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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How a Book Changed My Life

As I mentioned in my last post, I just read the book, "The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family." If you are an adoptive parent, read it! If you are just a "regular" parent who feels you could stand to improve, read it! I bought the book more out of curiosity than anything else. Last week, we featured a therapist specializing in adoption at a seminar we put on at our church. She said she should get a commission for referring clients to this book. I figured it wouldn't hurt to read what these authors had to say. 

I have the book on my Kindle, and as I am sitting here typing this, I am looking through the fifty notes I made while reading it. How do I pick the most important? I'm not going to summarize the book, because I can't do it justice. If you want to know more about it, you can check it out here

You're probably thinking, "C'mon! Get ON with it already!" Ok, so here it is. Here's what I found out about myself while reading this book (I thought this book was supposed to be about adopted kids??): 

I am an emotionally distant, avoidant parent.

Remember my post about "Conscious Parenting?" I'm getting better. The Lord has woven this intricate tapestry of my life, and He has had all these things come together to work amazingly well together: the retreat, my desire to change, planting this book in front of me...they're all connected. This book wouldn't have had near the same effect had I read it a year ago, or even a few months ago. But even with my improvement, there were things I didn't know about myself. Towards the end of the book there is a "parenting style" quiz for parents. There were two options for each question. One answer would be considered "avoidant" (A) and one would be considered "nurturing." (N) Here's one example: 

"When you're talking to your child across the table, you comfortably reach out and touch her cheek or stroke her hair, and gently look into her eyes."(N) OR "When you're talking to your child across the table, your interactions are reserved and it's uncomfortable for you to make warm eye contact or reach out and touch her." (A)

Can you guess what my answer was? I am so devastated to admit that my answers were all (A)'s except for two. 

I don't think people on the outside would ever consider me an avoidant, disconnected, detached parent. But I am. It does not come naturally to snuggle my kids, to gaze into their eyes, to give them a warm hug "just because." I don't naturally give them a hug in the morning when they get up or smother their little faces with kisses at night. It is not natural for me. I, as awful and horrible and shameful as it is, am an uncomfortable, distant parent. 

I can have fun with my kids. I love going places and having picnics and making memories and baking desserts. I love to go on hikes and watch them learn and listen to them have deep conversations in their bedroom at night. But I never realized I was perpetuating a cycle of arms distance between parent and child. The authors wrote, 

"...Avoidant parents sometimes have the mistaken assumption that they're teaching independence by keeping their distance." Yes! That was me. I never wanted to "coddle" my kids. I didn't want them to grow up to be "sissies" or "weak" or "needy." I wanted them to be strong, courageous, confident and independent. And I thought the way to do that was to stretch out my arms and {not embrace} them, but keep them away. If I got too close, they would be too connected. They would need me too much. They would see my weakness. 

Please don't think I did this on purpose. I have always longed to be that cuddly mommy. I've enviously watched other moms who easily nurture their children and want nothing more than to hold them close to their heart. It's just that I've failed. Seven years have gone by since Mr. C came into our lives. And 7 years I have failed. Not in everything, but in something. Something so important, the Lord finally stopped me in my tracks while retreating from my daily life just a few weeks ago. He planted that seed of conscious parenting in me. And it sprouted. Then, it grew. It blossomed more than I ever imagined it would. But, still, seven years...I cannot allow myself to be suffocated by the past. I can only keep my eyes on what lies ahead.

The Lord has once before taken a burden from me overnight. There are many things that I've struggled with over the years, continually praying for help in overcoming. But 12 years ago, when I asked the Lord to take my bitterness away, He did. Immediately. And just a few days ago, I sat at the feet of Him who loves me and desperately asked Him to take this from me. Take away this hole in my heart, this unconscionable plague in my soul. Take away my need to be distant and fill it with your love so deep, so wide, that it fills me to overflowing. Fill me in a way that can only be credited to you. And He did. I felt that burden lifted just as I did 12 years ago when I asked the Lord to take away the bitterness of my youth. 

You know what I did yesterday? I hugged my kids. I read them books before bed. I complimented them. I told them how much I loved them and what I love about them. And it was phenomenal. 

There are so many things this book gave me. It described M-Dog to a "T." It filled my heart with compassion for these children I often forget come from traumatic, awful, hurtful pasts. It reminded me. And its words changed my life. And because of that, it changed my kids' lives. The Lord spoke to me through this book. Maybe He'll speak to you, too. 


Christie said...

I also love this book...and I am not an adoptive parent. Amazing! Thank you for everything you wrote.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Wow. WOW! I am amazed there is someone else who struggles with what I have struggled with for so many years. I am going to Amazon right now to order this book. Thank you for sharing, for your candor and for being willing to expose a "weakness" when pride would normally get in the way.

Tina said...

Thank you, Shanti. For the referral AND your honesty. You amaze me!

Maria said...

Can't wait to read this book. I love your prayer: "Take away this hole in my heart, this unconscionable plague in my soul. Take away my need to be distant and fill it with your love so deep, so wide, that it fills me to overflowing. Fill me in a way that can only be credited to you."

Cherie said...

Shanti, you are so inspiring and encouraging. There have been so many times I have felt myself a failure as a mom, and it's nice to read about other moms who struggle with similar issues. I'm not an adoptive parent, but I'm interested in the book. Do you think it would be applicable to me?

Shanti said...

Thank you so much, girls!
Hi, Cherie! Thanks for stopping by my blog. =) I truly feel this book is applicable to any parent. Yes, much of the info specifically refers to adopted children, but there is so much to be gleaned for a parent in general. I highly suggest it!

Pappy said...

It's wonderful being the one who breaks the chain of weaknesses handed down from one generation to another. You will now pass on a new way of relating to your children and theirs. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

You're a gem! Praise God for what He has done in your life!- Eun

S Gamble said...

I found myself avoidant with only one of my adopted children. I do find it difficult to nurture her who does not seem to want to be nurtured. May God give us the grace to love our children just like He loves us.

Anonymous said...

You brought tears to my eyes, Shanti. It would be easy for you to use your childhood as an excuse to continue as you were. Blessings on you as you work on becoming the mom that your kids need. You will find your own heart filling up, too! Tom and I have been so heartened by your life and your dedication to making a difference in the lives of your little ones. Karen

Christine Lichti said...

Thank you so much for your courageous transparency. You continue to inspire me to address my shortcomings and to allow the Lord to work through me. I'm buying this book TODAY!

Sarah Wieder said...

Shanti, I love you and I don't even know you! I clicked on your blog out of curiosity from Essie's blog, and I'm so glad I did! Your honesty really refreshed me and encouraged me to take a closer look at myself as a mom. Thank you!

Shanti said...

Thank you all for your encouragement! If you've liked this post, I'm sure you'll like some of my future "honest" posts I have brewing. =) Christine, can't wait to hear how you like the book!
Sarah, thank you for stopping by my blog. I'm glad you did!
Tom and Karen, thanks for your kind words. It means a lot coming from you two! You played an important role in my life, and I'm so appreciative of that!

sarah maizland said...

This is such an insightful post! Thank you for sharing! I will definitely get this book!

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