Blog Archives

The lie – two portraits

Looking back at the mom I was twenty years ago vs the mom of today elicits various emotions – sometimes I smile, shake my head and get a kick out of the younger me and other times I feel regret and sadness over “what might have been”. I imagine that twenty years from now, I will do likewise about this season of parenting.

A scene from 20ish years ago: It was a time of internal naiveté and unrealistic expectations for my children. The memory is crystal clear of the very first time I knew for certain that our first-born child lied to me. I was crushed and devastated. Our neighbors had an old tree house that they allowed our boys to explore. We received a phone call – things had been broken and destroyed – throwing things from way up high is quite a temptation for a little guy and his friend. Inquisitions ensued – lies were told – mom couldn’t deny the facts. More prone to legalistic parenting -this lying issue was one of the ten commandments for goodness sake – the reaction was regrettable.

I don’t recall the exact response, but I am quite certain it was some combination of shaming, punishment and mom’s sermon # ____. What child, knowing that was on the horizon, wouldn’t give lying their best shot? My crazy fear that we were raising a pathological liar kicked into full gear and led to an unleashing of a series of harmful and relationship damaging words. If I had known more about typical child development and been more honest about my own occasional lying tongue and what situations triggered that, it would have been helpful. But I wasn’t “there” yet.

A scene from last week: after reading enough experts, understanding that traumatized children often have a hair trigger fight or flight response and being convinced that lying in my children is at the foundation a fear response, this scene played out. It was over a simple hygiene issue. The question: have you brushed your hair? – the answer yes. The mom sense activated and knew this was not the case. The big old knot in the skewed pony tail was a dead giveaway. I know from experience that if I “call her out” in that moment, we are going to have an escalating situation. My old legalistic fear was slightly triggered, yet thankfully I remembered to take a few deep breaths, send my daughter to locate the brush and we reconnected in a few minutes. At that time, we then had a conversation about how important it is to tell the truth so that we can trust each other and keep our relationship healthy and strong; I assured her that she would not have been “in trouble” if she had told me no, the hair wasn’t brushed; and the importance of pausing before answering such questions was discussed. Sometimes we tell a lie before we even know what has come out of our mouth – a type of survival skill for some. Children of alcoholics are a case in point on this matter. Image

At the end of this interaction, my daughter said, “some moms aren’t like that”, expressing that big trouble is often around the corner for those who haven’t brushed their hair (and admit it) or choose to lie about a myriad of everyday mom requests. When I asked her how she knew that, she replied, “I don’t know their names, but I’ve seen them.” What she does, on some level, but doesn’t fully know is that her own mom used to be and can still be among that crowd. My hope is that this interaction put one more drop in the trust bucket of our relationship. It seems that a more gentle and grace filled conversation went a lot further in relationship building than the old shaming, punishment, sermon route. We have come a long way but still have a ways to go, together.

Note: for anyone who wants to explore more fully lying as a fear response, I highly recommend The Great Behavior Breakdown by Bryan Post. It tackles lying plus 26 other problematic behaviors families face.

Who saved who?

A while back, I saw a Humane Society bumper sticker that caught my eye – it said “who rescued who?”  Bumpers are a place where many philosophies, beliefs and theologies are proclaimed.  That one got me thinking – in particular about adoptive parents of children who come from difficult places.  Sometimes from fellow adoptive parents, I hear things that make me shudder inside  – things like, “we saved them from this terrible place”, “we can save one more”.  Pretty much any sentence with the word save and a child is extremely disturbing.

We are not asked to be saviors and our children should not be looked upon as charity cases who now owe us a huge debt.  Any child who ends up in foster care or living in an orphanage should be honored and admired.  The spirit and inner strength necessary to survive are admirable indeed.  They know a hardship deep down that most of us will never experience.  They are strong.

Anyone who has even stepped foot into an orphanage or looked into the face of a foster child quickly knows that a family is where children are meant to grow up and settle.  But those who invite these children into their homes and lives must be willing to walk alongside this child through the good and bad, happy and sad, and all the ups and downs of life.  If they expect a posture of gratitude from their child all along the way, there will be great disappointment and disillusionment.  We have to desire to parent and share all of life together.  We can’t set up a savior/grateful recipient kind of relationship.  If that is the expectation, then it will surely implode at some point.

As parents we must be mindful and thoughtful about the gifts and grace that our children bring to us.  Even, or maybe more accurately especially, on the most difficult days, there is a deep down exchange of life and hope.  Parenting calls us to reach way up to God, way down inside and to be better human beings.  One of my parenting mentors, Bryan Post, says it something like this – when your child triggers something in you, turn to them and say “thank you for forcing me to deal with my own issues”.  I am not going to say that is easy or that I am even remotely “there”, but my heart resonates with this truth.

So who saved who?  In my experience it is a mutual exchange of life giving and receiving.  We don’t need to be or see ourselves as saviors – that’s God’s business.  We need to walk alongside and embrace the full range of life together with our child.

I count books among my best friends

Ever since I was a little girl, reading has been a great joy.  The words take me to far away places and times.  I get to help solve mysteries, walk in the shoes of others and think and learn about things that don’t readily come to mind.  Books challenge me to ponder deeply and see things from another point of view.  In my recent reading of Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, these words jumped out at me – “that book taught me that by reading, I could live more intensely”.  That describes so accurately my own longstanding relationship with the written word.

There came a day in my parenting journey when I said “Dorothy, or Tricia, we aren’t in Kansas any more”.  I was forced to acknowledge something pretty uncomfortable – despite the then 18 years of parenting experience under my belt, I was in over my head. So where was I to turn?  A bibliophile like me being forced to walk down an unfamiliar path would of course start reading about this new place.  So for those of you walking a similar path, I’d like to introduce you to a few of my new friends.

The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis – this was a book that I read before we adopted our daughters but I have probably re-read it 4-5 times since then.  We can’t often put things we have read about into practice until it is game time.  Reading Dr. Purvis is like having a wise mother or grandmother whisper gentle life giving instructions into my ear on the most difficult days.

The Post Institute – www.postinstitute.com  – Bryan Post is one of my favorite guys.  The biggest thing I have learned from reading and listening to his work is that on this journey of parenting, I am the one that must address my own issues and be the one to make the changes.  So many of the traditional parenting tapes running through my head call out that I must control and make my child change, when in fact the only person I can truly change is myself – we all know that but often forget that in the role of parent.  From Fear to Love is a short book that is an introduction point to Bryan Post’s perspective.

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline and all things written by Becky Bailey  – Becky Bailey is truly my parenting paradigm shift hero.  I am grateful for a friend who invited several moms to meet weekly this past year for an incredible time of encouragement and support as we traveled together through a very powerful workbook called Conscious Discipline.  Though written for teachers, it is SO applicable to raising all children, and particularly children who have lived through trauma.  Becky Bailey has given me the practical tools to live out a different approach as a parent.

Gotcha! Welcoming Your Newly Adopted Child Home:  A Guide for Newly Adoptive Parents by Dr. Patti Zordich.  This is a great and quick read for anyone who is thinking about, planning or in the early stages of an adoption.  It gives very practical steps on how the needs of adopted children are different and how to meet those in the earliest days together.

If you have walked this parenting road, I’d love to hear what resources have offered light and hope to you.  There is always room for new friends on the shelves of my library.