I haven’t been able to enjoy my birthday for two years.
Mother’s Day celebrations are unpredictable.
One of my children often sabotages special holidays especially ones that honor me.
I imagined these special occasions with cheerful children tip toe’ing into my bedroom in the early morning with a breakfast tray of buttered toast, orange juice, and a flower in a vase.
Instead my day is filled with an overabundance of defiance, meltdowns and intrusive thoughts.
A day that should be filled with laughter is filled with tears.
My child isn’t a spoiled brat.
I am my child’s 4th mother.
My adopted children were ripped from one home to another home every 1 1/2 years until placed with us for adoption.
Two of my children have been fortunate not to have been as deeply impacted by early childhood trauma. They fill my special days with an overabundance of affection.
But to this child, I am the symbol of pain and anxiety that I’m not always going to be around.
“You are going to trade me in for a better child.”
“Someone is going to come in at night and take me away from here.”
“I am too bad for you to love me.”
But instead of saying these things, this child explodes.
Once the storm has passed and my special day has been ruined, my child expresses the intrusive thoughts behind the behavior.
I understand why my child sabotages our holidays, and we utilize many professional interventions to help my child overcome these challenges.
But it hurts.
My heart breaks for me, my child, and my entire family. Without a doubt my child’s pain far surpasses my own pain.
I feel selfish, admitting in the face of that pain, but I need a day where I get respite from the overwhelming effects of trauma. Every mother deserves a day where she is served, cherished, and her needs put first.
This is not selfish.
You may not have a child with trauma who sabotages holidays, but your holidays can still be stressful and disappointing.
You may be caring for an elderly parent with physical or cognitive disabilities on top of caring for your children.
You may be a single mom working a full time job and caring for your children and home all on your own with little money or energy to spare.
Your may have a child with autism or sensory processing disorder who can’t cope with the lack of routine and unpredictable schedules on holidays.
You don’t get the Mother’s Day or birthdays you hoped for.
You deserve to be celebrated, and there is a way to make that happen even with crappy life circumstances.
But how can you cope with disappointing holidays?
If your holiday has been ruined many times before, set realistic expectations.
I hold onto hope for a better holiday, but I know the reality is my child will likely meltdown as shown by past behavior.
I make plans according to both past behavior on holidays and evaluate current emotional stability not wishful thinking for a well behaved child.
Make plans to celebrate the holiday.
But schedule activities that you won’t be devastated if they are cut short, interrupted or cancelled because of your child’s inability to control their behavior.
Other family members may be resentful of your holidays being ruined too. Honor their feelings.
You understand your child’s struggles best, and it may be difficult for others to comprehend why your child spoils the holiday. Talk with extended family members about the best way to make your day as stress free as possible to minimize disruptions to the holiday.
Siblings suffer when their holidays are ruined. Show them they matter, too, with these ideas to give siblings more attention.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Your holidays are not going to look like your friends’ holidays. They don’t share the same struggles as your family. Figure out what works best for your family to celebrate the special day.
It may look nothing like anybody else’s holiday celebration, and that’s okay.
Feel the Bad Feelings
It sucks. Period.
Not only do you wish for a joyful day of celebration, but you mourn for the positive mother-child relationship you long to share with your child.
If you need to cry, vent to a friend, share the truth on Facebook (without shaming your child),
You don’t have to pretend to be happy because others feel like you should appreciate every moment of your children’s lives while they are young.
Newsflash: You can be grateful for your children AND feel sad that you had a crummy holiday.
Capture the Small Moments of Joy
You don’t have to do anything extravagant on the holiday, and this is likely too stressful for children with early childhood trauma and other special needs.
Steal a few minutes during the day to connect joyfully with your children. Read 101 Ideas for Joy in Minutes.
Okay, so now you are capable of coping with the holidays. But how do you celebrate YOU?
Celebrate on a Different Day
I realized nobody is going to magically grant me the perfect birthday or Mother’s Day.
I choose a day near my birthday and Mother’s Day, and celebrate those days exactly how I want free from worry that my special day will be ruined. I celebrate the holidays on the actual day with my children, and I create another special day just for me.
A day where I can do whatever I want without the pressure of chores, work, and mothering.
I never imagined this would be how I would celebrate my birthdays and Mother’s Day.
I wish that trauma didn’t tear it’s way through my children’s lives wreaking havoc years later. Trauma doesn’t take a break on holidays, but I will not allow it’s destructive force to ruin everything.
Taking days off to honor and celebrate me, gives me the strength to keep supporting, loving, and guiding my child through the devastating effects of trauma.