“But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching…In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children…” Titus 2:1-5 CSB
I wasn’t going to be “that mom.” You know the one who hides in her room and cries because her fourteen-year-old seems to ooze hatred for her from all 5 billion of his pores (that’s how many we have, I checked). I wasn’t going to be the mom of teens who are distant, disconnected, and defiant. I wasn’t going to yell. I wasn’t going to over-react. I wasn’t going to let their trauma disrupt our peaceful home.
As it turns out, I was a better mother before I became a mother!
When I find that one, two, or all three of my trauma kids are still telling lies, still stealing food, still cheating in math, still getting suspended from school, or whatever else is the flavor of the day, I look inward for where I failed in my mothering. I ask my husband, sometimes getting angry (I asked Mr. Hubby to proofread this post and he suggested I replace the word “sometimes” with “often.”) when he tells me I shouldn’t take responsibility for their poor choices.
Whenever possible, I connect with a group of adoptive moms, who are struggling with the choices and actions of their trauma kids, someone eventually says, “Remember, it’s not personal.” It’s a great phrase to use when we wish to reassure one another around the circle. The reminder usually helps me go back home with a new resolve to keep a level head.
…When one of the children, I have vowed to love and nurture for the rest of my life, looks at me with a blank stare that says, “I refuse to let you in. So whatever you are trying to do right now to pry open the steel trap, it does not affect me.”…
….When one of my frustrated teens screams, “I’m going to call the police and tell them you are abusing me!” Because someone who doesn’t understand our family dynamic planted seeds of doubt in her mind…
…When my littlest miss sits, peacefully on the floor in her room and uses scissors to shred the stuffed toy I just gave her…
That, my fellow champions, is PERSONAL.
The pain we experience as mothers, who do their very best (most days) to pour truth, love, confidence, and security into the hearts and lives of our tormented kids, crushes our hearts leaving us bruised and bleeding from the rejection. Just a few days ago, I hid in my bedroom surrendering into the pillow deep sobs that took my breath away. I cried out to God, “I’m so sorry for screwing these kids up! I have failed You so epically in parenting them. They need a more stable mother. I just can’t do it!”
Typically, through the fog of those dark moments, when the Lord knows I'm ready to listen, I will have a reassuring sense from the God who is also our Father, that he already knew about each mishap and still invited me to be their mother. On this particular day, the God who never fails to teach us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, showed me so much in one very simple phrase.
I heard a whisper in my heart that said:
“It’s NOT you. It’s you.”
A child will love, even adore his biological mother with little regard for how she treats him. He is not yet able to reassure himself, “Mom didn’t mean to hit me. She’s just really stressed with her boyfriend.” Instead, he believes the lie, “Mom hit me because I keep bugging her when she is trying to watch TV. I need to do better at not making her so mad. I am bad.” When someone outside the child’s family of origin intervenes, the already confused child is not likely to say, “Oh good! I am finally free of her abuse.” The event will reinforce the lie,
“This is my fault. I should have listened better. I am bad.”
Imagine enveloping this young boy into your lap and whispering in his ear, “It’s not your fault. None of the bad things that have happened is your fault.” He probably won’t believe you. He might even resist your touch leaving you with empty arms that just want to show love. Perhaps he will even “act out” in some way to let you know he believes it is indeed his fault.
It’s NOT you, Trauma Momma.
Envision your spouse, best friend, or fellow Trauma Mom squeezing you in a loving embrace and whispering, “It’s not your fault. You did not cause his mother to mistreat her son. You did not cause the authorities to decide her son needed a safer home. You did not put the boy in a foster home. You did not dissolve parental rights. You didn’t CAUSE any of it. It’s not personal.”
If you are at all like me your voice is probably screaming inside your head,
“Yes! It is ME. Why can’t you see that?”
Take a deep breath, Momma. Let your shoulders come back down where they belong. There is nothing inherently wrong with you or your mothering.
It’s NOT you, Trauma Momma, it’s you!
Who you are is not the problem. It's what you represent that triggers the rejection response. You are the obstacle between your son and the mother who carried him in her womb. It’s her heartbeat he longs for, not because your heartbeat is inadequate, but because your heartbeat just isn’t hers! You keep trying to love him even though he knows that love always eventually hurts, that love can be dangerous, that allowing himself to love and be loved, could lead to another stranger tearing him away from another mother. You keep telling him “no” to things he is confident his mother would allow. Your boundaries are the castle gate, your rules are the moat, your expectations are the outer fence. YOU are the unfair jailer who is keeping your son from his first love, his mother.
It’s YOU, Trauma Momma.
And it's exactly who you are supposed to be...You.
Armed with an understanding of how my kiddos likely see me when things are not going their way, I will, probably with some trepidation while leaning into Christ, stay the course, and not let the children who lost everything be my undoing. They need me. They need a guide to help them succeed.