Yesterday was the lunar new year. Usually we do something to observe it and I had even planned on doing so this year. I had special food, was going to make a cake, and even had a craft planned. But we ended up pretty much ignoring the day, though we did eat some of the food.
Why did we do this, particularly since observing the lunar new year is a 'thing' (as in practically a requirement in order to be considered a 'good' parent) among adoptive families with Asian children? And since we even had made a special trip down to the Vietnamese market to purchase some of the food? Well, the short answer is that sometimes you need to let go of something that is good in order to accomplish something better.
I think it all begins back in that Vietnamese marker last Friday. Parenting children with a trauma history is all about knowing triggers. And I'm usually pretty good at knowing what TM's triggers are and how to avoid (or at least mitigate) them. Early on, anything associated with Vietnam had been an issue, but in the past several years this has lessened and I don't think about it so much now. We eat Vietnamese food on a fairly regular basis and TM enjoys it without any issues. So, the weekend took me by surprise. The only thing I can trace back to that could have been a trigger was entering the Vietnamese market.
Vietnam has a certain smell to it. Each country does, I think, because each country's locale is different as well as foods that are typically prepared along with all sorts of other variables. But to me, Vietnam's is unique. (Not unique in a bad way, just very different from home and I actually like it.) Each time I walk into a Vietnamese market, it smells as though I am back in Vietnam. (The winter coat spoils the illusion, but a girl can wish.) And on the trip last Friday, I noticed that TM was particularly struck by what he smelled... and saw... and heard. He was much more engaged with everything in it than he had been the last time we were there together. I actually considered it a good trip and wrote off the escalating degree of talking as over-excitement. It should have been my first warning sign.
We'll be discussing this with the therapist today, but I think all those sights and smells triggered memories (if they are even that tangible) that had been hidden far, far away for a long time. With our long-term therapy work, those feeling and memories are a little more accessible. And it is always far easier to rage to mask the pain than to actually deal with the pain and fear. (This is my explanation for the not-so-great weekend, and I'm going to continue living with this explanation for the moment because it at least provides me with a story that has some forward motion in it. I'm not quite ready to go to the place where he is getting worse and not better. I deal with my pain and fear through denial. A place in which I am quite happy stay.)
All that to say, I could see that TM was stressed beyond belief that we were planning a big party for Tet. Obsessing about what was going to happen, when it was going to happen, what we were going to eat, when we were going to eat, etc., etc. interspersed with some really difficult behavior was my clue. I finally just mentioned that we were going to skip it all. I would fix the ginger chicken, rice, and cucumber salad (which is a normal dinner for us) and that would be it. I helped TM make a small quilt (I'll show pictures when it's done; it's pretty darn good) and the rest of the day went calmly. Taking the pressure off from the holiday made a huge difference.