I am a professional assumer: Raising an intense child #6


I am a professional assumer. I’ve been at it so long and I’m so good at it, that most of the time I don’t even realize that I’m doing it. 

I assess people and situations. Before I ask questions, seek clarity or perspective, I decide what is true. 

For example, let’s say Bryan walks in the door 20 minutes later then when he said he was going to be home. When our kids were very little, this was the worst offense. Earlier that afternoon, I promised myself that if he was late, I wouldn’t explode. But when I saw him, my heart began to pound, my voice would get loud and before he could say a word I would yell “Where were you? You said you would be home 20 minutes ago. Do you know how long 20 minutes feels when you are home all day with YOUR children?” I would continue on. Finally when I came up to take a breath, he would have a moment to explain. He would proceed to tell me that he was in an accident and when he was about to call me, the person that hit his car walked up to the drivers seat window, took Bryan’s phone and drove away.

Okay, that never really happened. But I think the example drives my point home. 

Without asking questions, seeking perspective and clarity, I decided what was true. Because I was tired and frustrated, I assumed that Bryan stayed at work late on purpose. I assumed that he came home late because he would rather be at work than at home with me and the kids. There is no truth in that assumption. Bryan would rather be at home with us and often times leaves before others. But when I allow my emotions to be my filter, truth gets muddy and I start making assumptions. I then allow my assumptions to drive my reactions. 

I do the same thing with Piper.

I assume and react. 

She doesn’t even have to say anything. She walks in the door and looks at me a certain way. I assume that she is going to be disrespectful. I assume she is about to make my day a challenge. I react immediately. My heart begins to pound. I start getting hot and without notice, I am angry. I don’t pause. I don’t ask questions. I don’t seek perspective or clarity, I allow my assumptions to drive my reaction. And again, all of this happens before Piper even has a chance to open her mouth.

That is not fair to her. And it certainly doesn’t line up with my belief that we can change, that we can be better than we were yesterday. And honestly, I hope no one allows their assumptions about me to guide their reactions. 

I asked someone years ago what the best advice they had ever received. Their answer was simple, yet so profound. 

Assume the best in people.

This advice has stuck with me. 

Because it’s really hard.

It’s amazing to me how good I am at assuming the worst in people, yet it is so unnatural for me to assume the best. But it matters where our assumptions are coming from because it helps frame the situation in a different light. I read something last year that drives this point even closer to home. 

In Harvey and Penzo’s book “Parenting a Child Who Has Intense Emotions.” they talk about important assumptions you should parent from as you parent your intense child. 

1. Your child is doing the best they can.

2. Your child needs to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change.

3. Your child wants to do things differently and make things better.

4. Your child must learn new behaviors in all important situations in his life.

5. Family members should take things in a well-meaning way and not assume the worst.

6. There is no absolute truth.

When I first read this, I was angry. I was sure of two things 1.They had never met my child. 2. They probably had never had an intense child, if they did-they would have not included number one (or number three for that matter). 

But those assumptions stuck with me. As I continued to wrestle with number one especially, I was brought back to the advice given to me years ago-assume the best in people. What if I tried to assume the best of Piper? How would it change my approach if I assumed that Piper was truly doing the best she could? 

What if instead of assuming the worst of Piper, I paused and waited for her to open her mouth before I reacted?  What if I actually assumed the best from her, that she was doing the best she could? What if instead of assuming the worst and getting angry at Bryan, I actually asked questions? 

In the rare occasion I have done that, I’ve been surprised. When I seek the facts and react out of compassion, I can more quickly get to the source of her angst. It usually involves math or a friendship issue. The sooner we get to the root, the sooner we get out of the funk. The same happens with Bryan. When I pause and ask questions, instead of getting angry-I am able to react out of compassion or understanding. When I do that, it changes the dynamic of our relationship and therefore the atmosphere of our home. 

So I’m giving it a try. I am trying my best to pause, clear my mind and assume the best. Instead of allowing past reactions and negative assumptions to drive my reactions, I am working on asking questions. I am trying to seek perspective and clarity. And like I mentioned, when I do that, the storm passes much more quickly. 

As I continue to learn how to parent my intense child, I am learning so much about relationships in general. I have to manage my expectations, regardless of the relationship. To get the most out of my relationships, I need to be present. I need to clear my side of the street and evaluate why I am reacting the way I am. Then I need to pause, seek the truth and assume the best. I believe if we work on those things, not only will it benefit our relationship with our intense child, it will surely benefit all of our relationships.

This is my last post about raising an intense kid. I hope you feel encouraged that you are not alone. I hope that you have picked up one or two new ideas that may help you along the way as you raise your intense child. I am confident that everyone that is reading this wants to parent well. Some of us may have to work a little harder. Like me, it may not feel natural to you. It may not be what you bargained for or what you envisioned parenting to be. I’m there, I’m with you. I wish that my struggle to raise Piper was not part of my story, but it is. And the more I walk with Jesus, I have more questions than answers. But I know two things for sure. God makes beauty out of ashes. He never promised that this life would be easy, but he did promise to make good out of bad. And he is not done with us yet. He is not done with me and He is not done with Piper. And my hope and prayer is that when Piper is grown, we can look back at our journey with compassion and grace, grateful that we pressed into the struggle and came out better on the other side. 



Apologize: Raising an intense child #5


I have had a really tough week with Piper. She is sick. She is intense normally, but she is especially intense when she is sick. I have had to miss things that are really important to me this week. I have been asked to sit and watch TV when I had a thousand other things I’d rather do. I’ve done my best to be present and speak calmly to her. I have prayed for supernatural patience and love for her. I’ve done the best I can.

Then we went to the doctor yesterday.

She has had a high fever off and on for a week. I really try to avoid bringing her to the doctor. She hates going. She gets very anxious before and while we are there. I have also found that I have to be honest with her. In the past I have tried to avoid telling her that she is going to get shots or get her blood drawn. I do that hoping that maybe if she hears it from the doctor instead of me she will react differently. In case you are thinking about trying that, don’t-it doesn’t work. She may be able to keep it together in the clinic, but the extreme reaction at home and broken trust are never worth it. So yesterday I told her she may have to get her blood drawn.

After telling her that, with all the strength she could muster in her feverish state, she decided she wasn’t going to go to the doctor. She is only a foot shorter than me, I can’t force her to do anything. The battle began….

After about a half hour of fighting, I got her to at least put on a pair of shorts. I let go of my desire for her to change her underwear and shirts. I didn’t even suggest brushing her teeth or combing her hair. We finally got in the car after bribing her with everything I could possibly think of.

I thought I was in the clear. You see, once we are in public, she usually keeps it together pretty well. She isn’t unique in that sense, most of us try to resemble some sense of normalcy in public.

I was wrong. I am going to blame it on her fever. She did not keep it together.

Starting with the nursing assistant, she yelled and cried at everyone that walked in the door. She was scared, I understood that. No one likes to get their mouth swabbed or their blood drawn-especially anxious people. But she had a fever of 103 degrees and we needed to figure out what was going on. I tried to be calm and speak lovingly to her. I tried to sympathize with her. I tried to speak rationally to her. Nothing was going through.

And then I got angry. She can sense when something shifts in me. I was still trying to speak calmly. I was still praying for peace. I tried to be loving. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t hide it. I was angry.

I was angry at her, because she was crying and yelling. I was angry that she wouldn’t let the doctor look in her mouth. I was angry that she wouldn’t even take Tylenol to help her feel better. I was angry at the doctor that kept looking to me for guidance, when clearly I had run out of tricks. I was angry that I was there dealing with this, when Bryan is so much better at it. And I was angry at myself for being angry. I was angry that we walked away with no answers, just another couple of days to see how she feels. I was angry that there was so much traffic. I was so angry that I just dropped Piper off at home without much explanation. I left. I went to a parking lot and screamed and cried-I was angry.

I was angry because I feel like I’m expected to be this superhuman who is always patient, loving, and compassionate. None of those things come naturally to me. The minute I let my guard down with Piper, something falls apart. And honestly, can anyone really feel patience, love and compassion after being yelled at for an hour?

So like I said, I left. I didn’t say goodbye. I went to a parking lot and screamed for a while. I obviously deserved junk food, so that was my next stop.

As I ate, I had tears running down my cheeks. I feel sad that this is our story. I never imagined my relationship with my child to be so complicated. The relationship I had with my parents were nothing like this. As I thought about that, I was reminded of something. Something that has had an enduring, profound impact on my life.

When we were growing up, my mom apologized.

My mom wasn’t perfect, she would yell at us. She would get frustrated at things she would later regret. Her and my dad didn’t have a perfect marriage. She didn’t always have the right words to say. But you know what, I barely remember being yelled at or the times my parents got frustrated. What I remember the most is when my mom would apologize. When she got upset and she felt like she was wrong, she would be the first to say she was sorry. And it wouldn’t stop with an apology, she would change. She would react differently the next time, full of more grace and compassion. My whole life I have watched my mom grow. She continues to do so. She is closer to Jesus than she used to be, her relationships are deeper and her character is stronger.

I knew what I needed to do. I needed to apologize to Piper.

So I did, I went home and I told piper I was sorry.
She had no idea I had drove away in a frenzy or spent the last hour in tears. I told her I was sorry that I got angry and she forgave me. Her attention quickly went back to the show she was watching, having no idea of my inner turmoil.

I didn’t have any answers or solutions. I still felt angry. But I knew it couldn’t wait. I didn’t want her to remember how angry I was. I wanted her to remember that I was sorry. She will probably remember the times I yelled or when I reacted out of frustration. But the memories that I want to rise above are the times when I was able to recognize when I was wrong, apologize and seek real change. I want her to be able to look back and say with confidence-my mom is different. She is better than she once was. She is much more graceful, much more patient and known for her compassion.

I’m not going to lie, I am weary, I would describe our summer as intense. This battle took the wind out of my sails and I’m still recovering today. I’m not sure what I could have done better at the doctors office. I don’t have a wise tidbit to pass on.

But I’m grateful. I’m grateful that there is power in words and when they are used in humility they can bring true reconciliation. And I’m even more grateful that I can change, that I can be better. I can grow, God is not done with me yet. And he is not done with Piper either.

So thank you mom. Thank you for reminding me then and still today that we were never asked to be superhumans, just people who recognize when we are wrong and work towards better. May my kids remember me the way I remember you.