Monday, March 31, 2014

“Hey I see you”

Today I literally had three goals.
  1. Drink an entire mug of peppermint tea with out yakking it up.
  2. Eat at least half of a baked sweet potato and again confining it to my stomach.
  3. Taking a bath and washing my hair.

    O.K., O.K. Maintaining the short and furry and feathered living beings in my care were up there on the list too.
    So far , half a mug of tea, the potato is baking and I no longer smell like old cheese.

    I have had the flu for around 24 hours. Dry heaving, body aching, sleeping like a drunkard, chills type-evil flu. Thank goodness it hit me Saturday night and at the tail end of Spring break.

    Today after feeding the little’s lunch, one down for a nap, the other in my room watching Frozen,I sat in the tub deciding if I actually had the energy to wash my hair, or if dread locs would be a good look for me.

    My youngest walked in stating she had watched Frozen 7 times, holding up 4 fingers.
    I sat there and used my fingers to manipulate her hands and count what seven looked like with her chubby teensy fingers.
    A loud noise from the movie happened, interest averted and she ran to see what was happening.
    But then she stopped, twirled around and said. “ I fink what we are doing is 'portant, I don't want to miss the moobie, so I am gonna pause it and be right back.”

    Wha'? Did my four year old just validate me? Not want to leave me hanging?
    Saw that the relationship communication we had going was important, and was sensitive to my effort and interest?

    In that moment I felt what I have been working towards and wanting so much for my kids to feel towards me. That I valued them, above all else, that talking with them, being with them is important to me.

    I sometimes suck at this.
    I sometimes get stuck in a texting or Facebook personal messaging abyss. I sometimes am tired of the squeaky needy voices. I sometimes ache for adult interaction. But, I also know this is my season to teach them about their value and worth. For me to validate the importance of who they are, simply because they breathe and are loved.

    When my kids first came home, there was a desperation in needing to be seen, heard, witnessed.

    I think the most devastating part of growing up in an Orphanage, living in neglect, or being a transitioning Foster Child, is the way there is no way to see and validate needs, wants and wishes of the individual. The mass, the basic, the day to day becomes the rhythm of life.

    Behaviors crop up in place of the basic need of being seen. Attention positive or Negative, it doesn’t matter, being seen, having two pairs of eyes, words meant directly for you...that becomes the goal.

    I saw this much in the Orphanage. Kids would either be the helpful, perfect child that adults leaned on and praised, those kids lost any childhood to being liked, and called on by adults.
    Others screamed and fought and did out right naughtiness in the plight of being seen. Both were attempting to fill a vast hole.

    As humans we have holes. Holes that need to be filled. Kids with Trauma and Neglect issues feel and fill those voids more creatively.

    I remember being a somewhat normal kid, resenting my mothers need to be on the phone to her girlfriends. I remember staring at her in the kitchen , phone cord tangled around her, holding her hostage from me. I remember coughing loudly, purposely wrecking my bike and coming in with scratches , so she would see me, talk to me.
    I now as an adult woman get, she also was filling needs, need to be seen, heard and validated in the midst of a difficult marriage. This need is such a human condition.

    I remember when my children first came home from Haiti, they were SO LOUD.
    They banged and broke everything. They did REALLY weird things, like peeing on my clothes, and couch, coloring on walls, and plugging every toilet in the house...and when I finally realized what they were doing was literally screaming “SEE ME!!!”

    So I started saying it to them, full face and eye contact, sometimes holding those hurt,angry sad faces in my hands.

    “Hey, I see you.”
    “Hey, I am right here with you.”
    “Hey, I hear you.”
    “Hey, you, right there, your important.”
    “Hey I can sit right here with you and feel this with you.”

    As I practice this more in my life with my loved ones, and they practice it with me, I see the effects. The effects of, “yes, what I am doing is important to me, but not as important to me as you are, give me a sec to finish this -K-?”

    I have a friend who says this to me often.
    “I am here with you, I hear you, I am sitting with you in this.”

    I never feel more loved and more important than when she says these things to me.
    That, that is how I want my kids to feel about themselves.
    You know the scene in “The Help” with little chubby Miss May Mobley, we all identified with her her imperfections, her desperate need to be told:

    Let us be ambassadors of kindness in our lives.
    To see and be seen is a priceless gift that only keeps giving.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Double Sided Healing

The other week there was a group forum where an open, mature, passionate discussion was held about how adoption is portrayed in the media.
Particularly, older child and Foster Care adoption.
Many feared that too many “Rainbows and Sunshine” of a representation could set potential parents and available adoptable children up for failure, disappointment and possibly even disruption. This is true.

Others were concerned that if people only were warned of the negative and worse case scenarios, possibly amazing adults willing to open their homes and heart to waiting and transitioning children would be dissuaded from becoming foster and adoptive parents, because really some kids do attach well and can become a seamless part of a family. This is also true.

We all agreed, that some (not all) kids CAN heal. Kids can come into families with a lot of broken pieces and bit, by bit, heal in a family situation and become an intricate happy, functioning member of a family unit. This is a truth in my life and many others.

I talk so very much about the broken pieces I wanted to literate on the healing ones. The ways as parents, caregivers,friends and family of them can slowly begin to see and support a child transitioning from the world of distrust and pain into “Normal Kid-dom.”

My friend Billy Kaplan of House Calls Counseling, gives the advice ; “ If you are questioning a transitioning childs behavior, reaction or motive as whether it is neurotypical or not, error on the side of Neurotypical.”
Isn't that lovely and hopeful? It is Magical when you can start actually SEEING those fruits of change.
I have to be honest though.
It's a double sided sword.
I have to let go of the past junk, my past reactions, and fears and my stuff, my attachment/trauma parenting blinders, and look and see the hard won progress.

Because in order for me to accept and celebrate my kids willingness and ability to heal, I have to heal and be willing to move on too. I have to be willing to see something as NORMAL, when for such a looooong time it WASN'T!

One of my little my little Diva's go-to behavior was irrational anger and defensiveness when she got caught in a lying, unkind, even regular naughty child behavior. She would scream, and knock things over, throw shoes, kick walls, and Waaiiillll for hours. Like really h.o.u.r.s.
I forgot she used to do that. Yesterday I had a friend over and Diva got all sassy about what we were making for Dinner. I told her she was welcome to go out side collect whatever she could and stir-fry her very own dinner on up next to the curry chicken salad I was making for dinner.
She rolled her eyes.
She pouted that “it sounded Dis-gust-ing”.
She said she would probably hate it and be sick, and that I was the worst cook ever.
And then she went outside and played.

I was giggling after her.
My friend looked at me “Um, why are you laughing.”

“Because all of THAT Dramatic girl stuff?, TOTALLY NORMAL!!!
Bratty, snotty as hell, but so normal I kinda wanted to throw it a birthday party.”

I could give a thousand other examples I am seeing day to day with these brave little people.
Ways they can love and enjoy,process and get mad and be annoying and silly and fun and bratty.

And to be honest, that is what healing looks like for all of us.
Not perfection, not a shiny picture of smiles and magazine covers, we still have our ripped jeans and our warts...

But being in the land where the hugs are real, where the apologies sincere and the smiles go all the way up to our eyes?
I will take it.
Because it means we both, though we may have miles to go, are past the fire swamp in so many ways.
We are holding hands and heading in a similar direction together.

If you are in a place of wanting or seeking help and support your and your trauma challenged child, there is a conference coming up in Chicago this month. The Parenting in SPACE annual conference has changed my way of parenting, given me a support system of incredible like-minded parents and given me so very much hope in the healing of our family as a combined unit.
Consider going.
4 years ago I sailed in, almost drowning in my children's trauma and need for something, some lifeline and hope that things could get better. It was one of the best parenting decisions I ever made.
This year I will be doing a Pre-conference with the lovely and amazing Christine Moers, as well as a Breakout session during the conference.
Come, let me and so many others love on you, and remind you of the kind of parent you want to be.
THIS conference is unique in the fact that it is created for Caregivers, it is catered to YOUR needs and questions. There are handfuls of professionals primed and ready at all times to give you answers and listen to YOU.
I will see you there.
Greeting you with a hug, and yes, there is always chocolate.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grieving the Living

We all do it you know, grieve for a relationship, a loved one that for one reason or another is gone, misplaced, or has left you somehow. Perhaps they fell out of love with us? Perhaps another person, object or substance got in the way? Maybe it was pride, a disagreement, they or you changed, and now the once tangible part of your life leaves a phantom absence.At times it is someone whom has never actually left that you can stand right in-front of them reaching out, and never reach them.
Sometimes I think we can even grieve for the thing that never was. A inactive parent, a sibling relationship that fell short, a child we didn't get to raise the way we wished....
Sometimes, I think it is things and situations that block our intentions, and so we grieve, and maybe
sometimes those intentions no matter how honorable taint the reality, and that too sours and spoils what might have been.

I have lost much in my young life. Parents to divorce, young friends to death, children in both miscarriage death, and mental illness. As we age I think we keep doing that losing and gaining simultaneously.

When I stop to think of some of my greatest losses of those I have loved. The ones that remain living, are the ones that continue to lend the most hurt.
I don't know if I would have believed someone if they had told me that 21 years ago when I my neighbor knocked on my door to tell me at 13 one of my dearest friends had taken her life.
Or at 18, when a sobbing phone call related that my boyfriend had died in a motorcycle accident.
Definitely not to the heaving, heart broken woman who delivered her 22 week early son on the bathroom floor. Or to the mother who answered the phone call that her 11 moth old baby boy passed away from dehydration without her comforting arms around him in his homeland.

And still to this day I ache and hurt, my throat begins to swell and my eyes fog in memories of those times. Those are days and weeks and months I do not wish to live again. Times I wish I could go back now, hold myself tight and promise, “you will get through this baby cakes, sit and feel this deeply, lie face down on the bathroom floor if needs be, and then lets find you some good chocolate and a wash cloth for your face.”

Today I am grieving again. Grieving my inability to on my own fix my broken girl. I have been here before, and perhaps that is why it feels so familiar and raw. Today we admitted one of our children into a Residential Therapeutic Hospital for help with her self harming and eating disorder struggles. Late last night we did loads of laundry and paperwork and made this step.
I am grieving selfishly that this is not what I wanted. Grieving that when I naively decided to bring hurting children into my home I had already painted a picture of expectations. Of how I wanted our family to look and function.

They were basic.
Pancake mornings, Homeschooling debacles, Saturday farmers markets, silly teasing and 'normal sibling rivalry.
No where did my mind make room for door alarms, safety plans and restraining holds.
No where did I think I would need to own bottle of ipecac for overdoses, and butterfly band-aids for intense skin cutting. No where did I expect to need to constantly protect other sibling and animals from a dis-regulated sibling or worse them selves.

I remember the day my oldest son was diagnosed with Autism, I sat on a curb outside the psychologists office and cried. I mourned all the things I thought I wanted for him , and the fear that many of them may never come to be. I remember when a dear girlfriend gave birth to a beautiful daughter with Downs Syndrome, and how she fiercely loved her little girl, but too needed the room to mourn.

As much as I ache sometimes to call out my late son “GIBSON” 's name in from playing with his brothers and sisters, I have closure of his loss, I have a tree and a photo book and places to go and feel and miss him.

With Papillion, I don't have that. I have worry and regret, sadness and concern. Will she ever be O.K.
Is her healing ever possible? Will she ever see and know or remember the love I had and still have for her? Borderline Personality Disorder is such a tricky beast of a disease.

I think of my friends that have lost parents,partners and children to substance abuse. How even after the initial break, the wonder and hope stays alive and pulls at you like an anchor attached to your ankle.

There is no clean break with the living.

With the hope of my child returning home, hoping she is willing to allow someone else to do the work with them she could not do with me. Hoping she is willing and able to want us, me, her home more, more than the monster in her head. I grieve all that I want and hope for my child.
Hope in a way begets grief. Hope can be an open wound.

I grieve the living.
I think we all do.

I think in ways it make us stronger.
I think in ways it makes us kinder.

I think in ways I need a future me to stop by with a ; “you will get through this baby cakes, sit and feel this deeply, lie face down on the bathroom floor if needs be, and then lets find you some good chocolate and a wash cloth for your face.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

I want to see you be Brave

My Name is Lindsay. “Hi Lindsay.” and I sometimes am to quick in the need to fix things.
Like swoop in and slap a big fat band aid over a gaping wound. I used to like think it was about my extreme and generous need and want to help and serve and love on people, and yes, that is sometimes true. ( Hmmmm I wonder how I ended up adopting 8 children?)
But, If I am more honest with myself, it's a little selfish. This peace maker stuff? Total Bull crap, I need things to be O.K. , I need the people I love to be O.K, mostly because I love them, but also for me. Because Honestly? I FEEL BETTER, when they feel BETTER. I can have a total emotional reliance on others emotions to equate my emotions.
And I am working on that, a lot.
Me this bundle of self improvement.

I sometimes when someone is sad, depressed, or angry, worry and stress that somehow it is my fault, somehow I should and can fix their feelings.
Children of divorce find this a common theme. Heck, sensitive humans, find this theme common.

So you need to be O.K., for me, because I am not comfortable with your feelings. Geez, that’s a little embarrassing to admit.
While parenting children with a traumatic past I have learned better to not take their feelings onto my plate, and try desperately to not make what they are feeling, about me. Sometimes they are sad or angry, and actually have no identifying reason why.
I used to prod, “Come on, there has to be a reason for the way you feel.” ( I NEED there to be a reason, so then we can look at it together and I can help fix it, neat and tidy with a bow.) All kids are full of these unidentifiable feelings, and sometimes we can and should help them dance them out, and sometimes, we can sit with them and let them feel those feelings until they are ready to move on.

Just last night I was reading “Dear Sugar, tiny beautiful things” by Cheryl Strayed, and there was a phrase that I locked onto. “Fountains of Inconvenient Feelings.” Oh my goodness, yes.
In this day and age, feelings are inconvenient, you can be fine and stand next to me, or not be...and um, go sit over there. The sincerity of the phrase “How are you?” is lost in pleasantries.
No wonder sometimes our kids and we feel like Aliens.
We live in the land of Big and Inconvenient feelings.

Yesterday at church, while wrangling 5 semi-well coiffed children into a church pew side booth (strategically blocking them in) we sat and faced the pulpit. Behind it sat my darling 8 year old daughter, getting ready to sing with her age group to the congregation, her face was shiny with excitement and pride, I grinned and did the proud mama scrunchy hand wave. I then looked over to my brood. Her eight year old brother had enormous crocodile tears streaming down his face.

“Psssst, dude, come here, whats going on Buba, whats with the tears, big feelings?”

“Sniff, Yeah guess so, I am kinda jealous of her getting to sing in front of everyone, and that everyone will come up and tell her that she did such a good job”, big sigh, deep breath,” and I am the one, out of the eight year olds that likes to sing, it's my thing, not hers.”
Man, he looked sheepish and sad sharing that with me.

And I leaped.
“Yes buddy I can feel that with you, with 3 eight year olds in our family it must be so important to have something that is 'your thing', what can we do to help you feel better. Do you want to try a “Yay me”, or Maybe you can pick a song and sing it to all of us in the car on the ride home, or in front of all of us after dinner and we can clap? How does that sound?”

“Um...Or maybe I can feel this way, jealous and sad for just a little while longer, and work to feel happy for my sister when I am ready, and if I get stuck, we can try one of your idea's mom?”

“Yes. Or that, because that makes a lot of sense that you might just want to to sit with those feelings a little longer. Awesome, great.”


Sometimes as parents, partners and friends we are too quick with the swoop in and rescue. We are too uncomfortable with other peoples feelings. Sometimes we are in such a hurry to fix their feelings, put a bandaid over a gaping wound and keep them moving, when really , we need to allow them to sit with their feelings a little while and feel them, roll around with them, and release them when they are ready.
Because someday, especially with our kids, we won't be there. They are going to have to learn to brave their feelings on their own, with the tools we have given them.

Or we could potentially cause more damage.

I remember one day my brother came home from a Boy Scouts Activity.
Instead of working on knots outside, they decided to practice jumping off the church roof, because 12 year old boys have the reputation of really thinking things through.
My brother had jumped and while landing heard a crack and felt a stab of pain.
He was slow to admit in all his preteen masculinity that he 'might' have broken something. Once he did, it was met with denial and possibly fear, most likely because the boys were worried of the repercussions of their leader finding out that instead of perfecting their sailor, slip and square knots they were all going Condor man off the roof of the building.
So they did what any anxious group of man children would do. They started playing keep away with his shoes forcing him to hobble after them, calling him a whanny and telling him to buck up.

By the time he got the x-rays back they found 4 fractured bones in his foot and quite possibly had fractured only one bone, but added to the damage walking on it and ignoring the pain.

While living in the world of sadness, shame, guilt, grief, fear, jealously and anger I am learning to wait out and let them use the tools I have been handing out to them for the last 4 years, recognizing they too are getting better at seeing and processing what they are feeling in the moment, and trusting them to come to me if they get stuck.

I am not sure who this is harder for.
There is such a deep importance to allow the pain to cycle, for the grief fountain to run dry, for the healing to happen before continuing on.

I need to let them be Brave.
That makes me Brave.
I can be ready to catch them...but mostly let them ask, let them feel, and me be O.K. with whatever those feelings are.

I want to see them be Brave.