A New Chapter
I Was Thinking…
I am a proud Mom all the way around! This week is our county’s 4-H encampment time at the Minnesota State Fair. Over the past few years, my kids have been able to attend the fair after winning trips from our county fair. Their Dad has always been a chaperone and they each made the trip when they were ready.
This year was a bit different. As my children get older, they are really learning about themselves and understanding where/how they feel the most comfortable and can really vocalize that to us. So proud of them – we’ve worked on this for years! It used to be that when something provoked anxiety there was all kinds of sabotage: behaviors, attitudes, meltdowns, etc.. I used to have to do a lot of intentional parenting to help them be successful. They typically enjoyed themselves once they got there or at least once they got their judging over with.
This year, all five of the six that participate in 4-h won blue ribbons and trips to the MN State Fair, but only three of them took the trips. A new chapter!
My middle daughter was proud of her county fair winnings, but asked me if she HAD to go to the fair. She was able to very concisely share with me that she was glad she had been able to go the last couple of years, but that it really wasn’t for her. She talked about it being extremely overwhelming for her - the noise, the crowd, the very size (acreage-wise) of it. My beautiful smart daughter said one day is enough for her so she spent part of a day last week at the fair with her boyfriend.
My oldest son decided to focus on his studies and attended classes at a local community college while his siblings went to the fair. He did go spend an evening at the fair with his buddies.
My middle son took his video to the state fair and won a blue ribbon and acted in a play that got high honors for that night.
My youngest daughter took her beautiful art to the fair and won a blue ribbon.
Finally, my youngest son took his entomology project to the fair and won a blue ribbon and acted in two different performances that won high awards.
They all participated and succeeded the way in which was best for each of them! I guess 13 years of Intentional Parenting is working! It’s all about making sure you Keep On Keepin’ On!
Back to School
I Was Thinking…
Once again as Intentional Parents we need to see with our hearts and our heads, not only our eyes. We need to support our children through this school year meeting them right where they are – seeing the whole child not just the outside survivor! It is a very INTENTIONAL Mindset!
For many of our kids, school is HARD! The bus ride is even HARDER! It can really force them back to their SURVIVOR SELF! Think about it, it is a survival of the fittest kind of feel some days. Do you have the right clothes, the right shoes, are you tall enough, cool enough, do you use the right lingo – much less you don’t live with your parents, you’ve seen SO much, adults have hurt you, kids have hurt you, you don’t think you are smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough and on and on. Ugh, so hard for our kids! We can help them best if we can see things as DEFICIT not DEFIANCE!
Some of our kids cover it pretty well. Some of them even become the PERFECT student. They internalize the belief that if they are a good student they are worthy of good things. We want them to internalize that we believe they are worthy just because of who they are (our child), not what they do. That we will be that Safety Net NO MATTER WHAT! We have to verbalize this reality over and over and then back it up with action! Back them up, be their cheerleader. Teach them balance. Teach them what it means to have a “one and only”!
Some of our kids will not be able to cover so easily. But once again it is about their core belief about themselves and so we must remind them that even though they don’t believe they can do it, even though they feel so different than everyone else, even though they are worried about losing us when they are not with us – we will be there as long as it takes and NO MATTER WHAT! We understand that there is an emotion behind the behavior that needs caring for. We are clear that children who are working on attaching have a hard time doing academic work as well. We know that their struggle is not because “he isn’t trying” hard enough. We are the SAFETY NET, we are there for our child, seeing his whole self - NO MATTER WHAT!
Seeing the situation with a clear Intentional Parent Mindset isn’t always easy. This is where we start swimming upstream – against the current, a different direction than everyone else! The really GREAT news is that this is where HEALING happens because this is where our child REALLY begins to understand what it means to have a Safety NET. They begin to internalize that they are worthy of good things in life because THEY matter! With those kinds of messages impacting their core belief about themselves, over time they will be freed up to learn and explore the world so much more freely!
So when we are trying to help with homework, educate teachers, deal with ugly behavior we must remember to use an Intentional Parent Mindset. As we parent our child who has lost so much, we must always look behind the behavior (positive and negative) and meet the emotional needs that are there!
I Was Thinking…
I am just now feeling back to normal after a week of BIG stress. As a lot of you know, my Dad had surgery a week ago Monday. It was an especially big surgery in that it was in his brain. BIG. SCARY. STRESSFUL. Stuff! A week and a half later, I can say he has come through it well! Now we wait and see if it helped take care of the constant pain he was in. We are thankful that he came through this far as well as he did!
I spent the week pretty much dedicated to taking care of both of my parents in the way they each needed it. Making sure my Mom didn’t get too tired taking care of Dad, staying at the hospital with Dad and helping with his cares. It was interesting to watch how they each handled the stress of such a huge life event.
Mom is a doer and fixer. She always puts herself last - even at the expense of herself. She is often way too critical of herself. When life gets stressful, she does more, fixes more and doubts herself more. It is just who she is. Well those things in addition to beautiful, strong, smart, faith-filled, curious, insightful and so much more.
As I watched my Mom deal with the impending surgery, she “looked” calm. I knew on the inside she must be spinning. She was having to consider the loss of her partner of 50 years. Lost either to death or to one of the main complications of this surgery, stroke. One false move and he could be changed in personality forever. This is STRESS! When I asked her about how she was, it all came to the surface. Of course she was scared. She had not voiced her opinion about what he should do as she “felt” it was his decision – it wasn’t her place. She held it all in. She did tell me she told Dad that she would probably cry when they wheeled him away…he told her he didn’t understand why.
In the weeks before the surgery, Dad was very matter of fact. He made the decision to have the biggest and longer lasting of the three surgery options by the time he got home from the doctor’s office. He didn’t ask Mom what she thought. As far as he was concerned, it was his decision to make. My Dad is first and foremost independent and self-reliant. When life gets stressful, he is more independent and goes more into himself. It is just who he is. Those things and confident, strong, wise, reliable, insightful, a great provider, the “EverReady Bunny” and so much more. Dad didn’t talk to anyone about his emotions about the surgery either, but for such different reasons than Mom. Dad didn’t see the need; he really didn‘t see how it affected anyone but him. Not in a bad way – just through his attachment filter!
As we moved from the waiting room through pre-op, Mom was constantly looking for something to do to make everything better - magazines, pillows, repeated questions and concerns to Dad about his glasses, phone, hearing aids, how hungry he must be, and so on. Dad’s technique to pass these hours consisted of reading with his head down or just sleeping through everything. Wow – such opposite styles!
When Dad was finally wheeled to surgery, I gave him a kiss and said see you later and left to let them have their space. As I walked away, I heard him say to her “You don’t have to cry.” She caught up to me wiping her eyes. Then, we began the wait.
When we finally got to see Dad post-op, he was in pretty rough shape and I saw Mom click into action. She wanted to DO. To MAKE THINGS BETTER. To FIX IT for him. However, Dad didn’t want anyone touching him or his pillows or his bed. It was so clear that in one of my Dad’s biggest trials of his life he HAD to do it himself. He wasn’t sure she understood his needs or had his best interest in mind – even after 50 years together. When Mom did try to help him, it was not right and he was not gentle in telling her so. I totally get this about my Dad and Mom. Dad’s attachment quality really goes to avoidant when he is under stress. He goes into himself – he takes care of himself at the expense of others’ feelings because that is the style of attachment he formed with his Mom. It still plays out so clearly in defining moments like this.
On the other hand, when pushed to such a trial Mom really felt like her job was to make it better for him. She kept trying over and over. Even though he was gruff and critical, she didn’t give up. She was hurt and lots of times didn’t understand his treatment of her, but she took it and kept fixing. Mom’s attachment quality really goes to ambivalent when stress is high. She fixes and fixes at the expense of herself. She doesn’t often say anything to Dad when he is hurting her with his words. She doesn’t stop. She just does more and more in moments like these.
This is NOT about whether my parents LOVE each other or not. My parents love each other a lot – that is not in question. They have suffered much pain and loss throughout their marriage and have always remained steadfast and true to each other. I am truly so touched by their commitment to one another! I mean 50 years - that is awesome! Love is not at question here.
What I am writing about, what I observed through the past few stressful weeks, are the remnants of some of the very basic tools my parents brought to this relationship 50+ years ago. Those tools are from their relationship with their primary attachment figure…their Mom. Those foundational beliefs, attitudes and techniques that we all use to do all future relationships. I mean we fine tune them and tweak them throughout life so that they work as well as possible. We become secure in ourselves, our relationships and our abilities, but when under stress we pull out everything we’ve got! We go back to what we know. NONE of it is GOOD or BAD, RIGHT or WRONG; it just is!
I am pretty sure that my parents don’t know the term “attachment style.” I am quite sure that they don’t think to themselves, “I have to be aware of my attachment style and know how I handle stress so that I don’t hurt my spouse.” Nor do they know to be able to identify a choice of the other as just part of their style rather than a purposeful choice to hurt them. It is evident that their attachment styles are at play within their marriage and that they do still have an effect on how they handle stress. Within that they have figured out how to accept the other right where they are emotionally and move through it for 50 years. But, I really believe that the divorce rate of today’s society would be highly affected if people were educated about this phenomenon.
Stress and how we deal with it is absolutely affected by our attachment style – there is no way around it! As we are coming to the end of the stress of this big life event, I am inspired to look at myself, my style and how I do stress - how my style affects my marriage, my parenting and how I do all of my relationships! I believe that it is always good to keep working on being the best me I can be!
How Long Will This Take?
I Was Thinking…
Tomorrow we are moving our oldest (and most injured) adopted daughter into her own apartment. After the 13 long, rocky years we have been parenting this child you would think we'd be cheering, but reality is that it is just another chapter in this story - not the end of the book. We will be actively parenting her for awhile yet!
I know, we are always our children's parent, no matter how old they get. However, in this case we will still be involved in EVERY aspect of our daughter's life. We are on her lease, have a key to our apartment, share a joint checking with her, hold her credit card and passport and so on. Emotionally she is not prepared to handle all the aspects of this new chapter, but chronologically she feels like she is failing if she doesn't experience some level of emancipation. Her sense of self worth is very fragile; therefore, we put this move in motion.
Let me tell you getting her to this point has been SO much work! She does not have a clue about a lot of things, her memory has big holes in it and she DOES NOT ask for help. Her challenges with doing relationships is most apparent here at home as they are deeper. These deficits come off as a self absorbed, condescending, and a narcissistic point of view. Not good! However, out in the world where relationships are more "surfacey" she looks great!
After weeks of being coached (much against her better judgment) on how to get a job, she did land one! She is doing pretty well at this job even though it is pretty physically taxing. She is making "friends" there and acquiring some self-esteem. This is GREAT! That said, it's about all she can handle.
All the other details involved with the rest of her life including thinking about what she is going to eat off of is just too much. Yes, I know it is her first time living on her own, blah, blah, blah... Her sister who is two years younger then her (also adopted) has been making lists of what she needs and is helping to do that "thinking" for her. This is deficit not inexperience!
So after literally telling her what to say to get the job, her Dad and I have found an apartment for her, opened bank accounts,
figured out the phone situation, dealt with leasing agents, electric companies, rounded up furniture, bought things she needs for her daily living, etc, etc... She just can't do it. At the beginning, we tried to help her by working together to write out a plan she could put into place. She'd still be here tomorrow and extremely unhappy - which never bodes well for the rest of the family - had we let that happen.
We have a contract with her in regards to a variety of things including finances, use of the apartment, and eating healthy that she had to sign before we would co-sign on the lease. She agreed to all of the points, albeit reluctantly.
SO, how long?
Well, her Dad will be meeting with her once a week to do budgeting, she is to call home at the very least M,W,F and has to talk to her Dad or I. She has to make a specified amount of money or we will move her home and sublet the apartment. We have a key to OUR (hers and our) apartment and we have been very clear about our intention to show up at any time. It is our intention to be in her everyday life so that she can continue to be successful. Whether or not she can see she needs help or whether or not she can ask for help we know she does - we have to be there to help her!
I have to share too that this has not been totally easy for my husband and I. It is certainly not what we expected 13 years ago. After the emotional, physical and verbal abuse we have suffered at the hand of this child, it is only by intentional choice that we continue to put this kind of effort in. The easy way would be to tell her to figure it out herself. However, we know that she did not choose to be neglected, abused, and abandoned. We know this is deficit not defiance. We know that she deserves to have a family. We know this is not personal. Honestly, I don't know how long she will need it...we are in it for as long as it takes and No matter what!
As Intentional Parents, this reminds us to remember that there is HOPE! We were advised by many to disrupt this adoption. We wondered if this child might just end up in jail all of her life. We must keep trying, make healing choices despite our emotions, and be so committed to stay in it for "as long as it takes" that our child is convinced too!