*The line is borrowed from the Sara Groves song, "It Might be Hope", which I really, really love.
Since I have shared several times about the tumultuousness of parenting TM on his road to healing, I realized I should update you on how life has been recently. And, praise God, we are seeing glimmers of hope for the healing of his deep, deep wounds. I am experienced enough now to know that we will probably have to go back over old territory more than a few times, but I am also experienced enough now to better appreciate the positive gains that present themselves.
And what are those positives that we are seeing? Well, the first big one is that we have watched him be able to self-regulate better. Things still frustrate him, but he is more likely to remove himself from the situation or redirect himself. This is pretty huge.
We've purposefully done a couple of things to help facilitate that ability. The first, at the recommendation of our therapist, is that we made a caution card. In therapy discussions, we have discovered that we think TM begins to disassociate long before we are aware that we are in dangerous waters. By the time we've made that realization, he is too far gone to even be able to hear us and if we engage too much with him, we just exacerbate the problem. Words just don't work at this point. So we have made something that can be a visual clue which circumnavigates the non-working language parts of the brain so that the information can register. TM and I made it together. We chose a day-glow yellow index card that I drew lightning bolts on. TM wanted me to add the word 'caution' as well. When I show this to him, it indicates that he is heading into dangerous territory and that he needs to take himself away to regroup. I have only had to use it a couple of times, but it seems to help.
The other thing we did was to bite the bullet and buy a weighted blanket. We've known for a long time that he is a sensory seeker and really needs deep muscle input. It helps him to feel that everything is in the right place. I have to say that I wish I had bought one sooner... it has really been a great aid for him. He loves it. When it arrived, we opened the box and he immediately put it around his shoulders and let out a deep sigh. His next statement was illuminating. "I can't be wild when I have this on." He has been sleeping under it at night (and his bed is significantly less like a hurricane hit it in morning) and every so often just sits with it around him during the day. If you have been on the fence about spending the money on one, I encourage you to go ahead and do it.
Another interesting thing I have noticed is that he is interested in verbalizing things more. It's one of the things we're aiming for, in fact. But in the process, I am noticing that he doesn't always have the right word available at the moment he needs it. I can watch him struggle to find the word that he needs. I have been giving him lots of room to find what he wants to say before I jump in and that has helped. He eventually gets to the word he wants, but is makes me wonder.
It makes me wonder if some of the frustration we have seen from him in the past is actually language based. Many children adopted at a young age learn the new language extremely fast. TM was functionally fluent in English after being home just three months. But functionally fluent and actually fluent and able to use the language in an academic fashion are two very different things. Seven years is the number I hear for a child to be able to be academically fluent in a language. At that's at about where we are... 7 years home in July. In conjunction with finding the right word to use to express his thoughts, we have also seen a jump in his reading comprehension, ability, and willingness to read. I know there is so much going on besides language acquisition, but everything is tied in together and a greater facility with language can't hurt.
Another positive we have been seeing is that at least a couple of times TM has expressed a feeling to me. As in, "I feel happy" or "I feel excited". I know this might not seem to be a big deal, but you have to know that in all the time we've been his parents, he has never uttered a statement that expressed how he was feeling. (OK, I take back the never and I'll change it to once. That one time he told me that he loved me.) Part of the way he deals with his past hurts is to cut himself off from what he is feeling. It's not that he doesn't want to share, it's that he has no knowledge of what he is feeling. He just doesn't know the majority of the time. His therapist has been doing a lot of work with naming feelings and we have been doing the same at home. Essentially, I have spent a lot of time naming the feeling that I imagine he is experiencing. Thus, to have him share even once or twice, how he is feeling is kind of big news.
The biggest thing that tells me that life has been a little less rocky around here is the fact that I now go for days on end without my stomach tying itself into knots. It's quite relaxing, actually. And, as the therapist commented when I shared this with her, it can't but help the entire household. She's right. A relaxed mother goes a long way towards helping to create a relaxed household.
Now, life isn't perfect; it never is. We still have a long road to go, but with this respite I feel recharged to continue the battle when the next round comes. And I will remind myself of the positives we've seen. Because sometimes you just need a little hope.