Thursday, June 15, 2017

Teaching them to Fish...

Parenting is such a trial by fire experience. So often I assumed things about being a parent and picked how I was going to handle this and that, only to discover there is not a one size fits all option. Reality strikes and you realize that you actually have no idea what you are doing, the goal becomes survival. You read the books and seek the advice of other parents hoping to make sense of this all. I have discovered the best way to survive the avalanche of conflicting opinions and information is to take a grace filled, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater approach. There are many good things you will read/hear but it doesn’t all have to stay.

As a parent I am realizing our main job is to equip our children. From day one we teach them how to move, speak and interact with the world around them. Parenting “trauma exposed kids” gives you such a glimpse into how important those early years are and just how much they shape the very foundations of our lives. I have been raising kiddos who have had their brains wired in some faulty ways, coping skills and self worth are at the top of the list of things that need to be rewired.

I have changed so much as a parent, each child’s needs in my home knocks another bit of the “oh, I know attitude out of me.” I have been humbled constantly as a parent, I have been challenged and sometimes they even win. All of that has changed, shaped and challenged me. While I love a good parenting book, I am slowing down and learning that I learn the most about being a parent by watching and listening to my children.

Success as a parent does not come in how well I do anything. Success as a parent is knowing that at the end of the day I have the hard talks, give the advice and challenge the view point. Success is helping my children find their voice and showing them that they have something worth saving and something worth sharing. Success is in answering their questions and hearing their hearts. Success is in showing my children how to be a little more kind to this world.

I have a beautiful range of ages in my home, preteen to infant. Each stage has different needs the needs of my Baby are simple, survival based. The needs of my preteen are much more complex, we spend our evenings talking about where babies come from. Where the middle crew members are asking questions about just how big God is and their favorite color.

I spent the first year of it all, worrying if I was doing it right. Today, I let them tell me how I am doing, I am equipping and teaching them about how to navigate this world. All eyes are on us parents, we get to answer the questions and set the bars, may we set them high. May we always encourage our children to be brave, strong, kind, to all, especially the people they don't act, look or think like. May we raise a generation of humans who love well. I watch and learn from my kiddos, choosing each day to let their story fuel the rest of their lives, knowing that they have a world to change.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Day in the Life...

I get the question a lot, “how do you do it?” All you parents out there realize we all do the same thing, we survive. Less and less judgment on how that goal is accomplished, some days it is just enough to have survived. I have figured out what that looks like for our family, my desire is to be a well oiled machine that we may not only survive but THRIVE. I fight hard to ensure that we stay somewhat structured, organized and on schedule with a twist of fun. We strive to be proactive instead of reactive hoping to accomplish more during the day.

My day starts around 6:30am I am welcomed out of sweet disturbed slumber by 1-2 children. Baby is usually the first up he is ready to go at 6:30, I love his go get ‘em attitude. We usually snuggle and I try to sneak a few more moments of sleep while trying to distract him with my hand, which he willingly takes and begins biting to soothe his growing teeth. Shortly after that #3 and #6 come in squinty-eyed, yawning with hair everywhere as they climb into my bed. We all long to push off the busyness of the day just a moment longer. Yesterday was OFFICIALLY our first day of summer, so we are slipping into our long mornings. Pool, ice cream and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches filled days.

The first wave of us head downstairs where the coffee is brewing (thank you auto brew setting) and the chaos begins. Dogs and chickens get let out, bunnies fed and the table is transformed into a breakfast buffet. Bottles are made and snuggles had as we sleepily begin our day, around 7:30 #8 and #10 are extracted from their beds to come join us.

I am a loud mom, I do a lot of shouting in the morning, not USUALLY angry yelling just loud get moving yelling. Once the older kiddos are up and moving, the music turns on and the dance party begins. We love to dance, it helps keep the pressure low and the routine fun. Breakfast is laid out and people grab what they want. Sitting down we eat together chatting about the day to come. These days we all carry our meal choices out to the front porch where we swing, sip coffee, count cars and talk to our anti-Trump neighbor across the street.

Teeth, hair and underwear check as we head out the door. My favorite but oh so frustrating habit each morning is my need to carry a completely full mug of coffee that I carry in one hand while juggling my very active baby in the other. Spilling as I juggle him and locking the door. We all load up in the van and hit the road. We just transitioned from school mode to summer mode.

One of my favorite daily routines are our Power Poses, we start each day commanding our day and what kind it will be has been so good for us all. We take turns declaring what our day will bring, #3 shouts out, “great” with his fist in the air.

Our mornings are about to become less structured, there will be more porch sitting and two pots of coffee made. We will wear our pajamas far too long and eat ice cream for lunch. Our nights will get longer as we doing movie nights on our patio and play outside until it gets dark.

Our days are filled with the pool, play dates, appointments, swimming lessons, work, therapy, grocery store, bio parent visits, court dates or other errands depending on the day of the week. We do our errands together and my expectation is that we all can go through a store together in peace, and we do. I have noticed the more kids I have, the more comments I receive. People don’t know what to do with us it seems, we don’t fit in a box or into a mold.

We head home and then it is a round of pet feeding and letting out, snacks followed by our daily chores. I kick everyone out of the kitchen turn on a podcast and get dinner going. Assigning table setting tasks to everyone within ear shot. We get dinner on the table and several times a week we have at least one guest around the table, we love to entertain. Once we all are settled and we have thanked God, we take turns going around the table playing Happy and Crappy. We share one good thing and one bad thing that happened in our day. We talk about how we felt and what we want to do different tomorrow, we talk through our good choices and bad. We celebrate the wins and process the losses, it’s my favorite time of the day.

Dinner clean up is a family affair, the table is cleared and dishes loaded. Baths begin, bathing 5(6) kiddos is a full time job. For us it works to bundle the little kiddos and stagger the big kiddos over a few days, breaks up the time nicely. Baby usually just gets dipped into someone’s bath at some point. Following bath time is PJ time, cue 3 year old weeping and whining. We get everyone into jammies and start story time around 7, we sometimes have friends over who then help out by holding babies or getting jammies on. 7:30-8:30 is bedtime GOAL for all, snuggles, kisses and failed stalling attempts completed.

Once my house is quiet I begin to settle in spending my evening chatting with friends, reading, house projects, writing, paying bills, or catching up on a few shows as I fold laundry. I usually try to allow those evening hours to be restorative for me, filling them with things that fill my cup. The daily draw from my cup is great, pouring out into the holey cups of my children takes a lot. As an extrovert I am already high functioning when it comes to being with people, I love people so being a single mom is hard because there are aspects of it that are isolating but being a mom of multiples is great because I love pouring out and excel when I am doing so. I have found the balance of using my solitude as restorative time, preparing me for the next day!

I usually climb into bed around 11pm, catching a few hours of sleep before little hands touch my face and ask to lay with me. Hands that have lived nightmares, whose dreams are filled with memories of monsters. Little tired souls who are seeking a haven and rest, it is in the stillness of night that I am reminded just how much life has changed. The clock reads 4:30am and I am counting on those two more sweet hours I can snag before our day begins again. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Gift of Love

There is nothing like the way your baby looks at you. It is the look of pure, unearned, undeserved, just because love. My Baby will hear me or see me across the room and lock eyes with me unable to look away with the most ridiculous smile on his face. My favorite moment is the early morning, as he is just starting to stir. I love the first time he lays eyes on me, thumb in his mouth. His sleepy grin makes all the worry, stress and ache of the world fade away, babies are a really lovely package of extravagant love.

This past week my perspective shifted, as I stepped into the line of sight of my baby scooping him up his tiny body was shaking with excitement. What have I done to deserve his love? Beyond the obvious life giving choices I make each day for him, I have done nothing. He just knew to love me. We all enter into the world that way, wired to love. It isn’t until the hardships of life that we realize there is even an option to love and we become jaded.

Early on in my twenties, I was consumed by the lies I believed about myself to do, so that I could be loved. These more recent years I have been trying to break the lifelong cycle of doing and switching my brain to just being. On this quest I have discovered that I am just as loved when I am being me as I am when I am doing. There is still a battle within to do, I love multitasking so much!

I am a doer. Example, hosting a dinner party means I am focused more on what everyone around the table needs and less about the conversation happening at the table. I have to fight the urge hard and have had to learn to just sit, just be. As a mom my struggle is to let the dishes and laundry wait so I can sit on the couch a little longer snuggled up.

Being a doer has a lot of pros it has taught me to be productive, strong and a go getter. Being a doer makes it possible for me to get a lot of things done in the course of a day. Being a doer makes me really good at building relationships, hosting parties and being a single mom. As with all things the flipside has come with hefty side effects like the belief that my value falls more in what I am doing than who I am, resulting in how loved I am. I am not sure why those two things in my brain go hand in hand, doing and loving for so long were the same.

It is a disconnect, maybe it was ingrained in me as children, the drive for perfection has caused me to achieve more so I can experience love. Maybe it happened in my unique personality as I endured years of rejection from others, lies that told me I just wasn’t quite enough. Or possibly was it that I was looking at it all wrong?

One of the most astounding things I have discovered on this journey is the loyalty of love these kiddos to their birth parents. Parents who birthed them, neglected them, abused them and left them. Yet after all of that they still love their parents, it takes years of heartbreak to shut it down. We are wired to love, we love even the ones who hurt us, love is not designed to be earned but designed to be a gift.

Sometimes I hear myself apologize for being so “needy” or inconvenient, I over apologize and try to help too much. I don’t let others love me well. I spend my days trying to love the world around me well and extravagantly, but I don’t allow myself that same kindness. I am afraid that if I stop doing, then so does the love. I am working hard at rewiring my own neural pathways, separating what I do and how loved I am. Kids do a really good job at showing you that they just love you, babies think you are the best thing in the world, kids think you are the best parent in the world and yet I think of how often I fall short.

What if we all viewed love as the gift that it is, not something to be earned but received? I want to believe in the kind of love my baby has. Can you imagine if we all loved like that, what would the world look like?