Friday, November 13, 2009

Always learning

Even though I have had three biological children of my own, I am finding that parenting adopted children is nothing like parenting biological children in many, if not most, regards. Despite all the reading, classes, preparation, etc. and despite the 11 years I had put in the parenting department before they came home, there are some things that nothing can really prepare you for.

I'm always hesitant to share a lot on my blog. A lot of people in my "real" life read my blog, and I do feel concerned that things I could share on here could somehow intentionally create judgment of my children.

Adoption parenting has, and continues to be, a crash course in many departments for myself.

Wednesday night I found myself in a situation in which I drew upon information I read in another blog, and it helped me tremendously. So that was my catalyst in deciding to share some of these "harder" times with others. Maybe what I'll write may help someone else one day.

One of my sons was having a very difficult day on Wednesday. He was defiant and obstinate at school, and when I questioned him about it on the way home, he both refused to look at me or answer me.

Now, in our home, with our boys, we are "easing" into many expected rules and behavior. I don't want to overwhelm them with too much, so we focus on the "large" issues and then as we conquer those we add on new expectations and duties as the boys can handle them.

But two of the steadfast rules we have in our home are that when Mommy and Daddy are talking to you, you look at them. And when Mommy and Daddy ask you a question (we will use Kreyole to help communication), you answer them.

Now, both boys are fully able to function within and fulfill both rules. So it's not asking too much of either of them. And when they don't do this, they are "choosing" not to as a means of acting out, showing disrespect, etc.

So on Wednesday, this child chose not to look at me and not to answer. I don't feel time outs are a productive environment for either boy (when they are alienated physically from the family, it seems to amplify their "me versus the world" mentality and promotes worse behavior. So I give "time ins" where they hang out on a chair by Mommy in the kitchen, until they are ready to both look at me and discuss the issue at hand.

To my full surpise, this child became *very* phsyically agitated. He refused to sit, tried to kick the chair over, stand on the chair, and bite me when I got close to him.

Now, I know that this type of tantrum happens. I've read about others experiences with it, but this was a complete shock to me, because this has not yet happened in our home with this child.

Finally, he chose to sit quietly. I finished making dinner while he cooled down. I figured he would better answer and comply with a full belly, so I nicely asked him to please sit at the table for dinner.

He refused.

I asked a number of times, nicely. I served the other children. But after 30 minutes, it was beyond obvious that he was being defiant by choice. So I informed him that if he was not going to choose to eat, he was going to choose to go to bed. I informed him that he had 3 more minutes to choose to sit down. I told him it was his last chance.

He still chose not to eat.

Now, I am a Polish woman married to a Guamanian man. Family meal time is central to our lives. Sending a child to bed without supper just about kills me. But being inconsistent kills me even more deeply.

So, with a deep breath, I announced that we were going upstairs to go to bed. I took the child by the hand and began walking towards the stairs.

This child went animal balistic. I have never seen anything like it in my 11 years of parenting. He scratched, clawed, and tried to bite me. He would noodle out, and I would go to pick him up. 3 times I was not quick enough and his foot got me square in the face.

I have NEVER been kicked by a child of mine. Well, maybe an attempt by a tantrumming 18 month old, but never by a child of this age.

I finally got the child to his room and into his bed. I left the room and went to sit down in my room. My heart was racing and the muscles in my forearms were literally balled up by the stress of having to hold onto him. I had tears of anger in my eyes. And I had no idea what to do. Suddenly, my mind turned to something I had read.

Maybe a year ago I read a blog post by an adopting mama whose son (the same age as mine) had a major, physical tantrum in a public place, which was a horrible experience for her. They got home and she took him in their rocking chair and rocked him. She cried and rocked him. She cried and told him she loved him.

At that moment, sitting on my bed, I felt zero love. Zero compassion. Zero anything except exhaustion and adrenaline (is it even possible to feel both at once?) This little child had been testing me constantly as of late and I just felt like with this horrible experience, I.was.done. for that night. All I wanted to do was have my husband come home and to flee the house.

But that post stuck in my mind. And I prayed. And I knew that even though I didn't even want to be in the same home with this little boy at that moment, I had to go to him.

So I did the thing that I wanted to do least at that moment. I went to him.

I picked him up. Held him. Told him I loved him. A lot. Told him I would always love him. No matter what. Told him that it was NOT okay to hit, kick and bite Mama. Ever. Never. But that I loved him no matter what. Always. That I was his Mama. He is my son. I told him that he is a precious, perfect child of Jesus. And that Jesus loves him.

I gave him a hug, gave him a kiss, and put him back in his bed.

And then it was time for me to take Hattie to dance, and for the Mister to take over in the parenting department.

Two days later and things are better. My son has been more regulated the past 2 days. With the Mister's aid, he apologized to me for kicking me. He seemed truly sorry and worried. That's a good sign.

But this adoption parenting is a crash course in learning compassion and learning love when I don't feel like either. Truth be told, it was SO hard for me to be compassionate at that time. I certainly did not feel it. I certainly did not feel the love. But sometimes it's just the act of being obedient to the idea. Acting loving. Acting compassionate. Doing the thing we least feel like doing, but at the time when it is most important to do it. It's not easy, and it's not fun, and it's not "feel good" by any stretch of the imagination. And more often than not, I'm reminded of my sinful nature and the grace God extends to me, lovingly, time and time again.


Anonymous said...

Good, honest post. I share the same concerns (stories of the tough times perhaps coloring perception of the kids, us, and the family as a whole) but hope that, if another family reads this, it will help them.

I think we all have moments where children test our love. It is the ability to show the love toward that child (even though it is the dimmest emotion on the range of feelings at that second) that proves in action that, as parents, we love that child- even at that ugly moment.

You are a great mom. You are parenting great kids. All of us are human, but you showed great love that night despite the human feelings that coursed through your mind. The kids have a wonderful role model in you!


Sawatzky family said...

So well said Cliff! What a wonderful mom you are indeed. I can imagine a VERY proud Father in Heaven beaming at His precious daughter living out His love and grace with her own children.
Well done Sarah. :)

bbbunch said...

Oh my dear, sweet Sarah. One of my biggest pet peeves of people is when they aren't "real" - especially when it comes to parenting! It is a very hard, vulnerable thing to admit that things aren't perfect and where we struggle...but a very generous gift to the rest of us sitting with our own struggles! I have nothing but respect for you and your parenting, and in no way, shape or form has anything you have ever told me (via blogging or in "real life") ever influenced negatively how I feel about you or your beautiful family. Your honesty is one of the things I treasure most about you :) Thank you for this post...I really needed it today!

Love you!

small town girl said...

Thanks so much for posting this. I really don't have time anymore to struggle with the 'honesty' issue, as I find it difficult to find the time to post at all! You can be sure when I get it posted, it's honest!!! Like you and Cliff I have struggled with EXACTLY these same issues, and I know other parents of Haitian kids that have experienced similar. It leads me to believe that much of the behavior is cultural or orphanage related, or perhaps it all stems from a deep-seated resentment of their initial abandonment, who knows but it drives me NUTS. In fact, we had issue just this morning (again)lots of times it stems from 'not getting their way' and it's usually a very small thing. So I was going thru the lecture phase in the car, which to her ears must sound like blah blah blah (but it makes me feel better) and she stuck her fingers in her ears. I stopped the car and physically took her fingers out. The next time I looked back there she had a piece of sucker candy in her mouth. She had been asking me for it since the break of dawn, and told her she could have it when she ate her breakfast and was dressed for church, and so she was actually acting in accordance at that point. However, her behavior for the past hour had been so defiant, I did not at that point feel like she deserved the candy, and I took it away from her. She was even sucking on that candy in a defiant manner. Anyway
that got her attention; she cried real tears. Her sister even said "But you said she could have it" and I replied "yes I did, after her poor behavior she does not deserve it I told her if she came around she could have it back after church. I have always felt like a punishment or consequence administered immediately has the best effect but I just can't always think of what it should be! Norml stuff, as you explained, does not make a dent. She was fine after church, as I knew she would be and she got her candy back. We have been thru this type scenerio many times. I read them your paragraph about respecting mommy and daddy, speaking when spoken to, and looking. I said "see, I'm not the only mommy who expects this" they looked at me with big unbelieving eyes. They must think we are the craziest group of 'blans' ever!

I could so relate to your heart racing, your anger and of course the total lack of motivation to carry on and do the right thing. A couple of times I wondered if I was having a heart attack. For me, (not that this is rational or mature) have realized that some of that stems from the amount of anxiety and money that we expended on getting them here. The disrespect and also the total ingratitude sends me into hyperventalation space. Of course I realize they are children and they have no concept, but it does not change my stong emotional reaction. I really have to pray for strength and patience during these times.

Just know, you do not walk alone sister! Hang in there, you are doing great!

ManyBlessings said...

Just know you are NEVER alone on this road. Others have walked (me) or are walking with you.

Email me if you ever need a shoulder ok?