Thursday, June 18, 2009

The only thing harder than parenting them is BEING them

We have been talking one of our children through "rewinding" their feelings and finding the source of behaviors. Yesterday evening they grabbed their bag of sidewalk chalk and headed out the back door (their siblings were using theirs, in the front, which they knew - back door was all locked up).

"Whatcha' doin', sugar lump?"

"Going outside to use my chalk."

"Come over here for a bit."

I just put my chin in my hands, smile and get comfortable. I wait out the "This is my bag! I'm just going outside! What? I just want to go outside! You said I could!!!" Hours, days and weeks pass ... "Okay, fine. I'm very stressed about going out to dinner tonight." My smile gets bigger. I wait. And finally, they take a deep breath, pout out those lips and says, "I'm mad about earlier."

I don't say a word. I've been working on moving them forward where I think they can, and this child feels strong enough to use their words and be specific. Months ago I would say something funny like, "Oh, right, earlier today when I took a dump in the bathroom. I can see why that would make you want to go out the wrong door!" Now, I just wait. No talking. Just positive facial expressions, loving eyes and singing the Jeopardy "wait" music in my head.

"Earlier today at the restaurant when you knew I broke the crayons on purpose." We were five hours past the incident. They had broken a crayon, then asked their sister to borrow her's, then broke THAT crayon. I've got a year under my belt. I knew it was no accident. Just a way of communicating how they were feeling in the moment.

"Good job with those words. You are crazy brave. Now let's rewind even a bit further. You're going to hate it but I can hold your hand if you want." They rolled their eyes. "Why did you break the crayons?"

Repeat scenerio above. I have to move to a different soundtrack in my head to pass the time. Finally, "When we got in the car after VBS, P sat down in the seat I wanted to sit in."

So, they broke their own crayon on purpose so they could borrow their sister's and break that one, to pay her back. Then, we walked through how it was no accident, and they just held onto THAT anger and then acted out negatively later with the bag of chalk (... that lived in the house that Jack built).

I had them draw a picture of the anger they had right then. Wad it up. Put it in the trash where it belongs, because it only hurts them. They acted it out, was smiling. We discussed "leaving it behind" in that trash can and moving forward, instead of carrying the anger with them and paying me back.

My child was so very articulate. They joined right in. They asked for a hug. Three seconds later their brother came in to ask me a question. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice them fiddling with something I had helped them with earlier in the day - messing it up royally.

"Do you need help with that? Come on over here." *quietly where only that child could hear* "Wow. The whole paper-in-the-trash-can really didn't help at all, did it? You still chose to hurt me and pay me back for catching the chalk thing."

Yeah, it's crazy. It does not make sense to most of us. I'll talk more later about this, and why their controlling is based in fear. Yet, my child talked through a day of anger. Yes, they manipulated and controlled. They lied to me ... a lot. To ask them to NOT hurt someone just because they hurt them or saw through the manipulation is like asking my child to poke out their own eyeballs.

But we have dialogue. We are slowly helping them heal through those gaps from the trauma in their early childhood. We just keep showing up and using words over and over. Identifying feelings. Safely feeling them instead of avoiding them.

My child absolutely despises talking about the feelings behind their behaviors. Hates it. HATES IT. But they're doing it more and more. I have to keep creating a safe space for that.

Baby steps, friends. I so wish it would all just fix itself. Seriously, though, could I do that? Would I be strong enough? My kid is probably doing a WAY better job than I ever would.

The only thing harder than parenting our children is BEING our children. Remind yourself of this today.


Charlotte said...

awesome insight here... . you've also helped me look at the feelings behind my own quirky behaviors (though I don't break crayons on purpose)... Thanks :)

:)De said...

You are the bravest woman in the world wide web! Every post that I read is just so amazingly full of patience and commitment to your children which translates into an example for other parents.


Jena said...

Your past two posts have helped me immensely with some stuff, thank you!

Babs said...

Great words for parents of all children.
Your RAD kids are leap years beyond my own children!

I learn every time I read...keep writing!

Sara said...

Oh it must be so so hard to try to remain "jesus like" for her since she is watching every move. Your strength for her in such a difficult time is amazing! Go mama go!!

ManyBlessings said...

I've lurked here in the shadows for quite a long time. But this one pulled me out.

Boy, I needed to hear those last lines.

Thank-you. :)


Sean's Ladies said...

yes. yes. yes.

...and ugh.

Hannah_Rae said...

Thanks. Needed that. Still perplexed, but trying.



ldw said...

My hero...

Recovering Noah said...

Really? Are you sure it's harder being THEM than being US? 'Cuz I'm living in the land of This-Sucks-Big-Time.

Nah, I know what you mean. Thanks for the insight. It totally exhausted me - and I laughed out loud at the "house that Jack built" reference. Sooooo true.

Brenda said...

Great job mama sita!

truevyne said...

Good night! I'm sending my son to you, so if you get a BIG box in the mail, and a handsome teenager pops out. You'll know it's from me. With LOVE.

marythemom said...

I'm so impressed with your observation and parenting skills! I will endeavor to be more like you and focus on the precursors to my kids' behaviors. I know so many of them aren't accidents, but they have so many years of practice in sneakiness and denial that it gets frustrating for me.

Thank you,

Mary in TX

Mom to biokids Ponito(10) and his sister Bob(12)
Sibling pair adoptive placement from NE 11/06
Finally finalized on Kitty(14) on 3/08 - 2 weeks before her 13th birthday!
Finalized on her brother Bear 7/08. He turned 15 the next day.
" Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."

Tiffany Dawn said...

wow! I'm amazed by you and your fam Christine! God has given you such grace and wisdom! I was there for the Crayon thing and remember you saying something vaguely... but had no idea it was part of something bigger! From this side, its cool to see how well you know them and how you pick up on every subtle behavior. I really enjoyed lunch and getting to chat with your kids throughout the week! Its almost hard to believe all the difficult challenges you face with them each and every day after seeing them with their classes this week! They ARE amazing kiddos and you are an amazing mother!! God so knows what he's doing and these kids are better off because of you!

I even wish my own mom would have made me stop and verbalize frustrations instead of just punishing me for rebellion without getting to the root of stuff. It would have been great training for dealing with feelings now!

Thanks for sharing your life on the world wide web! :)

Michelema2 said...

Oh how I hope we can get to this point with our 7 year old RADish. I don't know if that will happen because she has a borderline IQ and does not really seem to understand or verbalize even as well as her 2 year old Sister. We had this exact fight just the other day and we and the therapist tried to talk to her about the why's of breaking her crayons and then her Sister's. She basically just gave us answers about food. She's a hoarder,stealer, beggar of food so anything you ask her is usually answered with some food based reason. She did not remember breaking the crayons (even though it happened moments before) but just remembered she had chicken and french fries and was hungry. I really hope she gets to a place where she can talk about feelings. I also hope I have the patience that you do!