Let me tell you about this time I did something right with Boohoo. It stands out because
there aren’t that many to choose from it’s usually hard to tell what has upset her and therefore hard to get at the root of the matter. She’s a preschooler so she doesn’t have a huge amount of insight, her trauma was all when she was preverbal, and she rarely can answer a direct question. But as she’s getting older sometimes she just comes out with these “zingers of truth” where she expresses her hurt clearly enough even for this less than bright mama to not miss.
I was taking the kids home for the 4th of July. Andrew was at work already. The kids were stoked about going to see our family. We were all so excited. “All” I had to do was get the last-minute stuff together, get the kids around, pack the van up, and go.
I had cartoons on for the kids. I just needed them to watch the cartoons so I could get everything where it needed to be. Poor Boohoo could not control herself. She was wired, off the wall, in the way, under my feet, poking at her brothers. I could not manage her and get the van loaded. I told her she needed to play in her room while I put the suitcases in the car.
I was specific that she was not in trouble. Mommy was hurrying so we could go on our trip. I needed her to play in her room so I could get it done. I was gentle. I was calm. She went upstairs and was fine. I was proud of all of us for being able to handle what needed to be handled. I lugged all our stuff out to the driveway and loaded it to the point that it was time to put the kids in and finish packing around them. (I’m not the only one that does that, am I?)
I came back inside the house and she was screaming and crying hysterically, “MOMMY IS GOING TO LEAVE WITHOUT ME! MOMMY IS GOING TO LEAVE WITHOUT ME! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!”
It was a knife to the heart. An, “Oh, Jesus” prayer slipped through my lips as I raced up the steps and scooped her up. She calmed down pretty easily, we washed the snot and tears away. Then it was time to talk.
“Boohoo, mommy is NOT going to leave without you.”
She nodded with her sad face on because clearly sometimes mommies do leave without their kids no matter what I tell her.
“Boohoo, mommy is NOT! going to leave without you.”
She nods again.
“I want you to say it.”
She mumbled it.
“Okay, let’s say it louder. Together."
We did. Then again at my insistence louder.
“Now let’s say, ‘Mommy is NEVER going to leave without me".”
We were at a pretty good volume by this point, but I decided that we were going to give this as much noise and emotional energy as the fear stole from her.
“Good. Now let’s say say, ‘Mommy is NEVER EVER going to leave without me.’”
That’s where I got the first wobbly smile out of her because ‘never ever’ is silly and apparently mom had lost her marbles by this point. We “never ever’d” a few times and she was warming up, but I could just tell we weren’t done yet.
“Boohoo, let’s jump and yell. Like this:
Mommy (jump) is (jump) NEVER (jump) EVER (jump) going (jump) to (jump) leave (jump) without (jump) you (jump)!”
So we did. Several times. (It probably speaks to how strange our house is that the boys never came up to see what in the world was happening or maybe Disney Jr was just hot that morning.)
“MOMMY! IS! NEVER! EVER! GOING! TO! LEAVE! WITHOUT! ME!”**
Then we were good. We all went potty, buckled up, and went on a road trip just like every other family…or close enough.
Two months after we got home traveling terrified her. We’ve made progress. Clearly, her fear of abandonment is still going strong, but she verbalized it, (did she ever!) we addressed it, we stomped all over it. (And next time I’m traveling with them by myself we’ll be having a group stomp and shout session before I start packing the car.)
**Because I’m not going to.