And then they came to our home
In some ways it feels I've spent my adult life preparing to raise littles who've experienced great hurt. My professional work, the academic learning, the purposeful thinking and organizing my view on attachment and what healing means. And then they came to our home and suddenly, I'm forging all those thoughts into practice right there in the moment. Sometimes I feel purposeful and other times I feel muddled and like I'm spinning my wheels on how to maneuver out of the tantrums that seem endless. Or the birth parent conversations our older kiddos share with us, which causes them such conflict and loyalty confusion.
The work of helping someone reshape their internal beliefs about relationships, trust, connection and rhythm is life's work. And yet, I find myself realizing important moments with our little guys where it seems like the only work I'm really focusing on.
I learned what I already knew
I've learned the best way out of Mr. Toddler's meltdowns (be they tired meltdowns, hungry meltdowns, too many transitions meltdowns or social workers were here for too long meltdowns) is to just pick him up and keep moving. Holding him close to me while I continue in my rhythm of movement and our life. It seems the best way to hold for him that life continues on and that feelings come and go. They get big, then bigger, then they fade, even when it feels they won't. Moving through our day with him right beside me for a little while feels right and it's working to help shorten and lower the intensity of his distress while helping me feel like I have a plan that's designed for him and our family.
Walk toward that light in really dark moments
I found myself one day holding his little hand to my chest as I took deep breaths and then slowly asking him to match his inhales and exhales to mine. In that moment I was just trying anything- ANYTHING- to help the screaming stop- no significant purpose, no big fancy ideas- just so badly wanting for both of us to have the chaos and yelling get smaller. And then right there I learned what I already knew, that life moves forward, in hard ways and beautiful ones. And my way of managing, as one of the lucky mamas to these boys, is to be the one who can keep us walking toward that light in really dark moments so that someday when you're old enough and brave enough you'll know you can do this when you're alone too. Most of the talks we have around these parts (real talk- like when were in bed trying not to pass out immediately after the kids are asleep) is what kind of moral compass we hope our kids have when they're old enough to move through this world with some autonomy and then we really think about how to do things to move us in that direction. We ask them to remember to say "sorry" not simply because it's a rule or that we need to have you act deferential to us, but rather because we believe humans belong to one another. And maybe there will come a day where someone steps up and apologizes for how hard things have been for you. And maybe that day never comes. Either way this unfolds, I wish for you to be someone who believes you matter and that you wish to give kindness to the world because you know both the pain of unkindness and the beauty of generosity.
We talk a lot as Moms about how to build rhythm. How to help our littles develop a sense of security and connection to their own bodies and to us as parents. I'm learning there are big gestures we do as parents, like making sure there's enough play space and toys for gross motor activity. Things like slides, swings, forts or tents to den and snuggle up in. And then there are the small ways we manage and move through feelings and distress, which are likely the more important choices we make as Moms. We're working hard on this one. Tantrums and meltdowns with kicking and screaming and tears are common. But for now, we've found a path out together. Moving slowly toward the light at the end of the tunnel. All together.
Foster Mom (the therapist)