Yesterday was a crazy day for Miles. We reunited after being apart for many days. He had a million different relatives taking care of him while we were helping Sadie at the hospital. Life had just been up in the air for him. And for a child who has trouble and trauma- change is not a good thing. It does crazy things to the brain. It only took an hour of us being back together for Miles to go right back into the "I hate this woman who calls herself my mom" mode. I put him to bed over an hour early last night because I was just cooked and decided that we'd just have to try again today.
Hubby had to go out of town this weekend for a business trip. The whole family was supposed to go, but with Sadie's sickness, we got a little derailed. But Kamron still had to go, so he took Noah with him for a little boys weekend away. It will be SO good for them. So with one less little one to worry about and with Sadie mostly wanting to just lay on the couch, I made up my mind that today was going to be a whole day of being intentional with Miles.
Normally, Miles wakes up angry. He's hungry when he wakes up and that sends him raging. But today, I went and got him up early. I didn't wait for him to wake up hungry. I went and got him up before the hunger got to him. I opened the door to his room with a huge smile on my face. In my head I was thinking I was crazy for actually waking up a monster, but hey- progress has to start somewhere. Much to my surprise, Miles woke up, took a look at me and reciprocated my smile. My heart just about stopped. Miles hasn't made an intentional smile at me in I don't know how long. (But come to think of it, I haven't been intentionally smiley with him either because it is so dang hard to smile at someone who NEVER returns it!) And it didn't stop there. I reached over to pick him up out of his bed and the boy HUGGED me. Both arms around the neck and squeezed and held it there for a long time. I've seen him do this to complete strangers, but never to me. My eyes *may* have gotten a little misty.
Then we came down and had breakfast together. Not breakfast on the fly like normal. But just him and me sitting down together to eat. And although he didn't look at me, he just seemed so much more relaxed around me than he normally does.
We worked on our home therapy program the attachment therapist put us on. It goes a little something like this. On a normal day, we take whatever time we can (sometimes 5 minutes is all he can handle) where we focus on doing something that Miles is really good at- like playing ball. Or stacking blocks. We do that activity together and I praise the heck out of him. I ignore him when he does something bad (as long as it is only a minor infraction). He gets absolutely zero negative attention and praised like crazy for the good stuff. The other kids are not allowed to intrude on this time. It is just Miles and me. I get down on his level and we just do our best. Playtime usually ends when he begins using objects of play like weapons against me. When that happens, I can no longer reward him with my undivided attention. I get up and walk away in an effort to teach him that in our home we strive for positive attention. But when you've been starved for attention your whole life, you usually take whatever attention you can get- hence the reason that most days our therapy play time only lasts a few minutes. Today we were able to interact with one another for 40 minutes before it turned sour! Hallelujah! And several times during play time, he kissed me and laughed. Now here is a weird thing about Miles. Miles does not make noise very often when he laughs. He makes the face and does the body motions like he is laughing but there is no noise because the emotion is not genuine. He can also fake cry like an Oscar Winner. He is a master of manipulating emotions. But today- oh today- there was REAL laughter. Belly laughter that came out of some happy place deep within! It was just glorious!
The rest of the afternoon passed pretty uneventfully- which here, in the land of chaos, was blissful!. Sadie and I did lots of coloring since she is still just wanting to do quiet activities while she recovers. Then it was time for dinner. Usually when Kamron isn't home, I don't go to the trouble to cook and we just have cereal and milk. The kids just know that when Daddy is gone it means we have Lucky Charms for dinner. ( Don't judge- you know you do it too!) But since he was gone last night and we had cereal night last night, I thought I could go to the trouble of boiling some noodles and throwing some sauce on top. Sadie wasn 't eating, so it was just Miles and me for dinner. He is perfectly capable of feeding himself. But noodles are really messy and I decided that for a change of pace, I would just feed Miles his noodles. At first he just didn't know what to do. We take for granted with our bio kids, that we need to feed them. As little babies, they can't do it on their own. The bonds that are made from feeding a child are huge. But when kids come to you already knowing how to do it themselves, you miss those bonding times. You have to be intential in recreating those moments where your child can depend on you. So, even though he could do it himself, I sat down right in front of him and shoveled noodles into his mouth. He stared right at me and maintained eye contact. He had to rely on me to give him that next bite. Not an easy thing for Miles. Food is such a huge PTSD trigger for him, so rerouting his brain to see food as a bonding activity instead of a flashback to starvation and hunger was an amazing experience. He still had his moments today (we can't expect too much now, can we!), but overall this was the best day I've had with Miles in months.
Finding intentional moments of joy with Miles in just our regular everyday experience today has changed my perspective on some things. I learned that with a child who has experienced trauma, you have to measure progress in small steps. I can't expect him to love me unconditionally, but I will take those five minutes of eye contact and 40 minutes without trying to take my head off and the first real hug and roll them all up and throw it under the umbrella of progress. It gave me so much hope that he is not damaged beyond repair. It made me see that I CAN do this therapeutic parenting thing. And that maybe- just maybe this is all going to turn out okay.