Loving instead of “fixing.”

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”

henri nouwen…on friendship

This is one of the HARDEST things in the world to do!  And at times it feels almost impossible to do as a mother.  I’m becoming more aware every day of how different my girls respond when they feel heard and affirmed in whatever they are feeling.  My kids don’t want to be fixed, which is what I am naturally drawn to do as a mother, they want to know they are not alone and that they are understood.

Tonight I hit the recurring issue for Garmai which is a feeling of loss when she sees the attention she once had all to herself directed towards either of the girls.  She came from neglect and abuse, to the total undivided attention of first time parents, and then had to give some of that attention up so her sisters could receive the same.  Travis and I were joking tonight about how weird it is to say that Garmai is our “low maintenance” child.  She was anything but low maintenance when she arrived.  But she is such a pleaser by nature, and if those around her are acting out then she acts out less, which often times means she’s easier to overlook and gets less attention.

Tonight I walked into her room after leaving Emma’s room saying goodnight.  Garmai had her back to me and wasn’t real receptive when I tried to initiate a hug goodnight.  Many nights I am just too exhausted to engage the issue, but tonight I felt I had some reserves left and so I sat down next to her and asked her questions.  It took everything in me to restrain the part of me that wanted to “fix” what she was feeling, and explain that we didn’t love her any less and what she’s feeling isn’t true.  Its also hard not to justify yourself so that what she feels is accurate…and, its hard to be “punished” for something you haven’t inflicted and that you’re working so hard to help heal.  In a nutshell, its hard to accept her reality without trying to immediately change it.

But tonight I tried my hardest to not do that, and instead I tried simply to verbalize what I heard her saying, help her put words to the pain she’s feeling, and give her my undivided attention that she is still so needy of (while rubbing her head).  By the time we were done talking she looked full and relaxed, and she’d gotten to a good place all on her own.  She also didn’t feel like she’d done something wrong, she felt understood.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that there are a lot of time I don’t respond that way.  I respond a lot of times out of frustration for being mischaracterized and for my efforts not being seen and received like I want them to be (very “other centered,” I know!), as well as out of pure exhaustion.  That same scenario could happen in any given day 10 to 20 times, with any of the girls.  And I don’t think its wise to engage it every time.  But I want my attitude that I react out of, no matter how I respond, to be one that allows for their feelings, whether accurate or not, and does not give to the temptation to “fix” them!  Otherwise its really more about me and my own uncomfortability than it is about them.

I felt proud too, that I was able to do the same thing with Emma tonight earlier in the evening, and the same thing happened…she got herself to a good place, but without pressure or shame.  And she could feel good about her own choices!  Yay!  They really are quite astounding children, just high maintenance.  And they’re fun!  And quick side note, I felt better at the end of the night because I didn’t take on so many of their feelings.  Funny how that works!

Henri Nouwen’s quote is one that is easy to “amen” and amazingly difficult to actually do!  I do desire it though.

Remembering Grover

Goodbye Grovie!

Last night my dog Grover began breathing very labored.  He is around 15 years old and had a severe heart murmur.  I laid with him throughout the night, trying to keep him calm as he struggled to breathe.  We knew he didn’t have long, but I had no idea it would happen this fast.  I thought he was going to die several times throughout the night, but he kept going.  When I took him to the vet this morning, the vet said that either his heart was failing or a mass in his chest was causing severe problems, either way Grover was near the end.  He was near dying several times in the vet office, legs collapsing out from underneath him, but when he finally died (we had him put to sleep) he died with his head in my hand.  I was grateful to be with him.

Who am I?

I know there are a lot of differing views about the upcoming inauguration and our new president-elect, but sitting tonight watching some CNN coverage of the day MLK gave his famous speech and the chaos related to that march…I’m just in awe of how far we have come as a country.  I couldn’t help but tear up as I watched those early African Americans march, being hosed down and beat, yet still marching to ensure their children didn’t have to live in that kind of hatred!  I felt so proud of them and their courage!  I listened to a lot of personal testimonies of people who are going to be watching the inaugural, who personally sat in the back of school buses, who will experience Tuesday unlike anyone else!

If I did not have black children, for me, I think so much of the significance of this day would not be the same! (partially my own self-centeredness and partially just lack of personal experience)  Even though my kids are young, and there is so much that they will not understand yet, and lets be honest, a lot they won’t really care about yet, I look forward to my girls (who struggle profoundly with the color of their skin…Garmai told me after one day coming home from school, “Mama, I can’t believe Shannon (her friend) likes me so much.  I didn’t know white kids liked black kids so much.”)…I look forward to them hearing, along side their classmates, that they are not defined by the color of their skin but by their character!  Not that we don’t live our lives to daily reflect that attitude to them…but every opportunity to reinforce that…to give them reasons to feel proud of their heritage…to hear all those messages from those who understand the struggle and have faced it themselves…and just to have it verbalized in their classes, next to their friends, by their teachers…I can’t wait!

My heart breaks for my girls.  Emma said today, as she put lotion on, “Mama, you’re right, our skin looks lots better when we put lotion on…its not so dry looking.  And, our skin looks lighter, like Sophia’s.”  Sophia is the daughter of our good friends, Nate and Sarah, and is bi-racial, so her skin is lighter than the girls’.  And for them, lighter is better.  I have found every one of my daughters, at least once, with huge amounts of lotion on, commenting, “Mama, look, I’m white like you.”  Its hard not to cry at those moments.  My heart hurts just writing about those times.

I was in Walmart last night and buying hair product for the girls.  On the shelf was a skin bleaching agent.  In fact, there were two different brands you could choose from.  I feel pain seeing those products, with my little girls faces in my mind.  Our girls swing from playing with only white baby dolls, because they are the “cuter” ones…to playing with the black ones because they identify with them.  Its like they have to choose one or the other to feel good about.

At times I’ve thought about adopting again from another country, maybe an Asian country.  I think sometimes, especially with children who come from the same biological family unit, who have been hurt a lot and are struggling with really letting themselves attach to us to become a new family unit, (their tendency when they are hurting or afraid is to gravitate towards each other in self-protection and withdraw from letting us in), if it wouldn’t be helpful to have another element introduced, that’s not just “their” family and “our” family, that’s not just black or white.  I’ve never felt comfortable with having just black and white baby dolls in our house.  Its always felt too polarized.  I wonder if having another culture in our household, another family represented, wouldn’t break down walls that seem so hard to get through.

I don’t know that Travis and I will ever adopt again.  Outside of sheer divine will we don’t plan to have our own bio child ever.  We have more than enough emotional wounds to attend to as it is, enough interaction that happens on a daily basis, enough interaction that we want to make time for that has not yet had opportunity.  We feel so stretched as it is.  But I wonder sometimes about the struggle we face to constantly break down the “us”/”them” issue in their hearts.

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The latest Thompson Sights

Food Induced Chaos

I jumped on the web tonight to look up hyperactivity after eating, because my kids have a tendency to go insane after eating.  When we are at my parents’ house, Garmai will eat a meal and then she literally can not hold her body still.  She will look at me and say, “Mama, I need to go run and get my energy out!”  Then, she will literally run laps around my mother’s living room furniture!  Granted, my parents live in a church building and have like an open loft style, huge, living space.

We were at my parents’ last week and after our meal the girls jump up and they are bouncing on their bouncy balls, screaming and laughing, in circles at insane paces and volume levels…and it goes on and on!  I look at my mom, thinking in my head, “Where did these children come from and how did we ever survive living in an 1100 sq. ft. house? No wonder I wanted to strangle them all the time…or at least muzzle them!” 🙂  But they literally can not hold their body still at times.

But I’ve noticed that after eating is often the worst bouts of hyperactivity.  I’ve thought at times about building them a giant padded room that I can put them in when they are hyper and then I wouldn’t have to worry about them getting hurt or destroying our house, which seems to be falling apart around us! 

I’ve been reading this article that talks about the link between hyperactivity and the foods kids eat.  These are some of the facts it lists:

  • A study of 265 hyperactive children found that more than three-quarters of them displayed abnormal glucose tolerance,3 – that is, their bodies were less able to handle sugar intake and maintain balanced blood sugar levels.
  • many children with ADHD/hyperactivity have visible symptoms of essential fat deficiency such as excessive thirst, dry skin, eczema and asthma.
  • children receiving extra essential fats in supplements were both behaving and learning better within 12 weeks9.
  • Polish researchers studying 116 children with ADHD for their levels of magnesium found that 95 per cent of them were deficient in it – a much higher percentage than that among healthy children. The team also noted a correlation between levels of magnesium and severity of symptoms. Supplementing 200mg of magnesium for six months significantly reduced hyperactivity in the children with ADHD, but behaviour in the control group, who received no magnesium, worsened10.
  • AVOID ALLERGY FOODS (this is our big one!)
    Of all the avenues so far explored, the link between hyperactivity and food sensitivity is the most established and worthy of pursuit in any child showing signs of ADHD.
  • A study by Dr Joseph Bellanti of Georgetown University in Washington DC found that hyperactive children are seven times more likely to have food allergies than other children.
  • 56 per cent of hyperactive children aged 7 to 10 tested positive for food allergies, compared to less than 8 per cent of ‘normal’ children.
  • A separate investigation by the Hyperactive Children’s Support Group found that 89 per cent of children with ADHD reacted to food colourings, 72 per cent to flavourings, 60 per cent to MSG, 45 per cent to all synthetic additives, 50 per cent to cow’s milk, 60 per cent to chocolate and 40 per cent to oranges13.
  • Other substances often found to induce behavioural changes are wheat, corn, yeast, soya, peanuts and eggs14.  Symptoms strongly linked to allergy include nasal problems and excessive mucus, ear infections, facial swelling and discolouration around the eyes, tonsillitis, digestive problems, bad breath, eczema, asthma, headaches and bedwetting.
  • Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia found that three-quarters of 86 children with ADHD reacted adversely to foods containing salicylates16.  Salicylates inhibit the conversion and utilisation of essential fats, which we know are often low in hyperactive children. So instead of avoiding salicylates, it may help to simply increase the supply of essential fats.

I find this all SOOOO fascinating, as we’ve had to take the girls off of gluten, wheat, oat, barley, rye, milk, eggs, sugar, tomato, some nuts, some fruit, soy, and on and on!  Once we did, we saw a drastic reduction in stomach aches, rashes, nasal allergy symptoms, mood swings, gas, etc.  But I’m encouraged by the number of things we can still try, to help even more, like the supplements.

One day after school I gave the girls each a magnesium drink and told them it was supposed to help them relax and after Garmai took one sip she said, “Mama, I think this is really working! I feel really relaxed already!” 

For those of you wanting to try this avenue with your own kids, Dr. Roes, out of Hiawatha, will do food allergy/intollerance testing.  He’s a really nice guy…chiropractor AND medical doctor!