge all this progress; It’s still true that side stepping Hope’s land mines is hard, exhausting work. Both things are true. Being there for her isn’t always easy. It’s just not. Wishing that I didn’t have to hear the stories for the zillionth time is still true.
But I’ll listen for as long as it takes.