I was being played…like a fiddle. Like a fiddle on the song “Devil Went Down to Georgia” actually. You can talk to any adoptive parent, and they will tell you that their child goes through cycles. They will do really well for a while and you will feel like you’re making progress, and then, sometimes slowly, sometimes in warp speed, they will head downhill. Behavior will take a turn for the worse, and a lot of the problems that you thought were over, rear their ugly head once again. This is typical. What’s that saying in Ecclesiastes? “There’s nothing new under the sun…”
That’s where I was going wrong. Tim had been telling me this for some time now, but it’s much more fun to pretend like it’s your idea, right? Anyhow, the problem was that every time he went on a downhill slide, I was surprised, and let me tell you, being surprised that a kid misbehaves is like walking outside in the wintertime and being surprised that it’s cold. Kids are going to misbehave.
So this time, when the downhill slope began, I was once again, surprised. And because I was surprised by it, I went down with him. Now, I’m not saying that this was the only reason for my meltdown. It wasn’t. But, it certainly pushed me over the edge. A week ago today, I left school feeling utterly defeated. I had failed as a mother. (If you watch The Goldbergs, say that in a Beverly Goldberg voice). So I sat and pouted about all my shortcomings for a bit, and I felt so defeated that I didn’t even feel like talking to Tim about it. I knew that the only way out of this feeling was to go to The Source. The Bible. I needed to hear from God. So I turned to Hosea, and I read the passage that gets me through every single time:
“There I will give her back her vineyards,
And will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope….
…I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
In love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
And you will acknowledge the Lord.
….I will show my love to the one I called, ‘Not my loved one.
I will say to those called’ Not my people’;
‘You are my people’.”
-Hosea 2: 15, 19, 20, 23
Every time I read this passage, I am reminded of why we chose to adopt. I’m reminded of the fact that we wanted to give hope to a child who had been robbed of it. We wanted to add to our family through this beautiful process called adoption. And through it, I am learning more than I ever imagined.
So after I read Hosea, I sat down and made a list of all the behaviors that James tends to fall back on. I realized that all of those behaviors were attention-seeking. So I could see pretty clearly from my list that he’s craving attention by the barrel-load. Unfortunately, this is an impossible situation for parents with more than one child. When you have a child that craves infinite amounts of attention, you will never meet their need. It’s a situation of a person trying to fill an emotional need through you instead of through God. It’s absolutely exhausting, but it can be better.
Once I had my list, I announced to myself…”I will not be surprised by any of his attention-seeking behaviors. This is what he’s craving, and I know that. There’s no surprise here.” So, beside each behavior, I wrote what I would do in response to that behavior. I made sure that my response was not giving attention, but simply cut-and-dry dealing with the issue.
If James doesn’t get his way, and starts slamming things and crying…I will calmly tell him to go to the bathroom (his favorite quiet place…he likes to sit in the clawfoot tub) until he collects himself while I go ahead with my work.
There was an entire list of things. However, since I had determined to no longer give him negative attention, I knew that I would have to give him some extra positive attention. So I also wrote down a list of things that I can do to provide him with the positive attention that he really needs. That list included writing him notes in his assignment book, taking him to breakfast, etc.
We’ve been at this for a week now, and I have to say that our days have been as smooth as butter. It was time for me to lighten up…big time. I had been so focused on progress that I forgot to enjoy the present. I was so zeroed in on his future that I had forgotten to just enjoy being his mom.
This past week has been absolutely delightful. I have to tell you a funny on James. I had noticed that he had suddenly gotten really bad chapped lips, so I had been treating him for a couple of days for it. Yesterday, I was wondering aloud how he got that level of chapped lips in the summer time just out of the blue. He said, “I know how it happened…I was sucking on half of an egg shell and this happened.” I inspected it closer, and sure enough, his entire chin was purple and red. It wasn’t chapped, it was bruised! My child had a gigantic chin hickey! I laughed so hard tears were rolling down my face. I laughed every time I thought about it. It was the cutest, funniest thing I think I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad that I decided to enjoy motherhood more and stress less. I might have missed the great comedy in that “chapped lips” fiasco! So my advice for all adoptive parents and all parents: Lighten Up! Enjoy your kids. They’re pretty hilarious after all!