Choose Kindness

Choose Kindness

I used to think I was a somewhat peaceful, gracious, and patient person.

Then I had kids. HA. And I realized, okay, I’m really not that patient after all.

Then we started foster care. HAHA. Well, that’s when I realized I’m actually a monster. Or at least I can be. Maybe not all the time, but there is definitely a monster somewhere there inside me that I have seen over and over again lash out.

Most people assume my family must be really nice, you know, for doing foster care and all. However, I kind of cringe anytime we get praised for it because I know what really goes down inside our home and it is often not very pretty.

In fact, we have many ugly moments. Then we have really ugly moments in between those.

Not to make excuses, but homeschooling three kids while also keeping up with my foster child and all that he is going through at school (and in life in general) has taken a toll on me.

On your average day, I am dashing from child to child, to math lesson to reading lesson, to calls from the social worker to calls from the principal (“Excuse me he did what again? Throw the desks and chairs across the room?), to therapist appointments to doctors appointments, to messy spills to meltdowns to fist fights. All the while, I cannot forget to throw some food on the table every few hours so we can all stay fed and hydrated and more importantly, not hangry.

That, in a nutshell, is a little bit of why monster Irene has been coming out as of late.

But then I look at my husband’s parents (my in-laws) who live with us, and they challenge me so much to be better.

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to get away from all the craziness for a long overdue date-night while his parents watched our kids. I’m always so grateful for their bravery and willingness to watch them even though they know very well how difficult they can be at times.

So off we went on our movie date and we had an amazing time. Yet just as soon as we got out of the movie, I checked my phone and saw a text from my 7-year-old son through my in-laws’ phone:

“This is Micah. Rell is not listening to me. And I kicked him in the head. I am sorry.”

Oh boy, I thought. What happened. Please let there be no injuries.

So immediately, my husband and I went to our phone and opened the Nest monitor app to see what the camera at home caught:

 

8:06 –
Grandma tells Micah and Rell to read together on their own while she gets the other two kids ready for bed.

8:10 –
Rell keeps screaming for grandma to come read to him.
Micah keeps telling him that they have to read together.

8:20 –
Rell begins rolling around on the floor still screaming for grandma to come read to him.

8:30 –
Micah says, “Stop acting like a baby.”

 

Did he say baby? Oh no, I thought. I then braced myself for what might be coming next.

 

8:31 –
Rell puts his fists up and starts yelling at the top of his lungs, “I AM NOT A BABY!!!!!”…
over and over again.
Rell gets in Micah’s face.
Micah jumps onto the bed.
Micah kicks Rell in the head Streetfighter style.
Rell falls down but immediately jumps up and slams Micah into the wall.
Boys are screaming and tackling each other full force.
Daughter stands frozen at the door and quietly says, “Um I think we should call mommy.”

8:33 –
Micah walks out of the room.
Rell is crying uncontrollably and shrieking so loud that I’m sure the police will come. Grandpa comes in.
Grandpa holds Rell and gently begins to rock him while saying in a soft, gentle voice,
“It’s ok. Good boy Rell. You’re a good boy. It’s ok. Good boy. You’re a good boy. Caaaalm down. It’s okay.”
Although still sobbing, immediately Rell begins to calm down.

8:36 –
Grandma comes in with Micah.
Grandma says in the kindest voice,
“Okay boys. Say sorry. Good boys. You are good boys. You are brothers. You love each other, right? Give each other a big hug.”
Micah and Rell slowly look at each other, snot still dripping down the face, and they say sorry.

 

Shocked at the grandparents’ ability to maintain composure, I thought, that’s it? I would’ve gone ballistic, psycho mom, on them if I were there. But that is always their choice of response–kindness.

 

8:40 –
Micah and Rell sit closely together on Micah’s bed and Micah reads Rell a story.
They 
even laugh together at the funny parts.

 

And that was it. I then turned off the camera recording, hugged my husband, buried my head into his chest, and let out a huge sigh of relief because we have come such a long way.

That fight might have appeared to be really intense to an outsider, but to us, that was great progress. And actually, incidents like that were already getting less and less frequent. Sure they fight sometimes, but through the struggle, they are also growing and learning to genuinely love and enjoy each other these days more than ever. We have many more moments of laughter, drawing, playing legos, having fun, etc., more than anything else.

The reason for this? I know it is largely due to what we are learning from my in-laws.

I’ve been growing too. In the day to day grind, I really make an effort now to respond with patience and kindness. For example, rather than to enter into a screaming match with a kid (and believe me I always win in volume and fierceness), I force myself to dig deep, deep, deep inside to reach in and find any trace of gentleness I can find. To hold back snappy responses and punitive consequences and to extend grace and patience instead, just as I have always seen my in-laws doing.

Their example alone challenges me to want to do better.

To choose patience, to choose grace, to choose kindness as often and as generously as I can. The world needs more ones like my in-laws, and my kids and I, for one, are tremendously blessed to be their children and witness how they live out their faith and love this way on a daily, moment by moment basis.

*And for the record, no one was seriously hurt from the little brawl mentioned above or any other brawl in our home. No form of abuse has been inflicted upon these children. Also, you have been given fair warning: never call a 5 year-old, “baby”… it is of the highest offense. 

 
image1-3.jpeg

 

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Proverbs 16:24

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
Isaiah 44:4

 

Advertisements

First Day of Kindergarten for Our Foster Kid

First Day of Kindergarten for Our Foster Kid

Our foster kid, Rell, just turned five over the summer and is now Kindergarten age. Since I recently made the decision to homeschool my own kids, I figured I would just homeschool him as well. Afterall, I had already done so much work with him not only academically, but behaviorally as well, and I couldn’t imagine a teacher at a school being able to tend to him and his special needs amongst a sea of other children.

His needs, I have come to see, are truly great, especially since he has come back to us after being taken away from his family for the second time. The mounting traumas he has experienced and the negative behaviors that have resulted from them are both great, and it has been difficult for even us to deal with it.

He is a different person since he was with us last year as a three-year-old. He was practically a baby then who knew little of what was happening back at home and innocently embraced us as his family. He quickly adapted to our lifestyle and learned what we taught to be right and wrong.

This year, now at the whopping age of five years old, he is already so much more aware of the crisis that have transpired. His emotions are infinitely more complex and therefore so is his pain. The resulting behaviors are more severe, and I, for one, am often at a complete loss as to how to respond to him. Really, it takes everything in me to simply remain calm and to not get all riled up myself when it seems as if every other minute there is something that sets this kid off into a rage.

It has become a daily battle to keep both his and my cool intact and to keep us from spiraling down into the snare of gritting anger and frustration… day after day, night after night.

But we’re not the only ones struggling. My oldest son (now seven years old) also has his fair share of grievances and a growing resentment which my husband and I have been desperately trying to keep at bay.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make them get along, to see the other’s perspective, and to empathize with one another. After all, the two were like best friends last year, inseparable really, and Rell had especially looked up to my son the most. Now, they have become like arch enemies, hostile and cold towards one another much of the time.

Well recently I was told that foster kids are required to go to public school, so I would not be able to homeschool Rell like I had planned.

Oh no, I thought. He’s not ready. I’m not ready.

You would think that we would all be relieved to have a break from having to address behavior after behavior, but instead, I became scared and even more stressed out thinking about how Rell would fare in school by himself. All my motherly instincts came out in full force.

Will they know how to talk him off the ledge when he gets all upset?

Will they take time to understand where he is coming from rather than just punish the behavior?

Will they wait for what can feel like an eternity when he is unable to gather his words and express how he is feeling?

Will they see how he is just a scared kid with a hurt heart and that his screaming and kicking and fighting is his defense?

I worried for this kid for his first day of Kindergarten just as much as, if not more, than my own kids.

The night before, I cuddled in bed with him a little closer and explained to him this and that, like how I would pack his lunch and also put a separate snack in the front pocket for his afternoon snack.

After a quiet pause, he asked in a timid voice, “but what if I forget?” He then buried his head into my arms.

That’s when my son chimed in from his bed on the other side of their room. He explained things to Rell that I didn’t even think to tell him.

In true big brother fashion, he said, “I’ll introduce you to my friends at the bus stop. It’s bus 777. I’ll walk you there too. But when you’re coming home on the bus, don’t forget to get off at the SECOND stop. One. TWO. Don’t get off at the first stop. Just look out the window and look for me. We’ll be there.”

I guess for my son, too, his brotherly instincts kicked in. No matter what qualms they had against each other, he would be there for him when in need.

So there we stood that bright and hot morning on the street corner waiting for the bus on the first day of school. My forehead was already glistening with sweat even though the morning had barely even started. Nervously, I stumbled around trying to think of what final words of wisdom I could say to Rell before the bus would arrive and tow him off to his first day of Kindergarten.

But it was too late. Before I could really say anything at all, the bus turned the corner and pulled up right in front of us.

All the other kids quickly crowded the curb, and a wave of hesitation and fear crept up on me as I’m sure it did to Rell as well.

Big brother, however, did not skip a beat. My eldest son immediately took Rell’s hand into his own and boldly paved a path to the door of the bus. He motioned him up the big gigantic bus steps and soon Rell’s little frame could be seen sitting through one of the windows towards the middle of the bus. I waved frantically to him and even ran with the bus several steps as he drove off and left the rest of us. I wanted him to know that no matter what happened at school that we were for him.

When the bus was no longer in sight, I turned back around to look at my children. It was then that I realized how much we all truly loved Rell despite all the difficulties as of late. I didn’t know what school would be like or if they’d know how to handle him well there. I also didn’t know if we really knew what we were doing at home either. But one thing was for sure and that was that deep inside, Rell is dearly and truly loved by each and every one of us.

My daughter whispered how she already missed him and wished he didn’t have to go. My youngest cried and hollered for the next half hour that Rell was gone.

And my eldest… well he quietly patted the little one’s head and tenderly said, “You love Rell? I know. I do too.”

Children, You Are Not Garbage

Children, You Are Not Garbage

Part of my decision to homeschool my children also meant (by nature of the job) that I am committing to remain a stay-at-home-mom, a position I quietly wrestle with from time to time. I think almost every American woman feels that tension between child rearing and going back to work because we are, in some sense, expected to do both or else we feel like we are not doing enough. Yet at the same time, trying to do both almost always makes us feel like we are not doing well in one or both areas. It is never an easy decision.

For me, I’ve really, really enjoyed being able to stay at home with the kids thus far, seven years in and counting. However, the thought of continuing to do so now for the next 10-15 years while homeschooling has me coming to terms with burying any possible hopes of a real career in the sand.

That is somewhat difficult to swallow.

Well anyways, this week, my children and I attended our summer homeschooling practicum (a sort of training week) to get ready for the year, and one day, the car was in the shop. Thankfully, the practicum happened to be less than a mile away from our house and it was a beautiful day, so the kids and I decided to walk.

We strapped on backpacks and lunch boxes, and on the way, I had lots of time to think about this whole being a stay-at-home-mom gig.

With the three kids skipping, running, prancing in front of me, I tried to envision my life moving forward and the questions kept coming.

Was I really ready to commit to this?

Then one kid stopped and threw off her shoes, fussing about the dirt that got in.

Could I really do this everyday?

Two began to bicker about who was faster.

Can’t I be more useful somewhere else at a more sophisticated job?

Another tripped and fell, causing a little blood to appear on his knee.

Yes, applying band-aid after band-aid and diffusing fight after fight, this is my life.

Then we turned a corner, and I looked up to see each little walking miracle continue on before me. The older so naturally took the younger one’s hand when getting close to an intersection and the other child hummed one of their favorite songs. They looked so big all of a sudden, so much older in a blink of an eye.

I couldn’t help but to marvel, and right away, I began to repent for downplaying the most beautiful job I have ever been given.

To be honest, I’ve recently come to dread the question of, “So what do you do for a living?”

An innocent and standard inquiry, I know. Yet somehow over the years, I have subconsciously taken this question to be a measure of how much value and worth I carry (maybe because of my insecurities) and it frustrated me. I know no one is trying to size me up by asking me what I do, but somehow I have always walked away feeling a little less-than for “just” being a stay-at-home-mom.… (although ever since I started working as a doula, I can say, “Oh I’m a doula!” and feel a little better about myself than being “just” a stay-at-home-mom).  

Well, I just want to take a moment to publicly repent (and also apologize to my children) for ever feeling any sort of shame or inferiority about staying home with my kids. I confess that I have subtly felt that way many times, but I only realized this while at the homeschooling practicum where I was surrounded by tons of other stay-at-home-moms who are so passionate about what they do.

It was absolutely freeing to be there, and by feeling this way, that’s when I realized it. I felt how relaxed I was, how I did not feel the need to prove or defend myself, or how I was not ashamed of not having a paid job or some “real” profession recognized by society or my kids’ friends or I don’t even know who else.

More than anyone, however, I knew it had been my own voice telling myself that I couldn’t be THAT proud of “just” staying at home. Sure, many people praise me and genuinely affirm me about what a noble task mothering is. Yet somehow, it has always felt a bit like lip service–almost like how one might feel for being praised for being the garbage man or the person who cleans dirty toilets. Sure, they get credit for doing the dirty work, but are they truly respected?

Well, since I’ve realized how distorted this way of thinking is, I just want to say…

CHILDREN, YOU ARE NOT DIRTY TOILETS AND YOU ARE NOT GARBAGE.

I’m sorry for feeling like spending my days with you was not good enough for the world, and I’m sorry I couldn’t always be so proud of the magnificent honor of simply being with you, and I’m sorry I ever wondered if what I was doing was worth it to anyone else. That doesn’t even matter.

My children are my TREASURE… they are pure GOLD to me. I am thankful that I even have the option to be with them everyday. Not everyone does. Not everyone has that choice. But I do. I get to choose being with them and I am SO PROUD of this high honor. It will forever be my greatest “job”… to put my hands to the plow and plant seeds all day and every day in their lives, in their minds, in their hearts and to be able to see them all grow before my eyes. I really don’t know if it will be one more year or 15 more years (God willing), but for as long as I am given the time, they will be the most magnificent work I have everhad.

Now excuse me as I begin my first steps to climb this huge rugged mountain called homeschool. I’ve counted the cost and I know it will be one of the hardest things I will ever do. But I also know that when I reach the top, that I will look back on life and behold the most breath-taking, wonderful views of memories so precious and rich that it will have all been so absolutely worth it.

Hosting Round 2, Homeschooling Round 1

Hosting Round 2, Homeschooling Round 1

I finally decided to take the plunge. I am going to do it. I am going to do what I thought I could never do and do what is perhaps one of the most difficult, daunting tasks ever recorded in the history of mankind.

YES. I AM GOING TO HOMESCHOOL.

Whenever I tell people this news, the immediate reaction is almost always shock, followed by questions of why and what happened?

Why homeschool?? Did something bad happen? Is the local public school not good enough? Are they not learning anything in their class? Are they learning things you don’t want them to learn? Are you afraid your kids will get left out, bullied, or maybe even shot?

While all of those things are sadly possible in today’s public school system, homeschooling was probably an even greater fear in my mind than most of those things. Keep all the kids homes with me and go crazy together every single day? No, thank you! I also used to think people only homeschooled these days if they absolutely had to because of some problem.

Homeschooling, to me, has always sounded completely overwhelming and at best, foreign and outdated.

Growing up, I did not know a single person who was homeschooled. If I ever heard of such a kid, I automatically imagined them to look like the children on Little House on the Prairie. They just seemed… different… and yes, unsocialized. I think this is the popular belief.

Yet in the last few years as a stay-at-home-mom, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting more and more people from this crazy, “different” population of homeschooling families. Different, but kind, intelligent, fun, witty, and actually, they look a lot like me!

The parents definitely don’t have it all together and their kids struggle with the same kind of issues as any other “normal” kid does. Yet what is really “different” is something extraordinary I see taking place in their homes through this journey of schooling their own children.

This is what I have observed:

Homeschooling is rubbing on each other the wrong way, gritting your teeth through sounding out words, and then learning that life is more than spelling lists and word problems. Homeschooling is trying to teach your kids everything they possibly need to learn from math to reading to Bible verses to character building (not to mention health, physical education, and so on), feeling like a complete failure, and then being able to just ditch the lesson for a moment to hug or cry or eat icecream together while learning grace. Homeschooling is overcoming countless obstacles, experiencing those precious and monumental ah-ha moments, and growing together yet another year. Homeschooling is bold, it is brave, it is bed-heads and pajamas all day long, it is pure awesomeness.

While some of those things I can honestly do without, I’m willing to endure those more difficult moments when I think about the thing I am most excited about when it comes to homeschooling.

It is this–homeschooling gives you the most precious and priceless gift of time, to really and TRULY do life and even ministry together, day in and day out with your children.

Yes, I know this might sound like absolute madness, and I’m sure that many days it will be. But I also know it will be amazing and so completely worth it. The best things in life are, and today I got to see a glimpse of this dream playing out before me.

Today, we accepted our second hosting assignment and brought home another little boy who will be staying with us for a short period of time. He is so reminiscent of our first hosted boy, Rell. They are both 3 years old, boys, and mixed half white/half black. He came in March during a snowstorm, just like Rell did, and he is just as sweet, fierce, and rambunctious as Rell. And just like Rell, one of the first things he did when he came into our home today was play on the piano.

And my kids. Again, I was amazed at the vital role each one played in bringing this one in. Even my 2-year-old, Moses! Without Moses coming with us to meet the boy, playing with him and warming him up at the office with his charm and smile, I don’t think he would’ve ever come home with us as willingly and joyfully as he did. It would’ve been another soap opera in the parking lot like last year.

Then when we got home, the new boy got to meet our two older kids and they have also hit it off ever since, playing like they’ve been friends for years. It is a gift my children carry, the gift of friendship, and they each are moving mountains in the spirit through their ministry.

Our children. Ministering. Learning about the problem of pain in the world through children coming from broken families. Learning to receive and extend the healing light of Christ. And together, witnessing Christ’s transformative and redemptive work. WHENever and WHEREver we go throughout the day, this is what we will be learning.

There’s nothing more I want them to know in this life and we are going to learn it together right in our home. In between math, reading, science, and the like, we are going to learn Christ and be able to not only be at home, but together, we will go out into the world to love those in the darkest of places. It’s going to be crazy, messy, beautiful.

Now I can finally say that I am no longer timid or scared or wary about homeschooling, but I am absolutely ecstatic to begin the most honorable and gratifying job I know I’ll ever have–training up my children full-time as their teacher, in every sense of the word.

And don’t worry, I’ll make sure they have a social life ;).

While I am completely uncertain how long we will go or if we will even make it through one year of homeschooling, I’ll take any amount of time we get with them as a gift!

I am ready to begin.

Hosting round 2 has begun. Homeschooling round 1 to begin fall of 2018.

…pray for us.

“Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)