road trip

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The week between Christmas and New Year’s, we traveled to my husband’s family’s place in Oklahoma. As Brenden had never been anywhere further than an hour away, this was a major undertaking. I stressed about it big time. I literally spent hours thinking about our game plan, what could go wrong, what we would do to help things not go wrong, what we would do if they did. We discussed it at length. We made a list of boundaries and practices that we thought would best help our family succeed on this vacation.

Guess what? It mostly worked. We decided that we had to concentrate on our primary family unit’s health even if that came at the expense of the extended family time. It did a little, but it was so very worth it. Brenden did better than I thought he would. Part of that might have been due to the fact that we were quarantined with the vomiting illness for the first couple days, but even so. We gave him some tools that he could use if he felt stressed or out of place. We kept a very close eye on him. We never left him without one of us present. I have never been more proud of my son.

For practical and historical purposes, here are some of the things that we did:

  • We kept regular bedtimes. With the exception of the oldest, everyone was in bed by nine every night. That’s later than normal for us, so there was some difficulty regarding that, but the plan worked pretty well.
  • We asked Wendell’s parents if we could try to have regular mealtimes. If Brenden and Raniah are not fed on time, things disintegrate. Their blood sugar needs to remain fairly steady throughout the day for them to regulate well. We knew that it wasn’t our house or our schedule, and holiday mealtimes always tend to run behind, but things were kept on a pretty even keel. That helped them immensely.
  • We didn’t do ‘sleepovers’. It was important to us that all of our primary family sleep together every single night. This, frankly, helped all of us.
  • We maintained a separate location from all of the rest of the family. This was graciously and generously accomplished by Wendell’s brother moving out of his house for the four/five days we were there so that we could have our own space. This was the primary reason that things functioned as well as they did while we were there. It was an unbelievable gift. I know he’ll never understand because it’s impossible to describe all the ways that our family functions differently now, but this precious gift still brings tears to my eyes even today.
  • I gave Brenden some coping skills. Reminded him to come to us when he felt stressed. I allowed him to take his LeapFrog video game system with us to Grandma’s each time and told him that if he felt overwhelmed, to just pull it out and play it by himself. This was an unforeseen gift. I didn’t realize how valuable this little tool would be for him, but he expressed to me on more than one occasion that this was precisely what he was using to cope. We also sat with him at mealtimes. We intervened a little more often than we maybe would have at home, just to try to keep him regulated.

We still had issues, to be sure. Brenden’s physical reactions to stress exhibited more than once, but his emotional reactions seemed to be pretty ‘normal’. I’m not sure why except that perhaps the physical manifestations of stress are something he can’t control, and he is learning to control his emotional reactions. (Sounds like a question for the therapist…)

We also had an all-in-all fairly horrific trip. Between the vomiting, the diarrhea, the severe allergy headaches, the drive back which took 7 hours more than it should, the two-year-old’s dislocated elbow in the early morning in the middle of the drive back home, the ER visit to fix the dislocated elbow, and the 3 hours that it took us to drive 6 miles on a sheet of ice which used to be a highway in northern Kentucky…well, let’s just say it wasn’t our favorite trip of all time.

However, I want to count our blessings where they occur, and my personal hatred of this particular trip does NOT negate how much progress our little boy has made. It’s really just amazing to me. As I write this, tears are running down my face, witness to the miracle of my son’s life.

A year ago, I didn’t think we would ever see light again.
But this year. Oh, this year.
The beauty of a changed life.
The promise of a healing heart.
It’s all so very, very good.

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