Learning to Love Lingering Memories

He will do no unrighteousness.

Every morning He brings His justice to light

He never fails. 

Zephaniah 3:5

I love to sit and have conversations with my boys. After all, we missed out on the first few years of their lives and there is much to catch up on. Even after 16 months, we’re still in a learning process. When I converse with them, I love to stare in their eyes. Not in a creepy way, but as a way to build trust through eye contact, to reassure them of my attention and devotion to them.

You’ve heard it said, I’m sure, that the eyes are the gateway to one’s soul. I don’t know about all of that, but I often think of what’s in their tiny minds when I look into their eyes. One of the burdens we carry as trauma parents is knowing that they have experienced more pain, trauma, hurt and heartache in their lives than likely we’ll ever know in our lifetimes.

My sons have very different ways that they express those feelings.  One will tell you anything, he wears it all on his sleeve. The other, so sad, bottles everything up and digs deep trenches in his mind to hide the past. It was with him that my wife had a moment the other day.

There was a school field trip to coincide with a unit in kindergarten on community helpers. I’m really glad that my wife was a chaperone. The fire department went great. He loved the fire trucks and was so serious when the class sat down to learn about the big red trucks. He was soaking it all in.

Then, they walked down the street to the police department. My wife said his countenance changed as soon as they walked in the door. He’s got memories of policemen. Lots of them, perhaps, we’re not sure.  At some point, the policeman was instructing the kids that they should call the cops to report bad men.

My son looked at his mom at this point and said that he knew some bad guys. He wanted to report the bad guys to the cops, the ones that hurt him before.  As I read this in my text, I almost lost it right there in the office. I don’t know how my wife made it through that part of the field trip.

Then, I got angry. I walked down the hall to shake it off and couldn’t stop being mad. He is five. Five years old. He shouldn’t know anything about bad guys or being hurt or being mistreated or being abused. Things flashed through my mind about all the things I knew that he had been through.

But there’s the rub of trauma parents. You never know when the lingering memories are going to pop up. If you’re a foster or adoptive parent like us, you don’t know what the memories are going to be. When you can tell one’s coming, you brace. You prepare your  mind to remember every detail that comes out of that sweet little mouth.

Eventually, you learn to love these lingering memories and you learn to love the pain that comes out when they are recalled to mind. You love them because each time they share, they’re trusting you with a little bigger piece of their heart. They’re showing that they are safe and most importantly that they are healing.  And, that is the best feeling ever.

I don’t understand Your ways

But I give You my soul

You hold onto all my pain

And with it You are pulling me closer.  -Springer

And with it You are pulling me closer.  -Springer


About Andrew Sawyer

I'm a foster-adoptive dad that is raising two incredibly awesome boys with my super-talented wife and trusty beagle while trusting God to provide the strength and knowledge for each step of the way.
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