Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Shout out love

To the couple who picked up the tab for our five squirmy and rambunctious children at dinner the other night:

We arrived at the restaurant with five very hungry and tired children. We had almost opted for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the hotel in preparation for our long drive home. But God had other plans. He knew we needed to be encouraged.

Last week the children and I joined my husband on one of his business trips. He flew out ahead of us, and I drove the children several states over to the state where they were born. While there, we visited with their previous foster family and then we spent a few days at museums and parks. Being in their home state triggered some varied responses in my kids. Although they intellectually know that adoption means permanency, when you've spent between 30% and 75% of your life in foster care, it takes some time for emotions to catch up to reality. 

To say that last week took its toll on me is an understatement. It may not have been as bad as our first few weeks together, but it was definitely a giant step backwards. 

So, when the waitress approached our table tonight and mentioned you, I was sure she was going to inform us that you complained about my son who was constantly peering over the divider to see what you were eating while repeatedly saying, "mommy, I'm really hungry," or my daughters who were using outside voices at an inside table while calling me a "meanie."

Instead, our waitress said that you had paid the bill for our bouncy bunch.

Thank you.

You have no idea what a blessing that was to me. 

I had some time to reflect last week while driving, and I realized that trading in a career for motherhood is essentially exchanging back-breaking work for heart-breaking work. 

This is certainly true for all mothers. But, those of us who parent children with histories of trauma often have to deal with an added layer often unknown, misunderstood, or even ignored.

You may not know how each trip to the store, each ride to the park, each day at school is a game of Russian roulette. 

Will my older children throw tantrums at the store? Will one of my kiddos scream at the top of her lungs in public? Will another one threaten to kick me in the face if she doesn't get what she wants? Will one bite the other? Can I just get through the checkout line without an argument that turns into a shoving contest complete with blood-curdling screaming? Do I correct my child and risk adding fuel to her fire? Or, do I ignore her defiance while judgmental eyes think that they would never let their child speak to them that way?

I thought I was largely past the multiple successive tantrum phase (and I don't mean by my soon-to-be 3 y/o), but this week was a reminder of how far we've come. To be honest, I am just glad that the people in our hotel who heard our chaos won't recognize me at the pharmacy. 

I read once that what many people don't realize is that, while "normal" children (and by that I mean children blessed enough to live with the parents that gave them life) have episodes of defiance and rebellious behavior, children who come from trauma have much longer lasting episodes...tantrums that last for hours, days, or even weeks; high-pitched screaming coming from kiddos waaaay past the tantrum throwing phase. Or, in our case, children who are learning boundaries that differentiate between private expression and public expression of frustration.

A few months ago, our middle child coined a phrase during her bedtime prayers. Now each night she prays that God would help us "shout out love" to those around us. I love this visual. 

"Mom," she'll say, "do you know what it means to shout out love?" 

"Tell me," I reply.

"It means to be kind to people you don't know."

To the couple who shouted out love to us last week....may you be blessed beyond measure, and may God's blessings be returned to you in "a large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over." (Luke 6:38)

"‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.’"   ~Matthew 25:40

"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." ~Hebrews 13:2

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