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

DE2C172C-0325-4BE4-BA62-4CED33A7C0FD

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. 

Lisa 

 

Apologize: Raising an intense child #5

power-of-apologizing

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.

Lisa

Be Present: Raising an intense child #4

  1. DFACDC08-BFCC-4D04-AB6B-F2BDAA51B8E3

Like I have shared in my last couple blogs, this is a tough series for me to write. Most of the time when I write about something, I am a couple steps ahead of the struggle. This one is different. We are in the trenches with our intense child. In fact, right before I started writing this blog, I had the opportunity to put the exact principles into practice that I am writing about today. 

[If you are just joining me, I would encourage you to go back and start at the beginning of the series. I share about my struggle to embrace parenting, especially when it comes to parenting an intense child. Knowing the background story will give you context as we journey forward.] 

As I continue to learn how to parent from a healthy place, I have found one incredibly simple, astonishingly difficult principle that can shift the atmosphere of our home and therefore the intensity of my child. 

I need to be present. 

Such a simple idea to talk about, but such a hard one to practice. I find it’s especially hard to do when you are raising an intense child. Because when I say I need to be present, I mean FULLY present. I need to physically set aside what I am working on, clear space in my brain, set my emotions aside, and fully engage. Body. Mind. Spirit. 

Because they know. Our children are so much smarter than we give them credit for. They know when we are fully present or when we are giving a flippant response so we can move on to what’s next. 

With Piper, parenting is a full contact sport. I can’t enter the ring with any distractions or I’ll be knocked out in the first round. 

Let me explain with an example that recently happened. Hopefully the contrast in the story will help drive the point home. 

Me being distracted. The kids came home from the neighbors. They had been playing all day and I wanted them to come home and take a break before their next adventure. I was in the middle of working on something. I could tell that she was on fire the minute she walked into the door. She came in yelling at her brother and stomping around as if she wanted my attention. So I asked, “Hey Piper, everything okay?” She proceeded to yell at me. She declared loudly that she didn’t need a break, everything was fine and that I needed to leave her alone. I immediately got frustrated. I had spent the whole week shuffling her and her brother around to playdates and she was on her way to a sleepover. I am so tired of how ungrateful my children are. I was in the middle of something and I’m tired of her yelling all the time. So I began with my empty threats “If you keep yelling, you aren’t going to your sleep over tonight. Go upstairs right now.” I continued to threaten as she stomped up the stairs and slammed the door. I would sigh in frustration and go back to what I was working on. The tone was set for the next couple hours. I was frustrated and she was on edge, ready to explode. 

Me being present. The kids came home from the neighbors. They had been playing all day and I wanted them to come home and take a break before their next adventure. I was in the middle of working on something. I could tell that she was on fire the minute she walked into the door. She came in yelling at her brother and stomping around as if she wanted my attention. So I asked, “Hey Piper, everything okay?” She proceeded to yell at me. She declared loudly that she didn’t need a break, everything was fine and that I needed to leave her alone. I physically put away what I was working on went upstairs. I knocked on her door and asked if she needed to talk about something. She’s an extrovert and if she is anything like me-things don’t make sense until I talk about them. She said no, she didn’t want to talk and I went back downstairs. I waited. Within seconds, she called me back to her room. I put everything else aside physically & mentally and FULLY engaged. I laid on her bed and waited. She proceeded to tell me about something that happened at her friend’s house and why she was so upset. We talked about different ways she could respond. I laid there a little longer and then she gently told me I could go downstairs. We had a great rest of the day.

I’m not saying the way she spoke to me and Cole was okay, don’t hear that. What I want you to see is the difference it made when I chose to set aside what I was doing and fully engage in the present moment. When I’m distracted, I tend to throw out empty threats and respond in frustration. But when I pause, set things aside and make myself fully available-usually something shifts, both in me and in her. 

Depending on your child, the season of life you are in, or your work demands-the idea of pausing and being fully present with your child may feel impossible. I am not always able to stop everything I’m doing to fully engage with my kids, I get it. But when I do, the outcomes usually outweigh the inconvenience. And to be honest, in the long run, I usually end up saving time. The more distracted I am, the longer the battle lingers on. I don’t get what I need to get done and my relationship with Piper suffers. 

While being fully present isn’t always the most natural response, I’m learning what this can look like on a practical level and how it plays out on a daily basis.

I’m learning that I can’t expect to get important things done while I’m in charge of the kids. Yet I set myself up to fail on a nearly daily basis. I am a doer. I have a running to-do list. And I feel like I have to finish everything on my list. So when I am in the midst of accomplishing my to do list and Piper is demanding my attention-I get frustrated.  I have set an expectation of what my day is going to look like and all that I am going to accomplish. I get angry at her when she interrupts my flow and my response to her need is not graceful. That is not fair to her.

I’m learning that I need to adjust my expectations. 

For me it has to start in the morning. I start by going through my day. What do I need to accomplish? Where are my kids? What needs can I anticipate that my kids will have? Then I set realistic expectations for my day based on the realities of my day and all the moving parts. 

And then I need to remember that my day will change.

So after you go through your day, Pray. Give it to the Lord. Give God your day and all the expectations that go with it. Lay them down and open yourself to what He has.

Hold your plans with open hands. 

Even after I do those things, I still find myself struggling to be present. Because of that I have started asking myself this simple yet incredibly convicting question “Is what I am doing right now more important than investing in my child?” 

The answer is no. 

I do want to be clear about the audience I am speaking to specifically. Kids need to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I am not saying that as parents we need to drop everything we are doing at the wim of our children’s demands. I am speaking to parents with intense children. And as I speak to them, I am not even saying that they should drop everything they are doing for their child at anytime. I’m speaking to parents amidst moments of intensity. 

Hear me say this: There is power in being present, especially in moments of intensity. Your child’s intensity will look different than mine. It is SO HARD to be present in the midst of the flurry, but I promise you it will be worth it. It may not seem like it, but it will save you energy and time in the long run. But most importantly of all, being present with your child will establish the foundation for the future of your relationship.

I’m in this with you!

Lisa

 

It starts with me: Raising an intense child #3

8C4BCC54-AF20-4861-B70A-62EAAF827497

I have found that this series has been difficult for me to write. You see, we are still in the trenches. Often times when I write, I feel like I’m a few steps ahead of the struggle I’m sharing about. Not this one. I share ideas and suggestions and in the same breath seek to implement them. In fact, I’ve started to write this post several times today while continually being interrupted by my intense child.

In my last post, I shared about the importance of grieving the expectations about who you thought your child would be and what your relationship would look like. To be a healthy parent, we need to parent from a healthy place. We need to be able to parent from a place of acceptance and unconditional love, not disappointment and frustration. 

I get really frustrated because I really want Piper to learn to manage her emotions, recognize how blessed she is and be filled with grace and self control. I pray for this daily. I speak truth over her and we try to provide consequences that match her behavior. I desire to have relationships with our children. That style of parenting worked on me.

That’s never been enough for Piper. She is smart, she is intuitive. I often say that parenting her is a full contact sport. She demands that my words and actions match up. Without knowing it, she calls out the depths of my authenticity. She looks me square in the eye and says “No.” What she says “no” to varies by the day, but the look and determination does not waver.

Behind the words she speaks, there is so much more. It’s as if she is saying  “Are you fully in mom? How deep is your love for me? Do you have what it takes today? Are you going to extend the truth and love to me that you claim to bestow on others? Do you have the energy you will need to teach me today or did you give it all away?”

For so long, if I was honest, the answer was No. I hadn’t wanted kids in the first place, I didn’t sign up for parenthood to be so hard. I didn’t have the energy it took and and even if I did, I didn’t want to spend it on her. I didn’t know where to start, I felt defeated before the fight even began. I was parenting out of unmet expectations. I was exhausted, disappointed and I just wanted her to change. 

But slowly I began to realize, it wasn’t her that needed to change, I did.

The change needed to start with me.

I had already let myself grieve. I had come to a place of acceptance, but that wasn’t enough. I needed to seek the answers to the questions that her intensity was demanding. 

I had to ask myself: “Am I as ‘all in’ as a parent as I am in all other areas of my life? Do I have what it takes? Do I even want to have what it takes? Am I extending the grace and truth to Piper that I do to everyone else around me? Am I saving and giving her the energy she deserves?’ 

No. I wasn’t giving the attention  to parenting as I was the other areas of my life.

If you know me, you know I’m the “all in” type. You want me on your team. But I wasn’t giving the fullness of who I am and what I have to offer to parenting my children. I wasn’t extending grace and truth to Piper in ways that matched my other relationships. I wasn’t giving her the energy she deserved. 

I needed to change.

Before I move on, I want to make sure to clarify something. Piper is responsible for her reactions and behaviors. It is our job to provide consequences and guidance towards the right behavior. But, as parents we are equally responsible & accountable to the condition of our heart. Because whether we like it or not, the condition of your heart is reflected in your words and actions, especially to the ones we are closest to. 

I had focused so much of my energy on trying to change her that I hadn’t even considered my role in our relationship. 

I had to ask myself some tough questions. 

Why am I not giving my all to parenting, when I give my all to everything else?

Why am I not seeking answers and resources for parenting like I would in other area where I feel stumped?

Why was I speaking truth and grace to everyone besides my own daughter?

Why did I give my energy so freely to everyone else, to only come home depleted?

Yikes. 

I needed to make some adjustments. 

Those questions led me to another set of questions. 

What needed to change so that I had the physical & emotional capacity to meet her level of intensity? 

Where was I giving my energy away that my kids deserved? 

What would it take for me to me to be as passionate about parenting that I am about fitness, people or ministry?

  • I don’t know about you, but my when I am tired and emotionally depleted, I assume the worst of my kids and I respond in kind. I need to make sure to get enough sleep. 
  • I need to save my emotional energy for the people that matter the most. I know there are some people that you cannot avoid. But in tough seasons of parenting it’s okay to be selfish with your outside relationships. Be selective about where you give your time and emotions; trust me you will need all you can spare. I know I am lucky to have a flexible schedule, but we all waste emotional energy. Little changes go a long way. Take Social media off your phone. That alone could change your relational capacity and therefore your relationship with your intense child. 
  •  I am a problem solver. I tell my kids over and over throughout the day, don’t be part of the problem-be part of the solution. When I am feeling lost and over my head as a parent, I need to seek out solutions like I would any other problem. I need to keep digging until I find something that works.
  • Usually every season I set new goals for myself. I haven’t been consistent about setting goals for parenting. Most of the time my goal is to survive. If I do set goals, they are often lofty and probably unrealistic. I need to set a new realistic parenting goal for myself each season. For example this summer my goal is to actually follow through with a chore chart. We have tried so many in the past and I never followed through like I intended. I so often feel like a failure as a parent. The more wins I have, the more encouraged and motivated I feel. 

 I needed to be all in. Because they know. When they dig in their heels, look you in the eye and say “no” – they will know if you are in. They know if you have enough spare resources to enter into their struggle, love them enough to walk through it and come out stronger together in the end. 

And when we do, we all win. 

Lisa

 

 

 

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

1271F9F3-85EE-42DA-9F14-B09B0564AF65

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