Friday, January 27, 2012

no idea what i'm doing

There's something about dealing with a challenging child--challenging for any reason whatsoever--that hurtles a perfectly competent, even experienced, parent down the Path of Self-Doubt and General Craziness.

Shu has been a Cranky Pants the past few days.

I wish I understood more reliably what sets him off.  Really, REALLY wish he could tell me.  Like, I get the food issue, or being told no.  Check.  This bath episode?  Not a clue.  

Today after lunch we went outside to play.  He was ticked from the beginning.  Weird issues with stepping down (or up), crossing over barriers, even while holding my addition to all the other bees in his bonnet.  He wigged out about stepping off the porch.  Holding my hand, mind you.  I wasn't shoving him over a precipice.  I know that I could have acted in grace and compassion, lifting him gently and lovingly down over the step.  Instead I said Nope.  Stand up.  We're doing this.  So he's crying, snot dripping, tears pooling in the flat place between his eyes, and I am physically forcing his feet and legs where they need to go.

OK.  Fine.  Not the first time, and won't be the last.

There's a step down from the garage floor onto our driveway--a one inch difference.  Shu has been scared to cross it, to walk out onto the driveway.  So we've practiced in the past, me holding his hand.  I'm not trying to traumatize him, but come on...this is a very manageable task, I think, for a 20 month old who is walking very steadily. 

I looked up from my leaf raking (and by "raking" I mean using our deep snow shovel...brilliant! dump leaves in bags, arguably the biggest time suck ever) to see Shu walking alone, back and forth, in and out of the garage.  An activity that looked at casual glance like nothing at all, but actually reveals much about Shu, his personality and the way he learns.

Amazing.  This look of studied concentration on his face, like I am so totally going to conquer this today.  And I'm sure he was also thinking I'm really regretting all the grief I've given mom about it in the past 'cause now I fully grasp that she is just trying to help me learn and grow and so maybe I'll stop throwing a tantrum every time she wants me to try a new task.

Yeah.  Right.

So what's my point?  Something about trying to figure out what makes our kids tick and how hard and when to push them, when to back off.  Something about knowing them.  It's a huge part of parenting, right?  I give Absent-Minded Professor piano lessons (and every other lesson since I home school him), and I know precisely how hard I need to push him--pretty dang hard!--to get the best out of him.  And it works!  He simply would not perform as well for any other teacher right now. 

But with Shu I have this constant nagging feeling that

I. Do. Not. Know. Him.

What's scary and sad and profound to me is that no one else knows him any better than I do.  He lived in an orphanage for 13 months, longer than he's been my son, but how deep is one's knowledge of a child who spent the majority of his days lying on his back in a crib?  Could they possibly have known how strong-willed he is, or how playful, or curious?  I know they didn't have any idea how physically strong he would become. 

But I did.  So I often decide to press through the tantrum...his, mine, push him to do what I believe he's capable of, what will actually make him a happier child.  Not so much with his speech delays.  That's going to require way more back off than push for the time being.  See!  Look at me, figuring that out!!! 

I'm learning.  I'm winging it.  I'm failing forward in my quest to know and grow my son and his heart.  I'm trusting that God gives wisdom generously so that at least some of my thoughts are actually His thoughts.  What sweet relief.

If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.                    James 1:5 (MSG)

Okey-doke.  Maybe I'm getting it right more often than I realize.


Nicole said...

Goodness do I know the feelings that created this post. Just yesterday Brooklyn and I started into a 20 minute face-off because she decided she didn't want to walk when I asked her to. I asked nicely a few times, then in a more forceful manner a few times ... that escalated to yelling ... which then escalated to time out, multiple times. After 3 or 4 rounds of that, she finally caved and signed sorry multiple times, even after the episode was over. WHY?!

I'm convinced, as I think you've written before, that God gave us these children because we are just as strong-willed as they are. LOL. Parents who will do what it takes to bring the best out in them, even if it means pushing them further than they want to go, although are perfectly capable of doing it.

You are certainly not along my dear friend! We have daily episodes like the ones you've described ... a lot of times it's more than daily. I have tried to let it roll off my back and usually do, but there are some that really shake me to the core and leave me asking questions that I cannot answer. Only He can. And I feel blessed to be part of His plan.

Rita and John said...

Good job, Mommy. :) Sounds like you are handling everything amazingly well. And look at how far your little Shu has come!

anything but LoKEY said...

I push too. I think it proves our love for our children when we don't just feel sorry for them but we have the tenacity to push them to go beyond what the world considers their limitations. Bio and adopted alike.

We too have some crazy battles of hard headed-ness about weird things. It happened more at the beginning than it has in awhile, but it was weird things like not wanting to get out of the bed by herself or open a door by herself (even though she was quite capable). So I'm with ya.

Keep up the good work mama. I am convinced that we are better at this thing than we think because when we are weak then He is strong. :)

Stephanie said...

The pictures of him walking in and out of the garage...what must be going through his mind.

I applaud you pushing him to do and try and practice and grow and totally understand the frustrating of being met head-on with stubbornness.

It is an exhausting endeavor, this mothering thing...and then you add on top of that feeling like you don't really *really* know the child and ... well, it brings a mother straight to her knees.

You. are. awesome.

Krissy said...

look at that... sometimes we just need to journal our journey and see how far we have come!

you are amazing, jumping in, two feet, right into the middle of a life and you are grabbing hold of every ounce of jesus in the process...

like she said... you. are. AWESOME!

TeamOehlkers said...

I ditto the total and complete AWESOMEness that you are. :o) You inspire me and there have been times when your words have kept me going.

Reaching for the One who can help is the only way. We can never truly understand what our adopted kids went through before we met them. We had no part in who they are in any way before they were placed in our arms. I read something somewhere that talked about parents with biological kids and adopted kids... When your biological kids are driving you nuts at least you have a reserve of happy memories to draw from to get you (the parent) through and past the bad times. With our adopted kids, we have no reserve of happy memories to draw from and that is so hard... so hard for us parents to bounce back as quickly. Or at all sometimes.

I pray for you to see Shu healing and growing and trusting. Baby steps are sometimes the hardest to see when you are so up close ;o)


Mary said...

I hear ya -- every word. But on any given day, I'm questioning my knowledge of all of children, biological and adopted. But admittedly, with Gracie, I seem to be even more paranoid about the decisions I make. Thanks for making me feel like part of the club today!

Hannah said...

Love your posts, Jerusha. Blessings and much grace to you!

Johanna said...

I so get it.....those exact feelings I have had as well. And, that!!! Thank u for being real and helping me to not feel alone. :)

thewonderfulhappens said...

I know exactly where you are coming from. We are over 2 years in and I still doubt myself about when to push and when to back off. We are seeing a therapist together now--one who specializes in adoption and it does help because she seems to reinforce what I am doing. Because she agrees, and that gives me more confidence. It seems most of my decisions WERE right. As I would guess most of yours are too. Keep up the good work!

Gena said...

You are a very wise and attentive mother, J! Love the pics of him going back and forth over the garage threshold.