Saturday, November 27, 2010

How do I maintain joy in the midst of my heartache?  How do I explain to others why I feel so sad when nothing bad has happened yet?  It's kind of like my children have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I know the end might be coming.  I have to grieve that.  There is a chance for a miracle.  I have to believe that.  It's called 'anticipatory grief' according to Google.  Every moment is bittersweet.

So I want to choose joy.  In the midst of it.  I cannot, canNOT live in despair every waking moment.  So I have two challenges this coming Advent season:

1) 50 points of joy:  This comes from a favorite author in our fostering journey, Deborah Gray.  I was reminded of it by a favorite blogger and a precious sister who has personally spoken wisdom into my life, Lisa Qualls.
In her book, Attaching in Adoption, Deborah gives a list of suggestions for weary and worn-out parents - those who are feeling overwhelmed by the needs of their children.  Among those suggestions is this one - 
"When parents have begun to be too worn out, it is often because they have spent so much time doing tasks that they have deleted the fun or enjoyable things in their life.  I like to see parents make a list of fifty items that give them pleasure.  These are individual lists…every week, each person must attain fifty check marks on the list.  Using the same item more than once is permitted."

Fifty items that give me pleasure?  I'm not quite sure I can get there.  But I am determined to live in joy. I deserve no less.  My husband deserves no less.  My children deserve no less.

Here's my beginning:

  • reading a book for pleasure alone
  • listening to music (instead of a podcast or something for 'learning')
  • reading to my children
  • making cookies with one of my children
  • a glass of wine
  • a date with my husband
  • coffee or dinner with a girlfriend
  • an adult dinner with friends.  one without children.
It's gonna be awhile before I can get to 50 listed items, much less 50 accomplished items.  Here goes nothing...

2)  A parenting manifesto of joy.
If you can read just one blog, please don't read mine - read Ann Voskamp.  Every day is an outpouring of grace into your soul.  I have printed this manifesto and placed it on my fridge.  I will choose joy.

I will choose joy.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

After receiving some upsetting news about this case and the children we love, I am struggling with my emotional response.  It's difficult to not overreact to any news we hear.  We were not necessarily surprised by this particular bit of news, but we were definitely disappointed and feel slightly betrayed since we were led to believe that we were past this point.  This morning, in addition to all of that, I woke up pretty angry on behalf of Mr. B and Baby R.

I know what I will hear when we get around to sharing this news. Things like "God is in control.  God has a purpose in this.  God will take care of these children."  While I believe all of these things to an extent, I also am having extreme difficulty in this.  Sure, God is in control.  Sure, God can take care of these children.  But...He doesn't always take care of children.  Children get hurt all the time.  Children die.  They are orphaned.  They are abused.  They get moved from place to place.   He doesn't always intervene, and at that point, the 'God has a plan' line just doesn't cut it for me.  His plan is for these children to experience even more pain?  His plan is to move these kids from the only safe and loving home they've ever known?  Eh.  I have a hard time with the platitudes.  Do I trust God?  I'd have to say yes.  Do I trust that what happens to these children will be good for them?  Definitely not.

Trust is a lot of work.  I'm in a lot of pain.  It'll get better.  Or it'll get worse.  Either way, I still choose God.

The Connected Child, Chapter 6

Monday, November 15, 2010

I have been alerted that comments were disabled on my blog (thanks Jess!). Lesson: I am NOT good at managing the various widgets and all that on my blog page.  All I wanted to do was be able to reply directly to specific posts. I really like the intensedebate comment system, but obviously cannot install it correctly on my site. I swear I followed the directions exactly.

So...chapter 6 of The Connected Child is chock-full of helpful parenting advice. I wish that I had read this book before my oldest was born. He has a personality that would have responded so very well to all of these tips.  

For me, the highlight and most applicable part of the whole chapter is the "IDEAL approach". Just an acronym reminder about how to deal with challenges from your children, and one that I desperately need to implement more often.

I: You respond immediately - within 3 seconds of misbehavior
D: You respond directly - eye contact, undivided attention, physical proximity
E: The response is efficient and measured, using the least amount of firmness and corrective effort necessary.  You also use the least amount of words possible.
A: Action-based response.  Actively redirect your child to better behavior.  Often a re-do is the appropriate action for this step.
L: You level the response at the behavior, not the child.  Your child is never rejected, even when behavior is rejected.

A re-do is just a chance to reenact the entire scenario with the appropriate response. A small example would be if I ask Mr. B to pick up the toys and he gets mad at me and throws the toy towards the toy box, I would then allow him to retrieve the toy, bring it back to where we started and then place it in the toy box in an appropriate manner. We have been using re-do's off and on with Mr. B. It is very effective for minor offenses. I find it a tad impractical for major things at this point. I definitely like that it hard-wires an appropriate response into his memory. Not just his 'thinking' memory, but his physical memory as well. I have tried it a couple times with Ben and Maggie as well, to fairly good effect Now that I'm writing this, I wonder what it is about a technique that works well that makes me forget about using it more often! I can write a whole paragraph about how well it's worked when I've used it but can't seem to actually use it when I most need it.

I think the part I need to work on most is the efficient and measured response. I tend to over-respond. A little firmer than necessary, a little louder than necessary, and a lot more words than necessary. If I can keep my tone, my demeanor, and my words at the least amount necessary to accomplish the correction, it would be much more effective.  Mr. B, especially, needs the quiet, calm firmness to help him feel secure. I think it's similar to what I talked about with Chapter 5 - the need for order and peace. When things feel out of control, I tend towards more structure, when really, what is necessary is more nurturing. A properly nurtured family will naturally be more at peace.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

hope waits but does not sit. it strains with eager anticipation to see what may be coming on the horizon.  hope does not pacify; it does not make us docile and mediocre. instead, it draws us to greater risk and perseverance.
dan allender

The Connected Child, Chapter 5

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I haven't blogged specifically about this book study yet, but I've been doing an online book study (check it out on the right side of my page). All of The Connected Child is just amazing, and every single person who has adopted, fostered, or parented a child from a hard place in any way should be required to read it. In my opinion.

This particular chapter could not have come at a more opportune time for me. It's about teaching life values to your children. This is precisely what we are struggling with with all of our children right now, and I unfortunately know exactly why. We're not modeling the values we want our children to learn. At least not consistently and well enough. If I want my eldest to respect me, then I have to first show him respect! (Boy, do I have a long way to go on this one. I am definitely reaping what I've sown when it comes to my son's attitude towards his parents. I don't want to say I was a know-it-all, but goodness. I swear that some of my son's words towards me are ripped exactly from the script of my conversations with my mother at age 10.) If I want my kids to listen and obey, to accept consequences, and to focus and complete their tasks, then I need to model gentleness, firmness, and focus to them first.

A couple of things that I'm going to specifically try with Mr. B right now are practicing obedience and praising him for accepting no. These are things that he is struggling with greatly right now (well, he's 3!). For practicing obedience, Karyn Purvis suggests simple games like Simon Says and Stop & Go.
"You should not have to scream or yell to gain your child's cooperation; instead you should calmly remind her to "listen and obey". Once your child cooperates, praise her and remind her of what she did well."

We already do this to a certain extent. We have really worked hard at praising obedience specifically, but it's the escalation into yelling that I'm struggling with right now. My voice just gets louder and louder and louder until I'm yelling at everyone. I earnestly desire to change this dynamic in our family. Thus my action step for this week comes straight from Karyn:
"Before speaking to your child or giving instructions, stop what you are doing and move to within three feet of the little one - then, say what you need to. Don't lob words at him or her across the room while you're rushing about. You won't build deep interpersonal connections from a distance, or while hurtling around like a runaway train."

I want to enlarge this to make sure that I'm no longer yelling instructions from another room, up the stairs, etc. While we are a loud family, and that will not change, loud does not need to equal chaos.

I feel like this entire chapter of life values, which include respect, accepting no, consequences, making eye contact, who's the boss, and listening and obeying, are all about raising children are well-regulated, well-adjusted, peaceful children. We desperately need our home to become more peaceful. When we began parenting traumatized children, I definitely underestimated how much extra work it would be to have peace in our home. We have to be purposeful in creating peace: in our relationships - the emotional space of our home, in the physical space of our home, and through the spiritual space of our home. One thing that is being made abundantly clear to me is that when one of these areas is out of balance, the others suffer as well. I'm learning a lot about peace in the throes of parenting my hurt three-year-old - he needs me to make peace for him, he needs me to teach him how to make it for himself, and he needs to live in a peaceful space.

I came away from this chapter with a song on my heart, one that I put on a playlist of 'blessings' for Mr. B and Baby R. A life in order brings us peace. Here's the first part of it - my prayer today...

Your voice has stilled the raging storms
The wind and waves bow down before
Your still small voice brings hope to all
Who wait on You, we'll wait for You
To lead us to the place where You'll restore our souls
And all our earthly strivings come to cease

Take from our souls the strain and stress
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Your peace
The beauty of Your peace

from the Beauty of Your Peace by Tim Hughes
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