I'm Julie, otherwise known as Mamita. I'm married to the greatest man on earth. His name is Steve, or Daddy. We have 4 kids, three homegrown and one heartgrown from the beautiful country of Guatemala. This blog is about our family, our faith, adoption, therapeutic parenting, and anything else I feel the need to talk about. It is both a family record and free therapy for my crazy life. Come along for the ride if you want.
Today, we'll be having a tissue box funeral for our beloved Emma. Emma was a Christmas gift (this year) from Sugar to Cupcake. This was a special display of love from big sister to little sister. Sugar spent her own money over and above the Christmas budget to buy a hamster for Cupcake.
Sugar felt strongly that having a pet of her own would be therapeutic for Cupcake. She was right.
Cupcake adored this little critter. She never bit, only nibbled. She let the kids play with her and hold her. She made cute little noises and loved her wheel.
We just discovered that Emma liked to watch TV. Cupcake brought Emma out to the family room the other night when we were all watching Toy Story 3. This is how Emma stayed the entire movie. She was mesmerized!
When Cupcake was upset, she would go to her room, pull Emma out, and gently hold her and pet her until she calmed down. Emma was a good friend. We're going to miss her.
We are also going to the pet store today after school to buy a new hamster. :-)
I think this season of grief for our family is going to be another growing season for our hearts, minds, emotions and relationships. But it sure isn't easy.
Someday, when I'm old, I'll have a good story for my grandkids. I can see myself now, on the rocker on my front porch.
Did I ever tell you kids about your great-grandma Pat's funeral?
The service was very nice and solemn.
The burial was out in the country cemetery next to great-grandpa Rich. The plot is at the top of the hill where it overlooks all the farmland in the area.
Two days before, it snowed 6 inches.
Now the funeral director told us that the dirt lane leading to the top of the hill had been plowed and drivable. Because it is a fairly steep hill, the plan was to send one car up at a time, in case they needed to back down and get a running start.
However, it snowed just a little bit more on the morning of the funeral.
The roads were clear. The fields sparkled with the freshly fallen snow.
The funeral procession stopped at the bottom of the hill.
Up went the lead car.
Up went the limo.
Up went the hearse. Slowly. Slower. Stopped.
Down backs the hearse.
Up goes the hearse.
Slip goes the hearse.
Sideways goes the hearse.
Out jump the pallbearers.
Up walks my younger brother.
Push-dig-push-dig go the men. Spin go the wheels.
Up goes a Jeep. (My brother's father-in-law-to-be)
Out comes the tow-strap. Vroom goes the Jeep.
Up goes the hearse! Understandably, we all parked at the bottom of the hill and walked up.
Oh, and when we got home from the funeral, we found out that the hearse actually ran over my brother's foot! No kidding! My sister-in-law-to-be has a picture to prove it. (He doesn't think it's broken.)
Seriously, this could only happen in our family.
Somehow, in some strange way, it seems fitting that Mom couldn't make it to her own funeral and she ran over my brother trying to get there.
Middle-of-the-night phone call. Rushed packing. Slow miles. Painful doctor talk. Sudden loss. Unexpected grief. Hurting hearts. Hot tears.
Gathering of family. Fond memories. Outpouring of love. Reunion with old friends. Genuine laughter. Grateful heart. Prevailing peace.
Maybe someday, I'll tell the story, when my thoughts aren't so jumbled. Mom died of multiple complications from an angiogram. It's a very low-risk procedure. This never happens.
Except it did.
This is my favorite (relatively) recent picture of Mom. She was in Guatemala with our family visiting Cupcake. Something about Guatemala makes you look and feel ten years younger. She felt great and was so happy there. I'm so glad she came with us. I have a lifetime of happy memories just from that week. This is the Mom I want to remember.
I would appreciate prayers for our family (especially my brothers) as we process this loss.
These were words that professionals spoke to me as I looked for help in themonths after Cupcake came home... If you'd like to read the rest of the story, please go visit A Bushel and a Peck, where I am guest blogging today. If you've never checked out Lisa's blog, you really should go click around and feast on her wisdom. She is mom to eleven kiddos, from grown-ups to preschoolers, some from birth, others through adoption. She is a friend and hero to me.
Oh, I have a vast repertoire of parenting techniques that no longer work. In reality, they didn't really work that well in the first place, but because my kids were well-grounded and secure in my love, it didn't appear to backfire in my face (often).
Cupcake, on the other hand, is more like a walking exaggeration. She is so insecure in our love and so fragile, that any little impurity in my love causes her to have catastrophic failure. It certainly drives me to purify my love. And we know that perfect love casts out fear. Perfect love -that is my goal, knowing that I'll never reach it (here on earth).
Here is a list of the things that don't work. These are tried and true techniques that fail miserably.
Threatening consequences as the misbehavior is being perpetrated.
When a kid is stressed, the auditory processing is shut down. You're wasting your breath and the appearance of threat escalates the situation. There is a place for natural consequences, but it is not in the heat of battle.
For the same reasons as above, lectures are worthless, even if they make you feel better.
Using the "Hairy Eyeball" and other facial expressions meant to convey disapproval.
The "Hairy Eyeball" is widely known in Christian circles as the look that the choir mom gives her squirming children in the pews during services. Other expressions include, but are not limited to pursed lips, raised eyebrows, scowls, snarls, squints, and frowns.
This deserves a post by itself. I used to be an advocate of rare and highly controlled spanking, but I'm moving farther and farther away from it as an effective means to correct children - any children, but especially children from hard places. For some interesting thoughts on this you might read Christie's blog here and here.
Time Out, Isolation, and "Let them stew."
Isolation = Rejection. Fear of rejection is the force that drives these kids to do crazy things. Sending a child away until he can get his act together is a very clear sign of conditional love. It exacerbates the root of the problem. Thinking over things is good, but it must be done in the context of love and acceptance. Letting them stew when they are already in a bad frame of mind does nothing to help them think clearly with healthy thoughts.
This one is not found in the parenting books, but it's a dear, old friend.
Lobbing instructions from another room.
This is particularly useless when your child has hearing loss, but I think it's pretty useless for any kid.
Half-hearted and non-specific instructions.
If I'm not serious about my orders, what makes me think that my kid is going to take them seriously? If I'm wishy-washy about getting something done, it's not going to happen. And if I give general orders like, "Be nice." or "Go play," I can expect zero compliance.
The "Grizzly Bear"
If I come down on my child with puffed out chest, angry eyes, and my big, powerful voice and demand, "You. will. obey. me!" I will come face to face with a bigger, meaner grizzly bear. Because she is scared and she must win, it's a matter of life or death for her.
Ignore the problem and hope it goes away.
This is was a favorite tactic of mine. Oh, how hard it is to let go of old ways.... Unfortunately, problems need to be resolved, and if I'm hiding at the computer desk, (or the bathroom, or the laundry room), there is no resolution. ..... Instead of going away, it just escalates.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself." This does not help a kid who is ashamed of herself. Kids from hard places already think they are unlovable and that there is something innately wrong with them. Piling on the shame buries them deeper in the hole they already live in.
"You know better than that."
Which one of us rises above this? We all know what we ought to do. The problem is not with head knowledge. The problem lies within our hearts. I know better than to yell at my kids. Yet I still do. I know better than ignore the problem and pretend I don't hear the snarky comments in the room next door. Oh, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I know better than to use any of these tactics with my children. I know it's not good for them. I know it hurts my relationship with them. But, oh, I loved these tools for the longest time. As I read back through them, I feel like my parenting toolbox has been emptied.
In fact, it has been emptied.
Michael Monroe, at Empowered to Connect, talked about the need to learn new things, but there is a tremendous need to unlearn old things. The learning is hard work, but the unlearning is harder. Can I get an "Amen"?
God never takes away something without giving us something better. He tears us down, then builds us up stronger, wiser than before. That is the process of being purified. He shows us the more excellent way.
I hope to blog about the more excellent ways that God is teaching me in the near future.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about where my parenting style came from. Why did I think the way I thought? Why do I parent this way? What were my expectations and what are they now?
Well, first off, I was a compliant kid. I was easy to raise. A look, a stern word, raised eyebrows...that's all it took to get me back on the path.
I'm a laid-back, go-with-the-flow kind of person. Structure is so confining.
I hate conflict. I'd rather have a root canal than a confrontation.
I hate for others to be disappointed in me. And I like to be well-thought-of. And I like my kids to make me look good. :-)
And I'm basically lazy. Yeah, it's true. I'd rather tell my kids what to do from the comfort of my chair than to get up and actually make them do it.
Does anyone see trouble coming? (I know all you adoptive moms are giggling.)
When Tim was first born, I couldn't have told you my parenting style, or even a basic game plan. I just figured I'd raise kids like I had been raised. Trouble was, I had NO IDEA how I had been raised.
My Dad was unexpectedly killed when I was 12. That's big-"T" trauma. I have very few specific memories of my childhood before age 12.
After Dad died, Mom did her best to hold it together. She was dealing with a rebellious teenage son (He had big-"T" trauma, too. We didn't understand that back then.), a hormonal pre-teen girl, and a 3 year-old baby. Excellent parenting strategies were not really at the top of her priorities. Surviving was. This was not the ideal training grounds for how to be a mommy.
So, when I entered parenthood, I was clueless (about parenting). Around that time, I became a Christian. It was a good time to look to God to figure out how to do this, so we turned to traditional Christian parenting classes. We got lots of great advice and many techniques worked well for us. Our big kids were turning out very well and we thought we had a pretty good grasp on raising kids.
However, one insidious little half-truth crept in to everything I learned. "Obedience, obedience, obedience. Obedience is the main thing." Obedience became my priority. Obedience was everything. As long as my kids were obeying, everything was fine.
Obedience does not come naturally. Compliance is hard to come by. Structure is necessary. Conflict is inevitable. Making me look good is not a priority. And laziness on my part is not an option.
All of my rough edges are being sanded down and I am being refined in the fire. I thought I was a pretty good mom. Pretty good is not good enough. Those ideas were second-rate.
I am learning through the school of hard knocks that relationship is the key. Relationship is everything! If someone is being a stinker, it's because there is something going on in their heart. If my heart can meet their heart, I can reach them where they are and meet their deep-down need. Then I can correct their negative behavior and be closer to them. That's win/win for me! That's win/win for them!
As Karyn Purvis says, "A variety of parenting strategies work on low-risk kids, but high risk kids require a very specific parenting strategy."
These kids need high nurture AND high structure. This is hard work. It requires everything I have and everything I am.
Through all this refining and pain, I am growing as a person. I'm a much better mom than I used to be (most days). I'm more compassionate. I approach my big kids differently as well. It's helping our relationships. It's changed how I see difficult people. My eyes have been opened to the hurting, scared children that are all around me. I see more clearly the character of God.
This is good and I'm so thankful to have the experience.