I always make my kids write thank you notes for the gifts they receive, usually for Christmas and birthdays. BE just had her 9th birthday, so we were working on thank you notes for her friends. For the first time ever, I got a thank you note. I was so happy that she was thoughtful enough to do this unprompted and that she really appreciated her gift. I’m working hard to hold onto the positive things; I spend too much time dwelling on the negative.
J and I still own the house we lived in before we moved to Detroit. It was empty for a few months while we were looking for new renters. One day last month, the kids were off of school and we went there so I could paint one of the rooms.
I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy day because the house is empty and there are no toys/TV there. Plus, BE had homework. It was a disaster. BE had a tantrum because she thought her homework was too hard. BC got paint all over himself. The two of them fought constantly. It took forever to paint and since the homework was never finished, I didn’t get to bring out the laptop I brought as backup.
I had what I’ve come to think of a breakdown. I yelled, cried and had my own tantrum. And I spent the next month in a little depression. I say “little” not because it was insignificant, but because it was in addition to the existing depression.
Parenting and being married is hard. You hear that before you do either of those things. And, you’re expecting it, but it usually turns out to be hard in ways you were not expecting. Ways that are more difficult to cope with than you anticipated. And, sometimes you feel that the biggest disappointment is yourself.
I hate uncertainty as much as anyone, and I like to be in control. This is probably why I lean towards a more rigid parenting style. But, I’ve been trying to achieve more of balance with the Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control method. In her recent newsletter, author Heather Forbes addresses how to handle children who have a hard time switching from one task to another. This definitely applies to my kids, and Heather attributes this to a need for consistency. Here’s an excerpt:
“For children with traumatic histories, they have experienced an over abundance of uncertainty. There has not been a balance between the amount of uncertainty and certainty in their lives. If an imbalance of the two creates a level of fear for the average adult then it is understandable for a child, with limited coping skills, such an imbalance creates an exponential amount of fear. The result is a child who will constantly seek certainty, at all costs.”
My normal reaction is to take my children’s refusal to comply as a personal insult. But Heather recommends the following approach:
“If the parent can understand that the child is simply working to create certainty in his uncertain world, this negative loop can easily be interrupted. The parent can acknowledge that the compelling behavior (as given in this question) is helping the child feel better and that switching to a new task is incredibly difficult and scary.”
When I can manage to pull off a reaction like this, the end result is usually much smoother. Check out Heather’s complete newsletter on her Web site.
BE has asked me several times whether I like being a mom. And to be honest, sometimes I feel like shouting “no,” or just saying “it’s ok.” I want to always be honest with my kids, so sometimes I struggle with how to present the truth gently instead of harshly (because I can be very harsh). It’s not that I regret being a mom, but it is hard, and I want to present my kids with a complete picture of what it’s like to be parent. So, when BE asks me whether or not I like being a mom, I tell her, “sometimes”, “most of the time”, or “mostly.” Have you ever been asked this? If so, how do you handle it?
I’m really not fond of that analogy about people’s lives being like a book. Unfortunately, it was the first thing I thought about when I decided to write this post.
In a previous post, I wrote about accepting the title of “mom.” I wanted to continue that theme, beginning with my past desire to “overshare.” Mostly, I’m very private, but when it came to talking about my kids, I had this urge just to yell out, “they’re adopted.” I refrained because I strongly believe that the adoption is their story to share, not mine. I think I felt the desire to share that information, not because I’m insensitive, or attention-seeking, but because it seemed like the only thing that defined our family for so long.
Naturally, adoption will always be part of our family, but lately I’ve begun to feel that our legal ties are no longer the only thing holding us together. Now, we have a relationship, a bond, one that doesn’t make their adoption the most important thing in our lives. Adoption was the first chapter in our book, and I’m sure it will continue to show up in other chapters, but it’s not the subject of the book, and it’s not the last chapter.
I had been working at my current company nearly two years when we were first awarded custody of our kids. As a result, many of my coworkers know that the kids were adopted and heard about the adoption process as we were going through it.
The other day, one of my coworkers asked how our family is doing and I told her something that I’ve been forming in my mind for a while now. I shared that I feel like I now have ownership. Not that I “own” my kids, because I certainly don’t believe that. Instead, I feel that I own the title of “mother.” I’ve come to feel that I have claim to the name “mother” and all the authority and responsibilities that go with it.
Before this, I certainly understood that I was my children’s mother by law and I acted accordingly, but I really didn’t feel that I had earned the right. But lately, I realized, I’ve fully accepted my position not just as “mother,” but as their mother.
It really does get better. If your family is struggling, and it feels like you may never be a “real family,” you probably don’t believe me. I don’t believe it much of the time myself, and it doesn’t help that I tend to be a little pessimistic. So, sometimes, I need an outside perspective to show me that we’re improving.
A few weeks ago, we spent the weekend with my aunt and uncle who live several hours away. We had visited with them last summer, and they’ve only seen the kids a couple of times since, which gives them a kind of objectivity when it comes to the state of our family.
During our recent visit, my aunt told me that she can see a big difference, particularly in BE’s maturity, and in my confidence as a mother. It was great to get her perspective and it gave me hope for the future. If you’re despairing about your family’s future, consider asking an outsider for his or her perspective. You’ll probably be surprised (in a good way!). Thanks, aunt NK!
If you’re curious about Beyond Consequences, but aren’t committed enough to read the books, check out Heather Forbes’ audio interview on “Adoption Perspectives.” The interview is less than an hour, and Heather shares many of the basics of BCLC. Even though we’re not new to BCLC, I still appreciated being reminded of the essentials. If you have time, please consider listening to Heather’s interview.
As I’ve written before, I subscribe to Heather Forbes’ e-newsletter (Heather is the co-author of “Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control”). In a recent edition, Heather answered the following question: “Could you please explain more about why I should see my child’s issues as ‘regulatory’ instead of ‘behavioral’ and the neuroscience that supports this concept?”
Here’s an excerpt of what she had to say: “The most important and most effective behavioral technique your child needs in order to move him back within the behavioral boundaries of your home is relationship. Too much emphasis has been placed on what behavioral technique should be used or which punishment should be imposed … It is the relationship that does the work…that is where real change happens because it is in the right brain-to-right brain experience that children are able to get back on course. More importantly, it is change that brings not only behavioral shifts, but deep healing that permeates to the heart and soul of a child who has experienced pain and vulnerability.”
To learn more about BCLC, please consider subscribing to Heather’s newsletter.
It’s J’s second official Father’s Day and just today, he reminded me of one reason why I appreciate him. As many of you know, J and I follow the “Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control” (BCLC) parenting theory. BCLC discourages using ultimatums, and I’ve become very adept at getting around this by using masked ultimatums.
Today, BE was not on her best behavior, and we were going to a baseball game later in the day. So, instead of giving an ultimatum like, “you’d better change your attitude, or we’re not going,” I gave her a covert one by saying, “I have a feeling we’re not going to have a very good time later today.”
Now, I’m always saying to the kids, “You get to decide if you have a good time, no one else can decide that for you.” So, after my response to BE, J repeated this line back to me – not to shame me, but to remind me that I really do have control over this. I took it seriously, and I decided to have a good time. And, it turned out better than I expected!