Sometimes you have to meet people where they are at. Not where you would like them to be- but where they are in the moment. There may be time as you establish a relationship to push them to heights of achievement they didn’t know possible. At first though, I believe you need to establish footing and trust is the best way to do so.
We are currently reacquainting ourselves with our youngest daughter. Last night while my wife attended a concert she had been looking forward to for half a year, we had a chance to bond for many, many hours uninterrupted. I could tell she was a little afraid- not that I would do anything wrong, but that she would be upset at some point in time and lose her cool.
We played a card game that she learned at one of the treatment centers she was at. We played 5 games. I lost all 5 games. I didn’t lose on purpose- she won and beat me handily every time. I wasn’t mean spirited in terms of losing, we laughed and had a great time.
Then we sat and watched a movie on television. I love her infectious giggles at certain parts in the movie- as it was one she had seen before and I hadn’t. When it was time to go to bed, she asked me questions about how dark the room was and then when I told her calmly it was time for sleep… she dosed off into the night.
Flashback six months before. She struggled to hand me a remote control without thinking I was going to hurt her. She would shudder at the thought of sitting on a couch next to me. She wouldn’t let me get two words out of my mouth before interrupting me. The transformation is like night and day. And I know she is willing to do the work to become a working, successful family unit- just as we’ve wanted in the past.
Have there been bumps in the road? Of course. She occasionally says things when she believes she’s being funny but actually come out mean-spirited. At other times she’ll get stuck on what she needs to do next and will panic, reverting occasionally to losing her cool. Yet we haven’t had a full blown tantrum in the four days she’s been back- and every day that she doesn’t blow up, that’s been a good day. We stole the last line from her current therapist- who reminds to look at small victories instead of going for the championship in one day theory of parenting adopted children with mental health issues.
Bottom line? Let everyone in your life know you care. You don’t have to go out of your way with big gestures. A short phone call. A hug. Time out with them participating in one of their preferred activities. Your full, undivided attention means so much to another human being. It shows that you have empathy, you are willing to extend yourself to others without any hope of compensation.
Just like the road that finally got paved outside our apartment complex, you can always repair previously damaged relationships but it takes solid effort on your part and the willingness to take things one foot forward. I love my family and I welcome many more memories like this one in the very near future.