Saturday, December 12, 2015

'Tis Always the Season

'Tis always the season...

The season to be kind
The season to offer our hearts to others
The season to put aside that which doesn't matter for that which does
The season for love...for hope...for noticing

'Tis always the season...

We just aren't always ready

Today, at the grocery store, I had a moment.  Those moments are woven throughout our daily lives, if we are listening, watching, present.

I had Olesya, Joshua and Kenny with me as we did a little grocery run.  A little for us turned out to be $125, and that IS little for us! Haha!

As we were near the bakery, I was perusing the rotisserie chickens, when I looked up and discovered I was suddenly left all alone.  Olesya had wandered off to get something for herself, and the boys had been chatting away and then, silence.  I looked around after grabbing my bird, and there it was, in the middle of the market on a busy holiday weekend.

The Spirit was right there, and it came in the guise of teenaged boys.

I grabbed my camera a moment too late, I missed it by a split second, but I'll always remember it.

Josh and Kenny had rushed over to visit with two friends in town, Roger and Ivan.  Both men are older, and are developmentally delayed.  We brought Christmas to Roger several years ago, and he has never, ever forgotten it, and Ivan has worked at the food bank with us and has sometimes needed a "partner" to help him with his work, and Josh or Kenny has often been that partner for him.  In the moment prior to me pulling out my phone to take this picture, Josh was holding Roger in a long, warm embrace, and the delight on Roger's face was so evident, as was the glimmer in Ivan's eye as Kenny leaned over to table to more easily hear what he was saying.

These men might be different.  To some, I bet, they are even a little scary...because in our America today, sadly, "different" is scary.  But funny how the Spirit works, once you get to know the "other", they often become dear ones, and the fear dissipates.  

We are all one, there are only walls of ignorance and hate.  We erect them, and we have no idea what we are missing out on.

Reading online forums about connecting parenting, and seeing how desperately parents are trying to hang on to the souls of their children who have been battered and broken by a cruel world that has been unfair to the extreme with them, it is hard for me not to recall those early years with Josh, who fought love so mightily, whose own soul was one of those bruised so deeply we wondered if he would ever be able to feel secure enough to accept love, let alone offer it easily.

To watch this almost 13 year old young man rush eagerly to offer one of life's "others" hugs, warmth, and love almost brings me to my knees in gratitude.  Really.  The year has been filled with hard stories for me to hear, stories of relinquishment, of heartbreak, of loss of hope.  There ARE families who don't make it, there ARE kids who are so shattered that no amount of love or expertise will ever put them back together again.  At times, it feels hopeless.

But...there are the ones who make it.  There are the ones whose beginnings do not dictate their endings.  There are the ones who are courageous enough to reach out for love, trust it, and it changes them forever.

It also changes all of us, doesn't it?

This is the face of Reactive Attachment Disorder.  This is what stared back at me for 2 years straight, and that I often saw for 2 more years as his tormented and broken heart began the long road to healing.  This is the face of a child, who if he had not healed, would have had no empathy, and would have grown into the soul deadened adult you find in every prison:

To those not parenting it, this looks a moment that every parent has that makes them crack up as they try to sound serious when disciplining their child.  To those parenting a RAD child, this is a look of defiance, of perpetual explosive anger just waiting for the next opportunity to spring forth.  

And believe me, it is damned hard to hang in after day, month after month, year after year.  It is damned hard to keep your own heart pliable and accessible when the daily onslaught leaves you raw and hurting...and you know you have no choice but to trudge back into the connected parenting trenches the next day, doing the hard but invisible work of even something as simple as trying to help your child accept a hug from you without squirming, or having them look you in the eye.  That took until he was 6 years old.  

11 years from the time that picture was taken we have a healed and whole son, an incredibly affectionate, authentically loving and kind son.  An occasionally insecure son, but one who can talk about his fears, share those concerns appropriately, and can use coping strategies gained through years of long, hard work.

This is a season in which so many families are feeling empty, filled with despair, wondering if they can even hold on another day.  Their children are disregulated even more due to the holiday stress, old memories surfacing, and feelings they can not name.  For some families, merely surviving the holidays is considered a "win".

We've been there, we know what you are going through.  I am here to tell you, to reassure you that it CAN get better for many, many of your children.  It can if you can just hold out a little longer, keep your heart from closing permanently a little longer.  You are it, you are often their only hope, a large number of children absolutely can heal.  I know, I live with a houseful of them, and trust me, we are not exceptional parents.  We are not any different than any of you.  Well, maybe we are a little more stubborn, given our combined Italian and German heritages :-)  We have no secret formula, we screwed up a million times, and Grace brought us through.  It doesn't take "Super Parents" to help kids make it, it takes committed parents who never give up until it just becomes too unsafe.  I get that sometimes, there are no alternatives, but often we just need to hear from someone who has made it safely to the other side that it can, indeed, be done.  

My prayer for each and every one of you is that you can grab hold of something this season that gives you hope.  It may be just a moment when a child allows you to hold them, or smiles at you, or calls you mom to your face.  It may be another parent who offers respite care, who offers a listening ear, or who simply nods in knowing understanding.  

'Tis the season for hope, my friends.  May you blessed with a bucket full when you most need it.


B.A. said...

I have two of those faces looking at me every day. Every now and then a glimmer breaks through and renews my hope. after 10.5 yrs of that face I feel battered and broken for sure.

Kelly said...

Cyndi, Hi! It's Kelly - we travelled throughout Kazakhstan in 2003 while adopting our boys. I would love it if you could send an e-mail to me so I could talk with you about RAD. Carter started showing signs of autism at age 4, and we have since found out that he has RAD. We are having a really, really hard time with him, and I'd love to talk with you. It's