Category Archives: Parenting

Parenting: Mischievous Two’s

Our little angel is still tucked away, hard asleep this morning. I normally feel grateful for these quiet mornings while the rest of the kids are at school, but today I am clinging to every last second of peace and sanity. Angel? Amelie is the sweetest, most loving little button alive. Lately, however, I’m concerned her two year old psyche has been hijacked by demons!

Terrible two’s? Probably. She came home at 11 months old, delayed in all areas due to institutionalization, so it makes sense that her terrible two stage isn’t starting until almost three years old. She’ll be three in a month. At two, she went through all the usual stuff, including getting into everything in sight. She has always had to be watched closely, but when she did something naughty she willingly put herself in time-outs. She was always so eager to please. She still has a bit of that looming in her head, but the screaming and crying has started (albeit the spells are short-lived, thank God) and yesterday she was lying on the floor and kicking her bedroom door.

Mischief or terror? How about walking into the living room to find she’s holding a pair of scissors, has a sofa pillow unzipped, and she’s starting to cut the fabric? How she got hold of the scissors, we have no clue. The boys keep craft boxes, and it’s possible she knows how to work the latches, but I have never seen her do that. Then there was the time, two days ago, when she was under the sun room table licking the cement floor… don’t even ask me what she was licking because it makes my stomach turn a thousand times… all I’m going to say is that we have dogs.

Yesterday was insane. She was grabbing every single object off the kitchen counters, from knives to scissors, to pens to salt shakers and dishwashing soap. She’s gotten a lot taller, and while I’m preparing things she keeps grabbing everything she can. When my back is turned for even a second, she’s done something crazy. She took a large popcorn bowl, filled it up with what appeared to be spit bubbles, and then proceeded to scrub the sun room floor with our dish towel. That all happened when I stepped out to use the bathroom. Next thing I know, she’d gotten the Windex (which I was using earlier, so it was sitting on a shelf I mistakenly assumed she couldn’t reach) and was spraying it on everything, including the pets, and used pieces of clean laundry out of a nearby laundry basket. She’s also been taking items, like dish towels, silverware, and edible items, and just tossing them into the garbage. God only knows how many things we’ve lost that way.

It’s not so much what she’s doing that has us loopy (although she has upped the ante considerably, and is really testing boundaries, bigtime) but the rate in which she’s doing these things. Yesterday I made sure to remove all pens, markers and crayons from the sun room. Poor girl can’t even draw alone any more because of what she does with them- eats the crayons (normal for this age, I know) and uses pens and markers anywhere but on paper. I was getting dressed yesterday for 5-10 minutes, and the next thing I knew there were crayon scribbles all over the sun room windows, all over a large glass cabinet, on the tiled kitchen floors, and I even discovered marker scribbles on the sofa. All of that happened after she’d been told no markers and no crayons for the afternoon. She’d seen me put them all away, and even uttered a little “Okay, Mama.” My point is that she seems unstoppable! We’ve been hyper-vigilant about putting things away, but we live in a small house where stuff ends up under couches and sofa cushions, and Amelie seems to know where everything is. She thinks, “Take away my crayons or scissors? I know exactly where we’ve stashed extras.” Of course, she gets reprimanded and put in time-out. If she’s tantruming in the chair, she’s sent to her room to cool down. She cools down within seconds, and it’s all over. Not much of a consequence, when I think about it. No wonder she isn’t deterred from having so much fun!

Bottom line: Amelie is testing her boundaries, seeing what we’ll do, what she can get away with, and making sure she’s safe and taken care of within those boundaries. I get that. It’s completely exhausting, and I felt it last night when I hit the mattress.

For now, before the tornado of Amelie awakens, I’m going to be cleaning out every nook and corner, every single box and cubby hole, under every sofa cushion, and behind every cabinet. I’ll make sure nothing is within reach. How to do that is beyond me. I’m often asking the age old question that all parents ask, “Why can’t she just behave?” We could say that about all our kids. Oh, life would be so easy… far too easy, not to mention boring. Daniel and I find ourselves laughing about these antics at the end of the day, and they will make for some interesting stories when Amelie is older. She keeps life fresh and interesting. Of all our five children, Amelie has definitely won the Mischief Award!

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(RAD) Parenting: Scolding = “Mom Hates Me”

Compliments, support, and encouragement are part of my role as a parent. Those are easy, and usually welcomed by any child. Reprimanding, correcting, enforcing consequences, sticking to rules is not as easy, and in this household it feels like a crime. My conundrum lately has been: what on earth is a parent to do when the latter sends a child spiraling into an abyss of anger, sadness, depression, self-loathing and contempt for his parents? Well, I should say contempt for me, specifically, because even if Daniel does the correcting, Sky decides it’s me he’s upset with. It makes no difference that the scolding happens with the most calm and firm tone. In Sky’s perception he’s flawed, not good enough, we’re pointing it out, therefore we must hate him, and as a result he hates the mother figure more than anything. The extreme reaction takes the attention off what he’s done, and skillfully places it upon those scolding him and what they’re doing to harm him. It’s his way of punishing us for punishing him.

This extreme reaction is not a typical problem most parents of psychologically healthy children deal with, so I’m hesitant to write about it. I have four kids who have handled corrections the usual way, so I know what it should look like. Most parents will not understand where I’m coming from, but I know there are thousands of parents out there with kids who have serious attachment issues, so maybe I should write about this stuff anyway.

This is a daily issue, and it occurs multiple times throughout the day. RADish children (those with reactive attachment disorder) tend to misbehave around the clock, and they make a sport of it. Everything is a game to them, they’re rarely straight with parents about anything, and are always, always, always seeking control. This makes being in the authoritative role of “parent” the most difficult role on the planet. It’s a lose-lose position to have, and the pay is terrible unless you’re willing to do some major inner work on yourself. In that case, it can be an enormous blessing, like winning the lottery. But at the end of the day you still have to bring your strengthened, empowered, healed, and more wise self back home with someone who despises you 80% of the time. That takes a great deal of self-discipline and mental focus– focusing on yourself and the well-being of the entire family far more than the one RAD child, which the child also despises. Have I lost my non-RAD parents yet? I wouldn’t blame you.

This morning’s scenario: I switched on the light to wake up Prasad and Sky for school. Prasad usually gets up first to use the bathroom while Sky lies in bed, whining. This time, Prasad was walking to the bedroom door, and Sky ran, shoved him aside at the top of the stairs, and bolted out the room to be first in the bathroom. It was extremely rude, and Prasad was very upset by it. Sky said nothing. No “excuse me” or “sorry, I have to use the bathroom badly”… nothing. I told Prasad I’d have a talk with his brother, and not to make it a big argument. When Sky came out of the restroom, I took him aside and in a matter-of-fact way pointed out his behavior and how rude it was, and that it hurt his brother’s feelings. Again, no words, he just walked away and went to get dressed. As he walked away, I told him I wanted to hear an apology to his brother this morning.

When Sky came down after getting dressed, he was pouting and sulking. His whole demeanor had changed, and he seemed very depressed. One would guess he felt guilty for treating his brother badly, but when asked what’s wrong it’s always about himself, and me disliking him. He also says often that he’d prefer it “if everyone could be nicer” to him. He feels victimized every time he’s told that he’s done something disrespectful, unkind, or dangerous, regardless of how others are affected. This is a core problem with RADish children- they have little empathy, they think the world is out to get them, and they work so hard at making sure it doesn’t. He has stated that he’d like it if we didn’t point out what he does wrong, and that he’d “be happier and nicer that way with a more open heart.” So, if he has to follow rules and keeps receiving corrections, he’s going to continue being unpleasant? The logic used to make my head spin, but I no longer try getting inside his head. I remain in my own, rational, nurturing & maternal mind, and let him know I love him. If I didn’t love him, I would never correct or scold  him for anything because I wouldn’t care. I remind him in a very matter-of-fact way that all the people in our home have the very same rules to abide by, I speak the same way to all of the kids, and love them all equally. He knows this is true on an intellectual level, but he can’t seem to grasp it emotionally, especially when he’s been corrected.

I guess the difficult aspect for me is the sour taste after every incident. The very real sense that while he’s being corrected, he’s thinking about how much he dislikes me.. feeling it. It becomes so personal. From our past discussions, I know he’s always wishing he were back in Guatemala, and never adopted in those moments of being corrected. It’s the old Grass is Greener on the Other Side Syndrome. Darkness pours from his eyes, yet I keep flooding love back at him through mine. It’s an exchange that often leaves me empty until I fill it up with love for the light that I know lives inside him. I’ve seen and felt it, so I’m well acquainted with it. Being despised, and remaining loving through all that negative energy is the key. That’s the test. It’s why I have a RAD child. It’s difficult, but I’ve learned it can be done. To scold or not to scold? By definition, I don’t mean yelling and criticizing, but loving corrections. Everyone needs those. Love goes beyond warm and fuzzy feelings, or making your kids happy in the moment. I don’t know about my RADish, but I’d feel pretty lost and forgotten if my parents weren’t paying enough attention to how I treated others. This role I have to play is more than tough, but I’m playing it out; I will compliment, support, guide and even scold as long as I truly love my kids. Anything less, and I would understand being despised. For now, I need to work at letting that wounded darkness go. It’s heavy, and I’m sad it’s there, but it’s not mine to carry or heal. With parenting, in the end it’s all about ourselves and our own growth… RAD is one of the greatest fertilizers on the planet.

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Update: Sorin’s Blossoming Independence

Sorin is settling in quite well to her new home. She’s remembering to take out the trash every Monday evening without reminders… that’s better than me! She’s also been keeping her home nice and orderly. She’s actually very particular about her home, and takes a lot of pride in keeping it clean. Most importantly, she’s been getting herself out of bed for work. Did I just say that? It’s a miracle, considering she always relied heavily on Daniel and I to pry her out of bed every day (it was never easy). That was one reason we thought she might never be able to live independently, but she’s proving otherwise. Up at 6:0oam on her own. Honestly, I’m amazed. I always thought she was capable of a great deal, but she’s slipping into the role of responsible, independent young woman more quickly than I ever imagined.

She still has her kitten, Sookie (pictured above). When Sorin is away at work she worries so much about her being left alone. She calls me a lot to see if I can check on her. While home, she’s such a pampering mother to her. Lucky kitten! They keep each other company, and Sorin really seems to be enjoying her solitude and refuge from the hustle and bustle of our family. What I’m loving most are the phone calls… she calls me, and we sit and talk for 5-10 minutes at a time. Funny how that happens once kids move out. My mom and I talked more when I was finally on my own, and it’s a tradition I’m really enjoying with Sorin now. We’re clearly going to develop a strong friendship, which is heartwarming.

Here’s the icing on the cake: Sorin has a position as a nurse’s assistant at the hospital. The two-year internship through Project SEARCH will help her gain more competitive job skills, and she’s completely thrilled about her current position.We haven’t gotten all the details about her duties yet, but Sorin is beaming with pride, and so are we!

And as I have promised, pictures of Sorn’s new little 400 square foot house are coming. Amelie and I are checking on the house today, so I’m hoping to post them very soon!

Posted by: Jill

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Surviving the Week

Six days. I’ve survived six days straight, alone with four kids in the home, and I didn’t lose my mind. Not once. It’s a complete miracle. I’ve never stayed home this long while Daniel was away, and it wasn’t as difficult as I imagined.

Maybe I’m speaking too soon, considering I still have about 18 hours remaining before Daniel gets home. He’s been on an inspiring, week-long  spiritual retreat, and it’s helped immensely that he called me at least three times a day to share all the peace and joy. It also helped a great deal to see a friend’s pictures of him on the pilgrimages and outings. (Thank you, Mei!) Since I’ve been there many times, I was able to re-experience it all with him in my mind and heart. He’s really glowing, which warms my heart. The main feeling I have today is a deep joy and gratitude for the fact that he was even able to go; that he could miss work, and that I could hold down the fort for him without ending up in a straight jacket.

The kids have done reasonably well, too. They’ve all spoken to Dad at least once a day, and I kept updating them on what he was doing each day. We’ve all felt very connected to Daniel. Amelie started saying “Coo-Roo” for guru this week (super sweet). Behavior-wise, I had a few challenges with Sky (very up & down), but nothing new and no surprises. The key seemed to be keeping him very busy with peers, outings, and a basic schedule. Liam had outings 5 hours/day M-F, which was a Godsend. I haven’t lost my mind, and if anything I am doing better than ever. God gave me every ounce of strength and endurance I needed, and then some! Now, I can’t stop counting down the minutes until I get to see Daniel’s face.

This picture really made me smile. So much happiness at a dinner gathering! Left to Right: Joey Moore, Amy Davis, Daniel, Annie Jablonski, and Mei Ling Moore

Blessings from Br. Achalananda, Vice President of Self-Realization Fellowship

Daniel on the grounds of our guru's home (Mother Center at Mount Washington)

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RAD Parenting: Just One Day of Truly Unconditional Love

Mother = Unconditional Love, correct? That’s what I’ve been taught, but it isn’t always that easy, nor is it realistic when we’re all flawed, imperfect, and unenlightened human beings. In my nineteen years of motherhood I’ve been close, and I only mean close to giving unconditional love. The only true unconditional love in this world comes from God, saints, or truly enlightened beings, but mothers are very, very close. That said, I’ve had my challenges with a child who is determined to push me away, never tell the truth, deceive the whole family, and cause us to feel completely unsafe in our own home. I experience hourly knots in my stomach, have become hyper-vigilant, and was diagnosed with PTSD. The whole experience is a massively painful boulder God/the Universe/my guru has thrown at my head.. ouch! Instead of throwing it back at him or running away from it, I’m embracing the boulder because it’s from Him; chiseling away for the hidden diamonds inside. I’m determined to master the art of unconditional love in this lifetime, so what better stage to be on than with a RAD (Reactive Attachment Disordered) child.
Unlike most days, this day was filled with harmony. I should say, rather, that I myself was filled with a harmonious acceptance about life. Could it be that I awoke refreshed after a long night’s sleep and meditated for almost an hour, or that my husband is on a spiritual retreat and he keeps calling me with incredible insights, or could it be that every time I observed Sky’s negativity, constant deception, and problematic ways I immediately forced myself to think “MY GOD is in him, MY GOD is there.” When I think “MY GOD”, I get an image in my mind of my guru. It’s not a thought, necessarily, but an overpowering feeling. I feel such heart-melting affection for my guru when I see him in a specific scene in my mind, and I can feel his great Love for me as well. His sincere sweetness is beyond any description, and the closest to God’s Love I have ever experienced. To shift into that feeling when I have observations of negativity in Sky causes all of what’s happening in this dense, physical world to disintegrate… to melt into Love. Maybe that is why I was filled with such harmonious acceptance today. I’m hoping so, because it’s an easy practice for me. If not, maybe the harmony and calmness came from my therapeutic time with Prasad…
Prasad is doing extremely well today. I’ve noticed that, due to an hour long conversation this morning (intimate 1:1 attention), he is less nervous, less scattered, more focused and present, and most of all extremely joyful and more affectionate than ever. My presence is medicine to him, and his is to me as well. We spent a lot of time together without Sky today and had the opportunity to ‘be ourselves’ together, which doesn’t present itself often. We feed off of one another in positive ways, and I can always feel my inner child adoring him… he’s the brother she never had, but always wanted. We were both in such a heightened state of joy by the time we picked up Sky from a play group today, I’m sure Sky noticed. He became very withdrawn and shut down in the car and at home, which is what he always does when Prasad and I are very happy, playful and alive. He wouldn’t speak much, but it didn’t affect me at all like it usually does. Normally, I’d get dragged in, try cheering him up to no avail, all the while realizing I was robbed of my previous, very positive state of mind. Instead, today my level of joy remained stable the whole day through, despite Sky’s various attempts to drag us down.
At one point when Sky walked into the kitchen he was slouching, heavy, angry, glaring at me and obviously depressed. Nothing triggered it, except that we were happy (close to ecstatic). This is how he gets when he wants to drag everyone down. It’s complicated, but if no one shares in being miserable, he feels alone, isolated, and out of control. I observed his face and heard my own inner voice saying “MY GOD, MY GOD… MY GOD is in there. MY GOD is in him.” I felt deep affection; a vast ocean of love, not necessarily for Sky personally, but for the beautiful image of God I know is within him. He would not be living and breathing without it. I saw his sulking, angry face as the mask it really was, and literally felt the presence of God hiding deep inside of Sky and all his self-centered ways. All was well. The whole evening after dinner (Sky’s most difficult time of day) was more smooth and drama-free than it has ever been. My thoughts alone can transform a situation.. Sky was not healed, nor is that my intention, but he did not even attempt to engage in any sort of conflict. That’s a huge “Wow” in this family.
This day was miraculous. I know these spiritual lessons are why I chose to be a mother. They’re extremely difficult to learn, but I’m determined to get it, one day at a time. Unconditional love for all people, regardless of what they do, their mistakes, or how they treat us, is what we are here to cultivate on this planet. Sky is my greatest teacher and catalyst in that regard, and I thank him. I’m realizing that great, unswerving, unconditional love in the face of misunderstanding, pain, and ugliness is the only way out of our suffering, both individually and globally. For the first time I’m seeing that I am capable of it, if only for today.
  • On a last note, I couldn’t help sharing this extract from St. Francis, since it is so applicable in my own life. I was reminded of it by a friend, and I didn’t fully understand it in the past, but it makes complete sense to me now:

Brother Leo asked [St. Francis] in great wonder: “Father, I pray thee in God’s name tell me where is perfect joy to be found?”

And St. Francis answered him thus, “When we are come to St. Mary of the Angels, wet through  with rain, frozen with cold, and foul with mire and tormented with hunger; and when we knock at the door, the doorkeeper comes in a rage and says, ‘Who are you?’ and we say, ‘We are two of your brothers,’ and he answers, ‘You tell not true; you are rather two knaves that go about deceiving the world and stealing the alms of the poor. Begone!’ and he opens not to us, and makes us stay outside hungry and cold all night in the rain and snow; then if we endure patiently such cruelty, such abuse, and such insolent dismissal without complaint or murmuring, and believe humbly and charitably that that doorkeeper truly knows us, and that it is God who makes him to rail against us; O Brother Leo, there is perfect joy.

“And if, compelled by hunger and by cold, we knock once more and pray with many tears that he open to us for the love of God and let us but come inside, and he more insolently than ever shouts, ‘These are impudent rogues, I will pay them out as they deserve,’ and comes forth with a big knotted stick and seizes us by our cowls and flings us on the ground and rolls us in the snow, bruising every bone in our bodies with that heavy stick -if we endure all these things patiently and joyously for love of Christ, write, O Brother Leo, that in this perfect joy is found.

“And now, Brother Leo, hear the conclusion. Above all the graces and the gifts that Christ gives to those who love him is that of overcoming self, and willingly to bear other pain and buffetings and revilings and discomfort for love of God.”

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Kids, Media, and Desensitization vs. Oversensitivity

Young kids are naturally sensitive. That is, if they aren’t desensitized first. I’m sure the majority of American households have their television on and running a lot of the day and into the night, especially in the Summer. Even the most mindful parents step out of the room, and the TV keeps going while kids have access to the remote control. Other parents employ the television as a babysitter, which probably makes the long Summer more manageable. We don’t have television, but when I visit other parents who do, I’m always struck by the often harsh or violent imagery that we are not used to seeing any more. Not just with certain programs, but commercials for those programs. I know it’s controversial, but there are countless studies linking aggression and anxiety to violent programming. The facts speak for themselves.

Our kids are sensitive to negative and violent imagery. So am I. That sensitivity is a rare commodity in our modern world of repetitive, electronic over-stimulation. Our kids have retained it because they’ve never seen a PG-13 film unless we’ve reviewed it first, they’re not exposed to commercials, and the most violence they’ve ever viewed on television was someone getting punched. Or so I thought… Sky revealed something today that was heartbreaking, but it showed me just how sensitive my kids really are. He’s nearly 10 years old, but he’s still deeply affected by any sort of violence on TV.

During an intimate conversation about his nervousness, fears and anxiety, Sky said, “About a year ago when we first moved here I saw something that Sorin was watching on her computer, and it changed me…. forever.” Again, we don’t have television, but Sorin watches DVD’s and movies on her own Netflix account. While she watches them, she wears headphones so we’re all spared the background noise of electronic entertainment (one of my pet peeves). Sky said that he happened to catch a glimpse of someone getting shot by a gun, and dying. Sorin doesn’t watch particularly violent shows, but I’m guessing it was an episode of “Ghost Whisperer.” Probably not even half as violent as most adult mystery/action shows. Sky shared that it affected him to the point that the imagery has never left him, and it still haunts him to this day. He went so far as to say it tortures him, especially when he’s alone or has nothing to do. He was very upset during the discussion.This is a kid who rarely even sees a fight on TV, so for him it was literally a defining moment in his psyche.

I found myself wondering, if he’d been exposed to violence at a younger age would he be this frightened? Would that have helped him somehow? It’s a crazy-crazy question, but I couldn’t help wondering since he’s almost 10 and still experiencing flashbacks. Is this an over-sheltered child’s response, or is it the healthy response of a child who has been raised in a non-violent, loving home with no exposure to the ugliness of negativity, murder and violence? Isn’t this how humans should react to terrible imagery, and could it be how our pre-electronic media ancestors would have reacted? I suppose I should be relieved he’s not de-sensitized… yet. This is all just some food for thought as I help comfort and relieve the stress of what he’s been going through this past year. He’s a sensitive child, and we weren’t aware of that until he was exposed to something deeply insensitive. Thank God he’s talking about it.

Posted by: Jill

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Amelie, Our Sunshine

taken shortly after her nap today. She's such a light!

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