I expected to be crying into a bottle of wine by the new year, but the routine of having to mother all day long proved satisfying. I think I had started to slip into a bit of a depression prior to the holidays, and the long quiet days while the kids were at school made it oh so easy to feed my laziness and call it self-care.
For the record, self-care is NOT sleeping for two hours in the middle of the day. It is not Netflix binges. Self-care is productivity. It is active prayer. Helping others. Socializing. Playing games. Going for walks. Living, at least loosely, by a schedule. Doing your job and doing it well.
In the past three weeks, I have been proud of my mothering. It hasn't been perfect, but my heart has been in it. We are a world away from where we were a month ago. Our boys have spent much less time trying to force each other to be the sibling they hoped for. I see acceptance starting to sprout, and I'm praying that God will show me how to nurture it.
Over the school break, I reached my limit of ignoring Mr. J's disrespectful answers to nearly every conversation we shared. I was tired of the sarcasm, the hateful exasperation Mr. J would throw at us constantly, and the incessant defiance. Attention seeking, we were told. ODD, we were told. Sibling competition, we were told. Trying to figure out his role in our family, we were told. I was done. It was time to stop excusing the bad behavior with a list of tough circumstances. I sat in our minivan and lectured my new son. I spoke to him sternly and lovingly. I told him we were finished with the behavior he was hiding behind. I assured him that I saw the boy behind all that and loved him more than I could explain. I told him that we were done with his attempts to hurt others' feelings. From that moment forward, I would tolerate no more of it. He was golden for the rest of the day. The next morning, Mr. J tossed an eye roll and a sarcastic "I'm goooooooooooing!" my way when I asked him to put his shoes on. I directed him to sit on the stool beside me, got close to his face, looked him in the eye, and said, "I told you we were finished with that behavior, and I mean it's OVER NOW." Another hateful remark landed him home for the day while the others were brought to play with relatives in from out of town. We have lived with a zero tolerance policy for Mr. J since then. By God's grace, I have gradually seen less of Mr. J's mask and more of Mr. J.
A couple months ago, a parenting effort like this one would have led to a meltdown complete with screaming and threats of self harm, running away, or hurting others. I was SO proud of how Mr. J took my ultimatum- unhappily, but calmly obliging. What I see in that change is growing trust.
Mr. J has started to tell stories, talk about his bio mom and his life in foster care. I listen intently to every word. The glimpse into his head isn't very comforting (there's a lot of pain there), but the fact that he is sharing leaves opportunity for healing.
We are not out of the woods, but we are in a place where I believe there is a clearing ahead. I can see God's grace around me again, and I am able to do more than simply keep everyone safe and fed. God is good, and He has not stopped working in this house, in these hearts.