Monday, December 22, 2008

Card from the past...

We have received a lot of Christmas cards already this year. Most are from businesses that we have contact with. Two are invitations to reunions. So today, when another card arrived in the mail, I was ready to take it to Chuck to ask what he had bought from or sold to this person.

When I opened it two photos fell out and I quickly looked to see if it was from some VS friends from 24 years ago who often send pictures. Nope.

It was two girls who lived with us briefly about eleven years ago. With the names and address of their family to help me I called them tonight and talked to their mom and also to the oldest of the two sisters.

I've wondered about them so often, and it was good to know they are OK. Now there is one other former foster daughter I would like to know about, but that connection is a lot less likely to ever happen. Maybe someday.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Luke's recent pics

I wanted to put this up the other day, but first I needed to download Picasa, and then my internet wasn't connected. Tim discovered that the internet was fine, but the cord wasn't plugged into the outlet.

Laura has written that Luke got a haircut, and I took a couple of pics. The first is (of course) before the haircut.

Here he is with shorter hair and a grown up look.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More thoughts on Beyond Consequences

I frequent a message board for parents of children with reactive attachment disorder. I asked on the message board if others had experience with "Beyond Consequences" It has been an interesting discussion.

All of the responders have continued to use the ideas over a period of years because they like themselves better when they can see their children as hurting, instead of seeing them as hurtful.

Some have seen changes in their children. Most see their children as often being too frightened of closeness to even allow any empathy to slip past their defenses.

So, as I think about this, it becomes about who I want to be, whether it 'works' or not.

Incidentally, I do think it is helping, but there are days when I have to let go and accept being pushed away.

Today was good though. There were things happening that could have brought up anger and defensiveness but we didn't have to go there. We had a good evening and in spite of talking about some of those issues right before bed, we were able to talk without anxiety and end the evening friends.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Just Bev

I have some pretty strong pet peeves about use of words, and this evening I realized that my signature name, justbev, is a prime example of the thing that annoys me the most.

I bristle at the word 'just' when it is not used as a synonym for justice.

This word is a minimizing word. I think the English language would go on quite well without it. (I almost said 'just fine' instead of 'quite well'.)

For example:

**** "I was just...." This phrase is used in many settings, but nearly always in the same way. It minimizes the effects of my own behavior on those I have offended. "I was just kidding." "I was just trying to help." "I was just minding my own business." In other words, "You should not be offended by what I did because it was such a small thing. You must be a small person to get upset about it."

What if we left the word 'just' out of it? "I was kidding" "I was trying to help" "I was minding my own business" It tells the truth (I hope) without judging the other person. "I was kidding" does not imply that the offended person should have known that. It takes responsibility and leaves an opening for the other person to respond.

****"You could just....." This is usually part of giving advice, and implies that the solution is simple and easily carried out. In other words, if you weren't so stupid you would have thought of this yourself. I much prefer, "You could try..." Usually it's best to be empathetic without advice, but if someone is requesting advice, they probably have already worked pretty hard at a solution. They don't need to have their struggle minimized or discredited.

*****In prayers.... Sometimes the word 'just' becomes the most frequent word in a prayer.
We just want to praise you
We just thank you
We are just so overwhelmed
We just ask you to....
Be straight with God. It isn't a small thing to praise God. It isn't a small thing to thank God. And when I am asking for something, I'm not asking for a small thing.

That said, I just want to let you know that sometimes I just can't help myself. It's just such a habit to say 'just' that it just flies out of my mouth without my even realizing it. I will just have to be more careful...

But I think I WILL change my signature, if I can just figure out how to do it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Beyond Consequences

Chuck and I were talking about "Beyond Consequences" today. He had been listening to mp3's from the web site on our mp3 player this morning, and I had been listening to the two cds that came with the book. We are both trying to grasp the idea well enough that we can think that way with less effort. Right now it feels like beginning to drive, only harder. When you learn to drive, everything is a conscious decision. Nothing is automatic.

Likewise with changing a parenting paradigm. I have to think through everything I say, and every motive I have for saying it. I'm really glad I'm not homeschooling right now because just getting through the evening with the right attitude is enough to be exhausting.

Anyway, one of the things we talked about was parental attitude. Heather Forbes keeps saying that we each have within us everything we need to parent this way. Chuck went from that to talking about how you have to love others as you love yourself, implying that loving yourself comes first.

I agree.

And I don't agree.

Sometimes the way I get into trouble is by loving myself. I often think, "No one can talk to ME that way!" And then I hand out the rules or the consequences or the control. I'm loving myself but it isn't making a difference. The rules and the consequences and the control just escalate the situation, emotions rise, voices get loud, and we are not on the path to understanding each other or empathizing with each other.

In a way, I think that loving yourself has to be beside the point.

There is a lot of fear in parenting. If we do it wrong, we wreck a person's life. We joke about being the reason our kids will need therapy, but it isn't just a joke. So we turn to experts. And experts tell us that yes, we are the most important link. What we do matters. We have the power to launch our kids to a higher place than we have attained, or we have the power to undermine them until they are unable to function in the real world. Aaaaaggghhhh!

So, when my kid has a problem, I can easily see it as my failure. Then it doesn't take much to become defensive and controlling. I have to 'fix' this kid because that is what a good parent would do. If I can't fix my kid that means I'm a bad parent.

What if we take the blame/guilt out of the picture? What if we see the behavior as a direct result of what is going on in the child instead of as a reflection of our own failure as parents?

So when my child comes home demanding things and is easily upset at even small requests, my thought does not become, "I have to fix this attitude right now or I won't be doing my job as a parent." My thoughts stay with my child. I'm already comfortable in my belief that I'm a fine parent, so I wonder what is causing my child so much stress that he can't cope in a reasonable way. My ego stays out of it. My goal is to understand his feelings and validate them. Once he understands that I don't think he is bad, but that I understand that anyone might feel like he does under the same circumstances, the intensity will be over.

It's not about whether I'm a good parent or not.

It's about how to understand and connect with my child when he is experiencing difficult emotions.

I guess that IS loving others the way I love myself. If I'm having a bad day, I'd rather people believe that I'm a good person who is stressed out and needs some empathy. I react pretty strongly to someone telling me that I should shape up my attitude. I do NOT want to be given any unsolicited advice about what I am doing wrong and how I should fix it. When I get that kind of 'help' it makes me more upset rather than less. I end up writing it off as being uninformed and insensitive to the realities of the situation. So why would my child want any of that?

But it is so hard to break old patterns. I made it through the evening without falling into rules or consequences, but it wasn't easy.