Stress: Can We Ever Decompress?

Another mid-week rainy and windy day. Upon picking up our oldest daughter from serving one of her two detentions (her consequence for an earlier in the week power struggle with her English-Language Arts teacher), we received another attitude full of sighs, “oh my God’s” and the teenage favorite rallying cry when tuning out parents “whatever!” This made going out for a little grocery shopping so much fun- the tension, the drama, and the animated discussions over how to get what we want by being respectful instead of dominating the proceedings.

After we would get one child in a better mood, the other daughter figured it was her turn to see if we truly know how to be worthwhile parents and can take care of her needs. So the evening time proceeds with crying, exchanges of stomping, yelling and running around the house. Can you tell we are experiencing a lot of stress around the house?

It’s amazing that 6 years into this adoption journey with my oldest and 3 1/2 years in with my youngest how easy it is for their minds to resort to protection, filling their heads with images that adults can’t possibly keep them safe and know how to steer them in the right direction. I don’t know how many times over the past week I’ve heard a variation of the phrase, “You can’t possible know what I’ve gone through.”

In one sense they are correct. I didn’t have birth parents who made a series of poor decisions that required state intervention. I also didn’t feel like I had to become an adult at such a young age, when my mind and body weren’t ready to make those choices. I do wish though that our track record together would allow both of my daughters to decompress and realize that there’s no problem past, present or future that we can’t work out together.

Worry unresolved festers and then can boil over in such a larger than life way. My oldest daughter tends to put the weight of the world on her shoulders, believing that if she asks for help it’s a sure sign of weakness and that people will think less of her. Humanity depends upon the kindness and support of others- we aren’t creatures designed to be isolated and solitary. We would love her to get to the point where she comes to us immediately in the moment she’s ready to step over in her mind from tolerance to anger and just say she needs someone to listen to her. I’m all ears.

The toughest part in all of the swirling trauma can be the tone of voice and attitude that comes out with the words. People pick up on non-verbal cues so much faster than the words themselves- and we often can’t help in resolving their issues until we get past the attitude. You can’t help someone who’s angry when they are angry.

So my wife and I have made a pact of sorts. When they attempt to turn their frustrations onto us as parents, we will find a way to laugh within our minds and stride along. I’ll make sure they are safe and secure, but I need to find my happy place and show that spreading the pain out amongst the family is not the answer- love, patience, faith and understanding is the way to go. I will bowl- I will walk- I will find movies and television shows that make me laugh- and I will read to keep my mind occupied.

Maybe the new Journey Live in Manilla double DVD will come in handy as well- as songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’ “, “Wheel In the Sky,” “After All These Years,” and “Any Way You Want It” bring joy to my head and heart. I’m never giving up on the fact that these girls will come out on top- they are survivors.

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