And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
We first stayed with friends we had known through homeschooling in Santa Cruz. When we lived there we were part of a mom's group that would meet twice a month at Marie Calendar's and talk about homeschooling or intentionally NOT talk about homeschooling. We simply enjoyed each others company, acknowledged the struggles and ate really good salad, or potato wedges or dessert. It was a great time, in Cool, California (name of a real town!) and they were so hospitable!!! Little did they know I was observing. This mama has 7 children and she always speaks so gently to her children. She has a boy who has impulse control issues similar to my guy yet she addressed him with such calm. She always had a gentle word and a smile. I sat in wonder trying to figure out how she did it. I often find myself going into the black mama "oh no you di-int" place when a child is rude or rebellious. She reminded me of Marmie with her calm and welcoming attitude. I didn't have a notebook to take notes with, but the computer in my brain was filing it all away for processing in the future.
The second home we stayed in was in Boulder Creek California right in the redwoods! She also does foster care and, in addition to the two bio and one adopted already, she is adding four more to her home. It was so fun getting to sit and talk and just "be". Again I found myself watching her interactions with her children. Again I was with someone who had a son similar to mine who had a very similar background to mine. What I noticed in this mama was how "present" she was in her home and with her children. While I am always near my children I am not always with my children. This mama, and her grown and nearly grown daughter, also had the knack of being present in a situation. More filing and processing.
Our next stop took us to Lompoc, California, near Santa Barbara, to our friends with 10 children and one on the way! Unfortunately we were only able to spend one night with this dear family. With 12 people in a three bedroom house there has to be some order. What we noticed, and my 17 year old daughter said out loud, was that the children didn't ask "why" when the parents told them to do something. Get this...they just went and did the task! Now, these kids weren't little lemmings without any character or spunk. The filing and processing continued.
My husband and I had a chance to process all the information on our 18+ hour drive home. As foster parents we are required to complete 20 hours worth of training each year. This training includes 6 hours of face to face training through classes and the rest can be classes, videos or books. These books have a lot of information but are often written by people who have lots of clinical experience but very little parenting experience. Normally when I read a book or learn about a "new method" I want to apply it all at once and find myself burning out in just a few weeks.It was wonderful to "live" the experience in these homes and with these families who faced many of the same challenges we face and see where they were successful and what we could apply to our parenting.
Here's what we took away and how it has impacted our home and perspective.
1. BE the calm: We have some children who are like little land mines with issues buried under the surface that can be triggered at any moment without warning. They may not be able to control themselves or their immediate reaction but by being the calm for them we avoid an explosive chain reaction that can lead to shrapnel flying in every direction and emotionally impaling non combatants. Being the calm (similar to the boneless chicken I wrote about before) allows me to respond instead of just reacting and the outcome is much calmer and the "behavior uglies" tend to fizzle out much more quickly.
2. BE present: Stopping what I'm doing so that I can simply BE has made a big difference in the attitudes of my people. This doesn't mean I don't get anything done, but if negative behavior is beginning to bubble and foam stopping what I'm doing, even for 15 minutes, makes a difference in helping to reset the situation for a more positive outcome.
3. NO "why": Okay, this doesn't mean my children can never know the reason for things but it does mean I expect obedience first and then when the task/job/request is completed they can know the "why" behind it if they're still interested. I love teaching my children and helping them to understand the world around them and how it works, but 9 out of 10 times they didn't care about the "why" in the first place they were just stalling.
So be encouraged, dear mama's. Observe, sift and use what might work for your family. Be the positive influence in your home. Do not grow weary in the good you are doing in your home. There will be a glorious harvest someday.