Thursday, July 26, 2012

Letter to a new Trust Based Parenting Momma

Recently I was contacted by a parent who is fairly new to Trust Based Parenting and feeling a bit overwhelmed. She found herself overcome with emotion as she saw parenting in a whole new light. As I wrote to her I wondered how many of you have felt the daunting fear of failure. As I have taken on this monumental task of parenting outside of "normal" I know I have felt that terror.. Many, many times. So I thought I'd share my response in hopes that it might encourage someone out there in bloggy land. I will edit a bit for clarity.

... I am so glad you got them (The Trust Based Parenting DVDs from TCU) and am grateful to hear they are hitting home... Though I know that can be so very painful and understand that feeling well. :-( It's hard sometimes. I can relate. This week, seeing hard truth, was so emotional for me too.

I have to hold on to knowing and embracing this is what has and what is going to help us all thrive as a family.

It's what we ignore that we can't fix.

It's not an ability to be perfect that makes us good moms. It's a willingness to be vulnerable and grow that makes us great moms.

So don't you dare become discouraged. ;-)

THIS is the stuff great moms do. They are weak sometimes and get real and break and grow.

I'm really proud of you for putting it all out there emotionally. It's courageous.

I have to remember not to let my mommy guilt or fear overwhelm me. When I first learned all this I had to forgive myself for not knowing what I didn't know. :-)

The Bible says we are responsible for what we know. Giving yourself and your children tons of grace is so important in this process. It's not about being perfect. It's about compassion and putting more and more tools in your toolbox.

I have talked to family after family who has been RIGHT where you are... The beginning of something beautiful. It's a scary, wonderful place to be but if you can let those emotions just flow, forgive yourself for being a human and then use your new tools to connect on this deeper level you will start to see some amazing things happen. I want to hear about them when they start.

OH!!! And don't try to start using all your tools at once. You'll be EXHAUSTED. Just choose 2 or 3 favorite new tools.

When I first started learning all this I remember realizing how punitive I was. Ugh! I had no idea how I would take this kinda thrill in making things "just." I felt awful. One of the first things I wanted to do was learn to do something different. I immediately started really ramping up giving choices about everything I could and doing re-dos.

After that I moved onto things like the IDEAL response, giving yes, empowering their bodies... And then sensory, and regulation techniques and... And... And...

Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by it. Learn to use one or two tools at a time and be grateful there are so many to choose from.

Now most of this comes very naturally. It was VERY hard at first. It was like learning to build a house. ;-)

You can do this slowly and surely with us all cheering you along and handing you any tools we know about.

Hugs!!!! Angel
PS um this kinda turned into a blog post... I may just copy it on there. I bet we aren't the only ones who ever weep during TBRI ;-)

Much love, Angel

Sunday, July 22, 2012

From Selfish to Giving Tree Stump then back again... Somewhere in the middle

When I was younger... MUCH younger :-) I was selfish.

Not mean, bratty selfish. Ok, maybe there was a touch of that but mostly just young selfish. Selfish like I had a lot of time. Selfish like I had a lot of margin. Selfish like I thought about my needs and had time to meet them.... A LOT.

Then I had a baby, then we moved, then my husband went to a demanding MBA school program, then my baby had surgery, then we moved again, then we adopted, ran a not for profit for awhile ON THE SIDE, adopted again... Adopted AGAIN...

And this last year I realized that along the way I had almost completely lost myself. It happened slowly like a frog being boiled alive.

I didn't mean for it to happen. I didn't feel like I had a choice. I didn't know another way to be enough so I just gave up pieces of myself to give to others until there was almost nothing left. For about a year I just felt.....trapped. Trapped, trapped, trapped, trapped, miserable.

I guess I saw it as a zero sum game. There is only so much of me. I have to make sure my husband and children and family and closest friends and responsibilities get enough so I will just have to give up my stuff.

I wanted to love sacrificially and I guess I was. No I was... I just didn't realize the cost or alternative.

There were things I stopped doing that I NEEDED to stop doing. I learned to say no kindly and liberally and OFTEN which has been AWWWWWWESOME and so very freeing.

There were many things I gave up that were truly necessary and right for a season.

I think my failing came in not knowing myself enough to know what NOT to give up. I wasn't just giving up my stuff. I started giving away parts of who I am at a fundamental level. I started giving up things that feed my soul...

I gave up blogging

I gave up intense study

I gave up going to conferences

I gave up eating well

I gave up exercising

I gave up painting my nails

I gave up shaving both halves of my legs

I gave up having personal goals about ME

Some of these things may seem trivial. Some may seem obvious. I think what I realized was this.... These are some things that are inherent to who I am. There are things that are not just things.

When I cut these things out of my life I quickly started to shrivel. Well, physically I quickly started to expand. Let's keep it real people. Spiritually I started to wither away.

I was taking the gifts God had gifted me with and sticking them on a shelf to gather dust in favor of the urgent.

I truly believed I was doing what was right. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I am learning better now.

This is not a zero sum game. There is not "only so much of me." I am not a pile of lumber to be distributed equally among those I care about.

I am a tree. Or I am meant to be. Not a tree to be used up to uselessness. (if you are confused now please see my previous giving tree post)

NO!!! I am meant to be like a tree planted by the water that bears fruit in due season.

I am meant to love sacrificially in the ways God calls me to love but not to abandon the gifts He has given me.

I struggled with this. Struggled to see what I'd abandoned. Struggled with fierce guilt, believing myself to be a selfish shrew. Struggled with believing it could be different.

There is still a strain... But I think I'm on my way.

As I have begun to embrace prioritizing the things that are fundamental to my well being I have found myself feeling inspired, energized, happy and on my way to healthy.

To my delighted surprise I have had MORE to offer my husband and children.

Sure I was giving them everything I was before but how much does a stump have to offer?

Hugs, Angel

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The big "D" in Adoption... When it all falls apart

It's the thing no one wants to talk about.... Shhhhhh.... Disruption.

I guess in the world of adoption this is the unforgivable sin right? And now I'm finally gonna talk about it. Sigh..

This post started in my head years ago. I'm going to confess here. There is a time I held judgment in my heart when I heard that someone had disrupted an adoption. I'm sorry. Truly I am.

I was young, stupid and downright ugly.

Now when I see anyone, especially from the adoption community, tearing down someone who has made this decision it breaks my heart. I'm not really angry at them. I just feel so very sad cause my view of the world has changed.

I guess I'm not as young anymore and I don't see it as black and white. I have friends now who have disrupted or chosen not to complete an adoption. I have adopted a precious little one from a disruption situation. I've had a chance to walk with people through that terrible valley.

In some of the cases I saw that I may have been forced into the same decision. In some cases I would not have made the same decision but saw why they did. In some cases I knew I would choose a different path. Yet, in each and every case there was something in common.

These people were absolutely broken. These families had put blood, sweat and tears into adopting these children just like I had. These people wanted it to work. What they were doing was a nightmare for them. They held a belief that this is what was best for that child.

As I walked this journey the thought occurred to me, "Why is it that the adoption community frequently offers virtual sainthood to a birth mother who makes the decision not to parent for a perceived good of the child but is ready to stone an adoptive mother who does the same?"

Why is it that if we go out on the limb to adopt and then fail the adoption community may just saw that limb off and let us fall?

Do I like disruption? Heavens no!!! I hate it.... I hate it with every fiber of my being. I hate it just like I hate divorce and children being orphaned and that we even NEED adoption and infidelity and bankruptcy and malnutrition and HIV and children with no education. I hate the brokenness and nature of the fallen world we live and love in.

Here's the truth though... These families that adopt... Sure, maybe there are some who are just TRULY evil and don't care about the child and were purely selfish. Let's be honest though... Not a whole lot of that kind of people jump through the hoops of fire required to adopt a child. These are people who not only took on the incredible task of parenting but took on the additional challenge of parenting a child from a hard place.

Maybe they shouldn't have done it. Maybe they didn't have the tools. Maybe they had unrealistic expectations. Maybe they made the wrong decision. Maybe they should have stuck it out.

Maybe.... Maybe not. I don't know. You don't know. And even if we do know it's kinda WAY beside the point isn't it?

Cause the truth is that few people are brave enough to adopt. These people were and then it failed and they feel like they failed. They are making a decision to give up a CHILD, to give up a dream, to give up what people think of them.... I can guarantee this is the worst time of their entire life and was not in the plan EVER.

Then the friends that have been their support are often the ones that pick up the sharpest, biggest stones. Maybe it's because we are afraid. Maybe we think if we yell loud enough it'll stop it from happening. Maybe we are afraid it'll happen to us.

I know the statistics now. This atmosphere doesn't stop disruptions from happening. It just means they happen underground and the people slink away to hide and hope they are forgotten because it's better than being condemned.

I don't want to be a part of that. I don't want to be a part of smashing someone who is already broken to bits. No matter why they are broken I want to be the one who is a safe place.

Whatever caused them to enter into the worst nightmare of their life I'd rather be a part of the healing than the sentencing. Maybe it was impossible... Maybe it was all their fault... For sure they are paying a steeper price than I can fathom without my heaping guilt and anger on top of them.

I want to be part of the solution. I want to be a safe place where adoptive families know they can turn no matter what they are facing. I want to learn tools to help parents walk their children to healing. I want tools to help parents who are broken and can't connect because of their own trauma. (which is quite common) I want to educate people on what the beauty and challenges are in adoption. I want to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I want to help children be placed in homes where the parents and the children can find deep connection and thrive together.

So anyways... Disruption. That's where I am on that. In CASE you were wondering. :-)

Hugs, Angel

Monday, July 16, 2012

Excruciating Vulnerability- The price of connection

I get calls, emails, texts, FB messages from moms just like me. Moms that love their children and want to see them happy and healthy. Moms who are worn out and down right exhausted. Moms that wonder if I have answers in how to address the behaviors I see.

The truth is I think I do. The truth is I have no idea. The truth is I'm not sure. The truth is I'm learning. AND.. The truth is... It's not what you think.

What I've learned over these past 7 years is that what it takes to love is connection. What it takes to connect is EXCRUCIATING VULNERABILITY.

I mean EXCRUCIATING!!! If I am not a little uncomfortable in the initial process then I'm not doing it right. If it's not challenging at first then I'm probably playing it safe.

Being vulnerable means laying it out there... Opening myself up.. Laying my heart on the table... Saying I love you first.... Being willing to love someone who might hurt me.

Truly connecting means my heart open for someone to see knowing full well it may get smashed to bits... Maybe smashed over and over and over and over aaaaand over.

Just this last weekend I opened up to my husband, my precious and loving husband of 14 years, about a vulnerable need and I cried from the difficulty and fear of laying myself out so raw.

Truly connecting with a child from a hard place I can almost guarantee some smashing will occur. It's not easy. It is what it requires.

So when you ask what you can do I just gotta get really real with you and say, this is what it takes. Jesus got real when He said that we would need to DIE to ourselves.

True love and connection is only available to those willing to be excruciatingly vulnerable.

The truth is that we are ASKING this from our adopted (and bio) children. We are saying to them, "You are safe. You should trust me and love me and be vulnerable to me." Yet have we mastered that ourselves? How can we lead our broken and battered little ones down a road we ourselves refuse to travel?

The road to connection is full of scary shadows. Will we walk it with our children?

Yet with this connection comes a type of joy unavailable in any other capacity. Those who are truly connected believe they are WORTHY of loving. We want our children to believe this... Do we?

Learning this connection is requiring me to have the courage to be imperfect.

It is requiring me to care for myself and believe I am worthy of that care so my love can overflow to others.

It is requiring me to let go of my guilt that I didn't know what I didn't know and my ideas of who I think I should be.

It's freeing me to love... To live... To be grateful... To BE.

Basically, it's making me better than I WANTED to be and I'm forever thankful for the divine shove.

So when you ask me if I can help the first thing I wonder is, "Are you ready to be excruciatingly vulnerable? Is it worth it to walk through the scary shadows?"

If you want behavior modification I'm not so good at that. If you want the hard road to reaching connection within yourself and with your children I'm overjoyed to walk that road as we both keep it real together.

And that is connection.

Hugs, Angel

PS This TED video is amazing and was very inspirational to me on excruciating vulnerability. It is well worth your time. :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Giving Tree... Thoughts on giving till you're useless

This isn't one of those posts where I know what I'm talking about. Let's face it, there aren't many posts like that. This is just a thinking out loud kinda post.

The last year and a half I gave... I mean I really gave... I mean I gave until I really had nothing left to give and there was a point I felt like I might lose it. No. Let's get real. I did lose it.

I wanted to give. I take joy in giving. I have a strong tendency to feel guilty if I'm not giving my all...all the time. So I gave and gave and gave and gave and then gave out.

During this time I was really wrestling through the guilt of being so worn down and feeling so useless.

One day, in the middle of this inner struggle, my daughter brought me the story, "The Giving Tree" and I read it to her.

Honestly, my first thought was that it was probably a great lesson for her. Then as the days went on that dang tree kept nagging at me. Was that really what we are supposed to do? Are we supposed to wear ourselves down to stumps to meet every whim of the people we love till we are good for nothing but to be sat on??? Really? Is that Christ's goal for us? Is that what Jesus did?

And I genuinely wasn't sure what to think... But I'm sorting through it.

Wouldn't the tree have done better to continue being healthy and bearing fruit year after year? Wouldn't the boy have been better served by a tree honest enough to tell him the truth of who he was while continuing to serve him with healthy fruit?

I know, I'm beating a dead tree. :-) I just have a strange feeling that maybe there are other moms that struggle with this like I do.

Taking care of myself... Dying to myself... Giving to others... Living for Christ. I get all jumbled up on what's right.

Here's what I think. I think that Jesus did lay down His life but ONLY when His Father told Him to do it. He also was a slave to no one. He didn't always say yes. For 30 of His 33 years He was a carpenter in a small town. He could have made everything perfect. He could have healed everyone. He could have worked day and night. He didn't help everyone. He didn't heal everyone. He did what his Father told Him to do and served those He was called to serve. He was no stump chopped to the ground. He was overflowing with fruit. He gave that fruit away in season with joy.

I don't get it. I'm trying to learn. Sometimes I want to be able to give it all without becoming useless but I can't... And I don't think it's what God has asked of me.

I think I'm done being the giving tree. I think I'd rather be fruitful.

Hugs, Angel