This week has marked the beginning of a new year. 2018 is upon us and 2017 has forever left us. Sort of. It’s not like any year is completely done and over. We take with us all the happenings, good or bad, into the current new year.
January: Accepting Mommy Imperfection (the beginning)
March: Starting Again
April: Happy Mind Happy Home is Born
May: Divorce and Dating
June: Trust and Marriage
July: Growing Older
August: Babies, Kindergarten, and More
September: School Days
October: Busy Gets Busier
November: A Thanksgiving to Remember
December: I’ll Bring the Chips.
I have this ache, a pit in my stomach, a tightening in my throat as if I’m going to throw up or have to swallow hard to hold back…. Something like that. It’s a pain, a fear for my children, of my children feeling pain – their own pain. My pain. I wish I could protect them from it all but, I know I can’t and I hate this.
This school year has been an awakening in many ways. My son entering kindergarten has been more than an entry into tardy bells, PTA meetings, last minute projects, car pool lines, and site words; it has been an introduction to the possibility of my kid being hurt, feeling hurt and me not being there to protect him. This, for me, is tough.
1) Engage, engage, engage.
It would be so much easier if we knew everything that went on while we were away. Better still, if our kids told us themselves. But, this is not always the case. So asking questions that inspire a thoughtful response is key. Think open ended questions such as, “Who did you play with today?” Instead of “Did you play at recess today?” Or “Who was nice today?” versus “Was everyone nice today?” Even if your kid doesn’t have a specific response to these questions it opens the door to get a conversation going instead of being shut down by a one word answer.
2) “What do you think about that?”
3) Believe in the power of resilience.
Sometimes you stumble upon something that grips your heart and your life. And without seeking it, it becomes you. Other times, your passions in life are because of the things that you pursue, and you work hard to get them. Ironically, adoption is a huge piece of my life both because we stumbled upon it and because we fought hard in seeking it.
This is a broad statement that I believe needs to be spoken at any adoption training, because adoption isn’t all rainbows and glitter. All adoption starts with unspeakably difficult losses for many involved. There isn’t an adoption that doesn’t start in this way, even though there are many happy, redeeming qualities to adoption. To ignore the loss is unwise and unfair. The visual of seeing an orphanage is life altering and not at all glossy coated and or manipulative in the way organizations that seek money portray these places. It is gritty. Every child without parents in any location anywhere in the world carries that loss in their eyes.
Many people will say that infant adoption is an exception to this because the child is so young that they don’t remember the loss. Of course they don’t remember, just like many toddlers won’t remember things that have occurred to them as they grow older. That doesn’t make it less traumatic for them, however. They’ve experienced a loss that should be acknowledged. And at different stages of life, they’ll need to process the loss differently, and they’ll most likely need their adoptive parents to help them flesh all of that out with them. They do not have the genetic makeup of their adoptive parents, and it is healthy for them to express sadness over that.
There are two types of memories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic memories are the kind we usually talk about: we all have memories we talk about from childhood or know someone who has an amazing memory and can tell lots of stories from the past. Intrinsic memories, however, are memories that are locked into the body of a person, into their minds and emotions. For example, as infants begin to learn trust (versus mistrust), they figure out that the world is a safe place and that their parents will take care of them. If an infant hasn’t received that kind of basic love and nurture or has had inconsistency in caregivers, they get stuck in that stage and don’t learn trust as readily. Their bodies and emotions remember, even though their minds won’t recall the details. THAT is intrinsic memory.
I want to share a little bit about how parenting can look a little bit different when keeping attachment in mind. This can cause a little bit of loneliness in parenting unless you seek out other like-minded parents. Having other adoptive parents as friends has been life giving for us.
In everything we do as parents, we keep attachment in the back of our minds. Sometimes it’s in the forefront of our minds. There will never be a day that we say, “Okay, we are done with attachment work.” For us, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, we will forever be teaching our children that we are consistent, we are unconditional, we are forever, and we are an authority in their lives for their good. Depending on the child’s response to various situations they’ve faced, many times the ability to self soothe is less with a child who was adopted (especially with older child adoptions). We will give our kids the time and space to cool down, and we will give them the power and control to get a compromise sometimes when other parents wouldn’t do that.
We might let our kids do regressive things, like keeping a pacifier or a bottle later or rocking them to sleep for way longer than what is typical. We’ve missed those critical moments in their first years of life, you see, so we have to let them regress emotionally to those stages so that they can learn to trust. It looks different sometimes, but it is so much more than worth it, because we know the strength of the bonds we’ve forged by now in this family.
We won’t use physical punishment, and even our time outs will be different, because we won’t physically remove them from our presence. We will instead draw them near to us when they misbehave (using a time in), because we want them to know that even in their worst moments, we aren’t going anywhere. They have nothing to fear; we are forever, and our love doesn’t come and go with bad behavior (although they still will certainly have a consequence for any crime). Sometimes kids who have been through hard times as babies may have some sensory processing issues to work through or anxiety issues, maybe even night terrors.
Much like with anyone, we will give our kids grace as much as we possibly can (especially during vulnerable moments like meltdowns). We will be slow to judge others and just want others to do the same for us as parents. If your kids had the backgrounds our kids had, you’d want to probably do things this way for their benefit as well. I heard a presenter one time talk about how although we are not the biological parents, in so many ways, we do change our children’s biology. They’ve experienced trauma. We change their brains by teaching them to self soothe, by giving them love and receiving it, by teaching them to deal with anxiety, and by parenting with connection in mind in general. Our kids trust us and we trust them because we squat down low and speak in quiet voices (usually), and we make connection priority. We connect before we correct (when we are in our right minds and doing it well.)
Our world is wonderful because of them; I know their grandparents would whole-heartedly agree. They laugh, and we experience joy like never before. Their unconditional love toward Mommy and Daddy is the best thing in the world. That love was fought for. Their sibling relationship blossoming has astounded me. We are completely smitten and taken with them, and we believe we were all meant for one another. Somehow on our marriage journey together, adoption both fell into our laps and we had to work hard for it all at the same time. Without our losses (ours being infertility and a miscarriage), we wouldn’t have this magical, blessed thing. We wouldn’t have been motivated to get through the mountains of paperwork and occasionally invasive home study. We can relate to the losses our kids experienced because we experienced a little bit of that ourselves on our journey to them. And we all four know that nothing in the whole world could separate us now. We are a team, and when one of us has a battle, we all fight it together. It is more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. I love my family. Love covers up so much that is wrong or broken in this world.
Adoption can sometimes be seen as second rate. For us, it was the glorious, miraculous story that unfolded despite our plans and after a season of heartbreak. It is not second rate, and we are so thankful that our first plans were thwarted. We are not hanging on to hope that we will now have ‘our own’ children (and what an offensive thing to say to us, so please don’t). These children are our own, don’t you see? This is our family, and we get to live this adventure! We cannot even believe how blessed we are.
Written by Amber Robinson for HappyMindHappyHome.com
1) Stay in the moment.
2) Embrace the interruption.
The lesson that I’m learning is that peace and calm aren’t found by doing less, they’re found by paying attention more to what is happening right here, right now. It all goes by so fast; I know I don’t want to miss it.
Photo credit belongs to YLK Photography
Let go of at least one thing that doesn’t have to be done today.
How to be a Positive Parent when Facing Change
1). Listen Fully
2). Validate their feelings.
3). Consider the Positives
4). Let go….
“I want to go to my new school!”, squeals my (almost) 3 year old. In a few short days she’ll be transitioning to a new daycare . My husband and I have been prepping her for this change for a couple months… and prepping ourselves as well. Due to multiple changes occurring within this month ahead (hello baby number 3, kindergarten here we come) we figured why not just throw in one more thing. Changes all around! No man left behind! Let’s go all in!
If you’ve read any of my most recent posts you understated that for me, change usually brings anxiety. But, we are not here to talk about anxiety today. I’m taking a break from anxiety for a while. Instead, I’m focusing on being proactive, positive, and peaceful. I’m keeping in mind that I can only control so much. The rest I must leave up to faith, hope, and trust. I have come to realize I really do know very very little about predicting the future. Psychic readings are not my calling. <huff>
Let’s take some time, shall we, to focus on these 3 “P” words: Proactive, Positive, and Peaceful. Given that there is much to be said on each one of these “P” words I am going to break it down to 3 separate posts over the next 3 weeks, which will be just in time for most of you as you get ready to send your kiddo off to a new school year. We’re going to start with the first, and most important, in my opinion –
Not an actual picture, a mental picture. Children function through images. They develop understanding through seeing and doing as opposed to hearing. Learning through hearing is an acquired skill that develops more through development and growth. When children are young, they need to see and do in order to fully grasp ahold of a concept. This helps them feel empowered and in control.
Here are 3 simple ideas for how to do this:
- Draw a picture together
- Enact a scene using dolls and other toys.
- Dress up and act out a scene together of the first day.
How to get started:
- Start out by reminding your child about the upcoming change.
- Tell her that today you’re going to draw a picture/play a game together about the first day of school.
- Allow her to select the materials to get started.
- Ask questions along the way to help shape her mental picture, such as what will it look like, what colors will the room be, what will her teacher be like, what will she play with, what will she eat, etc. There are no limits really to how imaginative you can become. *It is important, though, that this picture be one grounded in reality. You want her mental picture to closely reflect what will actually happen.
- Also helpful to include here is a play by play. “Mommy will bring you to school and walk you to your room where we’ll meet your new teacher. I’ll get you settled in your room then mommy will leave for work. After work I will come back to pick you up. I’ll be so excited to see and hear what you do on your first day!” Always great to end with something you can both look forward to.
My mind feels quieter lately, less disturbed, and much more calm these past couple of weeks. I have gone through a lot of ups and downs this pregnancy and I feel that I’m finally coming to a place of peace, which is somewhat ironic given that soon I won’t be pregnant at all, but instead will have the change of my new baby to grapple with. At which time I’m sure I’ll have a lot of newness to contend with, but for now, I feel calm, quiet, serene even as I enjoy these last few weeks of holding my baby inside.