Friday, June 24, 2016

The Dealing and Healing Path

I tend to be an unintentional "stuffer." When life gets crazy, my mind resolves to protect itself by channeling Scarlett O'Hara's thought process of, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow." I realized this morning that is exactly what's happened. Again.

On the drive in this morning, Mr. T and I processed a bit more about adoption day and our upcoming life together. He's excited, he's ready, but he's also mourning. Some of this is mourning the loss of his past life and some of it is mourning the unmet expectations he built about what his life would look like once he found a forever family.

My boy is a talker but spent most of the 1hr car ride in silence. Once at day camp, I pulled the morning counselor aside and gently shared our situation so they could be aware of his inner battle over the next few weeks. She was so glad I'd shared because they had noticed he seemed more stressed and argumentative about trivial things. She told me she would discretely share with the other counselors, with my permission, so they could give him their fullest support, understanding, and encouragement.

I know my facial expression changed because suddenly she said, "Do you need a hug?" As we hugged briefly, tears filled my eyes and I realized our little talk had unlocked my many emotions...I've been stuffing. Life is just coming at me so fast that I’ve not had the bandwidth to deal with my own “everything.” My children have huge stuff and there's way too much going on at my job. I have almost zero alone time and my body is warning me I’m not doing well...ugh! I’m super excited about the adoption and super raw. I know deep down we are really doing great…my kids are dealing and as counselors in the past have shared…dealing is good…we worry more when they are not dealing with stuff. So really, it’s ME that’s the worry…because I’ve not been dealing. I don't even know when I can say that being an introverted, adoptive single mom is no picnic = understatement.

"She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom." - The Scarlet Letter

So I'm sharing mostly as a way to get open, get free and get on that “dealing” and “healing” path I need to seriously start walking down...for my own health and sanity.  I didn't even realize until this morning's little emotional release time how weighed down I was feeling.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Adoption Update & Prayer Requests

My son on my old European folding bike

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.
1 Samuel 1:27 

Mr. T has selected his new legal name! I've mailed the official paperwork to the lawyer and Monday, July 11th has been requested for his adoption!! Besides requesting prayers that Monday, July 11th will indeed be approved as the finalization date, I have a couple of other prayer requests.

1. Peace in Mr. T's heart and mind that nothing is going to make the adoption fail, fall through and that I won't die. Both my children have expressed a fear that my death could cause them to go back into the system. He may begin more strongly testing me to see if my love for him will hold up. This behavior is common among older children as they get closer to being adopted. His anxiety is becoming more intense due to being disappointed and rejected by so many adults in the past. Like most children that enter care at an age when it's hard to understand why they are there (select green link to read previous post about little Super-man), Mr. T believes something is wrong with him. Subconsciously, to admit the failures of a blood family often bashes something deep within a child's own psyche because they carry the same biology. My sweet, smart and loving boy thinks he's going to mess things up and that somehow I'll change my mind and not want him. Get behind us, Satan, in Jesus' name. 

2. Patience and understanding from me as I parent and love both my children through this final month. July 11th will be monumental because Mr. T's adoption will also mark the first day the cord is completely cut with the state foster care system. My daughter has waited for this moment for almost 8 years now, Mr. T has been waiting for almost 4 years and for me it's been over 3 years since I began the process. I have a framed foster/adoption certificate that is required by the state to be displayed in our house since our home is foster approved. My kids asked me the other day if they can tear my certification paper in half and burn it. For me, getting certified to adopt was the way I found my children and I love that but I TOTALLY understand the symbolism it holds for I will take a picture of it then let them rip and burn it, baby! May their healing continue.

Anyway, I can't wait. We are only 34 days away and my emotions go from joyful grins to tearful gratitude in an instant. Our family portraits are amazing and I look forward to sharing some of them with you! 

Thank you for all your support! Thank you for all your continued prayers. Thank you to those who have spent time with my children and loved up on them. A special thank you to Angie Mack for spending so much time with both my children!! They love you so much. Thank you Esther Mack for taking time at Easter to spend with us. Thank you to the Baars family for your love, care and for spending special time with both my kids. Especially, THANK YOU to my momma and papa for their love, understanding and amazing open hearts!

Most importantly, I'm thankful to God for his grace, mercy and love for me...for giving me the strength, support and resources to adopt as a single parent. I'm not worthy to be called "Mom" but I cherish it. 

Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer
or withdraw his unfailing love from me.~ Psalm 66:20

Friday, June 3, 2016

Summertime: Loving Kids Through Trauma's Triggers

Summer break is here!

You would think these words would bring raised arms in joyful praise from my kids but really, summertime just brings stress of the unknown. The unknown and change of routine are often a trigger for children who have spent any significant time in foster care. Most times, the kids don't even know the cause of their's like their bodies, heart and minds just remember that this time of year is usually filled with loss. For children who have lost biological family, friends and home, routine becomes golden. So naturally when routine changes again it seems to trigger remembrance of great loss.

I'm thankful for the training and study I did before becoming an adoptive mom! But as trained as I am, I'm still human and sometimes slow to connect my child's sudden stank behavior with loss and fear. So you may be wondering, "Then how do you know when a kid's behavior is because of a trauma trigger?" Great question! My best estimation is when the reaction doesn't fit the situation. I've worked with teens for over a decade now and although we know that biologically they tend towards overreacting, my kids will go from zero to explosive faster than your head looks right. It's not violent, it's more like a sudden fight-or-flight response.

Maybe my example from last night will help? Last night, I told my kids I was going to make them an "I'm proud of you celebration end-of-school dinner." While cooking, my son mentions getting a lot of classmates' phone numbers. I think of a lot as probably 8'ish but in his mind a lot is 3 however I didn't know that at the time. He asked if I could place them all on his phone's safe list and, to try to manage his expectations in case they don't all fit, I mention that we probably could but we'd need to check because the phone company has a pre-set limit to the amount of safe list numbers. *Explosion* "Why do I have to have a safe list? I want you to check right now and see if they'll all fit! I hate summer, it's stupid! Why do I have to go to day camp?! It's just like school without learning."

Fight. So there I was exhausted and not feeling well but trying to do something nice for my children and instead of thankfulness I'm suddenly put in front of a firing squad of loud questioning and demands? So unfortunately, I tend to do what I've trained myself to do when anyone who is male starts yelling at me and treating me disrespectfully...I step forward into their space, with I'm sure a crazy, angry look on my face, and verbally put them in their place. Even adults have triggers...know yourself.

Flight. My son took off to his room.

*sigh* Defeat? Hmmm...set-back. My training didn't kick in fast enough for me to accurately evaluate what was going on at the moment or control my own reaction. In the past, I'd get mad at myself when I didn't react perfectly...but really it's an opportunity to show my kids how adults apologize, talk things out and reconcile.

So here's the real issue. My son's going into his first summer with our family. He doesn't know what to expect. He's just had 5 months of a whole lot of school, finally making some new friends and is mourning the loss of not getting to see them every day. Having their numbers on his safe list is his only way to connect with them over the summer. It's priceless to him. The sudden thought of not knowing if he'd ever get to speak to them again triggers anger and loss of all the past friends he's lost each year at summer due to being in foster care. He's almost 11 years old, so do you think he knows all this in that instant and can articulate that in the moment? No way!

My daughter's summertime anxiety triggered in April but she's coming out on the other side of her stress and last night she totally recognized what was happening with her new brother. She came in to help me finish dinner and loved up on me then went and spoke softly to him through the door and brought him dinner. I let him eat in his room and went in to talk to him afterwards. I learned the things I shared above that were creating anxiety, apologized for my failure in responding well and shared with him that I'd love for him to come out and join us in the living room. But asked that he would wait until he was ready to apologize for his part too.

Ten minutes later he walked up to me, put his head on my arm and said, "Mommy, I'm sorry." Forgiveness all around and we were on our way to a night that was completely pleasant and joyful! The three of us laughed, talked and shared about our day. It was a beautiful evening with a slight smudge at the beginning. We are more bonded and all more aware of how each other is feeling. It reminds me of a muscle being built...there's a little tearing before it can get stronger!

When kids have gone through traumatic times, this quote stands true: "My kid's not giving me a hard time, he's having a hard time." And it's my job to help them put a name on what they are feeling so they can learn to heal and grow. I want to love them through those nasty triggers and I want to learn to master my own.

I'm sharing all this because maybe other parents who've adopted or foster are hitting challenges? Maybe others need a reminder that times like summer break, which may have brought us joy in our childhood, can produce a different response in our children? Maybe you feel like you reacted poorly and have blown it? I'm just reminding myself and others, to keep loving them, keep loving yourself...keep loving. Others probably won't understand all that's going on under the radar because they've not read the huge binders of hurt our kids carry but you have so keep on loving. As I always say to my takes work to make this work. Thankfully, our work is love.