After breakfast, I handed T a heart-shaped box of Smarties and asked him to be my Valentine.
To me, Valentine’s is about celebrating love in all its forms, including love between family.
How fitting then that this year’s Valentine’s is sharing a double billing with Family Day long weekend in Canada.
This weekend has so far provided the hubby, T and I with much needed relaxation and quality family time together.
We all felt a huge weight lift off our chest now that T can go back to school on Tuesday.
While the last few weeks have been filled with so many positive moments, there were also many explosive stressful moments.
Raising explosive children like T is hard but ultimately rewarding.
One of my favourite verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 4:13 which states that “Love is patient, love is kind… it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
It’s the belief that love is unconditional.
In T’s trying moments, I can tell you I ain’t reciting feel good Bible verses. Rather, I’m praying for restraint not to strangle him. I’m calling to heaven to exorcise my hell spawn.
The thing with T that I want everyone to know is that his great moments far outnumber his explosive moments. He is such a bright, funny, caring, gentle, sweet boy and he tries so so hard.
I’m always mindful to point this out, because I don’t want people to form a certain impression.
But the thing with impressions is that people remember the explosive moments.
It takes a real special person to see beyond the explosive moments.
In our journey with T so far, we’ve been blessed with these special people. So it hasn’t been all bad!
Remember, it’s Brain Not Behaviour.
One virtual schooling moment I can now laugh at was during virtual gym class.
T’s teacher was teaching the class about mindfulness to help calm their inner “Angry Beast.”
T was off camera having a full-on meltdown. He was screaming, pushing chairs down to the ground and yelling at us to shut up because we kept encouraging him to participate.
I looked at the hubby and joked that we should go on camera and turn on our mics so the class could see T getting an A+ for his angry beast.
Our T has a prognosis of at risk fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
FASD is a spectrum so every individual is affected differently. But there are commonalities.
For T, it manifests in hyperactivity, difficulty in focusing, challenges with regulating his emotions and extreme impulsivity.
In the past few months, T has started to have explosive moments of rage.
A little thing can set him off and he’d go from 0 to 60 in seconds, often times screaming loudly and storming off into his room. Doors are slammed, followed by intense bursts of screaming.
He is often able to calm himself quickly but just like a real explosion often only takes seconds, T’s moments leave behind emotional debris.
For an already stressed out family dealing with the challenges of virtual schooling, working from home and lockdown measures in a pandemic, T’s moments throw our day off track.
I do not always react in a calm or measured way. I’m trying to do better but we’re all human.
One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned – and one that I am still trying to internalize – is that it is brain not behaviour.
Because of the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure to T’s brain, there are certain things that will be lifelong challenges for him.
When he has a meltdown, I remind myself that he is feeling overwhelmed and he does not have the executive functioning to calm himself down.
Similarly, when he is having an explosive moment, I remind myself to not douse the moment with gasoline by trying to lecture him. I ride it out, because they are often short lived. Then I try talk to him.
Kids like T are not intentionally explosive. They are triggered by something and they are not wired to deal with it in the same way a neurotypical child is able to.
It is every bit as challenging and hard to deal with as you are imagining!
But we are working on it. We are thankful to have an amazing team supporting T and our family.
It is not going to be easy. I envision harder days ahead. I am prepared to meet people who will make life hell for T simply because they do not understand his condition.
As always, we are taking it one day at a time.
I love our T for who he is.
T is the complete opposite of who I was as a child.
He was probably the kind of kid I would never have hung around or would’ve been irritated by.
But I love him for who he is, even though he can be irritating as hell at times.
And that, I think, is what he teaches me every day about love: to embrace the imperfections and to always persevere and to hope.
We all got into the Valentine’s spirit.
After I gave T his Valentine’s gift, we went out for a morning walk.
The sun was shining so beautifully and felt so rejuvenating and he sled in the park.
When we got home, the hubby was up and shoveling the driveway.
“Happy Valentine’s, Daddy!” He shouted and ran down the sidewalk to him. The hubby scooped him up and gave him a big hug.
When we got inside, I gave T a heart-shaped box of chocolates to give to the hubby.
Then the hubby gave T a Valentine’s card the two of made together at class to give to me.
Then I asked T to give the hubby the card we made together earlier in the week.
I love how his hearts have smiley faces, arms and legs! And lately, he’s been adding very pronounced eyebrows to all his faces!
We relaxed at home all day and then went for a family walk together in the afternoon. I couldn’t get enough of the sunshine.
It was also Chinese New Year, which my family celebrates, so I picked up takeout for dinner.
February 15 also happens to be the anniversary of when our adoption was finalized in court.
I always believe the universe sends us reminders to hang in there when we need it most.
What a great reminder then, during a particularly trying past two months, of family and love for T’s adoption anniversary to fall exactly on Family Day, following a rest-filled Valentine’s Day.