A little over a year ago, I had the honor of joining together with several other writers, speakers, bloggers, and influencers at Disney’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California. During our time together we were given the opportunity to speak into several projects Disney had recently released. One of those projects was the Dream Big, Princess campaign.
It’s really hard to not take your child’s meltdowns, outbursts, or aggression personally. In the heat of the moment how do you differentiate between trauma and a personal attack on you?
For years I misunderstood my child’s behavior. The aggression, words, and defiance were all an attack on me! Or so I thought. I’d shake my fists at the heavens and beg for a better behaved child, or at least a “fix-it” solution. I even tried to parent the way I was parented, growing up. I’d set up the boundaries, I’d reinforce the rules, and if said boundaries or rules were crossed, BAM… consequences enforced. If you acted like a little jerk to me in front of my friends, or at church, GROUNDED! If you acted out, stole something, hid food under your bed, BUSTED! And to be quite honest, for years I felt as though we were running in a hamster wheel. Not only did I see zero traction, but I didn’t like the way my disciplinarian style was making me (or my child) feel. Bottom line: it wasn’t working.
We all need hope on the journey of foster care, adoption and special needs parenting. But, often, it feels so far away. We start to wonder, “Will I never find any?”
Hope. Just saying the word fills you with a myriad of emotions, doesn’t it? You either feel a peace that passes all understanding because you’ve discovered hope, or you’re struggling to breathe because you’ve lost hope altogether. Sometimes we look at life, and the difficult circumstances we are presently in with our children, and feel as though we’ll never find our way through this. But what if we told you, there is hope. And, you can find it!
We know the feeling. More importantly, we know the wrestling match you’re in because you don’t feel the guilt you think you’re supposed to feel. But, this honest admission doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.
He prefaced the statement with, “I’m ashamed to admit this.” Then he paused, took a deep breath, lowered his head, and finally released it…. “My son doesn’t live at home right now, and I don’t feel guilty about that. In fact…” he paused again, choking back a reservoir of emotion building behind his eyes, “I love the peace that we feel without him here. I’ve waited so long for it.” I placed my arm on his shoulder empathetically. “I know,” I said, looking him in the eyes.
Not a day goes by where I don’t hear it and almost believe it. It’s that voice that whispers and reminds me of all the awful things I wonder about myself, and this journey as an adoptive and foster parent. But there’s a few truths I’ve discovered about this voice.
You heard it, didn’t you? I’m willing to bet, the moment you opened your eyes this morning, it whispered. Heck, it may have even infiltrated your dreams. Like a thief entering your house undetected, it slithered it’s way into your bedroom and poured itself right into your ear. It whispered to you before you even moved your body from beneath your covers. I know you heard it because I heard it too…
When parenting children from hard places, or children who have been wounded emotionally, it’s often hard to communicate with them. This is frustrating for us as parents, but there is a solution.
“Will you play a game with me?” our son asked.
My blood began to boil. This was the tenth time in 30 minutes he had asked. I was getting tired of redirecting, and I knew from past experience it wouldn’t be the last time he’d ask. It felt like this young boy was trying to control our every moment. Not long afterward he asked again. “Will you play a game with me?”
Holidays are wonderful family times, but holidays can also be are hard – especially for families with kids from “hard places.” The pressure of special events, increased anxiety, and disruption of schedules due to school vacations, can sometimes bring about true crisis.
Four years ago, I wrote a post to my readers on Christmas Eve. It was early in the morning; my family was sleeping and snow was falling outside the windows in the pre-dawn hour. I’d been silent, unable to write for several days as I tried to make sense of the crisis we found ourselves in.
Sometimes the life we dreamed of having when we first started out on the parenting journey doesn’t turn out the way we envisioned it. In the midst of this, there’s an opportunity to discover a different beautiful.
When my husband, Evan, and I found out we were expecting a little girl, joining her big brother Connor in our family, we had a vision of pigtails. We pictured a little girl chasing her brother around the house, with blond pigtails bouncing on the sides of her head.