Happy Mothering Sunday to all the mums in the U.K. and across the globe!
To My Adoptive Mother
(written in adopted child language) by Stacy Manning
On Mother’s Day I can’t just think of You.
I am not sure one person can love two moms,
I wonder if I am supposed to choose...
maybe if I choose her, she’ll choose me this time. I am not good enough.
On Mother’s Day I can’t be only happy that I have you because it means I don’t have her.
I am sad.
On Mother’s Day I can’t just be peaceful
I am so worried I am going to mess up, I don’t understand what is really expected from me;
I just want to run away or crawl in a hole.
I am anxious.
On Mother’s Day I can’t believe I am good enough to have a mom like you.
I know that mothers leave...
Before you leave me I have to push you away so it won’t hurt so much.
I am scared.
On Mother’s Day I can’t feel vulnerable enough
to show you how much I need you.
I will need to create a smoke screen of behaviors, words and choices that will cover that vulnerability up.
I am a survivor.
I Was Thinking…
I know it sounds crazy, but this journey can make you a "better" person if you let it!
Our hurt kids are truly survivors and in order to still be here they have had to learn
how to zero in on others, especially adults, to really learn how to "do" each of
those relationships in order to get their needs met. When our survivor kids
are triggered and "fighting for their lives", they instinctually know just
what to say and do to control the situation or person and many times that is to
cause us emotional pain. They don't do this because they are
evil; they do it because they believe they need to "push us back" to
Where our self-esteem waivers or our wounds of childhood lay unhealed, where the
questions of our own value lies or our doubts and fears about our
ability lingers - these are the places our children target. The targeting
comes in the form of ridicule, questioning, and blaming
to sabotage, destruction and triangulation of our
closest relationships. And over time we become raw.
I used to introduce myself and say that in the first 6 years of my life as a
mom I was confident that on my tombstone they would write, "She was a great
Mom". However, after we adopted I changed my mind and knew they would
write, "She was a terrible Mom." I was getting caught in my child's
spin and making things worse. I was questioning myself and my abilities. I was
miserable and my children could not have believed I could keep them safe, much
less help them heal!
It soon became clear to me...I needed choose to look at myself and my
vulnerabilities and injuries. I needed to do some work on them for myself
and for my children! I had been getting by keeping a lot of my stuff
just under the surface of my busy life, but it wasn't working
anymore. I did a lot of soul searching, journaling, self-education,
vitamins, etc... I won't say that I am perfect now...that is not
realistic; no one is perfect. However, I can say that my confidence in
myself is strong, I am sure of my mission and my purpose here on earth and, as a
matter of fact, I really am able to own the rest of my stuff much more
As I continue to work on myself - because I believe the job is never done - I am
stronger and can most importantly be VERY clear on what is mine and what is
not! Now instead of adding to my child's spin and instead of
increasing their anxiety with my questioning of myself, I am truly a HEALING
I have walked beside many moms and dads on this adoptive/foster
journey who have had to look in the mirror and see the good, the bad
and the ugly and then work to strengthen and heal
themselves. Deal with their reality. Some chose to use the
tools I did, some worked with their doctors to get some help and
others sought out someone to help them work on THEIR emotional
health. They have finally taken care of themselves. What a great
gift...both to themselves and to their children!
In order to help our kids heal, we need to work on being healed ourselves--we both
I Was Thinking...
You HAVE to know...This is a LONG journey!
Thinking "things should be better by now" is a mistake so many of us make.
It leads us to blame ourselves and lose hope for our kids' future.
It is a common misunderstanding of people outside of our journey too...and it often leads to more pressure, both on us and our children.
Being abandoned and losing that primary attachment figure is and always will be a part of our children. We can't change that, but we can try to give them what they need to experience balance inside. It is not always easy and it takes a long time!
It takes time to:
Until I learned and accepted how long this journey is, I often found that I questioned myself, doubted myself and actually sabotaged healing.
Here are some things we need to consider to be able to stay in "it" for as long as it takes...
Don't become complacent...see your whole child. Look beyond the behavior (good or bad) and help them work on real emotion! Help them believe they are worthy!
Don't stop being intentional...meet your child where THEY are, even if it is different than others.
Don't let survival behavior be the norm...get ahead of the game and provide for the needs of your child without him having to tell you.
Most importantly...don't get stuck in thinking it has been long enough! Every child is different, every story, every family! Be clear that our children are injured - all of them - and to heal is HUGE!
I Was Thinking...
I just wish I could tell every adoptive or foster parent out there that THIS. IS. HARD! I meet so many moms and dads that are hurting. Blaming themselves. Feeling alone and hopeless. STRUGGLING just to keep moving forward!
Their daily struggle includes...tantrums, distance, mistrust, hurtful words, sabotage, push-back behaviors, school issues, feeling judged by others and so much more.
I know how this feels. I have lived it. Sometimes it seems that if we just look at our kids sideways they can be triggered.
I have learned how important it is to share our struggles.
When I started to be honest about the pain, the dread, and the hopelessness the daily struggle created is when I began to heal. I learned that the reality is that LOVE, or the love I knew of, wasn't enough for our adopted kids! The love our kids need is SO much more.
Over time, I learned that I AM capable of loving them the way THEY need to be loved, but that the reality is I wasn't really ever made aware of just how to do that.
Sharing the fact that you are struggling gives others the ability to say, "Hey, that happens in our family too."
All of a sudden you are not alone anymore.
All of a sudden two families are not alone anymore.
All of a sudden you have reason to stop blaming yourself and maybe consider that this is about abandonment and trauma and not about you "doing it wrong!"
Share your struggle without anger.
Share your struggle without blame.
Share your struggle with those that have walked your path.
Share your struggle gently.
Share it anonymously if necessary.
Most importantly, remember…the daily struggle is not because YOU are a horrible parent. The daily struggle is due to pain and loss and IT IS HARD for everyone involved.
I Was Thinking...
There are times when an Intentional Parent just needs to make the decision that it is okay to COAST! I have a head cold this week. My brain feels like it is moving slow. My face hurts. All around not death-bed sick, but kind of miserable. I have learned over the years that my being sick throws everybody off. Some more than others, but it affects them all. Luckily, I don't get sick too often!
I remember days where the more sick I was the more acting out there was. When you don't feel well and you don't understand the limbic system or fight, flight or freeze, you just keep pushing for some kind of sign of healthy relationship from your child, some little glimmer of empathy. You just keep thinking your child should get it. I would just keep on them and on them which, as I now know all too well, makes everything worse!
Over the years, I have learned that when I am sick it triggers my adopted kids. It triggers the survivor in them. Being triggered looks different on each of them. They are all dealing with that old fear that they won't be taken care of, that they might be abandoned again.
I am still reminded of it today as I sit here with this darn cold. My kids are not all triggered to the same degree as in the past, but after 12+ years we've all gotten better at this whole thing. I remain an Intentional Parent and make the decision that we will all need to be allowed to coast for a while.
I have learned how important it is to "look" okay. I don't lay down on the couch; I sit up so it's not so scary. I am conscious of any moaning or groaning I might like to do and keep it inside. I also try really hard to verbalize any grimace or scowl on my face that might be the result of a headache so that my children know I'm not mad, I just have a headache.
Most importantly, I give myself and my children (in my head) permission to just coast till I am better. This is a HARD JOB and there are going to be times that I'm not going to be up to par. Sometimes we just have to COAST. So, I keep the kids within eyesight so they know I am taking care of them and relax (or look like I am reading) with a book or magazine. I overlook behaviors and words that I might otherwise feel the need to focus on. I make easy meals...and not worry that they are perfectly healthy. I let the mess sit and whatever else I need to do to just be able to be - to fill up my tank.
The reality is that what my kids need the most is to believe that I can and will take care of them NO MATTER WHAT. I can do that for them and let myself COAST at the same time! Now that is healing...for us all!