Archive for June, 2011

Aunts vs Mothers and a Sneaky Way to Get a Cupcake

June 30, 2011

Yesterday I read a post by Rage Against the Mini Van blogger Kristen Howerton in which she bemused the fact that she is a better aunt than mother.  Her post REALLY hit home for me.  I have long known (and felt guilty about) the reality that the children in my life who call me Aunt Ju Ju get a far better version of myself than the children who call me Mom.  Aunt Ju Ju is fun, interested,  energetic, always supportive, and somewhat spontaneous.    Mom on the other hand is often busy, tired, a stickler for “the way things should be done,” and practical about activities and timing.

Like Kristen I know that there are some natural reasons for this but even so her post really called me to consciousness.   So I decided to do for my kids yesterday what I would have done for my nieces or nephews had they been with me.  Just for a little while I put work aside.  I had an extra long snuggle fest with one child, helped another child with a project he’s been working on, and when they talked I really  focused on exactly what they were saying.   I removed the distracted sounding  mmmmhhhmm’s and uh huh’s from my response repertoire.   I learned  I really CAN live through  a long winded story about Pokemon and can even find intelligent questions to ask about it.  After all, I would have done that for my nephew!!

Then I paused aunt mode to go to a work meeting and returned to find my son staring at the television.  I snapped it off and asked him what he REALLY wanted to be doing with his time.  (Aunt Ju Ju would NEVER use the TV to entertain a niece or nephew.) Without missing a beat he replied, “Let’s go to the shopping center and walk around.”   I was suspicious of this request as he hates shopping, but I conjured my spontaneity (usually reserved for nieces and nephews) and hopped in the car with him.  When we arrived I asked him where he wanted to go and was confused with his “I don’t know” response.  But when he added “we can go to places you like AND places I like” and then threw in a mischievous smile  I was on to him.  We were parked directly across from the specialty cupcake store and my son has a notorious sweet tooth.  Shopping had never been his intention at all.   He knew Mom probably wouldn’t have said yes to driving across town for an overpriced cupcake piled with delicious frosting but he had been pretty sure (and correct) that I would go for shopping.   We had a good laugh together when I called him on his plotting and then since Aunt Ju Ju definitely would have bought a niece or a nephew a ridiculously priced cupcake in we went.

I know Aunt Ju Ju can not come out to play everyday for my children and I don’t think they would really want her to anyway, but for yesterday it was a pretty good thing for everyone, even me.

 Heart of the Matter Home


Floors, Parenting and Procrastination

June 29, 2011

I just finished one of my least favorite jobs–cleaning floors.  I don’t mind doing laundry, dishes, gardening, even cleaning toilets!  But I really hate sweeping, mopping and vacuuming.  I put it off, am grateful for our hardwood floor that hides stuff and curse the older kitchen floor that shows everything.  When I finally make myself get started and just do it, I realize that it’s really not that bad and am glad to have clean floors when it’s over.

Today as I finished the hated kitchen floor, it occurred to me that this same phenomenon happens with parenting sometimes, especially parenting kids who have needs that go beyond the typical.  Here are a few examples:

Establishing a parent as the primary caregiver.  It’s hard to shuffle work schedules, put a career on hold, change jobs or start working from home.  It’s also hard to settle into change of pace and meet the new demands (and yes, sometimes boredom) of doing the hard work of daily parenting.  But, we know it’s so worth it to be there building those important foundational pieces of brain development and accompanying skills like trust, cause and effect thinking, impulse control, empathy, the ability to self-regulate emotions, etc….   I have never met a parent yet who regretted putting in the extra time with their child, just like I’ve never met anyone who regrets having clean floors.

Starting AND MAINTAINING Time In.  I’ve talked to many parents in the 13+ yearss since we first started presenting the idea of “Time In” in our live seminars.  Once folks understand why it makes sense and that it really does establish parenting authority, competency and boundaries, they are anxious to put it into use in their homes.  It’s not much fun to get started and it takes self-discipline and a commitment to see the job through, but it’s so worth it in the end.  Much like cleaning floors, only doing Time In halfway just highlights the mess.  

Utilizing professionals when necessary.  I don’t think any of us intend to avoid using professionals to help our families anymore than we intend to live in a pigsty and yet, when we put off actually making the appointment (or pulling out the broom!) in essence, that’s what happens.  Similarly, just as it’s not enough to pull the vacuum cleaner out and then not follow through actually vacuuming, it’s not enough to visit a professional and then not follow through *all the way* with a new parenting plan, therapy or other recommendations they have, provided they make sense given the research and what you know about your individual child.   

Being proactive.  This is the first piece of the parenting plan we highlight in Because They Waited.  It is so, so important!  Picture a small sticky spot on the floor.  If not cleaned up, it gets tracked around, dirt and gunk sticks to it and before long it’s just a bigger mess!   Same goes with issues that our kids have.  Most kids don’t come home severely impacted by their early months or years in less than optimal care–they come home with mild to moderate effects.  And yet, if we procrastinate parenting to those issues in a concerted manner, those issues usually just get bigger.  The look of them may change, but it’s often the same core issue just making a bigger mess.

Heart of the Matter Seminars

Keep International Adoption an Option (part 2)

June 24, 2011

The orphanage (a former jail) the children are currently living in.

I want to draw your attention to 16 little ones who are growing up languishing in a Vietnamese orphanage, even though they have families desperate to bring them home.

I’ve blogged before about the cost of stopping international adoptions in light of concerns about corruption.  No one wants to turn a blind eye to corruption.  As adoption parents and adoption professionals, we have to be a vocal and active part in helping to protect vulnerable individuals involved in the adoption process.  And yet, removing international adoption as an option for children who have no other opportunity to grow up in a family does nothing to solve problems–it simply shifts the burden onto the shoulders of the most vulnerable individuals involved–

the children.

Gabriel Loc--referred to his family at 5 months of age, now 3 1/2 years old.

Sure, if international adoptions are stopped, we’ve stopped potential problems with corruption.  But, we’ve also denied these babies and children one of the most basic human rights, the right to grow up in a family.  Even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child  allows that if a child does not have a family (birth or adoptive) in their country of origin, then international adoption is an acceptable alternative to growing up without a family.

All of this sounds theoretical, but we cannot lose sight of the real impact, the burden of which is borne by the children who wait and continue to wait…  and wait… and wait… in conditions no individual could ever, with a clear conscience, condemn a child to.

This photo is of 3 1/2 year old Thomas and was taken in May of 2011. The children are losing weight.

      •  inadequate nutrition (approximately 1 cup of rice per day; very little protein or vegetables)
      • no medical or dental care (1 child died in 2008; all of the children have extensive tooth decay)
      • frequent skin disorders (scabies, heat boils, ringworm)
      • oppressive heat and humidity (heat indices regularly above 100 & no air-conditioning)
      • cramped living conditions (15’ x 20’ concrete room with 11 children in a room)
      • sleeping and eating on unsanitary and filthy floors
      • little stimulation, toys, play time, or education
      • inadequate supervision (often 1 caregiver per room and left long periods of time unsupervised

Source–“Bring Home the Bac Lieu 16” Facebook Page

For three years the families who were adopting them at the time of the

Nate during a visit with his mommy.

shut down have done their best to “parent” from afar.  They’ve made many visits bringing supplies like food, milk, clothing–things that we tend to take for granted.   In January, officials barred further visits, making the children’s situation even more precarious.  Even so, these folks are still “parenting” by advocating for these children.

You can help.  Here’s how:

Sign an online petition.

Email and request action on behalf of these 16 children and the families waiting for them.

Little Claire Yen running to greet her daddy on a visit he made last August. Please help make this a permanent reality for all 16 of these precious little ones.

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