Enjoy it while you can
We’ve had a great couple of weeks around our house.
I wrote last week about how the younger two have been getting up, dressing themselves, and fixing their own breakfast without any parental nagging, but it’s more than just that. They’ve been playing with each other in relative harmony, doing kind things for each other, even apologizing to each other with what seems like actual sincerity. Twice in the past week I’ve had teachers stop me on the sidewalk as I’m picking up my kids to tell me how much better their behaviour has been in class. To top it all off, all three of them ate the salad I made for supper last night, without complaint.
It hasn’t all been perfection, of course. There has been the odd fight now and again. Getting them to bed after the Superbowl (late enough without overtime) was a challenge. And I still can’t get them to eat the vegetables I send in their lunches. But, the point is, for kids who understandably have difficulty regulating their behaviour as they deal with the trauma of prenatal drug exposure, then transition into foster family, then transition into adoptive family, and so on, it’s been a really drastic improvement.
So much so that one of the teachers actually asked what we were doing differently, encouraging us to stick with whatever techniques we had stumbled upon. Unfortunately, though there are a few things that I do think have contributed to their recent positive behaviour, I had to tell her to enjoy it while she could, because it might not last.
It’s not that the occupational therapy won’t still be useful. It’s not that journalling with them won’t still be a good outlet for their feelings. It’s not that praising them for the little things won’t still encourage them to make positive choices – just to mention a few of the things I’ve written about lately. All these things – and many other parenting tools we use – are great, and I think they really do help, but kids grow and develop. Their needs change. The techniques that work now might not always work.
This is especially true of kids who have experienced trauma like mine have. That part of them doesn’t just get solved once and for all by magically applying some sort of therapeutic tool. Their past hurts present differently at different stages of their lives, returning again and again. They might be coping well with those emotions now, which is great, but they’ll almost certainly need to cope with them all over again in a year or a month or a few days. And it might mean that we see some of those negative behaviours reemerge. That’s just the reality of their situation.
The key, as I told the one teacher, is really to appreciate these good times when you have them. You want to build your relationship with them now, form strong attachments now, create good memories now, reinforce positive habits now, when it’s easier. That way both of you have better resources to cope with the difficult times when they come around again, as they will. That way your kids can remember that working through the hard stuff is worth it. That way you can remember why you keep at this crazy gig called parenting, even when you’re struggling just to keep going
I’m not sure how long these good times will last, but I’m going to enjoy them while they’re here, and hopefully some of the progress we’ve made together will stay with us, even when the hard times come around again.