The only way to change the toxic stress that may be poisoning your family life is to get on board a huge parent self-care regimen for yourself, that I wrote about yesterday, and a daily felt safety diet for your child.
Felt Safety Diet:
And there you have it: a healing Felt Safety Diet.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
The Attach Place provides a monthly, no fee Trust-based Adoptive Parent Support Group in Sacramento, every 2nd Wednesday of each month. Next group is November 11that a NEW time–5:30 pm. Join us. Online RSVP each month required when you need child care.
The Attach Place offers an 8-hr. Trust-based Parenting Course every other month. Our next course dates areDecember 5th and 12th, 2015. Sign-up by calling 916-403-0588 x1 or email email@example.com.
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Take a look at your calendar. If the word respite does not appear there, get to it.
I am really empathizing with those of you who cannot keep a good child care worker in your homes to spell you from the demands of therapeutic parenting.
I had this problem early on when my kids were little, hanging from the chandeliers, but finally found the best thing ever, my adult step son, to take the job for 8 or so years. Can you believe that? Every weekday and some weekends for eight years! When I look back on it, I owe my sanity to that young man who nearly lost his own some days while backed into a corner at knifepoint. True story. He never quit. He did not quit me or them. I have the biggest appreciation for him. Words cannot cover it.
As of late, it has been hard for me to keep a child care worker for our parent training events and our monthly parent support nights. I keep peeling them off one by one. There is no shortage of people willing to try; however, there is a limited supply of willingness to come back. I know many of you know this story.
Today, I am on my umpteenth round of solicitations on Care.com. I’m glad I have that resource. Overnight I have a new crop of bright-eyed helpers in my inbox thinking they have what it takes to step into your shoes for a few hours once in a while. I hope this let’s YOU know that raising attachment challenged children is nothing like raising attached children. Nothing–no matter what well meaning people say, All kids are like that, and such.
No, no they aren’t.
It was 4 PM and my contractions were intensifying. I still felt on top of them and naively considered that maybe I had grown more pain tolerant since my previous labor. This time around I wouldn’t want/need an epidural.
The nurse examined me and shook her head grimly saying, “You are only 3 cm dilated. ” She informed me that they had a strict policy to not admit women until they were at least 4 cm.”
I said, “But I’m 42 years old.”
The nurse looked at me sadly and said she’d check with her boss before sending me home. She returned looking positively cheery. She exclaimed, “Good news! We can give you a ‘pity admit.’”
Yes, it’s a thing: “Pity admit,” for those women who are managing labor so pathetically that the staff relents and lets them take a bed. Luckily, in the midst of excruciating pain, my pride takes a back seat.
I was instructed to walk around for an hour to speed up the labor, which I did with my husband, Randy, on my right. The contractions intensified more. I remembered my previous two un-medicated labors and insisted that we return to my bed so I could get the epidural NOW, to which they complied. The epidural nurse was magazine-beautiful with long blond hair. She announced, “I love my job,” as she stuck the needle in my back.
Then we chilled for four hours.
Finally the nurse said that I was 10 centimeters. The doctor arrived in 20 minutes. She was a slim, dark-haired, no-nonsense, energetic woman in her 50s named Dr. M.
Dr. M told me to push and I did as instructed. Except, Sam didn’t come. He didn’t move an inch. He appeared to be stuck. Not only was he stuck, but his heart rate decelerated every contraction, which was a red flag for the doctor.
I tried harder to push. Nothing. Sam didn’t move and his heart kept dropping. Then during one contraction, it dropped down so far that the nurse and the doctor grabbed me and pushed my knees to my chest while pushing me over onto my left side. I was exhausted and in a dreamy altered state so their intervention felt intrusive and strange.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
They pointed to the monitor and said that his heart rate had dropped too much. I knew they were worried.
This is my third child, third pregnancy, third labor, and so I know something that first time moms can’t possibly fully understand. Being a mother is a profoundly vulnerable experience because you realize that your child could die right before you, and even if they live there is only so much you can do to protect them from pain. The realization is searing. Every single parent bumps into a horrifying reality: ultimately, I am powerless. We do what we do to protect our little ones from danger and heal their hurts, but there is always that edge of powerlessness we must learn to live with at the cost of loving deeply. There is no way around it, and I hate it.
This was the first time I felt that fear with Sam. I squeezed Randy’s hand and he squeezed back.
The doctor instructed that I stop pushing. It was decision-making time.
Dr. M said that there were three choices:
The third option was the most risky.
The doctor replied, “Me too.”
When I tell people this part of the story they always gasp and express righteous indignation, “You should have told her to go get someone who knows what they are doing!!!” I don’t share the outrage.
I loved the doctor for this honesty. I loved that she gave me a choice and didn’t have an answer because that’s life and I imagine (If Grey’s Anatomy has taught me anything) that this is never truer than on the operating table. The crossroads don’t have definitive signs and cost/benefit analysis must be done in a split second. Sometimes intuition is our only guide. So when Dr. M told me she was scared, she let me know two things:
The next contraction came and I threw up. Baby Sam skootched over to the middle of my stomach. I decided to stay the course, for now. I pushed again. Dr. M looked at me. Her face 3 inches from my vagina, her hands ready to catch the baby, and then….She winked.
When I think of my labor this is the indelible imprint of the whole experience, not my baby’s arrival. Sure, that was earth shattering and transcendent, but my tiny OB perched between my legs with a smile and a big wink cannot be erased. It’s funny that we cannot escape ourselves. Even though this was a real life, cliff-hanger moment, my brain had the stamina and the gall to have an awkward social moment. “Should I wink back?” I wondered. I decided against it.
It was 1 AM. I pushed with everything I had left. With a mighty UMMPH, he slipped out and everyone cheered. He cuddled onto my chest and I held him close. Big love. One minute into a relationship with this baby and I already knew that I was sunk. I was totally and completely crazy in love with my sweet blue-eyed baby boy, Samuel Reed Olden.
Parenting with heart,
Jennifer Olden, LMFT
Daniel Siegel, attachment researcher, neuroscientist, and author of a dozen books on the brain, teaches us that we create a life that reflects our brain.
We create a life that reflects our brain.
This isn’t just something the mystics and the new age hippies espouse with their manifestation boards and drum circles. It’s hard science.
So, if we believe we are unlovable then we provoke rejection from our most beloved people. This is more than a cognitive choice. It’s a reflex. It has to do with the mechanics of our brain and the wiring of our early experiences.
I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on November 15, 2014. My five-year-old son just became a middle child instead of The Baby. Since then, Josh has provoked disapproval from me.
Example: Last night I was looking up how to use butternut squash in a salad and whether or not it was reasonable to add raisins instead of cranberries (it’s not) and Josh comes by and wordlessly shuts my computer. Then he ambles away, laughing hysterically.
He also ate half the tube of toothpaste, for the second time.
After I instructed him not to touch the muffin tray, he reached out anyway, and predictably burned his finger.
I said, “Josh, don’t stomp. You’ll wake up the baby.”
Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.
I said, “Don’t put the binky in Sam’s mouth because you’ll wake him up.”
Josh promptly put the binky in Sam’s mouth.
Josh drives me CRAZY. He doesn’t listen nor follow directions and purposely does the exact opposite of what I want him to do—just to mess with me, the exhausted post partum mom.
I am reminded of a Louie CK joke.
He quipped, “Before children when I’d see a parent yelling at a child in the grocery story, I’d think, ‘Oh that poor child. What is wrong with that mom?’ After I had children, I’d witness the same scene and instead think, ‘That poor, poor woman. What has that horrible child done to her.’
During one of Josh’s oppositional moments I accidentally visualized sending him outside.
“Go play outside,” I’d yell and then enforce it.
I pictured him behind the sliding glass door crying; his giant alligator tears falling down his cheeks. That’s Josh’s worst fear, I think, to be behind a pane of glass separated and rejected by the people he loves the most; and yet that’s exactly the response his behavior provokes. Luckily, I have Herculean mental strength and self control not to obey his command.
I’m not going to send Josh outside, because the other half of the story is this boy is
bad-ass and hilarious and so intensely loveable I couldn’t imagine loving him more (or less) for any reason. He shines.
Josh collected snails in a plastic 16 oz cup, set up a table in front of our house, and made a sign that read, ”Snails for sale. $4.00 each.” Only one snail was purchased by his sister and she got a deal; it was free.
Josh wanted to invent a diving board flinger to solve his sister’s fear of diving. He imagined that he could just push a button and take the choice out of it for her.
When his sister cried about a mean friend, Josh offered (at about two-years-old) to beat up the culprit.
He wore dresses like his big sister and when he started realizing that boys don’t usually he just put on pants, too, tucking his dress into his pants when he was in public.
Josh is obsessed with the regular boy stuff including cars, tools and trains and he also loves Origami, classical music, and drawing pictures. He has an uncanny ability to imitate other people and can run as fast as an 8 year old. He loves to dance.
My heart is tied to his every single day. I believe in Josh’s soul.
Yet, he provokes my irritation and anger and disapproval, despite my deepest feelings about him and my intention to fill him up with love and approval every day.
Parenting requires ENORMOUS self-control.
As an antidote to this nasty dynamic, where Josh was annoying me and I sent him disapproval, which made him act out more, which caused me to disapprove more, I started noticing what Josh was doing right.
I assigned him little jobs around the house like getting the water for my tea and putting a blanket on the baby. I praised him with every success. I ignored the oppositional moments—when possible.
Then one night, I put him to bed and listed all the things he did right that day. He said, “But I got into some mischief, too.”
I responded, “When I was a little girl, I did mischief, too.”
He said, “You are still kind of sneaky with popsicles.”
I told him that if he could see himself through my eyes, he’d never doubt himself again.
He put his arms around my neck and we cuddled till he fell asleep. I am shaping Josh’s brain right now so that he has a template for love. Even when he is struggling with being a middle child and acting out, he is still intensely loveable. In the end, he will see himself through my eyes and when he looks in the mirror, he will see what I see: A capable and fiercely independent but also deeply loving and affectionate, beautiful boy.
Parenting with Love and Laughter,
Jennifer Olden, LMFT
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
Our children do not cause our poor parenting behavior–yelling,
demanding, demeaning, belittling, overpowering, physicality,
threatening, arguing, meanness, etc. Those behaviors belong to us
and no amount of attachment challenge child behavior is responsible
for our “low road” reactions.
Because this is true, I have mastered the art of the sincere apology.
I often owe that to both of my children. Whenever I suggest that
parents owe an apology to their children before expecting their
children to sincerely apologize, I get push back like there is no
“Absolutely not!” retorted one parent, when I asked if she had
something to apologize for after she wrongly accused her daughter of
something she had actually done herself. “If she didn’t lie all the
time, I wouldn’t have falsely accused her.” Okay, but you did
wrongly accuse her, and really you owe her a sincere apology for
wronging her, right? “No.” Hmmmm.
If we expect our children to sincerely feel remorse and apologize for
their wrongs, then we have to model it first. Otherwise, we are
blaming them for our behavior.
Isn’t that what they often infuriatingly do to YOU?
Because Love Matters,
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
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Tit for tat, gets YOU back.