12/18/2009: I met my son for the first time. He was 3 1/2 years old and I was going in entirely blind to his life experiences, previous discipline, capabilities…everything. Now that I have a nearly 3 1/2 year old daughter whom I’ve raised since infancy, I realize how much of a lifetime I had missed. The devastation she would feel if she were plucked up tomorrow and dropped at a new doorstep makes my head spin. And yet? He showed up with a smile. Amazing.
12/21/2009: I wrote, “Well, we are about 4 days into our first placement and its going so much better than expected (I totally just jinxed myself). We prepared ourselves for the worst but have been pleasantly surprised with age-appropriate, generally pleasant behavior!” HA. Foolish, foolish woman…
12/30/2009: Reality sets in. My ears are bleeding from all the whining. Tantrums are an hourly occurrence. Every moment is a battle.
01/04/2010: We are trapped in our house. The fits he throws the second we enter a public space are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s become a safety concern (just ask my black eye) and we’ve decided we won’t be taking him out for a while. I’m suffocating and scared.
1/11/2010: After barely managing to schlep myself to work, a coworker cheerily asked me how my weekend was. I stared at her blankly for a moment wondering how the answer wasn’t already written all over my baggy-eyed face before answering with “Well, I survived”.
1/25/2010: We tried to visit family today but cut the visit short when we started to worry about the screaming bothering the neighbors. Well-intentioned family member just shakes her head in disbelief saying, “I had no idea it was this bad.” As the tears well up in my eyes I respond, “This is a good day.” We go back home, exhausted and alone.
2/14/2010: Our first Valentine’s Day as a family. We push through with heart-shaped pancakes, pink milk, and a walk to the park. I had planned to surprise my wife with a nice dinner after we got the kids to bed (if we got the kids to bed), but she turned in early after a particularly hateful barrage of words from him. He’s been doing this a lot lately and she is his favorite target. So instead I hold her in our bed and we both cry.
2/16/2010: I write, “As a parent, there is a lot I don’t know. I don’t know much of his history. I don’t know what their future will hold. I don’t know the dark demons that live in my little boy’s heart. I don’t always know the best way to respond to behavior challenges. I don’t know if I say the right things or if I do the right things. Hell, I don’t even know how long I’ll be able to call myself a parent. But, what I do know is that my love is stronger than his anger. And that’s all I need to know to get up tomorrow and do it all again.”
3/11/2010: His mom has been missing a lot of visits lately and that has thrown him into even more of a tailspin than usual. I’m his new target and he has found my Achilles heel: peeing.purposely.on.everything. Nothing gets my blood boiling more than this disgusting new habit. I can’t take it for one more second.
3/12/2010: During a rage he screamed at me in his angriest voice: “I LOVE YOU!!” And then I’m reminded. He’s mad that he loves me. He doesn’t want to have foster moms. He doesn’t want to continually fall in love with caregivers just to be ripped away. He wants to love his mom and have her love him back. I still have no fucking clue what I’m doing, but I get it.
4/4/2010: Easter. Our first day in nearly 4 months without a fit/rage/crying/peeing/major incident of any kind. I feel a crack in my cloak of self-doubt. You know what? I think we can do this. Of course, I’ve been saying that incessantly this whole time, but today my heart starts to believe it.
4/16/2010: For the first time, I attend a support group meeting for foster parents because, shit, I need something. Just so happens a woman is there to give us a presentation on a parenting and discipline strategy called Cooperative Kids based on the book Love, Limits & Lessons by Bill Corbett. I quickly googled it to see if it would be worth my time to stay. At this point I feel like I’ve read just about every parenting book out there, but something about this one caught my attention. I liked the fact that the love came first. In so many of those other books (including others with ‘love’ in the title), discipline is the primary goal and love the second, but that wasn’t going to work for me…not for this kid. Amidst the sea of all that I didn’t know, I always knew that love and attachment trumped all. There would be no healing, controlling, or disciplining until this child trusted me and was filled to the brim with love. I bought the book and read it cover to cover in one night. The next day I started implementing its strategies and I haven’t looked back since.
6/18/2010: We celebrate 6 months as a family. We have made it through the darkness. There are still struggles and temper tantrums, but life has become manageable again. In fact, we took our first family vacation and knowing where he had been 5 months earlier, I am so proud of my son. I enjoyed him and his company and that brought me tears of relief.
7/26/2010: In an email to a friend: “And that’s when it occurred to me that I’m not parenting the same boy I was 6 months ago. The pendulum has swung and the good far far outweighs the bad. Man, I love that kid.”
8/23/2010: He and I were winding down in a snuggle on the couch. He got quiet and furrowed his brow when he asked, “Do you like being my mommy?” I couldn’t answer right away because his words had taken my breath. Instead I kissed him on his forehead and breathed in the smell of his freshly washed hair.
“I like it more than anything else in the world. Being your mommy is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
“Do you like it more than chocolate ice cream?”
9/12/2010: Epic meltdown at church moments before we were supposed to head to a picnic complete with running wildly into oncoming traffic. This is the part of the roller coaster ride that I find particularly intolerable. The fact that we’ve gone months without a public tantrum, then all of a sudden, here it is again. It feels like such a lack of progress – it feels like such a failure. I really wanted to go to that picnic.
11/26/2010: We welcome our third child. A complete shock and surprise to everyone leaving my son the same 2 hours to prepare as the rest of us. He is incredible. Happy, unthreatened, and loving. These girls won the big brother jackpot.
6/6/2011: We’re all hanging out at the playground, swinging high and happily chatting, when my wife asked, “How did we get such a sweet boy?” He answered matter-of-factly as if we asked him the color of the sky: “You teached me.”
2/21/2013: My son is incredible. He is happy, thriving, and never stops talking. He is kind, respectful, cooperative, and has a noticeable appreciation for the boundaries and consequences present in his life. He’s also a high-energy emotional kid who struggles at time with keeping a quiet body, listening ears, and calm expression of feelings. In sum? He’s an awesomely typical 6 year old boy. I love him so much, but even more, I really like him. There were times I feared never being able to say that.
Of course time, maturity, and healing had a lot to do with his growth and success, but I also give a lot of credit to finding a plan that worked in Love, Limits & Lessons. It was here that I learned that the tantrums and misbehavior are his, not mine. I don’t own them. I’m not burdened by them – he is. This relates to one of my primary parenting rules: I can’t control my child, nor do I want to. The only person I can control is this world is me. My job is to guide and to teach, but he is his own individual spirit in control of his body and mind. There is no power struggle because I freely give him all the power he needs and deserves – but that also means he gets the responsibility of his actions. How freeing that philosophy is. Also, disengaging myself from the hate and negativity made it that much easier for the love to flow in.
So, naturally, whenever I’m asked for a recommendation on a parenting book, this is my go-to. It’s a quick read, funny and real. Along with the broader philosophical discussions, it offers concrete solutions for common problems. It provided me with an effective parenting voice that felt comfortable and nurturing.
Now here’s the really exciting news…I’ve connected with the Connecticut-based author and one week from today, you’ll have the opportunity to win a copy of the book to check out for yourself! Not only that, but Bill Corbett has agreed to field some parenting questions from our CT Working Moms audience!
What is your biggest struggle right now? Need advice on meal times, bed times, homework, dating?? This is your opportunity to get some advice from a fantastic parenting expert! Leave your question in the comments below and check back next Thursday for a great parenting discussion and giveaway!