Sunday, May 10, 2015

Good Mom/Bad Mom/RAD Mom

Today is Mother's Day.


It's a good day, unless it's not. And there are too many that I know or think of who struggle with parts of motherhood--being one, not being one, living in the shadow of a mother. As our pastor said this morning, "Motherhood is complicated." Amen.

All this week I've been thinking about Mothers. So has everyone else.

Earlier in the week, the local Christian radio station was asking listeners which TV mom they most loved. And in the few minutes I listened, the answers were predicable. Caroline Engalls. Mrs. Walton. June Cleaver. Claire Huxtable. Even Jill Taylor from Home Improvement.

Each of those women were characters who exemplified the best of being a being a mother: patient, grace-filled, providing, strong yet weak, good humor, God-fearing.

I wondered where the mention of Roseanne was.

Come one, you remember Roseanne, don't you? I can picture her sitting on her couch calling Becky to bring her something from the kitchen. I can see the plaid shirts of the mid-90's.

Of course no one mentioned Roseanne. Because although she was doing the best that she could with the tools available to her, she still yelled, her kids were fallen, her marriage was rocky. No one aspires to be Roseanne. (Quietly, we might even say she was a bad mom. Or at least that she isn't the mom you ever wanted.)

That is what has made me most sad this week. Why? Because I am Roseanne.

See, as a mom of a traumatized kid from a super-hard place, I am not the mom I want to be. I want to have the humor of Jill Taylor, the grace and hard work of Caroline Engalls, and the immaculate life of June Cleaver. But I'm not.

Yesterday, I read a post be a RAD dad who summed it up well. It be best if you went to read it (here), because this is how I feel about myself. That I am hard and mean and a great big "B". Rigid. Without laughter. Much too stern and serious. All. The. Time.

This isn't the mom I EVER wanted to be. I don't want to yell or be stern or controlling. I never wanted to have to fight to love my child. I never knew another's brokenness could so break me (or that I was that fragile.)

But it is the mom that I am. This is the life God has gifted me. My four littles are some of the tools of his grace and his sanctification in my life.  He is using it to refine me.

And for that I am trying to be thankful.

To all the moms out there that I know: working moms, homeschool moms, stay-at-home moms, toddler moms, longing moms, grieving moms, adoptive & foster moms, to all of you who wear your heart on your sleeve but shield it with armor, to you who work tirelessly for your children or to achieve your dreams, to you who wipe away tears and kiss boo-boos and let too-big kids sit on your lap, I salute and honor you. You are an excellent woman! One of Valor and Worth. Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Starting Over

Two years ago, I was opening my heart to the reality of my new daughter. By this time in 2013, we knew her name and had a single picture and were just two weeks away from being legal and forever family.

I was preparing as any expectant mother would: reading the books, getting her room and clothes and toys ready, packing and preparing for a trip overseas that I knew would change my life.

I opened my heart to love a perfect stranger, who had a past, a personality, a life I didn't know about.

May 15, 2013

This day changed my life. We welcomed Mali into our arms and family. She plopped into my lap as if she knew we were hers.

So when we came home we did all the right things: we stayed with her at bedtime, we tried not to ever leave her alone. We opened our hearts to this new little stranger.

But after what should have been a transition time where the beginning bonds of attachment started, where the gossamer strands of trust should have begun to bind us together, they blew away with the breeze. It didn't take long for us to realize that there was something seriously wrong, that I was clearly not equipped to handle. So we sought help, we learned the right words to say, we were encouraged how to love and care and support this one who was so obviously hurting from a very deep and fundamental place in her spirit.

Her wounds are deeper and more fundamental than we ever imagined. And for the past 22 months, life has been challenging.

I have been spit at, hit, kicked, head-butted, pinched, bit. I have had to hold my daughter to keep her safe from herself. I have had virulent ugly words spat at my face--her hurt and anger and fear poured out on the nearest, safest person she could find. Usually me, often Eric. Both of us.

So slowly, ever so slowly, after dark nights of regret and whispered prayers of desperation, I closed my heart off. I couldn't handle the manipulation, the abuse, the anger and then the desperate need. I had three other children who also have strong emotional needs. It was easier to love the ones who loved me back, who craved my touch, who wanted to spend time with me, who apologized for their ill-treatment, than it was to love the one who has openly hated me.

Summer 2014
Mt. Rushmore National Monument.
After an hour long tantrum--in public
To the place we are now where my soul is weary, where I am so weary all the time. My emotions are shot. I am empty and it takes more than a night out to restore me. I have second-guessed and doubted my abilities as a parent, a wife, a mother. I have chided myself for not being able to better deal with this life, faulting myself for every issue in our home. I feel old, care-worn, and heavy-burdened. I was beginning to resign myself to the simple fact that this was going to be my life and try to make the best of it.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I remember them well and my soul is downcast within me. 

But now, we've started making some headway for our sweet girl. New therapies seem to making a tremendous difference. I don't think she's had a serious tantrum in at least a week. Although I don't know this child in front of me, I think this is my only chance at starting over. She seems open to hear the messages of love, safety, family, and attachment. But now I need to learn to love her. To treat her with tenderness and devotion. To open my heart to her as when this was fresh and new and life was full of possibilities.

But with tears in my eyes, I tell you that I'm not sure I want to. I'm not sure I'm willing to open my heart up to this little one. I'm scared. I don't know that I can handle having my heart raked across the coals again. I don't know if I can.

As the person reading this, perhaps all this makes you uncomfortable. You are uncomfortable with the idea that love isn't natural or that a parent could close their heart. Maybe you hear blame--that I am blaming my daughter for all these things, which I am not. I am one who has made mistakes, yelled too loudly, disciplined unfairly, put an undue burden on a child unable to bear it. Maybe you just don't like knowing how messy and broken I am, my daughter is, my whole family is.

So why am I telling you? Why am I putting this deep pain on display? I know that I am opening myself and our family up for judgment, just talking about this is in a public forum is frowned upon. Someday my kids will probably read this and have their own questions and a few accusations.

Because I need to believe that redemption is coming and I want to remember where we've come from.
Because I know that I am not alone. Sitting on their own couches, holding back tears, other mothers and fathers, struggle with similar pain.
Because I am tired of not having people understand, of people doubting my exhaustion and experience.
Because I have to believe that I am capable of healing, that God is capable of healing me.

Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love, I am not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. 

So today is a day of starting over.
Tomorrow probably will be too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Puppy Love

Let me start with this.

I don't like dogs. 

I've had a few unfortunate experiences with dogs in my life. One centers on three nasty German Shepherds who lived two doors down from my childhood home.

One includes a neighborhood dog that bit me...and still growls whenever I see him. I think the feeling is mutual.

My brother was injured when a dog charged at him and he ran, and tripped over a spike and tore his knee open.

I don't like dogs.

Josh has been asking for a dog since he was little. I always said I wouldn't potty train a dog while potty training kids.

Then the kids were potty trained. So I used our then-upcoming adoption as an excuse. But Mali has been home for almost two years now (and the issues we're facing aren't going to be made better or worse by the presence of another pet).

But really, I don't like dogs. 

They slobber, poop in the yard, you have to walk them, they sit on the furniture, they chase you.

But OG has wanted a dog desperately for a while now and we thought it would be a good solution to a myriad of issues in our home. We tried an older dog at first (who was a wonderful dog, but didn't mesh well in our home). The girls were devastated when he needed to find a new home. So we were searching, for the right dog, the right time, the right breed, the right amount of training (housebroken at least).

And then this little guy fell into our laps.

This is Scout Balto Beuker. He's an 8-week old Husky. He has piercing blue eyes, soft cuddly baby fur and a fleur-de-lis on his forehead. He came to us through an unusual set of circumstances, visiting two other homes before settling in ours. He's just a baby, only been away from his mama for a week. 

But I don't like dogs, remember?  
In the past 5 days since he has been home, I have not had a solid night's sleep. I think that we are up, on average, 3 times a night with this one. He's nippy and rambunctious and he poops on the floor. 

But I'm pretty sure this little guy has stolen my heart. He makes me so happy. With his puppy kisses and exuberance. And the fact that he needs a mommy, to love and protect him, to give him boundaries. His enthusiasm to see me, his obvious preference of me over the kids, the way that I can understand some of the things that he needs. 

So I guess this means that I have a 5th child. 

Because, you remember, of course, that I don't like dogs.