It can happen with all children. Something goes wrong and the response is to blame another – that other often times is Mom or Dad. For children who have experienced trauma, the intensity and nature of the arrows let loose during such an exchange can sting acutely and sometimes come flying at a very young age. It can feel like they are expert sharpshooters and the bulls eye is dead in the center of the parent’s heart.
In reality what is usually happening is that their harsh words are triggering something in us– a past hurt, a feeling of deficiency, a buried fear. The goal – and may I say loudly and clearly, a very difficult goal indeed – is to not take these angry expressions personally. I, for one, can testify that this is extremely challenging and way easier said than done. Receiving the emotions of frustration, sadness and happiness is a lot easier than receiving anger. It just is. Most parents would literally lay down their lives for their child, so sharp words and searing accusations can feel ludicrous and hurt deeply.
There is another way to view this. We as parents are the safe haven – a kind of sanctuary where all emotions are allowed and the child is still beloved. Children from hard places often feel the need to control –in response to the fact that a significant part of their lives have been completely out of their control. They can feel shame and sometimes see themselves as worthless. Rather than let those very deep feelings into their consciousness, they need a safe place to target them. That secure place is often right at home in the midst of those who love them most. Deep down they may be testing to see if we are really, really going to love them and stick by them through “come what may”. Can we tolerate all parts of them – the good and the bad? Anger often covers up a deeper feeling of fear, shame or sadness. They, like all of us, have a desire to be truly known and yet unconditionally loved.
King David is one of my very favorite guys. He was passionate, raw and a master of extreme emotional expression. He got into big messes, called out to God in such authentic ways and fully asserted a great range of emotion. He was chased and often running for his life– he was an unjust target. He also made others unjust targets of his own desires; think Bathsheba and Uriah. But he always knew God as a safe haven. “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” He flat out voiced all kinds of things to his refuge/shelter/ always there God. And God received it all. David was known in a way that I wish to be known -as a person after God’s heart.
With time and patience, we can begin to discipline and teach our children how to express angry and fearful feelings in healthier ways. It is a moment by moment, day by day, looking toward the long term goal kind of training. To get there often requires a lot of target practice.
I got my very first “blog request”. I feel so honored – this must be how a band feels when their song gets requested on the radio – do they even do that anymore? I may be showing my age….
The request was to blog a response to the most recent outlandish thing that Pat Robertson said. Now I must confess that I typically throw Mr. Robertson in the same pile as Rush Limbaugh – someone to shake my head at, get riled up over for a few minutes and then decide this really isn’t worth the energy.
But this time Pat Robertson spoke in “mama bear territory”. In case you missed it, here are some highlights of what he said: he was responding to a woman’s question about why men, when they found out she was the adoptive mom of 3 children from 3 different countries, were no longer interested in dating her. Mr. Robertson said things like, “a man doesn’t want to take on the United Nations”, it is a “blended family – what is it?”, you never know what you are going to get and referred to one particular child as “a brain damaged child who grew up to be weird.” I really can’t do this 1 minute 44 second piece justice – best if you see it for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhyJpLIpRVA – it is pretty freaking atrocious.
So, here is a quick and off the top of my head and bottom of my heart response:
Dear Mr. Robertson,
I do not watch your show, yet in recent days, I see segments popping up on my facebook page, hear little snippets on the radio and this time I can’t ignore what you have said. Your words were prejudicial and hurtful to a group of people that I dearly love and highly insensitive and harmful to two that I intimately know and love – international adoptees.
Now, I’d be a big fat hypocrite if I said that adopted children don’t sometimes come with special needs and require a strong commitment to figure out new and best ways to parent – I write about that all the time! But the Jesus that I know and love did not call us to a comfortable, easy life but said that to see him we must look to “the least of these”. That could include those with brain damage, as you called it, those without a family, those living as a foreigner in a new land – anyone that society has marginalized. I could go on and on quoting the Bible that you also claim to honor. God reigns in an upside down kind of kingdom. May I respectfully remind you that each and every one of these children that you very callously referred to are souls created by God, and they hold a very special place in his heart and life order – and God expects them to be elevated in the view of those who claim to be Christian. That topic is addressed over and over again in the scriptures.
God is in the adoption business. Romans says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” I certainly am thankful that God didn’t look at me as brain damaged and weird and discount my worth as an adopted child.
Adopting my daughters was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was headed for a much more self consumed, comfort seeking lifestyle, but God intervened. He privileged me with being mom to two beautiful girls who have truly led to that “abundant life” that I heard so much about and now am beginning to understand. This abundant life has nothing to do with possessions and living comfortably – it has much to do with seeing people and life from God’s perspective and joining in to share life together with all kinds of people in all kinds of places.
I hope that the reason for your harmful and un-thoughtful words on more than one occasion in recent days has to do with an aging mental state rather than a hardened and spiteful heart. An apology to those that you greatly offended is in order. Please consider that it may be time to retire.
Tricia, aka Mama bear
I am sure that I have many friends and blog readers who can add to this incomplete letter. Please feel free to do so in the comment area and I will add it to the letter before I stamp it and send it on to Mr. Robertson.