Thursday, April 20, 2017

Which Comes First?

We all watched in fascination as the newest member of our household spun and swam around his new dwelling. His home is small and slightly terrifying for the fact that he has found himself in the belly of a shark, he doesn’t seem to mind. Pops of color contrast the white glitter of his scales as he swims, neon blues and pinks fill the space.

One of the crew has been asking for a fish for a year or so, begging, pleading and working it into many conversations. I have toyed with the idea for many months going back and forth between desiring them to earn this pet and also just wanting to see the look on their face when they get this fish. I love surprising my kids, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I turn anything and everything into surprises, a common conversation in our home.

“Hey Crew, let’s load up.”

“Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise, I am not telling.”

“Mom, we hate when you do that just tell us.”

“No, it’s going to be so fun (*goes to Target to buy toilet paper)!

“MOM!” 

I love it, I think surprising them was born out of our early years together when I didn’t tell them things would happen in case they didn’t. My surprise skills were born from one too many meltdowns and broken hearts.

So Tuesday, I went to the store a gathered all of the supplies for our new member, Baby Guy went with me, we decided on the most magical looking fish. We went home and set up the habitat so it would be perfect. Upon arriving home from school I sent the crew upstairs to put away laundry (there was in fact, no laundry but a fish waiting to be discovered) the response was just what I had hoped.

A little back story, I have spent the last year shrugging off the request for a fish with the response, “when you show me you can handle the responsibility of a fish, you may have one.” I had in my mind that they must prove it before I would allow it. Then one night like a ton of bricks hitting my logic, I was challenged in my thought process of the earn it before you get it mindset. I realized that I was setting up my child for failure, showing them that I didn’t in fact think they could do it. Would they ever actually achieve the list of must dos to achieve this prize? In my mind I had put such a focus on performance that it was crushing and defeating the purpose of the exercise.

I shifted my view, what would happen that if instead of achieving the checklist I allowed them to do it, even if they failed. The stakes of failure is a living creature but the lesson could be great and the reality is I could be way wrong in my assumptions. So far a week in I have found myself surprised by the pride they have in this little creature.

It costs me roughly $4.99 to teach this lesson and really the ripple effect of this lesson could be priceless. If my child can learn to believe in themselves and to learn how to care for the small price tag of a bit more work for myself is it worth it?

As a parent I sometimes struggle with how inconvenient for me parenting can be (hello tiny baby who literally needs everything from me). Sometimes my mindset gets off and fixates on the fact that they should do this, be like that or accomplish all that I think they should through osmosis. Only to remember that my number one job as a parent is to teach. In teaching them well I need to not raise children who are perfect but children who are brave. I must show that the risk is necessary and maybe the fish dies (which it did, not because of their choices but a water issue) or maybe I get stuck with extra responsibility of reminding (nagging) my child to take care of their fish.

When those inconveniences happen we make some water changes and buy another one and try again. In childhood grace should be abundant, we should allow them to make mistakes and learn lessons. They should get dirty and stay up late. The goal is not to make robots who are perfect and do what I ask, the goal is the celebrate and invest in them so they know they are smart, capable and brilliant, uniquely and so wonderfully made. The goal is to raise a crew of humans who see the world through a different lens, who love well, laugh loud and go on adventures. A crew who counts the cost and sees the risk but does it anyway.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Power in the Pose.

Over this last year I have learned and researched power poses, it is fascinating! The first time I came across this study was a TED talk by Amy Cuddy her talk made sense to me. I have spent the last several years dipping my toe into the vast pool of our brain and the ways it works, what she was saying aligns with what I have learned.

We fight in our home to create a certain atmosphere, the beat of a metronome plays in the background when music isn’t, we don’t allow put downs nor negative self talk. We aim to speak life and truth into our space and one another. “Believe it or not, Amy Cuddy’s studies show that if you stand like a superhero privately before going into a stressful situation, there will actually be hormonal changes in your body chemistry that cause you to be more confident and in-command.”

This past weekend I had the chance to pack the whole crew up and my mom and attend a foster parent conference a few hours from our home. As we drove there my heart was heavy and discouraged, the past several weeks we have had a lot of processing each wave of emotion has been draining. My toolbox felt empty and I found myself finding more questions than answers. As I sat in a training on trauma and how in the early years it shapes our brains I was reminded just how damaging toxic stress. The very foundation of my Crew’s brain is wired differently than mine or others. As the information flowed in, so did hope, a faithful reminder, together we can rewire some of those pathways.

One of the speakers brought up briefly power poses, suddenly I was reminded of a previous teaching I had on this topic. I was flooded with the research I once had done on the topic. Reminded that this simple action can radically change the course of our days. Upon returning to daily routines we began to start our days with power poses. Wonder Woman is the one that comes to mind first, feet firmly grounded, chest out, shoulders back, hands on your hips and chin up, she stands boldly, unwavering. We practiced, we stood strong, fists in the air, chins up, shoulders back, feet grounded, we stand and we declare exactly how our day will go.

Each child gets a moment to do their pose, they sometimes add a flip or spin for flair. They strike their pose and with that declare a goal over their day. It could be the color they want to land on the color chart, the fact that it will be a great day or that they want to be confident, strong today. I must say we have had a very different morning routine and the outcome is showing in our attitudes.

I watched as my crew nervously took their first pose and commanded their days and I saw how they changed their outlook and found their confidence with a smile. This week we all have stood a little taller and walked into our days shoulders back. We are commanding our space, our energy and our time, owning our days and directing how it will play out.

The power pose anchors us, instead of greeting our day unprepared by the wind and waves we find our self unmoved by the realities of our day. Our daily routine hasn’t changed much, the tasks we must accomplish to get out the door is the same, however our posture in which we do these things has changed. We took an early morning hike today and as we approached the last, but very big hill (mountain) to get us back to our car we were all out of gas and felt overwhelmed. I watched as my crew took their power poses and declared how strong and capable they were. Then watched as they got themselves to the top, it was not easy but there was a joy and pride as we summited.

What if we all started our days with the mindset that we are powerful? What if we declared over our day exactly what we would allow to happen? What kind of energy and momentum could we gain in the simple act of securing our feet and holding our head high? I suggest that this simple action has the possibility to change the very course of our days. At the very least it will provide for us the kind of mental space we need to rewire the pathways that have been set.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

More than One.

As I stepped into her house taking a seat on her well worn couch I found myself thankful I have arrived. It was not the destination I thought nor the route I assumed but by grace I am here. As the kiddos played we chatted about our weeks, the kids and jobs. She had gotten golden dollars at work and asked if she could give each of the kids one, a sweet reminder that in her sobriety she has the clarity to think about them.

There is no formula, road map or plan when dealing with birth parents, each story, parent and scenario is different. We are navigating the unknown and in some ways fighting statistics and time, neither in our favor. The likelihood that birth mom will relapse is likely and the risk to press is great.

My Mama Bear instincts are heightened and I want so badly to protect my babies from the hard world out there, from the reality of adoption. Navigating this road with my Littles following close behind causes me to pause and step cautiously, making sure the next step is the right one. Balancing cautious action and redeeming moments, small gestures like saving gold coins brings a smile and some healing.

During foster care classes they talked about our relationships with birth parents, they advocate for it. They ask us to engage and press in, long run it is better for our babies. Harder for us in the now but better for them, that pretty much sums up this journey. Pouring into the people around us costs much at times feels overwhelming. A cost that I must pay for the sake of my children, redemption and healing.

Where once my heart cold, superior and judgemental towards our parents, I find myself humbled, grateful and protective. Instead of lines of division I see purpose in unity. I once was intimidated by our birth parents, afraid and insecure of my role. I would find my pride puffing me up so that I could look down on them. I would be territorial with the kids and circle them afraid to share. I am ashamed of how ugly my heart could be at times. How has my heart changed, been challenged, quieted and convicted to be better and love well.

My two baby mamas have two very different stories. One struggles in her addiction, when she is sober she is loving, smiley and a good mama. Her and I have realized that we love the same four children, desperately. She has one, I the other three, doing this together is the best option. Boundaries are set, she respects them. We are all advocating for her sobriety.

My other baby mama is 18, plagued by mental illness, stating she does not want to parent. Three of my children have memories and bonds built with birth parents, one has no memories outside of the womb. Contact with his mom probably won’t be a reality. Her disability has stolen her ability to be a mom. Her womb carried him and the greatest gift she will ever have given him is the gift of life.

There is no right answer, no right path and no mold that fits it all. Each story unfolds slowly and differently. Sometimes the trauma is great and the door must be closed completely in order for healing to come. Sometimes the parents haven’t found their stability and we protect to preserve. There is no right answer, the cost is great, the road is long and uncertain. I suppose it is one of those roads that at some point we will look back realizing we have arrived and we had no idea we were heading here.