My son with the trauma history can be very, very anxious about things. Anything. Even things that most children think are fun. It's as if he cannot differentiate between the internal feelings of excitement (as in looking forward to something) and anxiousness. It's all one and the same to him. And then when you throw in the build-up to a birthday, an event which carries with it its own cause for worry/anxiousness/excitement, you get a child pretty constantly hovering over the abyss and parents who wish the virtue of patience came in injectable form.
One thing I have discovered on this journey toward my son's healing, is that not only is patience a virtue, so is humor. (Humor at the situation and not directed at the child, I might add.) On my good days, I can remember to step outside myself and look to see what I can find funny in the situation. (On my not-so-good days? Let's just say it isn't pretty... or humorous.) Being able to laugh at a situation is far better than either getting angry or despairing. And sometimes humor can be healing.
This past week, I have been inundated with the "What if...?" questions. These are the earnestly asked questions, which stem from his anxiety, but have no real answer. At least not the answer he needs. For instance, "What if a train jumps its track and goes through the middle of our house?" I know that the question stems from insecurity and the need he has for me to tell him over and over again that he is safe, but it becomes trying. Especially when the answer of, "That's not going to happen." doesn't suffice. Nor does, "Even if it does, we'll keep you safe." No, he wants the actual emergency plan... who is going to go where and do what. I am badgered until I either distract him or join him in his alternate universe and make up details. Once I can handle, even twice perhaps. But multiple versions of the "What if...?" questions in one afternoon will guarantee that I'm hovering over the abyss right along with him.
In desperation I tried a different tack. Every time I was bombarded with one of these questions, I would make up a similar question of my own, except it involved flying monkeys. For instance, "What will happen if flying monkeys come and take away our washing machine?" They were crazy enough that he knew there was no point in asking what would happen, but it had the beneficial effect of distracting him from his original question. Later that afternoon, long about my fifth flying monkey question, he finally looks at me and says,"You know, Mommy, I'm getting really tired of these flying monkeys." said with the same tone of voice that I hear myself use when the patience is almost all used up. It was all I could do to not double over in laughter.
It also had a very positive side as well. I was able to use his tiredness of the flying monkeys to describe how I felt when he asked the endless "What if...?" questions. That they were equally as fanciful and unanswerable. And to assure him that ultimately, God watches over us whether the flying monkeys decide to attack or not.