Saturday, November 3, 2018

Why It's Okay to Cry in a Barber Shop.

We started the day driving into the sunshine to get our son.  Three hours, just the three of us. Off campus.  Our hearts were anxious and that took many forms. 

The day started with lots of hugs- he was so excited to see us. We signed in, went over his goals, he recited the safety plan, we signed our release, got his medication and excitedly the three of us walked out of the locked doors.  

We were not sure what to do with our three hours- it was a bit awkward.  We hadn't been alone with him, just Mom, Dad and son in many months.  

Elijah- his smile slays me 

He wanted a haircut.  

We googled a barber and went blindly into the shop trusting they would do a good job.  It was an odd mixture of decor, and the one barber was not in any hurry.  His one customer before us took nearly an hour. I'm not exactly sure what took so long, but in the waiting Elijah and I had some one-on-one time. Rex ran to get some Kleenex- 'cause it is that time of year. 

We looked at some pictures on my phone, a video of Penelope and Silas, Halloween pictures and then he swiped left to the Mother's Day card picture.  He began to tell me how he remembered drawing that picture and what he was thinking when he drew it.  I told him I had blogged about the card recently in my recent blog post "Common" (you can read it by clicking here). 

He read part of the post, I read part and he began to tear up.  We talked openly about the hard of all of this.  I assured him that this isn't just his fault; we are all healing from the chaos and unhealthy that had become our normal.  He wrapped his arms around me and said “I love you Mom” and we cried.  

Elijah & me 

Together, in that strange barber shop, and then we smiled and chuckled because neither of us had expected that tender conversation in such an odd setting. 

That was the first of many tears on this beautiful hard day.

Eventually, after checking out Elijah’s abs, hearing more about his growing love for football, laughing about the normal boy stuff that follows a teenager wherever he goes, the barber was ready for Elijah.

Undivided Attention 
Sporting his new haircut 

At his request, we grabbed an early lunch at Chik-fil-A and we continued some difficult conversations.  And we saw even more glimpses of progress.  He is beginning to own his actions. Identify areas for change and honestly tell us what his biggest concerns about coming home are.  And he listened as we told him ours, tried to push him a little bit to see if he could handle the pressure and make it clear what will never be allowed in our home again. 

And over Sweet Tea and his spicy chicken sandwich he has been craving…we watched our formerly angry, rude, hateful, inconsiderate and uncaring son stop and think, listen and talk in a conversational way, almost surprised by some of the memories of the year leading up to Grafton and his acceptance of the ugly while offering his own observation he isn’t quiet ready.  We want him to understand that this isn’t his fault, but it is his control to not let it define who he is anymore.

Elijah enjoying his Sweet Tea 

Elijah & Rex leaving Chik-Fil-A

Elijah and me today at Apple Blossom Mall, Winchester, VA 

I get mad when I think about all my son lived through before I ever met him; and how that trauma affected his brain.  In Psychology Today, 
What is Developmental Trauma we are told about how the brain develops from the bottom upwards.  Lower parts of the brain are responsible for executive functions- making sense of our experiences and exercising moral judgements.  The upper parts of the brain can't develop correctly, like a ladder from bottom up when stress, neglect or abuse is activated over time in infants and toddlers, and the sequential development of the brain is disturbed.  With missing foundational steps, things get out of kilter.  Developmental trauma, or Reactive Attachment disorder can then manifest in a variety of ways.  Even Elijah is beginning to understand this, and that he is where he needs to be- where there are people, trained to help him work through the trauma, the triggers and help him develop plans for success.

After eating, Elijah called Penelope.  They love each other so much, and miss each other like crazy.  She doesn’t understand she just knows he is getting better.  So, in between the giggles and smiles she always asks, “are you almost home” and today she added, “because I want to be your best friend.” Rex and I dripped tears listening to them talk. 

FaceTiming with Penelope, she may be his biggest fan :) 

As we neared Grafton, Elijah asked if he could listen to a couple of songs. Take Another Step , and Finish What He Started , both by Stephen Curtis Chapman.  In 2014, I played these songs almost every day.  The fact he remembered them and asked to hear them shows a bit of connection and Rex and I knew that was huge. 

The familiar music started to play and I reached my arm to the backseat, the way I have since all my babies were little. Whether it was rubbing a cheek, finding a pacifier, handing them a drink, or just holding their hand it was always in some way to comfort them. 

It was instinct today and as he tightened his fingers around my hand to the beat of the music we all felt the mood change when Elijah stopped singing along and started crying.  

This is hard y'all. 
We all knew what had to be.

We parked and sat in the car- Rex holding Elijah's face as the song finished. I looked at my son and told him again, God isn’t finished! The story isn’t over. Yes, this is hard. But if we quit now, if we scoop him up and bring him home, then we give in and lose out on the ending that gives other families like ours hope and gives God the glory.

God is healing our hearts.  We know, because leaving him here as an angry kid was so much easier than leaving him here today, as our hurting child. 

Signing him back in 

Today, we did the harder thing.  

If you have followed our story, you have no doubt picked up on the range of our emotions as we navigate these unknown waters. We are all over the place and have even questioned our ability to take another step. We have wondered if we should quit- if we can keep doing the hard and can he? 

But we won't quit because he is our son and we love him. As long as there is a glimmer of hope we will keep bouncing all over the map. 

This is what childhood trauma looks like- the reality of Reactive Attachment Disorder. And the family that loves through the beautiful hard of it all; and today we are reminded and are clinging to knowing that God will finish what He has started in our son.

Happy Saturday y'all! 



  1. This made my heat full and my face wet. I can only imagine how hard it had to be to see him hurt this bad, this deep. Yet, it had to be this way. Dissecting the wound, exsizing the debre of his life is necessary for healing to take place. For him to be whole. Praising God that you and Rex opted to walk with him through this. Elijah will be healed, yes, God is not finished ❤️

    1. Thank you Teri for your prayers, love and support through all these years. We love you.

  2. What a beautiful example of a family that really loves. My brother and his wife adopted 2 children from Ethiopia about 8 years ago, and both have experienced Reactive Attachment Disorder, but with therapy and my brother and his wife having to make many hard choices like yours, their children are beginning to thrive :) Thank God! Thanks for sharing and I'll remember to pray for your son.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...