An Open Letter to Pediatric Practitioners

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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Dear Doctor,

One of the toughest things, we as trauma mamas deal with, is handling professionals. Very rarely do we find a professional who truly wants to partner with us for the benefit of our child.

The consummate professional is one who not only grasps the needs of the child, but also the needs of the family, and most especially the primary caregiver. She’s a person who uses her knowledge, training, and experience to help the child and is willing to brainstorm with the primary caregiver about ways to implement strategies that will work in the context of their family environment…even if it’s not the ideal…it’s about flexibility.

More often than not, professionals blame the primary caregiver for the child’s issues. In the case of trauma kiddos, that is typically the mom. In the trauma arena, moms are referred to as “therapeutic moms.” We receive no special training for this title by the way. It’s baptism by fire…by necessity…the life of our child. We are expected to be occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist, mental health therapist, and teacher all rolled in with the job of mom. And mom to a trauma kiddo is an adversary. So just being mom is mostly a battle. Opportunities for spontaneous laughter and play are few and far between. For most, nonexistent.

I remember when we first got the kids and I took them to see professionals….the dentist wanted me to brush and floss their teeth everyday; the eye doctor wanted me to wash their eyelashes with baby shampoo everyday; the speech therapist wanted me to work on language with them everyday; the school wanted me to educate them, because they sure were not going to do it. And I had one in pull-ups and one in diapers. Meanwhile, it was all I could do to keep them from hurting each other, and hurting us. I couldn’t turn my back on them for two minutes. To this day, I still have to schedule my showers when they are asleep, at school, or another adult is in the house to watch them. We have graduated to me leaving the two girls in their rooms to play for short periods, so I can move around the house and get a few things done. I go so far as to leave them doing chores or involved in an activity when I potty or leave the room to get something, but that usually ends when I discover…yet again…that they were actually doing something they were not supposed to be doing while I left them unattended for a few minutes.

If you are a professional who works with children, especially trauma kiddos, I beg you to please take 2-3 minutes from your hurried schedule and really look into the eyes of the primary caregiver…the mom. Reflect for a minute on the dark circles under her eyes, the deep worry lines in her forehead, the exhaustion in her slouched shoulders (or defensiveness in her rigid posture, or vacillation between the two). When she says she can’t brush five kids’ teeth twice a day or floss the teeth of kids who would bite her fingers off if she tried, or she can’t pay for a 3rd pair of glasses in as many months, she is not trying to make your job more difficult. She is not trying to be oppositional or in any way disregard your efforts to help. She is hearing your recommendations. In fact, she is most likely beating herself up AGAIN, for not being able to do all that you are asking of her…for fear that the child’s teeth will rot,¬†or sight will weaken, or worst of all, it will be the one thing that could make the most significant difference for that child’s emotional healing.

But she is already spread so thin, and she may not even be taking care of herself. So asking her to DO one more thing can seem like you are asking her to perform intricate brain surgery on the fly. She wants to help her child more than she wants most anything else in the world, but she needs partners to do that. She needs others who will help beyond adding to her already over-burdened plate. That doesn’t mean stopping services. It means being empathetic to the obstacles she and the child already have in place, and being flexible enough to help brainstorm about strategies that might fit into an already overstressed and overburdened environment.

Thank you for caring for our kids.

Respectfully,

A Caregiver of Children from Hard Places

(submitted by a reader)

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