Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Trauma meets Connection

We had a dear friend come visit and that was awesome but M also had one of the biggest meltdowns ever while she was here. She left Sunday but he's had a few more minor ones this week as well. I am happy to report that I have stayed calmed and focused on connecting for all of them, even the big one while my friend was here. This probably sounds weird but in a way it was nice to have someone else witness it cause most of the time it's just me and him and no one to understand what just happened or why that was so draining for both of us. Having another adult here was comforting. Knowing she was praying and texting encouragements to me from the guestroom she retreated to to give us space was so reassuring. I think doing moments like that alone is the hardest part about single parent adoption because it's very rare that someone else is there for that hard stuff. Even if she couldn't help, just knowing she was there and praying helped me so much.

I know I post about such meltdowns on facebook when they happen and I'm sure some people picture a type of meltdown like every single kid has. Sometimes it's exactly that. But other times it is kind of like that but way more. And it's not ever really about what it's about. It's deeper. It's trauma coming to the surface. It's that cry that sounds like a baby but it's a 7 year old. I can tell the difference between the regular I didn't get my way tantrum and the trauma meltdown and you probably could too if you had witnessed both. My adoptive parent friends know exactly what I'm talking about. It's just hard to explain until you experience it. It's not our children's fault. They are not being brats. You have to look beyond the surface of what it seems to be about and remind yourself of their early start in life and all they've been through and pull out all that you've learned - to walk with them and remember you are their advocate - you are for them, not against them. It is a process of healing and it is not easy. For our kids or for us as parents. I don't remember these things every single time but when it's the trauma meltdown, I tend to remember more because it's so obvious that it's that. And I find that I have a lot more grace and patience in those moments which is especially when my son needs it the most.

If you are reading this and you haven't adopted or fostered or worked with kids with trauma or been through that type of training or have experience helping kids through this kind of thing - please refrain from giving your adoptive parent friends advice on parenting, especially if they didn't ask you for such advice. It's just different. Be ok with that and be ok with knowing it's different and just being able to say "I'm praying for you" rather than trying to give advice or comparing it to your biological child or saying things like "that boy/girl just needs some good ole fashioned discipline". It's usually at home where our kids are most comfortable that these trauma meltdowns happen so you may never see one. But they do exist. And traditional parenting doesn't work. Please trust me on this one.

Having my friend here to watch that interaction between my son screaming and crying and me trying to get creative and try every form of distraction and connection I could even possibly think of and yet still watch the episode last 2 exhausting hours - reminded me that trauma is still there. I don't see it as much as I did in year 1 or 2, but it's still there. And I know all kids have meltdowns and all parenting is hard. But there is something about trauma that just wreaks havoc on our sweet kiddos and it's not a quick fix. You can't just love it away in a year or two or even 5. When a child goes without their basic needs met, it wires their brain a certain way and it takes a lot of time and connection to rewire it. When a child goes to bed hungry without food or water, it does something to their body. They may not remember it consciously but you better believe when they get the slightest bit hungry, their body remembers it. So when my kid wants a snack in the bed every single night and needs water next to the bed - you bet I put it there because the last thing he needs to worry about is if he'll get those basic needs met. There's just a lot you learn on this journey. And I'm still learning. I'm sure it's a never ending process of learning. So thankful for all the resources out there to help us along this journey. Ultimately my goal in sharing about it all - the good and the hard, is so that future adoptive parents won't be disillusioned about any of this. I don't feel that it does anybody - the families or the kids - any favors to sugar coat it. It's worth it 100% but it's still hard. And I want those future adoptive families to be ready for that and to have resources to arm yourselves with.

If you are praying about adopting or fostering - I highly recommend you learn the name Dr. Karyn Purvis and you dive into her research and teachings. I read Dr. Karyn Purvis' book "The Connected Child" and was able to attend the Empowered to Connect Conference based on those principles during my adoption process. I truly cannot imagine trying to parent my son without all that I've learned from this woman's teachings. They have video clips on the website and amazing resources. I cannot recommend these resources more. This woman and her teaching has been truly life giving. When I saw yesterday that she passed away at the young age of 66 after a valiant fight with cancer, I just couldn't help but cry. I didn't even personally know her or ever have the chance to meet her in person and yet I felt the depth of gratitude come over me in a wave of emotions for all the work this women did in her short life to encourage and equip adoptive families and to teach us that every child can heal.

I've always loved this quote from her:
"I've never once met a child who can't come to deep levels of healing if you understand what they need." - Dr. Karyn Purvis

This woman left a legacy. I picture her standing before Jesus and hearing "well done good and faithful servant" and seeing her looking over her life and getting a glimpse at just how many families she impacted with her work. I wonder if she really truly knew earthside just how life giving her life and work was. Surely she knows now. Profound to think about. This past weekend the Empowered to Connect conference went on without her and I wasn't able to attend but I saw my fb feed blow up with life giving nuggets of wisdom. She clearly had a great team that will continue to carry out her legacy. And adoptive and foster families will benefit from this amazing teaching for many years to come. This momma is grateful. Oh so grateful.

Sure I feel like I failed 9 times out of 10 that first year when trauma would rear it's head a good 4-5 times every single day. I tried to sound like Karyn Purvis in the things I said and did and the ways I tried to walk my son through these meltdowns. It's taken time and practice and commitment to keep trying and to rewire my own brain to do this whole connected parenting thing cause it isn't the kind of parenting that would even come naturally. But wow does it work. When I can do it and stay calm and connect with my son - it really really works. It's amazing. So weary parent, if you're reading this and you feel like you're failing miserably at this - keep trying. It gets easier. It really does. Our kids are so worth it. You've got this.

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...