I had to grieve: Raising an intense child #2

7B9DA82A-6D99-4B98-BEDC-B524A259E99CI feel like there are things that I am going to say in this series that can easily be misunderstood, especially if you aren’t raising an intense child.

My hope and prayer as you read this series is that you remember who I am and my commitment to wholeness. Sometimes the process to get there is pretty messy.

I am a total pushover when it comes to parenting.

I’ve tried to figure out why I became a pushover. It’s probably because I’ve had my own stuff to deal with over the years. It’s probably because I don’t appreciate processes, I like the end result. For example, I was struggling to teach Cole how to tie his shoes, so I just stopped trying and hoped someone else would teach him (which thankfully someone did). I think I’m a pushover partly because as I shared in my last post, I thought it was going to be easy and since it’s not-I give up quickly.

I’ve tried to be consistent. I’ve tried charts. So many charts. I’ve tried ignoring her. I’ve tried encouraging her. I’ve tried yelling at her. I sought advice. We read books. We sought counsel, we sought counseling.

But I just kept giving in. And not only did I keep giving in, I began to respond differently. Piper & Cole could ask the same question,  I would respond 100% differently to each of them. I could calmly, lovingly respond to Cole. Piper, I would go from 0-1,000 in seconds. They would ask for a snack and I graciously give Cole a snack. Piper would ask for a snack and my response sounded something like this, “What, you want a snack, after all you have put me through this morning? No snack for you.” Okay, maybe I wouldn’t say those words out loud, but I would think them.

Like I shared in my previous blog, I became very resentful towards her. Something had to change. I was not being fair to her and certainly wasn’t being the parent that I wanted to be.

I had to let go of the expectations I had for her and our relationship. I had to grieve the child that I wanted and had expected Piper to be.

For those of you who have read my blog you know that I am passionate about grief. My passion stems from the fact that I have done it so poorly and I have paid the price. I want people to learn from my mistakes. I believe that grief is misunderstood. If people allowed themselves to grieve the way it was intended, we would all be a lot more healthy and whole. The place where I feel like grief is most misunderstood is that people associate grief with physical death only. If someone close to you dies, it is expected that you would grieve. But since Piper is alive and well, what is it that I have to grieve?

We need to expand our understanding of grief. We don’t just need to mourn the loss of physical death, we also need to mourn the loss of dreams, expectations, jobs, health, relationships, etc. In order to truly move forward we need to be able to put to rest the things that are dead, both physically and conceptually.  

Let me give you a glimpse of what this has looked in the context of my relationship with Piper. Because of the reasons I shared earlier, I assumed that Piper would be a fun, energetic, spirited child. I thought that we would have fun adventures together. I’m fun, Bryan’s fun. We are fun parents. I expected us to have fun. Because of her gene pool, I didn’t expect that she would be shy or docile, and I didn’t expect that she would be defiant, explosive or disrespectful either.

I was parenting from a place of unmet expectations. Because of that, my reactions towards her became disproportionate. Like I shared, I would go from 0-1,000 in seconds over a simple question. I would get angry at her for doing things a certain way, because deep down I was just angry that parenting her turned out to be so hard. I would get absolutely devastated at fairly common behavior because I was devastated at the lack of joy and fun in our house. A lot of her behavior is/was explosive and disproportionate, but even when it wasn’t I would rise to the occasion.   

I would cry myself to sleep, angry at God. I harbored bitterness, believing in my heart that she was ruining my life and cheating me of opportunities. When she was struggling with anxiety, mine would rise beyond reason. I would blame myself, thinking it was my fault that her life was going to be so hard. I thought I had hid my anxiety so well. I allowed her to take over all my energy and emotions. I would remind God how faithful I was and plead for him to change her.

All of these toxic emotions started bubbling up in my heart when she was 5. That is a lot of emotion to have towards a little, innocent 5 year old. And as much as I tried to hide my emotions, she knew. And as much as I wish it weren’t true, the state of my heart affects the state of our home. Don’t you just wish you could be crabby without it affecting everyone around you? I feel like moms have it worse, one bad moment sets the tone for the rest of the day. I digress…

I had to grieve. I had to grieve my unmet expectations. I had to properly experience loss so that I could come to accept who Piper is and who God created her to be.

As I write, it may sound like I’m on the other side of grief. I’m  not. Grief is rarely linear. I would say that on some levels I have moved to a place of acceptance, but I still get disproportionately angry or devastated by her behavior. But I’ll tell you this, I recover faster now. My anger doesn’t simmer as long as it used to. I don’t cry myself to sleep as often or as long. My prayer has begun to change from “Why God?” to “God, help me see. Help me see past my frustration and disappointment and help me see who you created Piper to me/ Help me to accept her. Not just accept her, but appreciate her, enjoy her and like her.”

Does that resonate with anyone?

Like I shared in the beginning of my blog, this might be tough to hear for some people. I respect that. I’m not proud of these feelings or the process I’ve had to experience. But I also know that there are parents out there that need to hear this. There are parents who need allow themselves to grieve the expectations that they had for parenting and/or for their child. Because until we can do that, we will never be able to move past our unmet expectations and start accepting our children for who God made them to be.  

If you resonate with what I’m saying and don’t know where to start, start here. When you feel like you over reacting, pause. Ask, why? Investigate the source of your anger. Is it really about the situation in front of you or is there something bigger at play? If there is something bigger, reach out-I’d love to talk. Talk to a friend. Go to a counselor. Go there. Pray. Our kids deserve better. God has designed us to be better and he has created pathway to get you there, it’s called grief. 

Lisa

 

It started with a dream: Raising an intense child #1

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We weren’t going to have biological children. There were too many unknowns around my health. I was scared. We decided that we were going to move forward with adoption. We had actually scheduled our first adoption meeting.

Then I had The Dream.

I don’t remember anything about the dream. But as soon as I woke up, I knew. I knew that I couldn’t make the decision to not have biological kids out of fear; we needed to try.

Before I move on, I want to make sure to clarify that we LOVE adoption and we believe many people are called to adopt. But we don’t believe that you should make any decision out of fear.

So being the faithful follower of Jesus that I am, I gave God a month.

Without a hint of hesitation I approached the creator of all things and declared “Well, I’ve been through enough and now I feel like you are convicting me to have a biological child. I love you enough to obey you. But I will only be brave for a month.”

About a month later I was calling my mom at 6:00 am with the news. We needed all hands on deck. I was pregnant.

When I got pregnant with Piper there were only around 225 documented pregnancies from women post liver transplant. That included miscarriages, stillbirths and births. There is a high rate of miscarriages for women who had had liver transplants. On top of that, there is a history of miscarriages in my family.

The odds were stacked against me.

Between my phobia of throwing up, my traumatic health experiences and normal pregnancy fears, I lived in a constant state of fear for the first 3-4 months of my pregnancy.

And just as I began to settle into being pregnant, I began to itch. Internally. And there was nothing I could do about it. When I was able to sleep, I would wake up with blood all over my arms from itching. To say it was horrible doesn’t give it the credit it deserves. I developed a pregnancy disease called cholestasis. If you want to get more details, you can consult the google:) But I’ll tell you this, being uncontrollably itchy is not for the faint of heart. Cholestasis can also cause still birth for the child. So as soon as they diagnosed me, they wanted to deliver Piper as soon as possible.

Piper Cheri (named after my donor) was born on June 20, 2008 5 weeks and 6 days early.

I had been holding my breath for so long, expecting a disaster at every turn. I remember walking through the door of our house 5 days after she was born. I recall thinking “I made it. I did it. I had a baby.”

So much of what had been hard with my pregnancy was that no one could tell me what to expect. I didn’t know anyone who had a liver transplant and then had a baby. In fact, no one I knew (including my doctor) knew anyone that had a liver transplant and then had a baby.

But when we arrived home, I had a good idea of what to expect. I’m not a baby person, I knew that. Nursing grossed me out, but I knew it was the best thing. I knew we would be tired. I had been fully warned by the people around us of what a terrifying, exhausting and wonderful season we were entering. I was ready to face it head on.

The beginning was fairly normal. Piper had some asthma because she was born so early. I didn’t nurse long, so both Bryan & I took turns feeding her each night. Both of us got a decent amount of sleep. My liver was fine. It took me a long time to lose the baby weight, but the recovery was a familiar story. We surrounded ourselves with great people. I went to a moms group. Bryan was (is) super hands on. It was what I had expected.

From the beginning, Piper has always been stubborn and spirited. That didn’t surprize anyone considering who her parents are. Her tantrums were intense, her emotions were big. She was just being Piper.

But things began to shift when she was 5 or so. Not just in her, but in me too. Her tantrums became more intense and harder to manage. Her emotions felt big and out of control. It started to feel like she had taken control over our household. We began to shift our plans in order to manage her emotions or to avoid an outburst. Consequences no longer seemed to matter or motivate change in behavior. She was seeking control and we never knew if it would manifest itself in anger or anxiety (which I shared about in my previous blog). We read books and sought counsel and nothing seemed to work. I hadn’t expected this, I hadn’t prepared.

I became resentful.

I’ve shared in other blogs that for many years (and I’m still in recovery) I’ve had a transactional faith and I didn’t even realize it. After my liver transplant anything bad that happened to me would throw me into a frenzy. My conversation with God was on repeat “God, I have been through SO much and I’ve been so faithful to you and this is how you repay me!?” I would not admit it out loud, but in my heart I believed that if I did the right thing then I should be blessed and things should be easy.

So my transactional thinking told me:

God told me to have baby + I was obedient = this shouldn’t be so hard.

My resentment began to change the way I parented. As her tantrums became more intense, I just gave in. It was too hard. She would be emotional and I would switch our plans in order to avoid the outburst of the day. I found myself withdrawing from her. She was making our life really hard. I didn’t want to be around her. I didn’t want to parent her. I would tell myself “I didn’t deserve a child like this, I shouldn’t have to deal with this. I had been through enough. This is not what I expected.”

I’m not proud to say those things out loud. Especially because, if I’m honest, I still feel that way. Some days more than others. But I’m saying them because I don’t believe that I’m alone. I believe that there are moms (and Dads) out there with kids who are not what they expected. It may be because of a disability they were born with or a result of choices that the child has made; a lot of our kids are not who we expect them to be. Our failed expectations lead to changes in how we parent. We give up on parenting and withdraw. We make concessions. We get disappointed and easily give up. We feel guilty, we give it our best shot, quickly get discouraged and take a back seat.

I have done all of those things. I’ve allowed my perceived defeat to drive me to complacency. I’ve made concessions. I’ve felt guilty, motivated and discouraged all within minutes. I know God never promised things to be easy, but it doesn’t keep me from being disappointed. I buy into the lie that I deserve better. I allow my resentment to be the fuel that drives my parenting decisions.

And that is not the parent I want to be.

So I’m going to spend some time talking about it. Not because I know the answers, but because I’m in the trenches. I’ve learned a few things, but I still have a lot to learn. I want to hear from others. I want to learn how to adjust my expectations. I want to dig in deep now because I know it is worth it.

Do you have a child you struggle with? Can one of your children take you from 0-1,000 in seconds? Do you find yourself giving in? Do you feel disappointment and/or guilt? Have you felt resentment towards your child?

You are not alone my friend.

Take a deep breath and begin to take note. Ask yourself “What is fueling my disportionate reactions?” Write down how you are feeling in that moment. Take stock of the condition of your heart. Evaluate your expectations.

Lets do this. Let’s work together to become the parents we want to be.

Lisa