I can not believe a month has gone by since I last wrote. So much has gone on, so much is the same. February has been a dark month for me, and I’m a big believer in when you’ve got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. Let’s high-light:
The girls and I went up north to visit my dad and go to American Girl for a birthday treat for Penny. We had fun at the store, Messie included, but the weekend wasn’t the best and we came home early. That’s about all I’m going to say about that. When I asked Penny if she had a good time, her response is “of course, I had lots of fun.” I am always amazed at children’s resiliency and positivity. Blows. Me. Away.
The next week was a big week of growth with Meseret – truly realizing where our miscommunications lie, what we needed to work on, really looking at myself and how I was escalating things because I thought they needed to be addressed, as opposed to really looking at the root of what was going on. Prioritizing what battles need to be picked and what things will fall away naturally as trust and comfort and security develop. This has been eye-opening for me.
We celebrated my Pickles 7th birthday. I can not believe my baby is 7. She is so small and precious in so many ways and so grown and capable in others. I adore her, I really do. I sit and listen to her talk and read to me and I just watch her in wonder. It’s hard to put into words what runs through my mind as I sit and stare at her and all she is. She’s my flibberty-gibbit, my dancer, my blissfully, happy nymph skipping through life. She loves fiercely, she fights for whats right. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s driven. She is everything life should be. I am in awe of her and what her future might hold. I love you baby girl – Happy Birthday Penny!
We had another wonderful week of growth and discovery with Messie, one of conflicts to resolve (fortunately not with us), sharing of stories, opening up on personal things, things that brought mortification a mere 15 weeks ago. We had a swim meet, where Jon did greatand improved – it’s so fun to see him compete. Drew had basketball and played a phenomenal game – I love watching him play in sports he was built for. We had Grandpa Page for a visit and enjoyed talks, prayer, and fun since we don’t ever seem to see him enough. It was a great weekend for me personally because I was able to address some of the things going on inside of me, burdening me, hurting me and my ability to be the best me. My sparkle has been gone as Ryan and my dear friend Leslie put it. I’m trying hard to get it back.
We met with an International Adoption Psychologist this week and we had our 3 month post adoption visit from our Home Study agency. It was a wonderful week of affirmation. I’ve needed it, we’ve needed it. There is so little praise or accolades in our world right now. As I told one friend it isn’t like Messie is high fiving me after a discussion, “Way to go MOM, look at our conflict resolution!” I may or may not do that to her, but I’ll never fully admit it.Both said we were doing a great job, both said that we have a wonderful understanding of our daughter and her needs. Both said that we are doing remarkably well for only having been home for three months and that we need to not be so hard on ourselves. They passed on some advice for this next season and again it has released a burden off of me.
I read all the time, don’t get your identity caught up in your children. In theory, it’s true. You can’t. One day you’ll wake up and their gone and you look in the mirror and wonder who are you and where did your life go. But it’s also an impossible task. I’ve chosen to be a mom. Not a planner or designer or painter or whatever, I’ve chosen to be a mom. My paycheck and title promotion comes from having good, hardworking, loving kids. They reflect 12 years of my efforts to love, nurture, grow, educate and guide. I recognize that they have free will, that ulimately their choices in life will be theirs and theirs alone – but my hope is my influence over them as they have grown will allow them to make good choices in the future. It doesn’t guarantee they’ll be happy or successful or even good people, but I certainly hope so. So this process of loving and learning and guiding Meseret hasn’t been taken lightly by me. I am coming into the fourth quarter down by two touchdowns with 2:01 on the clock. I have so little time, before she embarks on this world alone, to make an impact and there is so much to teach. I feel the entirety of that burden and it has drained me. So I am doing my best to fill myself up, to cut myself a little slack and to relax and know it will be fine. I am going to make mistakes, but as long as I learn from them, they aren’t mistakes anymore, they’re opportunities. Meseret is not only making me look at myself, but it’s making me look at how I mother all of my children. How I understand them and their needs. The praise from others (trained professionals at that) is precisely what I’ve needed to build back my shaken confidence. I continue to pray that while there will be dips in the road that they aren’t valleys and that we make a steady climb up to healing and security.
So there you have it, it’s going to be March this weekend. It’s a new month, my oldest boy turns 12. It’s still damn cold, but spring is around the corner. A time for renewal and rebirth, growth and warmth. I pray the season influences our season of life as well!
There is so much out there in the world today about living intentionally, mothering intentionally. Being mindful of your thoughts, words, actions, time. I will admit to having hopped on the bandwagon, drinking the pre-verbial kool-aid and trying my best to live my moments with intention. I mean what a great way to be! To mother my children with intention. The love my friends and family in an mindful way. But living with so much meaning, no one bothered to mention how freaking hard and exhausting it is! Seriously, I’m pooped.
I guarantee that I’m over thinking my intentional way of living. As I tend to over think much of what I do. Am I super present right now as my 12 year old is engaging me about his video game. I should fake interest so that he feels valued and loved and heard. With all honesty though – I DON’T CARE and worse, I feel guilty that I don’t care. So I sit and I continue to listen. Fake it till you make it or die of boredom. Sometimes this intentional way of living makes me feel worse than I did prior to being cognizant of being so mindful. I shouldn’t have to fake it when I’m spending time with the fruit of my loins or the child God has blessed me with, but the fact is that I can only handle so much Zelda, or High School Musical or Barbie or whatever the coolest thing at the moment is. Sometimes I just want to be intentionally quiet, with no one sharing anything with me so I can be intentional about reading my US weekly.
See this fad or wave or new theory of parenting and living is wonderful. It’s a noble way to view life. It’s a goal to aim towards if you find you aren’t engaged or connected with your family or friends. But it’s a suggestion, not a law. I, like many, have my favorite blogs to read – today’s version of Ann Landers or Dear Abby, and I find the ones I love are the ones who discuss this way of life. But like many, I find that I can not live up to the version or standard that I create in my mind as I read about some amazing blogger who has got all her eggs in one basket, from her own chickens, on her homestead, where she lives, whips up raw-milk butter and homeschools her six children all while looking the part of an Anthropology model.
So I’ve made a decision – I need to create my OWN version of intentional thinking. I need to demonstrate grace and love to my kids and be honest. I need to be engaged when I have the luxury of one on one time with my kids. If I’m not into what we’re talking about, my kids know, “Mom, you really don’t care about this, do you?” my answer is “NO.” Because they also need to understand that the world won’t stop for them. That sometimes they can be boring and that’s okay, but they need to recognize that glazed over look in people they meet so not to further embarrass themselves. That they are not the center of the universe, but despite that, I love them, with all my heart. I have to wonder that with all this intentional living are we giving SO much of ourselves that our children never see the other side. The side where they explore, or do things for themselves, not really to share with others. If you are constantly engaged and cheered on, whether what you are doing is noteworthy or not is that setting you up for failure when someone finally tells you, “I don’t care.” If I continue to give EVERYTHING at EVERY moment am I really teaching you something good?
The short answer is no. My kids know I love them. They know they can come to me for anything and everything and I won’t judge them. We talk, we share, we’ve always done this and sometimes we’re equally interested and sometimes it’s a tad one sided. It goes both ways. I recognize moments that are fleeting and try my hardest to take a mental (or real) picture and file it in my heart. I journal. I know that my kids won’t want to snuggle with me forever, or be tucked in, or always need me, but I want them to look back and know that they were loved, that I had their back, and that I did my best to preserve my own sense of self worth. I do that because someday they would be on their own, with their own families, living their own intentional lives and I would need to stand on my own two feet not as mommy, but as Annie. Mindful Annie.
So do yourself a favor if you haven’t joined this movement. Just live, just love, just be present when you are actually present with someone. THIS is the key to intentional living.
What I am learning on this journey of parenting is that parenting teens takes a whole new level of thinking. DUH. It’s like when your child starts to walk, you see your home or stores you shop at in a whole new way. A potential grab and break-fest of sorts. When your children are grade school age and you decide to have a movie night and show “The Bad News Bears” or “Grease” only to realize the language and content is nothing like you remember and your 12 year old says, “MOM! This is so inappropriate for us to watch!” (Seriously how did I NOT remember all the sexual innuendos in Grease?) Perhaps you should be screening these videos prior to popping them in. That saying you never realize how foul the language is in a song or movie until you watch/listen to it with a child, is a saying for a reason.
So with our newest teen we are navigating the waters of connection, timing and adaptation all at the same time. Biologically she’s at an age where she is designed to start pulling away. A fellow adoptive momma wrote this wonderful post regarding connecting with your teen – which is great whether you’ve adopted or not.
Ryan and I have been talking about trying to figure out how to best deal with our tween and teen. What I have learned in the last 10 weeks is that you can’t approach discipline and discussion in the same way you do with elementary aged kids. My younger two need direction, discussion and consequences immediately. Otherwise the window is gone and they have a short memory. Now you might say double duh at this point, but forgive me, I’m new. What I’ve come to realize is that my older two need for me to give them space, direct them to somewhere quiet (or them taking some space and time) then checking in and laying out what needs to happen & what the consequences will be and then the ball is in their court. Their timing, my terms. Once ready they can come to me and calmly discuss whatever it is we need to discuss. I lay out my terms. Period. They don’t have to like them, but they need to follow and respect those terms as a member of this family. What I have found is that if it’s on their timing, my terms are met. It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize they (and I) are calmer & more receptive. It gives me time to be mindful and succinct in what I want to say. Lectures need not apply. Does that mean we solve all of our issues quickly, no, definitely not. But they get solved, eventually. This also isn’t to be confused with hiding in your room without resolving the issue completely. I think it is doing wonders with our newest, providing some much needed conflict resolution skills that she’s never developed or learned.
Why is this difficult? Because for the last 12 years of parenting its been discipline in the moment. Right now our house is divided so switching gears, even in the middle of an altercation is necessary if it involves older versus younger siblings. Old habits die hard, I’ve become comfortable in this role of deal and fix it now, instead of giving space. It’s hard to take all that motherhood experience and put some of the volumes up on the shelf next to Breastfeeding and Biting Toddlers. Change is never easy, parenting is never easy, just when you’ve got it, BAM! all the rules change. I imagine the rules will continue to change as we walk this path with teens.
So for now my new motherhood slogan is: THEIR TIMING; MY TERMS – watch for the book and TLC show. I think I’m on to something…for today.
In all of my thinking lately and some of the ups and downs, it was Saturday night that it really struck me on how unconditionally loving my children have been toward Meseret since she’s come home. You just don’t know what to expect. I mean you have the shiny new penny effect where everyone is just fawning over your newest addition. Over time that dies down and personalities emerge and everyone has ceased behaving as though there was a camera on them filming for TLC. It’s during that real, raw time that we see true love shine through.
We’ve had a really good several week stretch, we’ve had moments and they’ve been resolved and bounced back from with ease, coping skills are being developed. Battles that we are choosing seem to be the right ones to choose. A few hard balls have had to be played, but it’s also been a chance for grace and forgiveness. Saturday began as a wonderful day, Messie’s outgoing personality was shining, she was happy, genuinely happy, which of course makes all of us happy to see. The day deteriorated and it was clear something was a miss. We surmised it was a “missing Ethiopia” moment and we gave her space. The trouble is that she’s never been taught to address her feelings or feel her feelings or convey her feelings. So it’s possible what may start as a simple homesick melancholy can advance into full blown grief about things that have happened over the course of her short life. This was one of those days.
I wish I could say that Ryan and I handle all these moments with grace and patience. Well all I can say is that you win some and you lose some – this was definitely one of my less than stellar mom moments…initially. After some time, the root of pain was revealed. Apologies and forgiveness were applied and we were able to rally for some family time for the remainder of the night.
Our other three know that when something is going down it is just best to stay away. After we rejoined the family all three, independently and with no prompting from Ryan and I came to their sister, hugged her, kissed her and told her that they loved her very much. It hit me at this moment that at no point have my kids ever not loved her. There have been fights, teasing, wrestling and some anger, but like siblings it is resolved and we move on. From the time we picked up Messie from the Transition Home in Ethiopia to now, each of our children have embraced and loved her as though she has always been here. What a lesson of unconditional love that is to behold! I am blown away by their love and grace and I believe those emotions are starting to take deep hold of Meseret as well. She’s still a bit guarded, but I can she shows her love to them by sharing, thinking of them, feeling sad when they get in trouble and being affectionate. Saturday evening when it was time for bed all she wanted was to sleep in the boys room with Penny and Drew (Jon had a sleep over). She wanted to circle the wagons up around her for protection. It was an awesome sight to see.
All the books, devotionals, prayers, pale in comparison to the lessons one can learn from innocence and life that isn’t tainted by the ugly in this broken world. I am grateful to have the clarity to stop and look at it and take it in. I can learn a lot from these chickens of mine!
As I’ve spent much of my time looking inward, I’ve found all the ways I am failing as a mother. I try hard not to compare myself or my situations, but let’s be honest that really hard NOT to do. I came across a blog post a friend posted. It really struck a chord with me today. It’s all about the beauty of ordinary motherhood. Celebrating it anyway. All the goodness and blessings that are ours for the taking.
As I stated in previous posts lately I’ve felt like a less than stellar mother. Guilty if you will for being so down in the dumps, guilty because I’ve spent more time hiding in my room crying and praying than I have snuggling and laughing. I’ve made a conscious choice during this extra long winter break to be more present. To take the time to read when someone asks, to watch a movie, listen when one of my littles wants to tell me all about a video game I totally don’t get and don’t really care about, but it’s important, to them, to let them sing one more song with me as their audience of one.
Once I made a conscious effort to change HOW I think, miraculously I’ve started to FEEL better and found a better way to HANDLE each situation. Rather than just give into my gut reaction and feelings, I take a moment to think WHY am I feeling that way, and what would be a better response. After feeling crazy and out of control, I had to do something. I mean, I don’t have time to be crazy and I have too many little people needing me. Hiding in my room was not a long term solution. I could pray for guidance and forgiveness all I wanted, but if I didn’t take it and forgive myself – than I’m just spinning my wheels.
The fact is that I do feel better and while the
two three week break was something I dreaded, it ended up being a blessing in disguise. It gave our whole family day and days of time together. Sun up to sun down – we were together, learning how to exist, function, fight, make up, hang out, be lazy. We haven’t had that chance since coming home as a family of 6. Now that this time is behind us, I have the clarity that only hindsight can bring. It was exactly what we needed (minus my breakdown) and we’re better for it.
I feel like, for the first time since coming home that we are hitting a new “norm.” Everyone knows their place, everyone understands consequences, everyone feels (or is starting to feel) loved and reciprocating that love. I’m understanding Messie better, what her triggers are, how to navigate them, understanding that many times what she’s upset about is a deflection of deeper issues, but superficial ones are easier to complain about. As a mother, I’m a fixer, but I realize that I can’t really “fix” what’s going on with my older kiddos. I can support, I can guide, but ultimately it’s theirs for the taking. Sound familiar? I believe because I’m making an effort to really think about how I approach mothering to my kids now it’s making me a better mom. Appreciating all of my children and their gifts for what they are, giving myself grace, watching my newest daughter blossom and grow and become more confident each day, taking time with each of them so they all know they are loved and understood.
Truth be told I’m gaining confidence as well. Last night at bedtime I finally felt like we’re getting somewhere, like Messie is starting to trust me, because she’ll actually listen and do what I say, versus, questioning my intentions. Slowly she’s letting us in, believing that we are the real deal, that she can push and push, but we aren’t going anywhere, learning to tease and be sarcastic (THIS is exciting stuff), slowly, but it’s happening. I know we have so much more ahead of us, but I can not tell you how good it feels to be in this place, in this moment. I am grateful to God for this glimpse of peace. Lord knows I have needed it.
Thanks for following our journey -