They Have Their Own Trajectories

Wisdom For Adoptive Parents
Dear Parents,
I received a cryptic email last week by accident, as it was not meant for me.  It was, however, a sentence sent to someone else about the email I sent to you about children from difficult beginnings and what “healing” involves. The upshot, if I interpreted it correctly, was something like, What happened to my child then, because s/he doesn’t fit with the tenets of this email?
This is what I know. You can do everything under the sun to the best of your ability:  Theraplay, coherent narrative work, playful engagement, withhold punishment to foster felt safety, and your child may still have a life trajectory that is not what you had hoped.  Further, some trajectories are ultimately tragic.
Things that happen in utero, at birth, and within the early years set a life course for each of us.  Then add to the equation genetic make-up, epigenetics, parenting and attachment styles, and you get quite a complex situation that no fixed set of interventions can overturn. I feel grateful when children grow, learn and become as much of who they are as they can, while parents accept, love deeply, and let go of unrealistic expectations.  That, to me, is the definition of healing.  Things like college, career, relationships, children, and other satisfactions of life are part of the big picture no one has complete control over. Sometimes the ugly side of life takes over and carries your child in directions you can hardly stomach.
Personally, my children are incredible human beings.  They have survived dreadful early circumstances and both have quite a genetic load of mental health issues.   Growing up, each had to deal with my attachment challenge entwined with their attachment and trauma challenges to find a way to grow, mature, and develop identities that allow them to keep going every day. The fact that we all survived and love one another is quite a feat.
Do I wish I had been able to whip up a miracle that would have launched them off to college, or on to a trade or talent?  Do I wish I hadABRACADABRA’d a strong enough relationship to shape their idea of the perfect life partner? Do I wish their mental health were more stable and their dysregulation less? Do I wish they could have experienced being students in regular high schools, the freedom to drive a car, the thrill of trying out foranything and getting picked?  Do I wish more for my children?
Yes. Yes, I do.  I feel sad when my children struggle; when they cannot explore the world or hold down a job or avoid homelessness.  I am heartbroken when I imagine that a relationship with a lifelong partner will likely be ephemeral at best.  Just yesterday my daughter came by urgent to shop in my kitchen for food because she hadn’t eaten in 5 days.
But here is the rub: I also rejoice when my children laugh at a joke, have friendships, connect with me over a bowl of ramen, and find small, satisfying things that give their lives meaning.  Isn’t that another definition of success? Both of my children are relatively happy despite their often precarious circumstances.  Is that good enough?  For me, it has to be.  What I hope and what they each have are like pages from several different books.  They don’t go together, so why try so hard to put them into the story I want to read?  We will all be disappointed by that futile effort.
How I manage my own grief is to emotionally release my children from living the life I want for them.  I accept them as they are, not as I want them to be. I love them unconditionally.  What they do with their lives is up to them. It is their trajectory.  Not a particularly novel idea, but it still seems new sometimes.
If you are a therapeutic parent who has dealt with your own attachment issues and trauma; if you have sought Theraplay and a zillion other therapies; if you have given yourself the gift of rest and friendship to nurture yourself along the way; if you use regulation skills and taught them to your children; if you did your best to heal your child’s wounded heart and intervened to support mental health; if you did all that, maybe success is in the definition. Perhaps healing is, too.  Acceptance of what is is the only thing that works in the end.
Love Matter,
The next 8 hr. Trust Based Parent Training is scheduled for February 20th and 27th from 12noon to 4pm.  $200 per couple.  Childcare available for $30 each day. To sign up email and she will register you.
Monthly Adoptive Parent Support Group is every second Wednesday of the month from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.  Group and Childcare are Free.
Look for Ce Eshelman’s Upcoming Book
Drowning With My Hair On Fire
Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents
Expected Release Date: February 15, 2016
Drowning with My Hair On Fire is a compilation of over 175 daily support letters to parents of adoptive children and other children from difficult beginnings.  With a forward by Dave Ziegler, Ph.D. and a brief personal memoir, this publication is a response to blog-reader requests for a book of letters that can be easily returned to day after day, when inspiration is hard to find.
Praise for Drowning with My Hair On Fire
This woman saved our family. This book will save your sanity! After years (and many therapists) of getting it wrong, Ce Eshelman got our traumatized family on the right path to attachment, sanity, and big big love. Ce’s unique therapy is grounded in the latest brain research, her own struggles raising traumatized children, and work with hundreds of families like ours. Her stories, contained in this book, are our stories: full of pain, confusion, hope, faith, love and practical magic that really works.
Elaine Smith, Adoptive Mother
Ce’s daily blog has been a lifesaver, particularly when days are most dreary and hopeless.  Not only have her words of empathy proven to be priceless to our family, but I have often forwarded them on to others.  Such a comfort to feel understood, with no judgment.
Patty O’Hair, Adoptive Mother
In a real sense “Drowning with My Hair on Fire: Insanity Relief for Adoptive Parents” is a daily mediation of struggle, success, failure and getting up and trying again.  If that sounds like too much to subject yourself to then don’t adopt a challenging child.  And one more thing, shouldn’t we require prospective adoptive parents to read “Drowning with My Hair on Fire: Insanity Relief for Adoptive Parents” rather than another ‘All they need is love’ manual?
Dave Ziegler, Ph.D., founder of Jasper Mountain Center and author of many books on raising children from difficult beginnings.
3406 American River Drive, Suite D
Sacramento CA 95864

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