- up at 4:45, locate contacts
- 4:49 shower
- 5:07 get dressed; rescue hair and face
- 5:25 review seminary lesson
- 5:45 wake up 3 big kids, tell them to get ready
- 5:50 wake up the kids who fell back to sleep and tell them to get ready again
- 6:00 tidy house
- 6:10 family devotional and scripture study
- 6:30- teach seminary
- 7:20 scramble to finish hair, sign school forms, find coats, wake up little boys and get them ready
- 7:35 start the school drop offs
- 7:50 sit in the car for 20 minutes until I can drop last kid off
- 8:25 get boys home, feed them
- all before 9 am, people.
You should see the rest of the day. This is why the blogging is a bit slow.
Actually, things are going very well. The first few weeks of having five children I was forgetting to eat and sat down maybe three times total in a week. I’m sitting a lot more now and eating more than enough. We are out of survival mode and into the new normal.
We’ve adjusted well. The kids are acting like siblings: playing, fighting, watching each other’s backs one minute and ratting each other out the next. It is much less a contest for attention and more of an understood groove. People know where they stand and what is expected. The honeymoon is over, and real personalities are emerging.
I’ve known Dr. Jekyll for two months; he’s a lovely individual. In the past few weeks I’ve also gotten to know Mr. Hyde on a much more intimate level. And Mr. Hyde is one manipulative, crafty, angry, nasty little poop. He is fierce, but nothing I can’t handle. After all, my own children have been pretty challenging, so I have a few insights and a few tricks from experience. I am nowhere as naive as I was with my first born, and that helps. However, my biological children are very different from my foster children.
My children are without guile; they can’t manipulate their way out of a box. My children do not find smug satisfaction in other people’s trials and consequences. They do not have it in themselves to be truly devious, and genuinely prefer it when everyone wins. They are terrible liars, and they have a healthy sense of guilt. They are beautifully, wonderfully attached to their parents and to each other. Yes, they have intense emotions and they get mad and yell and hit and try on all sorts of naughtiness as they grow and mature. They are far from perfect, which makes them very typical. I see every day how living in this world is slowly teaching them less attractive traits. Most of those unpleasant qualities are, after all, necessary survival skills. To quote the movie White Christmas, “Surely you knew everybody’s got a little larceny operating in them? Everybody’s got an angle.”
The difference is that most people gradually accumulate that cynicism and sense of self preservation. The people who gain these skills when they are still, quite literally, babies do so because they have to. Aside from the good looks, charm and brilliant minds, these children are nothing like my own.
They are more like me.
It has been an interesting period of introspection.
I had many challenges in my childhood- challenges that without a good mother would have very easily landed me in the foster care system. The situations I dealt with demanded a set of skills not generally required for children. My life was survival of the fittest, and it was a good thing that I was an expert manipulator-it meant many of my needs were met, and in the process of learning to manipulate, I learned how to recognize others who sought to manipulate me for their own gain. It was a good thing that I was a convincing liar-it got me out of very dangerous situations and saved people I loved from getting hurt. It was prudence and wisdom to be controlling- I would have been more hurt than I was if I hadn’t taken that control on the occasions when I could. That control equaled protection. If I hadn’t known how to look out for number one at all costs, it is possible that I wouldn’t even be here today.
So when I look into the sweet faces of these children and I see sparks of malevolence and cold calculation, when I stand just outside a door and observe artful cunning and a cynicism far beyond their years, I get it. Yes, it is disturbing, but I’m not afraid of it. I understand where it is coming from and why. And I can shove that learned nastiness aside and see the person behind it, and see how frightened and how angry and how desperate that little person really is.
I turned out alright because I had very good parents. I had a mother who loved me unconditionally and a dad who made it a point to make sure that I learned that I needed to choose healthier ways to deal with life, and who had very little tolerance for the ugly behaviors I relied on. That wasn’t easy either. I was in trouble a lot, and mad about it. I understand it much more clearly now that I am parenting someone a lot more like me. I am this daughter’s personal brick wall. I am the knife that slices through her web of manipulation and makes sure it doesn’t work. I am the demanding maestro who is always a few measures ahead, because I practically wrote this song, and I know where she’s going to lose her rhythm and hit the wrong notes. She has to re-learn some life skills, just as I had to, and people don’t generally change and refine their behavior unless their current behaviors aren’t getting them what they want.
I try to balance the discipline with hugs and positive moments, but sometimes I still feel mean. However, it would be neglect to be anything but this persistent. Sometimes it is a little overwhelming. At the same time, I feel uniquely equipped to take on this role. I can see the hand of God in their placement in our home. I see through these kids, because when it comes to those unfriendly qualities, I am a master.
I am sure some of you who know me on a more personal level don’t recognize these attributes in me (at least I hope not!). I try to use my powers for good, as they say, because how we utilize the skills we’ve gained is, ultimately, a choice. These children have never had anyone present the other option. You can’t choose what isn’t offered, so they really can’t choose wrong or right, good vs evil, better or worse- they can only choose what they know. My parents made sure that I saw my options and the consequences related to those options. Choices and accountability for those choices was probably the most defining lesson of my childhood, repeated over and over at each new age and stage. I was a child who was desperate for control- and these new choices didn’t bind me, they offered alternatives that ultimately freed me.
I want to clarify that I am not entirely over all of this. I’m not sure if that is possible. I still struggle at times and want to revert back to these very basic survival skills, especially the control freak behavior. I am pleased to say that most of the other stuff is buried under much more positive coping skills. I hope I can pass at least a little of this healing on while these kids are with me. They won’t be here forever, and I hope they will be blessed with the same resiliency God gave me, and that wherever the next step leads they will continue to find those better options.