Thursday, February 04, 2010

Parenting 101

I have come to the conclusion that in the beginning, parenting adopted children is NOTHING like parenting biological children.

I write, in the beginning, because that's where we are and I don't know, maybe some day I will feel differently.

Before you bring adopted children home, you may hear a lot of: "You have to treat your adopted kids the same way you treat your bio kids. Treat 'em the same, discipline 'em the same."

If I squint, I can kinda sorta see where those people are coming from. It sounds good in theory.

In reality, I have found it anything but helpful.

* * * * * * *

So four and six months ago, we brought home two beautiful boys.

And my life tipped Up.Side.Down. And if I'm honest, I don't feel like we're anywhere near righting itself. Yet. (I have great hope.)

When the boys came home, I didn't expect perfect behavior out of them. Nowhere near! I slowly introduced our expectations of them (look at mom when she's talking to you; look at mom while you're talking to her). Once we felt like they got the 'hang' of something, we would slowly introduce another expectation, (say "I'm sorry" after wronging someone; tell the truth; answer when asked a question.)

When a consequence needed to be doled out, we relied on what worked with our original three children. Talks (okay, lectures) about right and wrong; time outs (or time in's); restriction of tv/basement play or toys; and on occasion, a spanking.

* * * * * * * *

Ask me how it's working so far.

It's not.

We have replayed many behavior/consequence scenarios OVER and OVER and OVER again.

I know Rome wasn't built in a day. I certainly don't expect my boys' behaviors to diminish overnight.

But my Mommy Intuition has been telling me, "this ain't working" when I've taken the more traditional approaches to consequencing.

Over the past couple weeks I've been reading a ton. Re-read Beyond Consquences, Logic and Control. Found the AMAZING blog Welcome to My Brain and spent hours reading it and all the linkies. Same with equally amazing Corey W's blog. I've googled therapuetic parenting.

We have signed ourselves up for Therapeutic Parenting 101.

* * * * * * * * *

The purpose of this parenting style is to get to the WHY of the child's behavior to help them heal.. To determine where their behavior is stemming from . To treat the cause and not the symptom. To help the child heal from the trauma of their young lives.

A LOT Of it involves me. I know by now that how I react greatly determines the road I will be traveling on with that child regarding that circumstance. Will we be on Control Circle? Defiance Drive? Angry Avenue? Peaceful Parkway?

This is, by far, probably one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken in my entire adult life.

I'm becoming painfully aware of my own ugly reactions. My shortcomings: my patience issues. My intolerance issues. My control issues.

I'm gaining insight into why I act the way I do. What I'm afraid of. Why I shut down when I'm faced with unpleasantries and why I have such a difficult time at opening myself up emotionally when it's all said and done.

* * * * * * * *

So far, I am sucking at this. Big. Time.

I am finding that I am re-building a support circle. I'm trying hard to surround myself with people who I don't need to "pretend" with. To find people who understand and can support.

I love these little guys.
I want them to heal.
I want them to have the world of opportunities before them that all children should have. In a perfect world.

I am trying to remind myself that God gave me these children because I am the right Mama for them. Because there were some many points in our adoption road where it could have fallen apart. Where the door could have been slammed in our faces.

But it never was.

There are days when I get mad at this whole thing because it's not easy.
There are days when I am resentful at how up-ended our home is right now.
There are days when I mourn for the normalcy we once had.
And there are days when I'm faced with behavioral challenges and I don't have a stinkin' clue about how to handle them.

So far, in all these failures, I often find myself questioning God's judgment when he gave me these boys. Because, most days, I don't have a clue. Most days, I'm worried that I'm actually adding to the damage.

For now, I'm going to keep the blog public. I might at some point create a separate blog where I can blog freely about these attachment issues and challenges, but for now, I'm going to test the waters here. I know how much reading other blogs by women gracious enough to stay public has helped me. And I'd like to 'keep it real' publicly here. But, there are a good deal of people in my real world who read this, and I'm not sure how comfortable I am with all of that.

I wish I had some profound bit of insight to share here or some elegant words to end this post. But I don't. Instead, I'll just end it awkwardly: We're here in this attachment journey. And I'm going to blog about it. And if you will kindly hold my hand (because putting so much of this 'out there' is scary!), I would be ever so grateful.


Salzwedel Family said...

Acting like everything is sunshine and roses never helped anyone and is not REAL. I appreciate your insights as a mom preparing to bring home an adopted child. I hope you will continue to put it all out there.

Sawatzky family said...

Oh my dear Sarah :)
You are so supported and so loved by us. I so love that you are choosing to be real and authentic with those of us who are no where near your situation. It is so helpful to those of us who are not in an adoption journey. Helping us become more aware and informed about what others may be facing. It helps us know what to pray, it helps us know you just a little bit better, and it helps us grow in our empathy for others. Your family is an amazing thing that God has brought together under hard and fustrating and wonderful circumstances, and I could not agree more that a real genuine support system of women and families in your lives is a very important thing. Praying for those connections is a great way for God to place the perfect people in your path. God called you into this family and lifestyle and He will give you the grace and strength to walk through it :)
Lots of love!
Shelly and gang

ManyBlessings said...

Having been through this, I will absolutely be there with you.

Email me any time. Huge believer in BCLC here. That after I walked your road. Trying other things.

Did a whole series on my blog on attachment. Check it out on the labels.

I'm with ya girl. You ARE the right momma for these boys.

Me said...

I'm holding your hand. I could have written this myself. It made me feel better to read this and know I'm not alone even though I feel very lonely right now.


notperfectmomma said...

Hi Sarah, I have never commented before, but have been reading for a year or more, maybe 2. I HAD to comment on this post. I loved it and SO related to it!! We have an adopted daughter and 2 bio boys. I always knew I wanted to adopt, from the time I was a young, young girl on. I never gave a second thought to if they would be treated/parented differnt. Of course not, they are all my kids, I love and parent them the same. Well then our princess came home with a long list of attachment issues, which brought out a whole long list of my own issues in parenting her. There is so much that many of our kids hold in their little bodies, it's overwhelming to think about, so I can only imagine what it's like for them. SO, I totally agree that there is very little that is the same in parenting her as parenting the boys. Do I love them ALL to pieces? OF COURSE!! But it's very differnt. My little girl has been home about 2 1/2 years and I would say just in the last 6 months are things "normal"...things really feel good...we feel like a happy loving family. I feel like I really have a daughter and it's wonderful! You'll get there, I have no doubt, it's so early yet. We aren't far away from you I believe, so if you would ever like to get together and chat, I would be happy to, or even just via email if you want. You're a great Mom!! It will happen, it will get easier. Hugs, Amy

Steph, G's Mom said...

Me too Sarah!

There are times when I feel I STILL could be writing this. They are far between now, but still happen. And the more I read from people who are NOW going thru the big adjustment, the more I see too how I need to sometimes alter my reactions and responses to G as well. We are all in this does take a village, even if the village is spread all over the world!

You are a fab Mama, Sarah


Anne Marie said...


I read the blog tonight and it made an impact, my heart hurt for you. I appreciate the honesty, but I hate hearing you in pain. I know I know absolutely nothing about motherhood or how to have adopted children. So, I debated whether to email you or post. I want you to remember that you are amazing. Always have been and always will be. I know that when you do something it is always at 150+%. You are just as much if not more so an overacheiver as I am (yep, pot calling kettle). So, here is what I am saying I know it hard, but I want you to stepback look in the mirror and say, "I am AMAZING person, woman, mother, friend and although, everything doesn't come easy. I am strong and I will come out of any challenge stronger"

Miss you.

ksb said...

I completely agree parenting adopted children is very very different. I think for many reasons....but I also know that adopting toddlers or older children even adds to the complexity of attachment and bonding. Ayden was by far our most difficult. He still struggles with issues that I don't know how to handle...and I know I handle wrong time after time.

Hang in there and keep posting. It helps! Kim

geralyn said...

Sarah dear, You are expressing feelings similiar to what I had when R and J came home. Although all of my kids are adopted, we were in the delivery room when madi was born and Marc cut the cord and Thomas was only 10 days old when he came to us. In a way, bringing home R and J was for us, like adopting for the first time. They were older and had learned behaviors that we didn't like.

The not looking at you when they are in trouble is a cultural thing. My kids are just starting to look at me...under duress when in trouble...but they are working on it. I try to look at adopting older kids this way: Bringing home the boys was like being kidnapped by a friendly stalker. They (us the parents) profess love but to the boys, we are just kindly strangers. We love them, but they don't know what to feel for us.

Love is something we have freely given to the boys. We love them no matter what. However, their love for us waxes and wanes. We knew when we brought R and J home that we already loved them, but that they most likely would not love us, or at least reciprocate the love to us in a way we would recognize.

Give yourself some time and don't beat yourself up. In essence, you are still in the falling in love stage of dating and you have to give yourself (and the boys,too) time to recognize love and true, deep emotional connections. It will develop. Just realize they might not demonstrate love back to you in a fashion you recognize. It will happen....most likely when you least expect it.

Your feelings are normal and I give you a standing ovation for sharing and reaching out for advice. Long distance hug to you. You have a friend in North Dakota!!

zeiglergb said...

Sarah - I find it reassuring to see you post a blog saying that life is difficult sometimes. I struggle weekly with how I'm raising my kids, balancing my time, not balancing my marriage, and just wondering what I can do to do better. And I always leave your blog feeling amazed at everything that you tackle - in fact, feeling intimidated because it often seems to me that you do so much more! So I will leave you with "keep it up". You are an amazing! person and I feel blessed and honored to know you, if even just a little. You give me perspective and make me want to be a better of a wife and mother. Hang in there. Julie Zeigler

Corey said...

You can always open a second blog where you write privately (or anonymously) about attachment stuff. It's not "less honest" to do so... for me, I am/can be fairly open about Vivi & her stuff because not too many people in our "real life" read my blog, and because she also doesn't go to school, so it's not like someone in the drop-off line is going to be reading about her peeing her pants and talking & pointing. Still (believe it or not) there is a lot that I *don't* write about, just because ALL Vivi ALL the time would be boring (and really, people would think I'm just making this stuff up, LOL!)

Just keep swimming, Sister! We'll hold you up, and when I'm having a rough day, you return the favor.


Laurie said...

I found the one year mark home there were substantial gains. Neraing year two & we still struggle. Hugs to you, Laurie

Lisa said...


We just came home today and right now I am seeing things w/ rose colored glasses. I know those glasses will soon be off and the realities of parenting a child that has lived in an orphanage for 3.5 years will soon come to light. I don't know what lies ahead for us, but I do know that having the helping hands of another mother several months ahead of me will be most comforting. I appreciate your willingness to share the up's and down's.

Isabelle said...

holding your hand too! I can relate to all you said!