My first "writing in pencil" blog, started as an adoption blog, but when sifting through blogs over the past two and a half years, I can count on one set of bunny ears, how many times I have written about adoption. Obviously, there have been other situations in my life that have filled this space, but I have found that everything else is easier to write about than Macie.
It's tricky writing about her. I am incapable of writing to sound lovely, when all is not lovely. Yet, she will likely read this someday, so I never want to sacrifice her heart, in an effort to be transparent and vulnerable, myself. To this end, I have not written about her, until now. And really, I think this will be more about my heart, than about Macie. So, Holy Spirit, please come . . . as I write.
Macie has been home for three very complicated years, as if her life before coming to the Aldridge family, wasn't complicated enough. She is a survivor. She is a testament of God's grace. She is hilarious. She is full of life. She is imaginative. She is absolutely beautiful. She is made in the image of God. She is precious. And last, but not least, the girl can dance! If only these truths that would come to me when my heart and her heart are totally out of sync, which is more often, than not.
The verse that has been lighting up in my brain the past couple days is: I John 4:19 "We love because he first loved us." I have always thought of that verse as an instruction that we should love others, because, after all, God loved us first. But I'm rethinking my interpretation. I wonder if it simply means, what it says. That we have the ability to love, only because God loved us first. What if Macie can't quite love, until she feels loved.
Regretfully and sadly, I feel like I love Macie more, when she is obedient and kind. Maybe you are saying, well, that makes sense, but it is different with my biological kids. What this ugly pattern has translated to, is me desperately trying to get Macie to behave, so that I feel like I love her more. There are countless times and even weeks, that I feel like I could not love a person more, but my love for her changes like shifting shadows. What I know, that I know, that I know, is that something is not right here . . . with MY heart.
My priority has been to get her good. I don't want her teachers to have problems with her. I don't want her friends to have problems with her. I don't want her siblings to have problems with her. and I, personally, don't want to have problems with her. I want the best for her. I so so so so do. So . . . I will MAKE HER GOOD IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO! Except, it doesn't work.
I come from some seriously great parents with some grade A parenting skills. My sister and I are products of Love and Logic and my three kids are products of Love and Logic, but this form of parenting, as much as I want it to work with Macie, is almost exactly opposite of what I now know she needs. I desperately wish that just more solid and consistent Love and Logic techniques would be the key. I can do that. I can enforce consequences, consistently, with a dose of love. I can! I do! But it doesn't even remotely touch the heart of Macie. In fact, I can tell you with no hesitation that the stronger the consequence, natural, derived or whatever, the worse the mingling of our hearts becomes. Again, what I know, that I know, that I know, is that consequences mean very little to her, especially in the long run. Her need for control far, far, far outweighs that she will miss Disney on Ice or privilege of owning a goldfish, if she misbehaves. Typing that last sentence draws so much into focus. Good Golly!!!!! Of course, missing Disney on Ice is no big deal or being deprived of watching a goldfish circle in a bowl means nothing when comparing it to holding onto, what she probably perceives, as survival.
"We love, because he first loved us." Love and Logic tactics sound easier than loving and connecting, in the moments where I am offended by Macie's need for constant attention, whether through disruptive behavior or extreme clinginess. But I'm learning, people. I wish I had a guarantee, that if I take the time to love her well, to refuse to be offended by her layers of hurt, to connect with her when my patience is depleted, that it will pay off. I hope that by making connecting more important than consequences, that I won't be made the fool. Where do I get the idea that love, connecting, and refusing to take offense will harm me? Will harm her? Will make me appear weak? Will be ineffective? Letting go of my parenting ways is so much harder than I thought it would be. Why am I so attached to it? There is even a little corner of me that gives attention to the lie that my parents will be disappointed with this new style, . But, what is keeping me going, is that it is working!!!!!!!!!!
It hasn't changed her behavior, YET, but it is changing my heart. I don't really want to work this hard forever, but I can keep at this, because I am seeing more and more of Macie's hurt, her tenderness and her preciousness. And most importantly, I have left every altercation - even the biggest - FEELING like I love her to pieces. (Don't think for one minute that I am not worried that I just jinxed all of this work over the last 3 weeks by writing that last sentence).
Induldge me, if you will with an example. Sunday night, Macie ran to the piano, (after a series of small little altercations already) when I told Leah it was her time for practicing. When I told Macie it was Leah's turn first, she slammed the fall board of the piano down as hard as she possibly could. My blood was instantly at 5000 degrees. My piano admittedly is probably the only earthly possession that I treasure way too much. It was close to bedtime and what I wanted to do was send her to bed and tell her that I'm done teaching her piano FOREVER and that she may not touch the piano for the next six years. These were literally the consequences going through my mind. I thought, I can't do it right this time. I'm too mad!!!!! But I gave it a try. I had her place her hand onto mine, look into my eyes and speak with respect, which took no less than at least 10 minutes. And before I knew it, we were talking, she was sharing her little heart, and my eyes were teary with compassion for her and our altercation ended with giggles and hugs and I'm not making this up. Together, we came up with a plan for what happens if she treats the piano that way again. (That goes against the natural fibers of my soul, BTW). She had some control in this plan, which she needs. So, the point is, I didn't go to bed that night, feeling distant and frustrated with Macie. I went to bed loving her. This may not sound like a miracle to you, but three weeks ago, I would have enforced a consequence that filled the "natural consequences" bill and just been plain tired with her behavior. I may have even complained about her to someone, only hoping she wasn't within earshot, but not even making sure. Shameful, I know.
After attending the Empowered to Connect conference three weeks ago from today, I have now ordered three DVD's from their website and am ready to walk more confidently down this new path. I seriously wonder how much this Empowered to Connect mumbo jumbo is actually a trick to change the hearts of parents, not change the behavior of kids from hard places. Either way, I'll take it. Just look at this beauty.
Megan's Take: Dang! My heart resonates with SO MUCH in this post -- the beautiful and the hard. What I have learned (admittedly the hard way many times) is that parenting kids that come from hard places is less about "changing the kid" and more about changing me. I cannot be lazy (or at least I shouldn't). It does a huge disservice to all of us when I try to control the situation and operate from sheer emotion and offense. While parenting to connect takes so much more "work" and intentionality, the ultimate result/outcome is INFINITESIMALLY better and helps us all reset more quickly the next time. Because there is always a next time. I am so proud of you for doing this -- especially when the last two years of parenting have been by yourself! That takes some serious resolve and grace, my friend. I am also inspired by your reminder about Empowered to Connect. Those resources are amazing and we never really "out grow" them. The minute we think we have this parenting thing "in the bag" (for any of our kids) is the minute we need to shed that myth and ask God to equip us with new energy, creativity and desire for connection. We will all be better for it. We are all complicated creatures and being a parent keeps me tethered to humility -- that is for sure!
I have not adopted a child. And I have not been to the Empoyered to Connect conferencey-deal. But I learned so much from this post! I really think the concept of taking the long-way-round to REALLY connect with people has gigantic potential to change the world. And so much of what I have learned in parenting is more about my own heart junk than about my kids' heart junk. This is a beautifully real-time genuine peek into your heart and Macie's. So honored to read and be personally sharpened by it.