In case it hasn’t been said lately ~ adoption is hard, messy, ugly, and hurtful at times but so worth the fight.
The fight for love.
The fight for hearts.
The fight for value.
I had a messy situation not long ago, and I thought I’d share in hopes it might help someone in the same situation. I also asked a six of my best adoption mama friends just to keep it a little more authentic and full of wisdom. I plan to share their thoughts about melt downs in my next article in May.
Success in our parenting journey is knowing the end goal and knowing the why. What is our end goal and why are we doing this? Think about your own child. What is the greatest loss he or she has ever suffered? Yes, all the broken relationships, abandonments and the loss of all they have ever known.
Spending time together and developing relationship has to be our motivator toward the goal of connection. Time with our children is finite, fleeting, and worth preserving.
Do you have any early birds that fly the nest much earlier than the rest each morning?
The older children sleep in more easily and when they wake, make up their bed immediately.
My husband was recently featured on Dad Tired Podcast March 18 episode highlighting fostering and adoption. The podcaster Jarred made the most amazing analogy between making the bed and our lives.
He and his son work together each morning to make their beds as a way to serve their family. Each time they do, Jarred asked his 6 year old son what making the bed shows him about God. Beds are messy after a night of tossing and turning (our sinful life) and when we make them up in the morning, it’s all beautiful again (our life when we let God have His Way).
This analogy is so apparent in adoption!
Getting back to my story…
A couple of the early birds came down extra early and I asked where the third was. One said, “She’s just slow.” I reminded her that maybe she was making her bed and encouraged this little bird to fly back up to make her own as well. I could see the veil closing over her eyes. In hind sight I should have stopped and visited this later, but I continued.
I told her the bed making story I had heard that morning and how it was a picture of good choices and bad choices. The good choice was to make her bed when asked or better yet, before being asked. She still didn’t go for it. Then I asked if she loved God. She quickly nodded her head. I then asked if she loved Mommy and she stood there for what seemed an eternity and made the slightest shrug. Not going to lie! It hurt!
I suggested she go up to her room and make the right choice. She stomped up the stairs and picked up the first thing she saw then threw it and sat on the floor wailing. I let her cry for a little while then went up to talk to her. She wasn’t in the talking mood yet, so I had her get back in bed as a reset to the day. More wailing and crying and shouting, “I don’t want any of my toys anymore!”
I walked away for another few minutes then went back to help her through the ‘messy bed’ fit.
First, I asked her to sit up and stop crying for a minute, so she could listen. Through her sobs she heard me say all the things I wanted her to believe.
You are SO loved by God and me!
Your heart is so big!
You are worth this fight!
I held out my arms and she fell into me remorsefully saying she loved me and was sorry. I told her it went much deeper than that. There was an inner battle going on between good and evil. We have to choose which one wins. It’s a fight between the messy bed and the freshly made one.
She pulled away for a minute and looked into my eyes not saying a word. It took a long few minutes for her to say anything. I asked if she had anything else to say and she burst out saying she loved me and didn’t want me to give her away for disobeying.
There it was!
The whole reason for the depths of despair we had found ourselves in. At the moment when she stood in the family room and shrugged if she loved me, she had confused Love with Obedience. Don’t we do that with God too? Don’t we think because we did this, and that God might not love me as much? That’s what my child believed too!
Bonding with our children is the most important work we will ever do with our children. Healthy bonds build the ability to create other relationships, learn to express emotions, and face difficult challenges.
I want to share four ways to build the bond and create relationship and connections.
1. Comfort your child when they are upset especially in the first year being home. They have lived in institutions and foster homes where no one cared if they cried. They have to learn that this is different. It will help them learn to self-regulate on their own in the long run.
2. Observe your child and know their likes and dislikes. Create experiences and opportunities they like and shelter from the things they dislike. In the past, with this particular child, I would have stepped in and asked if she would like me to help her make her bed in an effort to support her in something she didn’t like, but she has been home five years and this was clearly a power struggle between good and evil. It was time to respond to her capability and help her choose the good choice.
3. Establish a routine. Contrary to what culture entices us to believe (children need to be in sports and clubs and lessons every day of the week) is our children need and desire routine. If kids were able to verbalize their needs, they would say they crave predictable days and routines. Knowing the routine is extremely important in brain development and restructuring after trauma. Sleep is the number one to focus on! A routine gives our children safety and security as we walk and talk through our day, especially if the routine is about to change.
4. Enhance their self-confidence. Allowing our children to express their emotions while we keep our reactions in control is key. Allowing them the safety of solving conflicts and problems with our support encourages their self-worth. It is a learning process and one that can take years and years.
Are you wondering how my child is doing in the days following the meltdown? Honestly, we still have our moments, but she is much more aware of having a choice to make. It is not just about doing what I want her to do. It is her desire to choose the good and the joy. It is about her becoming more confident in herself and the relationships around her.
It is so much more about Love than Obedience because once she is secure in her bond of love, the obedience will follow.
But don’t just take my word for it. I will be sharing six of my best friends’ thoughts and some of the ways they help their child make good choices and highlight Love over Obedience next month.