Thursday, October 20, 2011

Saying yes

I don't know about you, but as a parent I sometimes get into bad habits.  One of these habits is a knee jerk reaction of saying no whenever my children ask me to do anything.  'No' is easier.  It requires nothing of me and makes no messes.  It is not inconvenient and I can continue on with whatever my plans were.  And while 'no' can be a reasonable response sometimes, it is often just selfishness and thoughtlessness on my part.

This has been an area I've struggled with all my parenting life, but it has really been brought to the forefront of my mind this past week.  A good friend of mine went to the Empowered to Connect conference a few weeks ago with Karyn Purvis.  I had really wanted to go, but with J. being gone one weekend a month it just didn't seem wise for me to be gone one as well.  (Plus, I could have made some more 'imaginary' friends into 'real' friends, so many people I know via the internet were there.) But, I've been hearing all about it and doing some reading and listening on my own.  So much of it I already knew (or had known at one point), but it is a good reminder.

What has struck me most forcibly in my immediate situation is that children who have suffered trauma need to hear the word 'yes' a lot.  The point being that young babies and children in stable situations hear the word 'yes' over and over and over.  This makes sense to me as I think about how we all interact with G. and L.  We are thrilled with everything they do.  (Well, almost everything.)  We applaud them, we smile at them, we laugh at their jokes and funny faces, we watch transfixed as they learn a new skill and cheer them on.  These girls get the best of us all the time.

Would you consider me a horrible mother if I admit that this is not how I have treated my adopted children, even when they first came home?  But, I'm realizing this is how they should have been treated.  These are children who not only desperately need this kind of interaction, but have most likely never experienced it in their lives.  When I think about all the times I've said 'no', without purpose and often not in a pleasant voice, to the two children in my house who are literally starved for something else, I cringe.  I ask myself, would I want to attach to me?  I'm not so sure I would.

I has been convicting and humbling.  Parenting sends you to your knees.  I resolved last week to make a change.  I would say 'yes' as much as possible.  I would begin to treat these two boys with the same wonder and amazement and joy as I treat the little girls.  It is not always easy.  I like to be in charge and I am having to learn to let go of some things.  Clothing, for instance.  I let TM wear the shorts and a t-shirt he put on yesterday, even though it was cold and rainy.  If he was cold, he would change, and by not harping on it, I was able to tacitly say yes to his clothing choice and avoid yet one more strain on our relationship.  I am learning to let go of the negotiables.  I will say it again, it is not easy.

There was a bright spot yesterday morning to encourage me, though.  My habit is to sit in bed, sipping coffee (delivered by J.) until I am sufficiently awake enough to attempt rising.  I am often joined by a child, or two, or three, but TM has never been one of these children.  Snuggling with mom--just because--has never been at the top of his list of desired activities.  You can imagine my surprise, when through my waking blur, I realized that TM had bounded into bed and had lain his head on my shoulder and just sat there, his body still.

Yes!

5 comments:

MRK said...

I went to the conference, too. That message hit home hard for me as well. I don't know if your friend gave you the lightswitch example from the video shown at the conference. It was powerful. I have been doing better with it, but it's still a struggle for me. I do see the difference in my kids when I am "on," though, and that is a powerful motivator....after I've had my coffee, I mean. :-)

Shonya said...

That's excellent, excellent!

Makes me think of a verse in the NIV translation of the Bible that was pointed out to me a few years back and has greatly affected my parenting: "in him it has always been 'yes.' For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ." II Corinthians 1:19-20

Anonymous said...

What an honest and brave post to write. Thank you for sharing. This post touched my heart, as I have a child (all of mine are adopted) that needs to hear my 'yes' more often, too.
-k

Ann said...

Thank you for being real. This is one of your best posts and should be read by all adoptive parents. I love Karyn Purvis' short video clips online--powerful!

susieloulou said...

I didn't go to the conference and have had very little real life experience with parenting children from hard places. But one of the things I always loved about my mom was that I never knew if she'd say yes or no! My friends would say, "Oh, my mom will never say yes," but I knew MY mom would consider each request separately and decide, and it might be yes!

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