Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Kindness...and Judgment...of Others

Today was a rough day in some respects, and ended on a great note. It started out challenging as we headed over to Soccer/Bible Camp. We went last week and it was Tokie's first real outing with a large group here. He loved the craft and story time, but really didn't care for the soccer part. We have since noticed that he does not seem to enjoy anything physically active, and we think much of that is due to his previous lack of experience with sports and outdoor activities. He gets tired when even walking two or three blocks, and his endurance...probably due to malnutrition...is non-existent. So we are trying to slowly get him involved in things a little bit at a time, to encourage him to do more physical things like jumping on the trampoline, running around playing tag, etc.

When we arrived, he did not want to participate in the soccer portion and then proceeded to get obstinate and pouty about it. He kept sitting down in the middle of the field and I told him 3 times to get up, and finally he got kicked in the face with the soccer ball and his lip bled. I felt sorry for this little string bean of a boy standing there crying, blood dripping slowly from his lip, crying out for me saying "Mamma...mamma". So I picked him up and we went to get cleaned up and then returned, and I tried to explain to him that I asked him to stand up for a reason, because I knew he could get hurt by pouting and flopping down on the field refusing to move. I then told him to get back out there and play, and he really got angry but did it...and surprise, surprise...when he tried to do what he could, he really got in there and hustled and even got the ball a few times! That is, until he decided it was too much and went back into Pout Mode. Then he tried to walk off and when I called to him he turned to me and said "Nyet" and kept on walking. Oh boy, wrong thing to do to this mommy....so I got ahold of his arm and pulled him aside, and kneeling in front of him I let him know in no uncertain terms that he is never to say "no" to mommy or to walk away when I call him. That's when the meltdown happened, his face crumpled up and the sobs started...and I got some pretty disgusted looks from a couple of other older woman around who saw what was going on. I am sure they thought I was just the worst mommy in the world and felt so sorry for him...heck, at that moment I felt sorry for him too!!

It is proving to be hard on my soul to be the mommy I think he needs me to be right now, and yet turn a blind eye to the judgment of others. It is all so complicated to explain, and I really don't owe anyone witnessing our "moments" an explanation, but I always feel as if I ought to offer up some sort of excuse for why I am doing what I am doing. I had the same thing happen often with Josh, one time in particular when we were out in a department store and he was throwing a royal tantrum over something and wanted to leave. Well, as those of you with RAD kids know it is all about control, and if we left with him that gave him the power over the circumstance, so we had to let him scream it out in public rather than do what you might do with a "normal" kid, take him outside...we simply couldn't let him win this particular battle. Oh man, the comments I endured as we walked around trying to be casual and ignore his outburst while others shot us dirty looks and cast pitying glances at Josh. This was only one ocassion, there were millions more like them.

Today brought some of that back, and it was hard and disheartening to me. Why is it that those who have never parented a child from the unique circumstances that ours come from feel so knowledgable and can judge what and how we do it? Why is it that firm discipline today comes across as mean and unsympathetic? What would those bystanders have me do...have my child, who has no real understanding of what can and can not harm him out in the "real" world run behind a car backing up, or lick a steak knife because I didn't have the guts to teach him quickly that "no" means "no" and that he HAS to listen to mommy and daddy? How can I explain that there is a 3 year old lurking in that 8 year old body in terms of life experience, and that the 3 year old is going to test me over and over to prove my mettle as a mother, that in order for him him feel more secure in the long run I MUST create firm boundaries even though he might get mad at not getting his way, so that he can trust that I will be strong and can really, really parent him and keep him safe.

I don't know which is harder, parenting a child who has been hurt by life, or taking on the scorn of others.

Just as you begin to feel down in the mouth about it all, someone comes along and offers to lift you up. Thanks to a wonderful family who gave up an hour of their time tonight to translate for us over the phone, we were able to explain many things to Toktogul and to have him ask us questions too. It was so helpful and so encouraging, and we appreciated it enormously. The delight on Toktogul's face as he was able to express himself after a couple of weeks of near silence other than pantomime was palpable...and the fear he carries at the thought of further surgery and pain that he knows lies ahead was obvious. My poor little guy has done tremendously well under circumstances that would drive most adults to tears. Thankfully, this family has a better understanding than most of our son's background and I know that what we wanted to say was fleshed out a bit and made clearer to Tokie. They translated conversation about school and the trip to NY, about summer camp and house rules. They were able to share with Toktogul that we will never send him back to Kyrgyzstan...ever...and that we think he is doing an outstanding job and we understand how hard all of this is, and that starting school will be scary but we'll be right here to help him. We told him he is a good brother and a good son, and we love him very much. Many things I wish I had the language to tell him every day, and I hope he carries it in his heart as we struggle through these first few months.

I also realized today and was able to verbalize that one thing that is bothering me right now is that I can not explain things to him and that goes totally against my grain. I always explain things to my kids, reason with them, and share with them...and then if they don't like what I am asking of them too bad, but at least they understand the logic behind the request. I feel like a Bad Mom right now because I don't have the ability due to language constraints to be the kind of parent that comes naturally to me.

So this is a time of learning for all of us, and a time to turn our backs on those who don't understand and accept the support of those who do...or at the very least even if they don't understand trust that we love him and know what is best for him and our family. I look at Josh and wonder where we would be with him right now if I had fallen victim to worrying too much about what others said about how we parented him...what kind of child would he have become?

As I watched all 3 boys yesterday I grabbed on to the fact that they...and only they...can really show me how to parent. Toktogul had to have his first of many vaccinations yesterday, and as he sat there on my lap being stabbed at with needles 3 different times, sobbing, he had his big "little" brother Matthew wrapping him in his arms, near tears himself as he tried to console Toktogul. Later that day as Tokie accidently ran over Matthew's toe with the trike he jumped up and hugged him as he was crying and apologized over and over for hurting him. As both Matthew and Toktogul helped Joshie on the merry-go-round at the park I thought to myself "Go ahead, judge me...it doesn't matter what you think, the only thing that matters is what they think!".

So we continue on, this little family of mine...trying as hard as we can to get it right, knowing we will fail sometimes, learning as we go along. I am so grateful to those who care and have offered help, and it overshadows those who would stand back in quiet yet obvious judgment.


Julie and John Wright said...

Just hang in there.... God will give him lots of friends in his life time, but he has given you the responsibility of being his mother.
The disciples referred to Jesus as Master, but at the end of their time together after three years of training, Jesus said to them " No longer call me Master, for now you call me friend because you know my fathers will who is in heaven"...
If you remain firm with him now, he will be around to call you friend in the future!
Know that we are standing in the gap for you in this time of transition.
Blessings John

Cindy LaJoy said...

Thanks so much John, that was something I really needed to hear right now. Keeping perspective at moments is hard, but you are right that he doesn't need a buddy or friend, he needs a mom and dad, something he has never had and needs to learn what family is all about. Thanks for keeping with us right now...Cindy

Anonymous said...

The best advice I ever got on parenting was:

Love and Limits.

Without the love, the limits becomes oppressive.
Without the limits, the love becomes permissive.

God gave your children into YOUR hands, not anybody else’s. And for the record, every mother I know has felt rotten at one time or another because we had to enforce tough love. Sometimes I have had to go off by myself and cry harder than my kid was crying when I had to be tough with them. We have had missed birthday parties, missed desserts in restaurants, standing in a corner at the end of a hallway in our church building, early beds, sitting out on the side of the pool, etc. But in the long run, it is worth the effort and the kids are much happier. When you put the effort into teaching them that “no means no,” they learn to trust you and that you will keep your word. The whole family is happier, because parents are able to put energy into enjoying time with their kids instead of constantly reprimanding them and having them ignore you and then mom or dad gets angrier and angrier and eventually looses it. Hang in there, and keep up the great parenting! ; )

Love and blessings,

Peggy, mom to 2 Bobeks in Virginia

Cindy LaJoy said...

Amen Peggy!! And where are you when I get all those looks? Wouldn't it be fun if just once you had someone else standing by your side looking at the naysayers saying "Hey...you...what are YOU looking at???" hahahaha! I will save that quote as it is right on the money, and I have often thought about how much I enjoy actually being with our kids, and honestly it is because 98% of the time they are well behaved, decent, kind kids who when they are grown will likely be exactly the kind of person I would pick as a friend...at least I hope so! Thanks for the reminder, and letting me know someone is in our corner :-)


Christel Ann Cook said...

Good job sticking to it! This parenting stuff... well, the consistent teaching and discipline, is hard... I frequently am told "he's just a baby!" but i know he knows the standards and I have to make him stick to it... so i also consistently receive comments like, " your so lucky, he's such a good little boy!" And i always think, if I wasn't the mean mama, he wouldn't be! So ... You go girl! I love your blog!

Mama to Alex (Uralsk, Kazakhstan) b11.8.05, a10.26.06
Waiting for Referral of Kimi from China LID 8.8.06
Paperchasing for #3 although they may be #2... Kazakhstan