I know that Spring Break was a few weeks ago, but I am just now recovering from it. The first half was really pretty good. We went with some families up to Beaver Creek and skied for a few days at BC and Vail and the kids did mostly well and I was just happy to be on a pair of skis again. I didn’t know if I would ever ski again. I felt semi cool and very upper class, as I rubbed ski poles with the rich and famous. I felt pretty put together and our family was holding it all together quite well.
THEN . . . we came home. Tony went to work and I was in the house with five kids who had kept it together for the past four days. Sometimes, having five kids that have all had significant trauma in their lives, under one roof, is like living in a group home for foster kids. One in particular, is having quite a time, therefore, I am having quite a time and that is the understatement of the year.
I took Spencer to soccer practice at Memorial Park that week and brought the girls over to the playground on the far side of the lake. If you live in Colorado Springs, you know, you are not in the Broadmoor anymore. It is basically the opposite of Beaver Creek. Yet, I felt at home there for those minutes. There were pit pulls tugging on leashes, young mom’s talking about their dead beat boyfriends, there were cars parked there with doors half way off . . . you get the picture. All I felt like I needed to do to fit in, was make my little Anthropolgie shirt into a midriff somehow, throw a wad of gum in my mouth and start talking about how my life looks nothing like I thought it would. I could whine and complain all I wanted and nobody would think it would be out of place.
So, sit down with me at a bench at Memorial Park and hear me whine. I heard whispers and statements about how step parenting is the hardest thing people have ever done in their lives, but I HAD NO IDEA! I have parented an adopted child from trauma, but I have never parented a child that is not mine, that I see only on days when they do not have school, that is from trauma, and is often times unkind to his brothers and sisters (that means MY KIDS) and has little to no respect for me and puts on a very different face for his dad (MY HUSBAND). Good Golly! I repeat . . .NO IDEA! NO CLUE!
I went to some of the Empowered to Connect conference, again, this year, but this time with our little boy in mind, also. Not that I don’t still need reminders about Macie, but my attention was not fully on her, for once. It’s easy to forget she is from trauma, sometimes, when we are in a season of sweetness.
However, it’s impossible to forget, our little boy, is from trauma, when we are in a season of not so sweetness. Actually, that is not true at all. In the midst of every little bit of disrespect or unkindness, it is way too easy to forget that he is from trauma and continues to live in the middle of trauma, in my humble opinion.
The Empowered to Connect camp suggests that when a child from trauma is misbehaving, they are not willfully disobeying. They are working out their history. You have to SEE past the behavior and figure out how that child is hurting and give them a sense of safety and a voice. No amount of consequences or time outs will achieve that goal. What really keeps coming to my mind from one of the speakers is, when there is misbehavior, you are saying to yourself, “I’m coming, baby, what do you need?” and you go to that child as if they are an infant who is crying, no matter if they are 3 or 13. They need help to regulate and that is our job. It sounds SO EASY right now, but at the first eye roll or altercation with a sibling, my heart rate goes up and my thoughts are nowhere near, “what do you need, sweet little hurting baby boy.” Oh Jesus, give me your heart.
The good news/bad news about all this is that, we have them only on days when they don’t have school. So, we get a lot of breaks during the school year, but then, any amount of stability or routine or efforts to create a safe place, (and our little boy is far from seeing me as safe right now and I'm not even saying it is not justified) is all undone when they leave. So progress seems so impossible. And, let’s face it, while I tried so hard to employ the ETC principles over spring break, it just just felt too hard (whine, whine, whine). After DAY ONE, Tony said he’d take our little boy to work with him and I didn’t refute. It left me feeling past empty, alone (because Tony never gets the same behavior), misunderstood, defeated and in a position to protect the other kids, not to care for the one who is hurting the most. Oh Jesus, give me your heart.
(BTW-the position our family is in, is not near as dire as what some families are going through with their children from hard places. However, this is new territory, as I don't feel empowered to empower to connect, and all my views are possibly skewed as I find it easier and way more natural to gravitate towards protecting the others verses connecting with the one).
There is a LOT of wrestling in my heart going on with this little boy. Do I really invest love, patience, self control, time, care, my heart into him? (“Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Matthew 25:45) Ugh! Will all of it be undone, because of other factors? How do I let go and stop obsessing over desperately wanting to protect the other kids? How can Tony and I come together concerning our little boy, instead of being divided? (Probably some of you are thinking, “why don’t you start by not writing a post like this!”) What FEARS are dictating my thoughts and actions? AND, last but not least, what is the Lord saying about all of this? Below are some overarching themes the Lord is telling me. But I'm telling Him, that this summer, he is going to have to get a little more practical and a little more minute by minute. I think He'll be there for me! Oh, Jesus, give me your heart.
The truth is:
“The Lord WILL equip me for what I need, each day.”
“Jesus loves the little children. He loves all five of them and can protect them way better than I ever could.” (I am having a VERY VERY VERY VERY hard time moving this from belief to faith/action).
“The heart of Jesus is redemption, order, peace, joy, love. He desires these things for our family.”
When I take my eyes off of the gritty, difficult details of the whole situation and pretend I am flying high over your family here is what I see:
I see a mom and dad who love their kids very much. They are walking on a dimly lit path so naturally both of them will have moments when they stumble and get very tired on this long journey. But I also see lots of love and lots of light. I just love it when you cry out to Jesus for His heart. That is powerful. And it shows me that there is always, always, always, always....
Oh my gosh, girls!! What could I possibly have to add after all that? The emotions are raw, the perspective is honest and unwavering hope is a non-negotiable. The key is that this young child is hurting (as are many others in your home). While that truth doesn't necessarily make the hard moments any easier, it's a total game changer when you go back to the drawing board for fortification. Trauma takes its toll on the heartiest of folks and the casualties can be so hard to bear. But the good news is that somehow, in God's economy, we can actually rewire our brains with consistent love, firm boundaries and bridges of trust. This is what Karyn Purvis (may she rest in peace) spent her whole career researching!I KNOW it can be so, so hard! But the rewards will be so, so good. I have a kid in my house right now that is choosing to believe negative thoughts and I am reminded how important it is to speak words of truth and life over them all!!
If you have a little time, check out this video by Dr. Caroline Leaf on how we can actually build a new way of thinking. AMAZING!!