Saturday, March 31, 2012

One Day at a Time

Here's the thing. You can read the books, go to the training, talk to the experts (other foster and adoptive moms), have adoption experience under your belt, be parenting a two year old and still be completely unprepared for a day like, today.

It started out fine. It actually started very early. I heard giggles and whispers from the room next door at 6:15am. Given the early start and the blustering weather, we were a bit stir crazy by lunch time. I worked up the confidence to run the boys to the dollar store to pick out a treat.

Ben had to work (lucky him), so it was just me and Ty and our new son - the one that doesn't like me much. I have been reading the Connected Child and using some Purvis techniques.

I prepared the boys for what we were doing before we did it. Both at home and in the van before getting to the store. Both boys held my hand as we walked in and enjoyed looking at all the toys and gadgets.

The boys love dinosaurs, so they mulled over that bin the longest. Ty settled on a Brontosaurus, while LJ chose a Stegosaurus. We walked to the checkout and I asked both boys to put their dinos on the counter, so I could pay for them. While Ty patiently waited for his to scan, LJ threw a complete fit. Kicking, stomping, crocodile tears - the whole bit.

Ty is such an even-mannered kid, so this was a first-time experience for me. The checkout lady immediately asked me if she could give LJ the Stegosaurus. I calmly asked her to hand it to me and bent down to LJ's level. I said, "Sweetheart. This is not acceptable. The same rules from home apply at the store (we've had this lecture before). We communicate with words. Would you like to hold your dinosaur (his big saucer eyes nod, yes). Then you need to say, "May I hold my dinosaur, please?"

In the quietest voice with eyes to the floor, LJ stopped crying and said, "May I hold my dinosaur, please?"

"Yes, you may."

I stood up and put my attention back to the cashier. She looked me square in the eye and said, "Good job mama. That's not something you see everyday."

I left the store a few inches taller. 

Ben and I have this conversation all the time. The reason so many kids are out of control is because good parenting is a lot of work. It demands constant prayer, attention, and consistency.

We have spent the last two weeks of transition, getting to know LJ. We did less parenting and more observing. We knew that LJ was in for a rude awakening, yesterday, because it was our first official day as his parents. Ben and I were in complete agreement that although LJ wouldn't translate our structure to satisfying love, it's what he needs most.

I know I'm opening myself up to criticism, here, so I would like to say this. We are not addressing things that aren't imperative to his growth in our family (potty training, eating with a fork, taking his shoes off, zipping his coat, etc.). We are, however, taking a very strong stance on the way LJ communicates with us. Apart from bonding issues, it is the most difficult task at hand.

The incident at the store was one of about fifteen today. The more comfortable LJ is with us, the worse his behavior gets. He cries and kicks and pouts every time he doesn't receive on-demand attention or is told "no". Sometimes it's crazy stuff. He wanted more peppers at lunch. My reply, "Sure thing, babe. Let me grab them." I went the fridge and before I turned around he was in hysterics. I was baffled.

I got really good at going to my knees, looking in his eyes, and softly saying, "Sweetheart. I know this is tough. But remember what we talked about? Our family communicates with our words. I can't help you if I don't know what you're feeling. Can you use your words and tell me what's wrong?"

And you know what? He could tell me. Every time.

Sometimes he would tell me, adjust his behavior, and we were able to quickly move on. Other times, he would continue to stare me down, sobbing, with his hands tightly crossed at the chest. Those were the times that I gave him a choice. He could stop crying or he could sit on his bed and cry. Unfortunately for all three of us, he chose option two more times than not, today.

I would put him on his bed and let him kick and scream for a few minutes and then I would come back in to talk. Rinse and repeat.

He never let up.

Sometimes he'd come back from his room completely ready to engage, but other times he was angry and disgruntled. To avoid further kicking, pushing, bullying issues, I had a few conversations with Ty about spacial awareness and giving LJ lots of breathing room.

It made for an exhausting day. When Ben got home, I let him hold him and then asked for five minutes to myself. I just needed to hold my head and let the Holy Spirit minister to me.

I LOVE this boy. I don't like him all the time, right now, and I don't feel even a little bit like his mother, but I'm doing the work...patiently, lovingly, and as gracefully as I can.

I hold on to the sweet moments and disregard the rest. I am not a perfect mother, but I am trying to listen to the voice of God. I find a lot of rest in the fact that neither of my sons will ever remember this time in their life (including the mistakes we make). We just have to get through it.

Because I want to end my day on a high, I want to share a shining moment. Ty and LJ were in their room playing. I was changing over the laundry. I heard Ty asking LJ to pass him some eggs for his "spicy soup". LJ must have complied. Ty said, "How you doing, LJ?"

LJ answered, "I'm fine."

Ty said, "We are so glad you're in our family now. Do you want some of this soup?"

Oh, that makes me smile! God is good.

We will keep taking this one day at a time.


  1. One day at a second at a time. I completely understand so much of what you write. Parenting hurt children is exhausting. You are doing a great job!! I love your heart!!

    Ty has the sweetest heart. Says so much about your heart. :)

  2. Oh certainly have your hands full. Keep up the good hard work. You handle it all with such grace! Praying for you through this transition!

  3. BEAUTIFUL story. I think it is my favorite one yet. Rebekah~ So many adoptive parents in your shoes would find themselves the target of their little one's bullying and would want to appease the situation at all costs, eventually exasperating the behavior problems. GOOD for you to stand in the gap between LJ and his grief, anger, sadness, are telling him that he is way to important to the family to be allowed to be disruptive. I know your consistency to setting limits and bonding with loving actions WILL reap huge payoffs. He will know he is SAFE. I pray for your, Ben, and sweet little Ty's sake that it is sooner rather than later!! Hang in there!!!

  4. I'm sorry this is so rough. And I think it's normal to not always like him. My son came home when he was 10 months old, and I was naive to think that because of his young age, we would have no issues. Well, my son does the stomping and creaming and complete tantrum like you've never seen! I try to get him to use words, but unfortunately, he doesn't have a lot of words at the moment. You are diong a great job. :)

  5. Hang in there, Momma. Before you know it he will be so in love with you and you will be one of his best friends. I remember bringing my nieces home for the first time and having to parent the oldest (who was then 18 months) and it's tough. Things are completely different for them. New people, so many changes. I have been a somewhat similar situation and I feel for you but just hang in there!

  6. Thanks for being so open. You are so awesome I wish I could meet you in person:) How sweet Ty is, his first Mama must be so proud when she reads this. Praying for you!

  7. Just so you know...Sam is basically a good boy and we don't have fits like LJ's all the time, but sometimes we's ok....sounds pretty normal to me! I do what you do....down on his level...ask questions and if he can't stop to his room and leave....sometimes he just needs a break....the other day he came out and actually told me..."thanks for the break, mom...I'm ready to play again." You are doing just fine!

  8. I think I've said this before, but thanks for being so honest. I remember bringing home our oldest daughter (our child who has had the most trauma) and being to afraid too voice that I didn't like her all of the time or how hard having her in our family really was at times.

    Our God is an awesome God and He WILL provide.

  9. Have you heard of "The Happiest Toddler on the Block"? It's somewhat similar to what you're doing and may be a helpful extra tool in your toolbox.

  10. yep, this is exactly what it is like. i have started at this point 5 different times with 5 different kids. it does get better.

    he sounds actually very smart if he is communicating with you like you mention he is. Lizzy is 3 years old and doesn't do that even though we have tried for the past year and a half to get her to. i would have to say she is slightly getting is just minimally.

    Anyway, if you just keep doing what you are doing you will see a change in him. I think you are doing is totally exhausting though :)

  11. I agree with the others - although it is so hard, you are doing everything right (at least from my perspective:)). I know you have probably read this...but trauma has affected his brain in many ways. Synapses have been formed that do not support self regulation. Additionally, during all the trauma, his brain was bathed in cortisol. Now, with minor upsets, his brain again becomes overwhelmed with cortisol and he has no capacity for self regulation. For "healthy" infants and toddlers, they become able to experience stress without their brains going into "overdrive" - which presents in meltdowns like you are seeing. When I work with parents of traumatized kids like this, I remind them that they are doing the important CO-regulation work that we often do with newborns and young infants. You are literally working on changing his brain, re-wiring it to be able to self regulate through your consistent and careful co-regulation strategies. It is a task he should have learned and internalized early on, biologically, but did not. And, as you know, changing the brain takes time...and consistency, love, boundaries, etc. All things you are MORE than fully equipped to provide. He will be ok. You will be ok. He's just healing...and that is not always pretty. Thinking of you!

  12. you are an AWESOME mom! I have "stalked" your blog for over a year now but never commented. What you did in that store and how you are raising your kids is brave! I used to be a nanny and I am good at recognizing the parents who are putting in the time and hard work and those that just want the happy moments. Your happy moments will be so much greater because you are seeking the greater good and not just peace in the moment. Bravo!

  13. LJ's behavior sounds completely NORMAL to me! It's so tough, I know, because I'm dealing with a difficult two year old myself. You are doing all the right things for him and he's going to turn the oorner and you will be so proud. Just love him up and down when he lets you and give him the structure he needs. Again, good job Mama!

  14. I have never adopted but I wanted to share that my second son of my 4 boys total has always struggled with fits. I have parented him the same way as my sweet even mannered first son and my other two little boys are as sweet and even mannered as my first. But our second has thrown us for a loop. Some days I don't feel like a mother to ANY of my boys just because mothering is such a strange thing to grasp when you've lived your whole life as a kid worrying only about yourself. And then I remember, none of these kids are ours...they are children of our Father and we are graced with the opportunity to love them and lead them in His love. :) LJ and Ty are just as much your children as my children are mine. You're doing a great job.

  15. You guys are doing a fantastic job with LJ. Therapeutic parenting is exhausting so make sure you take care of yourselves as well.

  16. Hi Rebekah,

    I'm just getting caught up on your sweet family over the past month or so. My tears have been freely flowing as I've read all that has happened. None of us are perfect mothers, but YOU are a wonderful, godly mother, and you're just the mother that LJ needs! I will pray for this huge adjustment for all of you, trusting and believing that the Lord has this situation in His hands. Congratulations on your growing family!

  17. WOW! I have also been reading your blogs for a few years now myself. You are doing such an awsome job. Don't give up or second guess yourself. One day LJ and Ty are going to Thank you and Ben for doing all that you have. I can't wait to read your blog next year when this will have all blown over and you will have 2 well behaved little men! I agree with all you have done and are doing. Hats off to you both.

  18. You are doing a great job! LJ's behavior sounds normal given the circumstances he's been under. I'm sure with God's love and your love he will come around. Give it time and be patient. Enjoy the moments he lets you show him love. God is good!!! Definitely being a parent is an on the job training that you learn every day no matter how old your children are. You got it!

  19. Encouraged and inspired by your determination, care, and consistency in parenting; keep up the good (and hard) work! Gal. 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

  20. We adopted our almost 7 month old at birth. We brought home her 6 year old big sister a month ago. Our heads are spinning. As I read your posts about your new little guy, I couldn't help but laugh at some similarities in the way you and I feel about things. The part that made me laugh the most was the fact that he doesn't seem to like you much, but loves your husband. That's true for us too! I have a hard time not taking it personally though. :) Hang in there! God bless your family!!!!

  21. When I placed my daughter for adoption in 1991....I'd have given anything in the world to have been able to place her with you and ben. Amazing amazing amazing. Wonderful parents. LJ has no idea (yet) how lucky he is. Blessed. Beyond measure. Maybe he's making sure that even with fits, he stays. I'll keep your family in my prayers.

  22. This process is so hard, it's like healing a wound you cannot see. That pain and loss has to fester and your love and connection and yes teaching has to just be the balm to heal all of the areas that are inflamed due to loss, trauma, transitions etc....we have really loved the book Parenting the Hurt Child, it's a hard read but a great resource.

  23. I rarely comment anymore, but I always follow along and I love reading. Congratulations on your new son, by the way :)

    I think you are doing a fantastic job so far, but I did bristle a bit at this post. It sounds as though you and Ben have spent a fair amount of time patting yourselves on the back for a job well done (as you should in many regards!). You've been lucky with Ty. He sounds very even tempered.

    My oldest has ALWAYS been a bit of a spitfire. She's been INCREDIBLY verbal, but she is just...feisty.

    You conversation you described with LJ? I have that one about 15 times every day. And it always works, she can always tell me exactly what she needs/wants and tacks on the appropriate please and thank you. But I'm not a bad parent. I'm really good at it. And we've had her from day one. My child is just not even tempered all of the time.

    I just hate for you to assume that any child acting out or crying is the result of poor parenting or a child who has had a turbulent infancy/childhood.

    Some kids are easier than others.

  24. oh my! all tears over here to what 'anomynous' said about giving anything to place her daughter with you... it is so true... any child that comes to you through God, is the biggest miracle in the making. you and ben are amazing.

    been thinking of the 4 of you.. all the joy and tears soaked together in love. you are doing a great job!xx

  25. I think you are doing what needs doing... it's hard - it's almost impossible; especially when you can see the clear preference to Ben. But keep on with it, keep turning to the Lord and keep praying.

    You will grow to LJ - I talk from experience; I didn't love my son immediately - it took time for that love to grow - but it did and it will for you.

    Do what you feel is right, you are being guided and if you continue to listen and hold yourselves accountable; it will work and become a joy.

  26. Thanks for sharing the realities. It seems like its ok to complain about the hard times with bio-kids (I know because I have 2), but those of us who foster and adopt often feel a lot of pressure to gush about how lovely things are. We wanted these children so much we completely turned everything upside down, fired up prayer chains, friends, and family members to support the cause. I have already heard "You wanted this" several times. However, just because we are called doesn't make every moment a bed of roses and I am so grateful that you are being so real about it. There are so few resources chronicling what to expect the first year in older child adoptions and blogs like yours validate experiences like mine. Soooo... again, Thanks.

  27. Rebekah, I read every word of your blog...sometimes twice. Tonight as I was reading I couldnt help but think...."the world needs to hear this story...every word...with nothing left out." I sure hope you are still working on your book. I know your (our) story is still being written but I just want everyone to know the love that pours from it. To be honest, I dont think the story would come accross so well if it wasnt for your wonderful gift of story telling and writing. You are amazing...God is amazing through you. I love you!!!


  28. Oh, Rebekah, I love your family! Thanks for your honesty as you share your journey with us.

    Your challenges are so different today than they will be a year from now. Parenting is such a roller coaster but I always tried to remember who was at the controls and you know what? God never once left me stranded out there on the tracks! I'm so glad you have Him at the center of your family! All 4 of you are blessed to have each other.

    Hang in the girl, we got your back praying for you.

    Kim M

  29. After I adopted my daughter from foster care, we had MANY days like that. At first, she just assumed I would be like the other moms and just send her to another home so she acted horrible to just get it over with. Then she would act out to test me, make sure I would really always be there like I said. Later, she would lash out at me cause she was angry and hurt and I was "safe". Each time it was hard and I was grateful when they passed.

    Sending prayers and hugs. You are an amazing person!