I recently read a pretty good book called "The Girl in the Italian Bakery" by Kenneth Tingle. It started off as a cheap book from Amazon for my Kindle (snatched it for .99!!!) ...and ended up having a large impact on me. The story was the type that I find myself reading a lot of...kid has struggles at home, those struggles bring out negative behaviors, kid ends up in foster care...kid eventually grows up and has to figure out how to be an adult and not let his past dictate his future. I am drawn to these books, often a true story, trying to find the magical solution to helping my children from foster care overcome their past. I have attended private and family therapy sessions, trainings, meetings with school administrators, meetings with social workers. I have attended, shoot, I have HOSTED, adoption support groups trying to find this elusive solution that will change the world for these children.
For the first time since college, I found myself using a hi-lighter in a book! Well, a digital hi-lite on my kindle...oh how the times have changed. But really, there were certain lines that resonated with my observations of children. Like this insightful little snippet (look! I even used my digital "hi-lite" - pretty cool!):
I try to teach my children not to stand on the sidelines in life, to get in the game; don't let that little voice of doubt get the best of you. Give everything your best effort; you may not have that chance again. Believe in yourself; you are no less important than anyone else on the planet. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Don't look down on anyone.
Wow. Now, I realize that these are all statements that we have heard from various people over the years, but at the exact moment I read it, my mind was ready to receive it. I thought about the fact that THIS is what I try to teach my children. All summed up in one small paragraph. My children have come to me beat down and so low on self-esteem, that getting in the game is not an option. They are too busy just trying to survive. And that little voice of doubt, well, it is not so little. It is SCREAMING at my children. It probably sounds a lot like what adults in their life have screamed at them. How about "you are no less important than anyone else on the planet"? These kids have been kicked to the curb numerous times, unloved, unwanted. Battered and abused. Too me, teaching my kid that they have VALUE and WORTH and are IMPORTANT is the hardest part of my parenting. Treat other people the way you want to be treated and don't look down on anyone. The adults in their have have TAUGHT them to be angry and hurt other people. And now, they are only behaving in a way that follows the example they were TAUGHT. They have been looked down on. Don't believe me? Think about the fact that foster kids often wait YEARS to find an adoptive family. How often is that true of infants? Why? Ask your friends their impression of children in foster care. I bet you hear about their "baggage" and they aren't worth the heartache and trouble. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it. So how do I combat this devastation and low self-esteem with my children, this negativity that has been shoved down their throats for years?
As emotional as I was pondering all this, I still had more tears to shed. The many issues I faced raising difficult children, the battles I fought with teachers, the battles with government agencies it all boiled down to a lot of anger inside me. And the next line from the book, nearly took me out.
I have no anger or hatred left toward anyone. In the end, it only hurts you, not them.
So...my anger is NOT punishing those individuals that have been so difficult? Reading this line over and over again, I realize that it is so true. Our anger eats us alive - and the person that we are angry with has moved on and probably couldn't care less. This anger builds resentment and frustration, it increases our stress level and hinders our ability to bond and attach. And yet, my children live with this day and day out. They are angry that they were abandoned and abused. They are angry that they didn't get a "normal" childhood. They are angry that their case was not managed better or that teachers don't understand why they can't stay organized when their whole LIFE is disorganized. They are angry that we don't understand why they are so angry!
So here I am again, wondering how to help these children. And the only magic solution I can find is love. Plain old, unconditional, whole heart love. Loving them when they are hitting me. Loving them when they are screaming at me. Loving them when they won't do their chores or homework. Loving them when they are defiant. Loving them enough to stay calm when they can't. Let me say that again, loving them enough to stay calm with they CAN'T. Can't...it isn't a choice. Loving them enough to talk, not yell, with them when I am frustrated. Loving them enough to give them a chance to speak instead of deciding that they must simply comply with what I want. Sometimes, we need to step back and hear them before we can truly know how to help them. Love will teach them to let go of their anger and without the anger, many of the behaviors will go too. I don't always get it right, but when I do, I see the confidence in their eyes. I feel the love in their arms when we hug each other. Yes, love is the answer.
I think Kenneth Tingle says it best in his book:
I think Kenneth Tingle says it best in his book:
It's all about unconditional love for our children, our wives or husbands, our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers. Where there is love there is always hope. So we hope someday we'll live in a a world where children don't disappear. That one day we wake up to a world free of wars, where everyone has enough to eat. We hope that diseases will be cured and loved ones made whole. We hope one day we're reunited with our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters; that somehow our broken families are brought back together. We hope someone will accept us and love us-no matter how messed up we are. We hope our children do better than we did. We hope there is a God, because without Him we know the law of the jungle will eventually prevail. But most of all, we hope there is a heaven, because then it all makes sense.