Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Empowered to Connect with all of my children

Today I feel refreshed....
Today I feel revived....
Today I feel empowered to be the mother I have been longing to be.

last weekend i went to denver with my friend lauren to attend the empowered to connect conference through Show Hope.  I have to be completely honest.....I never thoroughly read the information about what the conference entailed (i think lauren prolly rolled her eyes at me when i asked her what we were doing here).
 I knew it was geared toward adoptive families and that alone has to be good, 
but I didn't know exactly WHY i was going. :0)  
okay, i was going because i needed a great reason to take a break from "life" 
and i wanted to show support for the organization that helped us bring 
our little girl home.

my friend lauren who has been my non-judgmental sounding-board for over a year now......met through adoption

our new friends, beth and scott whom we "found" through blogging.....they are in the process of adopting siblings....soo happy they are educating themselves NOW.


as many of you know (because i tend to be rather vocal) i have fallen on some hard times lately.  it stems from many different things, but mostly the balance of parenting a very-newly-adopted child and three bio boys.  
along with that comes guilt, sadness, jealousy, manipulation, tenderness, and many many sleepless nights
(surely not forgetting the joy and beauty with our blessings, but these were the HARD things). 
i was beginning to feel crushed by the pressures of being 
the perfect mommy
but alas!! a weekend away to rejuvenate and put everything into perspective.

 i spent the first full day of the conference crying. 
wondering what i could have been thinking.  
angry that i had never been told.  
feeling like a failure not only as an adoptive parent, but also to my 3 bio boys.
i went the second day KNOWING that there were going to be BIG changes when i returned home--no weeping the rest of the weekend....just keeping my eyes on the sweet surprise at the end 
(my kiddos and their love).

congregating at the computer.....again :0) it is.......................

i am a control freak......i have already admitted that.
i tell my kids NO when i really need to say YES
i am not "present" with my children the way i need to be.
i yell a lot (yes, i am saying it)

this conference was about connecting with our children. 
 it was aimed toward children from "hard places"....fostered, adopted, abused, neglected, those born on drugs, etc.  
but we learned that at-risk children can also be any child that was affected by a stressful pregnancy in the womb, any child that was hospitalized, any child that was removed from his/her mother for any length of time. 
these children...OUR children's brain chemistry's (neuro-transmitters) can be altered from such trauma.  
millions of dollars of research has been done to understand babes from "hard places" and how we can help them, connect with them, 
love them.....
and then they love in return.

sleeping like an angel in her night cap

when we brought aregash home we knew it would be hard.  
we were told it would be hard.  
but to understand how hard it could be was never explained.  
we took the classes provided by our agency (and frankly, we wanted to get through the classes as quickly as possible).  
so it is was always in our minds that we may bring a child into our family with health concerns, one with emotional distress, a babe with special needs.  
we were informed that children may only attach to one parent, or maybe not at all in the beginning. 
but how do we deal with it all?
 feeling pretty much hung-out-to-dry.
this is where i got angry this weekend.......
(i'm not pointing fingers)
we were not given information about HOW to raise these children from the hard places
 we were not told how it is different to parent an adopted child versus our biological children.  at times were even told that we raised such good kids........
to trust our own judgement.....
things will be fine.
it's just not that simple.
so i did the best i could.
and this is where I was wrong (according to conference attended) about thinking that it is okay to do the same with her as i would with my boys.  
we were lucky to have received the blessing of a healthy little girl.....
but that doesn't mean it was easy...
for any of us.
when we arrived home from ethiopia i was very attentive to her...
even when it was tiring...
even when she was "stuck" to me all night long and i slept very little.....
even through the meltdowns and the tantrums that could be hours in length.
i learned that this is "normal" (what is normal anyway?) and it could take months with a LOT of work to get her connected to our family.  
but what i was doing was the best way to attach to this child from hard places...
a child who has major amounts of loss in her life; from loosing family to loosing care-giver, one after another. 
this child who would bond with a special person in her life and then they would be gone ( i've tried to explain to people that she's had 50-60-70 mommies and the same in daddies). 
so when at some tiresome point i decided to parent her the way i had my boys,
it felt right, 
it was WAYYYY less work, 
and she responded in a positive way.....
it wasn't necessarily what was best for her. 
children from hard places need to know that there will always be plenty of love,
they will ALWAYS have their needs met, 
there will always be food available.  
not to say that i deprived her of any of these things, but it was soo much to think about at the time.  
the fact that before she came to us she had virtually no control (meals were "this" time, snacks were at "that" time, potty breaks at "this" time, etc).  as far as we know she had no choice about MOST things.  and this wasn't because she was in a facility without loving-nurturing people....
there were just soo many children there wasn't any other way.  

one of her sweet nannies whom she also called "MOMMY"

a last-minute conversation with a "Mommy"

the director of aregash's last care center....there were 3 centers total in 8 months

another beautiful "Mommy"

they all cried when they hugged her for the last time

precious love

did she need us setting rules and boundaries even within the first couple of months?
  i don't know.  
i'm still confused about this. 
because now that we have a base-line with her i feel like we can let go a little and just enjoy.  she knows how we do things and now she understands what we expect.
  it worked for us....
and for her.  
this is when i decided that doing the same with her as what i had done in the past would be okay.
after rocking her to sleep every night for the first 6-7 weeks, we put her in her bed one night and she seemed happy and well.  she sleeps there (with brother across the room) for 12 hours every night (most adoptive parents are not so lucky). 
when my boys would have a tantrum we learned to stop giving it attention and it would end MUCH more this is what we started with her. 
now i know that because she is "wired" differently than the boys (because they have had consistent parenting their entire lives) this was NOT the best way to handle it. 
ignoring wasn't what she needed. 
the tantrum was for a it grieving or confusion, or.........
it really is very difficult to always put yourself in someone else's shoes at all times, 
with every decision, but THAT is EXACTLY what our children from "hard places" need. 
so during the conference i began to question myself......
if she's sleeping in her room every night is it because she feels safe and secure?  
or is it because she's afraid she'll be in trouble if she gets up? 
she's always happy when she lays down and doesn't cry out in the night, so i've been told she must feel comfortable, secure and safe where she is.  
sigh of relief.

 i'm still confused about the "right" way (according to said conference) and the "wrong" way.....because what we have done has seemed to work and our child is happy, healthy, and seemingly very secure.  
do i back-track and change things when they are good, or leave them as they are?  
it is VERY easy to over-analyze when you have adopted.....but i've been told by experienced parents that this is good (doesn't always feel good), because then you are constantly thinking about the outcome....what may happen or not happen if you do it "this" way or "that" way.  
so i'm gonna stop psycho-analyzing the fact that I over-analyze everything. :0)

before our family was completely complete

what now???

  there are some BIG changes that are coming.......
i am working on saying YES more.
i am giving up my controlling ways (so hard)....
which means i will yell less often, yes? :0)
and i am going to start "being" with my children....... 
PLAYING with my children....
making eye contact and telling them how PRECIOUS they are every single chance I get.

there is ALWAYS room for more

i have always had a great relationship with all of my kids and i am soo happy that they know they can confide in me at any time and know that i will listen.......
so now i will be connecting with them all soo much more......

i have been empowered
to be better at my dream-"job".

and for this i pray for strength
and give thanks 


Beth said...

Very well said! I am still trying to process through all of the things we heard last week. I have used the "What did YOU do?" "Blaha ablah blblah" thing more than once at school. The kids think I am goofy, but it gets to the bottom of the problem much more quickly!

I have been praying for you this week! So glad we met!


Deena said...

Great post Kendra! Lots to think about...I still think your gut will be right 95% of the IS possible to maintain consistent expectations and foster attachment at the same time...I really think so.
By the way, I yell too! Just last week I made a conscious decision that that too must end- good old "control" issues, huh?
Have a great day!

Jill said...

Amazing! I am so happy you were able to go to the conference. I have read her books and watched her videos...amazing stuff! Praying for you....give yourself some credit for being an awesome mom.

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