Today is another milestone for the Zoo Crew. It’s Trenton’s birthday! I woke him up singing “Happy Birthday To You” and I heard him shout “Yes! It really is my birthday!” I overslept a tad, (blame that on the wiener dog who broke a window at 1am) so we didn’t have our normal birthday pancakes, but I managed to pop open a can of cinnamon rolls and lil’ smokies. Birthday breakfast was a hit! Funny how easy-to-please kids really are!
My journey with Trenton has been perhaps the most amazing of them all. I remember his first birthday like it was yesterday. I drove all the way to Houston with an Elmo cake in my mini-van to see him turn 1. Back then I wasn’t his Mom. I was his Aunt Tiff. I never imagined what was ahead for the two of us.
Back then I thought my sister was crazy- buying $50 Nike’s and spending a fortune on a Chuck E. Cheese party for a one-year-old, but he was an adorable little thing. He was obviously the pride and joy of his parents.
Sometimes I wonder if my sister thinks of that day at Chuck E. Cheese. I wonder if she ever wishes she could go back and freeze time right there. Just a few months later, her life spun out of control.
That summer she had twins and shortly after they were born she was pregnant again. Her husband was sentenced to 20 years in prison for selling drugs. She lost all her money. She found herself homeless and that’s when she moved to my town, where I had hoped I could just be her support system. It didn’t take long for CPS to get involved when an abusive boyfriend entered the picture. Long story short, by the time Trenton was three years old he was no longer doted on with new Nike’s and Chuck E. Cheese parties. Instead, he was stuck with Aunt Tiff and he didn’t know what to make of things.
Trenton was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD, but I think a lot can be said for the fact that he was plain old broken-hearted. He’d been through so much. It’s no wonder it was difficult to communicate with him. He threw crazy fits where he destroyed his room. He broke TV”s and chairs and video games on purpose. He ripped clothes, he chewed through his shirts, he had meltdowns I never thought I’d see the end of. In the darkest moments he spit in my face and kicked me. I used to make videos for therapists in a desperate attempt for someone to understand what was happening. At school he sat and stared vacantly out the window. Once he licked a poster off the wall. For awhile he was returned to my sister’s care and the roller coaster continued. Just two days before he turned 5 he was removed for the last time. I know that was perhaps the worst of it. He had been through the ringer. He’d gone from spoiled only child to the oldest of an over-whelming bunch and then ripped out of his home. Even as a two year old he often tried to help care for infants. He’d seen his father arrested. And he’d lost his mother, not once, but twice. There were plenty of reasons for his sunny disposition to be missing in action.
Even at his worst, he was fiercely protective of his siblings. We don’t know everything he has been through, but for a long time he was scared to let them play with other kids at daycare. He mothered them, and looked after them more than he should have. He used to corral them together and keep them next to him, and I actually had to break him of his parenting habit. He’s still a top-notch big brother, but today, he’s not even the same child he was a few years ago and now the worst thing I have to say to him is “you’ve got til the count of three…” How normal is that for a little boy?
We still struggle to manage his ADHD effectively and he still runs circles around me with his bounds of nervous energy, but now, when I look at him, I see a bright beautiful child. He’s a straight A student without putting forth much effort, so he’s pretty smart! He picks up so much from my older boys, and he pays attention to every little thing we do or say. And even though he was the child who had the closest relationship to my sister, he was the first to make up his mind that he wanted to be a Prestridge. On my fridge hangs a piece of paper that says “I love my mom and dad.” He wrote it to me at the start of the school year. At first I wasn’t sure if it was meant for me, but when he said it was, I knew we’d broke open the damn, and nothing but love was going to come out.
I don’t know if being adopted healed his heart, but it certainly patched it up. He laughs, he smiles, and he’s moved past the Tasmanian devil moments that used to terrify me. As I write this, I realize just how far we have come, how far he has come. Despite all he’s been through, he’s got the best sense of humor any 7 year old could have. He has the perfect redneck joke for Jeff Foxworthy. “If you uncle is your dad, you might be a redneck!”
His uncle is his dad and his aunt is his mom and today is his birthday; it’s lucky number seven! If he’s lucky enough, maybe we’ll even go visit that darned rat who makes terrible pizza but pretty good memories!