Do you ever listen to a well-known, respected speaker and think, “I wish I could get my life together and be “more like them"? On one of my "Mom-Fail" days, like this past weekend, I may catch myself thinking like that. I hesitate even to tell about it, but I don't ever want to come across as if I have ALL the pieces of my life together. I always want to be transparent and relatable. I know what it's like not to know who to talk to when you're struggling because your'e afraid you will be looked down upon. But someone who is willing to listen and not condemn because they've been there and understand.. that's who I want to be. So here's my story.
My 4 year old daughter, Princess, received a gift from her Nana in the mail. I recorded her on my phone opening the box so that Nana could see the excitement on her grand daughter's face. It was an adorable newborn baby doll with a diaper bag and lots of cute little accessories, including a little rubber ducky. Princess loves the gift. She rocks and pretends to bathe her new baby occasionally. The thing she carries around constantly now, though, is the rubber ducky. It has a little hole in the bill so that when you squeeze the body, air comes out in a little puff. Princess pretends to feed everyone by puffing air into their mouths. Well, those who will let her, anyway! She came into the kitchen when I was just about done making dinner to ask if she could have the ducky in the tub during her bath that night. My instant thought was that her precious ducky would get bath water inside it and turn all black and we'd have to throw it away. She would be very upset about having to throw it away.
Now some who are reading this might immediately think, "You idiot, DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF! That's her duck! Let her do what she wants with it while she is little!" There are probably bells and whistles that go off in your brain that spark different scenarios to help you respond if she were your daughter. I wish I could say that I'm so great at this parenting stuff that her question just rolled off like water poured over the ducky itself, and I automatically responded with a cheerful "Sure! It's YOUR ducky!" and then melodiously asked her to go wash her hands for dinner, even while holding her ducky - then they'd both get washed.. But I didn't. Apparently I'm still figuring out what "small stuff" is!
"No, it will get all black from the water inside and we'll have to throw it away. Please go put it away in your room and wash your hands for supper."
Princess promptly dropped her ducky on the kitchen floor, glared at me with an "I dare you to do anything about THIS" look, whipped around to face the opposite direction and stomped into the living room without an answer.
In my childhood I never would have dreamed of sassing my parents, or flat out ignoring them while they were talking to me, or refusing to do what I was asked to do. The consequences I knew I would suffer scared me to death. When my daughter played this defiance card, everything happened in a split second while a strength I didn't realize I had took over. In this split second a battle raged in my mind between 1. remembering that my child was traumatized before she entered our home in foster care and operates out of her fight, flight, or freeze mode, 2. my first instinct - to spank for outright defiance and because that was the method of discipline my father used on me, 3. the flashback of the beatings I got from my dad - I will NOT do that to any child no matter how angry I am, 4. Fight, flight, or freeze? Fight so that I don’t lose control, not only of the situation as a parent, but also of MYSELF.
Now, looking back I recognize we were both in FIGHT mode and my automatic response to her comes from fear. So does her response to me. Only I'm a grownup and a "seasoned" parent. That's not supposed to happen.
I demanded that Princess come back, pick up her ducky, put it away and go wash her hands like I asked. She ignored me and kept walking. I told her I will throw it in the garbage- since she threw it on the floor she must not care about it anyway. She still refused to turn around, so I walked toward the ducky and she suddenly turned and grabbed at it as I picked it up off the floor. Oh, the fight that ensued. She flailed, screamed, and clawed at my hand to take the ducky back. Baby Brother, then began screaming as well. Somehow I ended up scooping up Baby in one arm, Princess in the other, both deafening my ears at the same time. I scaled the couch, dropped the fit-pitching Princess in her room and carried Baby to the kitchen. Just then, Hubby came in from work and immediately knew I needed help. I gasped for air as I handed him Baby and described the situation, my eyes stinging with guilty tears of big-time failure. The energy required for my actions left me shaking and out of breath.
I knew I could have done this differently but it happened too fast and I was not prepared. I was exhausted from waking up at 3:30 am the night before - premenopausal night sweats and unable to go back to sleep. I have toys, laundry, paperwork, and more piled up to my eyeballs all over the house. I don't remember when hubby and I went on a date by ourselves last. I know I need to take time for myself so that I can be the calm, clear-thinking mother and loving wife I need to be. But truthfully I struggle with HOW to get that time. And when I try to plan time for myself, I feel guilty that I even need it. I am afraid that I will appear lazy if I'm caught lying around doing nothing when there is so much that needs to be done.
I don't know WHO I'm afraid of appearing lazy or incompetent to. I'm sure I stopped trying to win my dad's approval when I let him die in my heart. Maybe I worked so hard for so long at trying to be perfect that it is ingrained in me. Even scripture tells us to "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" Matthew 5:48. I remember vividly being told that, as well as , "whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as working for the Lord..." Col 3:23. And "don't just do a sloppy job. Give it 110%!"
Even though those are all good proverbs to live by, they were used against me, because it was rare that what I did was good enough and I was often left feeling stupid, incapable, or just unsure.
There is an acronym that popped into my head recently: IALAC. I found it written on a strip of paper in my Bible, reflected on where it came from, and put it back so I could find it again by accident some day when God knows I need it. It means I Am Loveable And Capable. One day during my time at a Christian High School, the girls and boys had separate devotionals. The speaker for the girls gave us a lesson on how special we were, and we each got that strip of paper to remind us to say that statement to ourselves. I don't remember anything at all about the pep talk or who spoke, but I do remember repeating the acronym several times, wondering if, when, how, or with whom I would share it, and then storing it in my Bible. Here I am remembering 30 years later. God has a way of using little things like that. When I was in high school I didn't even understand how deep my low self-esteem was. Who knew, but my Father in heaven, that I would need those words to help sustain me in the future.
It is a conglomeration of that IALAC strip of paper, along with my mother's reminder of Jesus holding my hand, and a few other special people God used to speak into my life over the years, that gave me the ability to heal and be healthy and whole overall...other than the mom-fail days. By the way, in case you're wondering, yes we are working with a Trauma Therapist, but I wish we could have started sooner. In my own mind I also think EVERYBODY thinks I have no business fostering and adopting traumatized children because of my own past. Sometimes I completely agree and ask The Lord WHY He chose me?? Of all people. My husband and I raised three healthy children to adulthood and yet I feel completely unqualified! I'm sure my Heavenly Father caught a lot of my tears in a bottle this morning as I heard His answer in the form of a song when I awoke. "You make beautiful things out of the dust... You make me new, YOU are making me new..." Even now, at 49 years old, The Creator is still working on me. He is turning the dust from my past into something beautiful. #newlegacy
Just as I believe my Father in Heaven speaks to me in songs, through His Word, and through His people, I believe He also speaks to me in dreams. One of my big kids actually told me a relative said I've got some sort of vudu thing going on because I knew that we would be adopting a baby brother through foster care for our daughter before I ever knew when, how or where he would come from. We know without a doubt that our daughter was also meant to be “ours”. I'll tell those stories another day, though. Raising PEARLS originally came from a dream many years ago and then over time as I tried to hide and forget about it, (thinking nobody wants to talk about child abuse of any kind let alone listen to ME) The Lord spoke into my spirit to pull it back out, revise, update, edit, and let Him use it. I now know that it is just as much for my personal healing as for the children and parents I have written it for. I have my daughter recite these words of affirmation (which are also in an excerpt in my book) out loud before sleep times:
"..I am specially made, I am capable, I am smart, I am strong, I am wanted, I am accepted,
I am chosen, I am unique and irreplaceable, I am deeply and unconditionally loved, I am
safe and never alone: Jesus is always with me and God's angels are all around me..."
I am also speaking them to myself. Sometimes when I think I've got it, I find myself stifling tears as I struggle to believe them. If only they were spoken over and over to me when I was a child. If only my mom and dad had those words spoken to them. There will always be "If Only's" for everyone, though. What we are going to do from now on is what matters. God CAN make beautiful things out of dust if we let Him. It's never too late unless we die. If you haven't affirmed your child, it's time to start now. #breakthecycle #endchildabuse
Every day that we wake up is God's gift of a new day with new opportunities to start over and try again. With His help, we will grow into something more beautiful than we thought possible.
..."and the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do." Jeremiah 18:4
"But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8