Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Goals and Game Plans. One Month into Pre-Adoptive Placement.

There is less newness in our house these days. I know what to expect with each day, and while I'm finding it impossible to keep up with the demands of a house and life as a family of seven, I am slowly making peace with the dishes, the piles of shoes by the doors, and the endless loads of laundry.
One day the clutter will be a priority again, but in this moment, it is trivial. 
Resting in that knowledge has given  me so much more energy this week. I am exhausted, yes, but I do not feel to-my-core worn out like I did last week.

Last week, we were clearly transitioning out of honeymooning (finally!), so there were days of watching and learning and bracing myself.
This week, we have a goal and a game plan. 
Our younger three have resorted to pretty hateful language when they are not getting their way. Outbursts can range from "This is stupid" to "I hate you" and may be directed toward each other or toward Amos and I. They have also begun to intentionally get under A's skin, and her response is not always pretty. These new parenting demands have left J on the sidelines much of the time. We consulted our experts and decided that these behaviors are partly habit but mostly attention seeking efforts. The suggestion was to completely ignore all angry words used when the kids are upset. The counselor asked me if I thought the kids were all getting enough one-on-one attention. That question struck at my heart.
WHAT??? 
I am SUPPOSED to be able to give all FIVE of them enough one-on-one attention right now? 
Is that seriously a reasonable expectation of me a month into our new life? 
NO, sir, I am not giving them enough one-on-one attention. 
I am lucky to give them all breakfast and clean socks in the morning!

After I got over feeling like a failure, I sat back and reflected on our parenting. It is not new for me to feel like the kids need my attention every moment of every day, and it is not new for me to be on the receiving end of verbal anger from both Noah and Miriam. In the last couple weeks, those angry behaviors have escalated dramatically, but they have always been present to a lesser degree. I always thought that these behaviors stemmed from Noah's general personality and possibly his giftedness which often comes with a lag in social skills. And I just assumed that Miriam had mirrored his behavior. It may very well have started this way, but I'm pretty certain that I've allowed it to become a habit. 

This week, I have one goal-
1. Decrease the number of hateful outbursts in our family


This week, I have a game plan-
1. Avoid giving any attention in response to angry outbursts.
2. Coach the kids on ignoring ugliness from one another instead of responding.
3. Institute a weekly FAMILY NIGHT. 
4. Check in with both boys, one-on-one, every day. 

I'm feeling pretty good about how our last couple days have gone. We've had several outbursts, but I've been able to connect to the kids on the receiving end and coach them through the drama. Sweet A usually ends up blowing her top before the behavior subsides, but even she successfully distracted herself in the car last night while Miriam was doing her best to get under my skin. It's going to be a slow process, but I have faith that these outbursts will begin to decrease and eventually dissipate. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Thankful

Someday I'm going to look back on the last two months here in blog land. They will be nearly empty. And I will remember this time in my life as a time when I was learning about service. Service takes on a whole new meaning for me these days, and I am thankful. I am thankful that I wake up five children, most of them grumpy, every weekday morning to prepare for school. I am thankful for the times when I have to help my eight-year-old get dressed in the morning because he just needs someone to do life with him once in a while. I'm thankful for the five hours I have each day to cram in loads (and loads and loads) of laundry, paperwork, errands, and appointments. I am thankful for the hour of rejuvenation I have some afternoons. I am thankful for the drive to pick up my youngest from her school and the much needed one-on-one time it affords her. I am thankful for crazy evenings filled with chores, appointments, practices, games, homework, and lessons. I am thankful for children who need bedtime stories, backs rubbed, and prayers said.  I am thankful for teenagers who crave time with me after the younger ones go to sleep. I am thankful for the sheer exhaustion that I feel every night.

In this moment, our life is hectic, complicated, sad, and scary. There are many unknowns, many bridges to cross, mistakes being made, and tears shed. I've watched our bios show signs of stress and begin to work though growing pains. All five of the kids are starting to show their true selves to each other, and with that honestly comes the need to learn how to be post-honeymoon siblings. There are hurt feelings. There are rude comments. There are stolen front seats. There is a frazzled mom who can't find time to cook a real dinner most nights. There is a phenomenal dad who seems to be holding the mom together (honestly, he's amazing) and desperately needs a day to himself.

In all this coming apart, there is a foundation of trust being built. Every time a disagreement resolves itself, we get to show the kids that we're committed, that we're not going to ask them to leave because they have a bad day... or week. In all this coming apart, there is Christ, and there is LOVE. There is FOREVER.