When my life fell apart last year due to the criminal behavior of the man I’d been married to for nearly 20 years, a dramatic change in lifestyle was not the only side effect. As the months went on, I saw other changes. Here’s one.
My three year old, who’d been potty-trained well over a year prior to my spouse’s revelations, suddenly wasn’t anymore. (Let me apologize in advance for what is coming next: bathroom talk.) He didn’t have potty “accidents” in his boxers, he never did that, but he quit using the bathroom altogether. He chose, instead, to go on the floor of his bedroom!
I figured that as awful as it was, it was probably just a manifestation of the stress that was so prevalent in the air of our neighborhood and home that if you breathed in too deeply you almost choked! Literally. I assumed it would resolve itself when we moved. But I was wrong.
We moved to Utah and my little son continued the behavior in his new bedroom. I felt like I was becoming BFFs with carpet cleaners I saw them so often. But no matter what I tried, I could not get my now four-year-old to use the bathroom like the rest of us. It was a total mystery to me.
It had been quite a year. My son not only had been going to the bathroom on his bedroom floor, at least weekly he said “bad people” were in our house. He was afraid to be alone in any room of the house. He was afraid of the dark. He was suddenly afraid of so many things. And it wasn’t just our house, it was any home he was in. The babysitter had commented on how strange it was that he was so afraid in her home, too. I tried to help my son understand, each and every time he expressed fear of “bad people” in a house, that our home didn’t have bad people in it and we were safe. I emphasized that we prayed every day and that God would protect us. But nothing helped resolve his fear. That fear, too, was a mystery to me, along with his bathroom behavior.
Easter Sunday 2010, ONE YEAR LATER, the mystery was solved.
A friend and I were sitting in my son’s room, watching my son play a video game, and my son innocently offered the comment that “bad people” were in our house. My friend, hearing this for the first time, explained to my son that he was safe in our home and that “bad people” aren’t in our home. My son disagreed and insisted that in Colorado, bad people had been in our house.
THEN it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. THAT was why my son was afraid to leave his room to go to the bathroom! THAT was why my son was afraid of “bad people!” They had been in our home in Colorado, and my preschooler had known it, could not forget about it and had been traumatized for one year–25% of his entire young life–because of it. I had never put it together until that moment. It made my stomach turn.
As a mother, this issue and incident bothers me more than almost anything I’ve been handed in my unexpected life. I’m so bothered, in fact, that I choose to blame someone and I’m not blaming who you think I might. I am not blaming Him. (Ludicrous to the rest of His victims, I’m sure.) You know who I blame? The “bad people” who entered our home uninvited. I’m talking about the people who entered our Colorado home, while we were still in possession of it and living there, late one Sunday night when they thought no one was home.
They were wrong.
It was down to the wire, I was moving in a few days. In fact, I had a moving truck packed and ready to drive to Utah. Late one Sunday night, my spouse and I drove the packed truck to a friend’s house so the friend, who was traveling to Utah, could drive it for me.
My oldest son took his brothers to a friend’s house while we dropped the truck off, and my daughter stayed home alone to read. Our garage door was up, the house lights were mostly off, the house was quiet. Not totally responsible behavior on our part, probably, but you have to understand the rural and isolated neighborhood we lived in. Quiet, calm, fairly undiscovered and totally safe. We had never even owned a house key. We didn’t lock our doors–except at night when we were sleeping. We’d NEVER had a problem or a break in. No one had (that I’d ever heard about.)
So my daughter lay on the couch in our living room that night and read a book while she was home alone. At that time, our living room was the staging place for the move. As I got a box packed, I’d haul it to that room, and stack it until it was time to load it into a truck. Boxes were floor to almost ceiling in front of the couch and piano.
She was all alone.
Suddenly, she heard a door open and voices talking. She heard footsteps walking around on our wood floors. She heard boxes being moved, the sound of boxes being opened in another room. She heard conversation in hushed tones. The only thing she didn’t hear was a family member. She said she thought THEY would come after her if they knew they’d been discovered basically breaking and entering our home (lovely experiences my children were having, eh?), so she dove under the piano to hide. In her panic, she didn’t call 9-1-1 for help; she texted her older brother.
“Help me. Someone in house. So afraid.”
Her brother got the text. He thought she was goofing around. He texted back, “Funny. lol. Don’t joke about stuff like that.”
From under the piano, behind the packed boxes, she texted again, “I am not kidding. I’m scared. What if they find me? Help!”
Her brother says he made the 15-minute drive home in just over 5 minutes. Thankfully, his friend’s dad came too, to offer my teenage son support should it be needed. In the meantime, my daughter heard the footsteps walk around the main level of the house, a door open and close, and everything was quiet. Until her brother arrived on the scene a few minutes later and rescued her from her hiding place underneath the piano.
I arrived home shortly after the drama to have my three-year-old run up to me shouting, “Bad people are in our house!” They told me the story. I don’t even know how to communicate my thoughts about that moment. It sickened me. And although I’d tried for several months to rise above the pettiness time after time after time, I was finally disgusted and completely appalled…and angry. (I thought I was over it, until now, as I write about it. My chest is aching with disgust. That darn heart attack sensation is back! lol)
I never put the events of that night together with the potty issues we were dealing with until Easter Sunday this year. It explained everything!
The good news? I haven’t heard a single comment about “bad people in our house” ever since.
More good news? Not a single potty problem since the reassurance from our trusted friend.
Other good news? We are all healing. I know we each have our moments, every step forward is followed by the occasional step backward, but I’d say my children and I are each close to 100% healed from the trauma of our unexpected life.
And some of the best news? The heart attack sensation is gone again. Finally. And this time, I’m sure it will never come back.