Parenting An Out of the Box Child – Part 2

New here?  Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

I. Was. Lost. in my parenting journey and I found myself wondering all the how’s and why’s that come with ADHD.  Frankly, I still feel lost in my journey most days.  Is this ADHD thing my fault?  is it her fault?  Is she just reacting to my failure to discipline enough? or to discipline too much?  Could I have prevented it?  Is it totally neurological? Behavioral? Environmental?  It sure seems like God handed me something I could NOT HANDLE and I couldn’t figure out why.

Just like my out of the box child cannot be so easily contained, no one formula or strategy will work exclusively in my ability to parent her.

My every move – at times – seems to be counterproductive more often than not.  Boundaries are very difficult to establish with her.  Consequences are difficult to not only dole out but for her to respond to.  Reactivity – of which both she & I are guilty – is our worst enemy.  Knowing which battle is worth fighting – and which is worth letting go – is never easily identified.

The truth is:  some days, loving her is hard.  

And the guilt that courses through me when I think that, let alone say it, is devastating.  I don’t mean feeling affectionate for her. Or being willing to throw myself in front of a bus for her.  I mean being willing to lay down my life in the daily living so she can know how much I love her.  And even more so how much God loves her and has a plan for her.

Loving her is exhausting.  Draining.  And more often than not, I feel like I fail her miserably.  My ugliness shoots straight to the surface in the face of her defiance. It bounces right against my tightly-stretched nerves – and I lose myself in an avalanche of impatience.  And fatigue.  And fear.

This child that wants to go toe-to-toe with me over which shoes to wear to school is really desperate for something steady and sure.  And many days, that’s. not. me.  I am so broken by this realization.  In the rare moments of quiet I am able to snag in my hectic days, I cry out to God to make me better for her sake, but only after I beg for more peace and less chaos for my sake.

And more often than not, I hear Him whisper to my wildly-beating heart that HE has a plan for her.  It may not be the plan I envisioned or imagined for her – but His plan is to take her strength and use it for HIS glory.

This scares me to my bones.  Some of the godliest people I know have a wild, spirited child who was raised to know and love God. But the child grew up and made different choices.  And as an adult, that child wrestles with substance abuse.  Crime & prison terms. Broken lives.  Broken bodies.

Not every case.  But more than I am comfortable with.  My heart is wrenched for the possibilities.  For all three of my children.

Because I have no guarantees in this parenting business.  The reality of parenting children is harder than I ever possibly imagined it could be.  And God is teaching me in this parenting journey, as much as He desires to teach them.  And to speak to their hearts Himself.  Dying to ME is the hardest part.  Dying to me and letting God become my child’s steady and sure is like watching her climb a tightrope a bajillion feet above the ground with no {apparent} safety net.  And it is as much a test of my FAITH as a test of my love.

I don’t always know what that means.  I don’t always know what it looks like.  I don’t know what it will look like 10 minutes from now, let alone 10 years from now.  I want a formula that FIXES our problem.  But there isn’t one.

I just know that I have to desperately lean harder into God so she can see that He is MY steady and sure, too.  That in my weakness, HE is where I go.  He is where I turn. And He is always there for me, even when I fail.  It is exquisitely painful.  To be broken out in front of my children.  And when I struggle to yield to Him, it is even more painful for them.

I get Sarah Mae’s statement:

ultimately, the most important thing is laying our children at the foot of the cross and praying that Jesus will call them to Him.

And there is the ultimate sacrifice in parenting.  Not learning methods or means to raise a child, but learning how to lay each child down at the foot of the Cross and LEAVE her there to hear the Savior’s call…

Do you struggle in parenting an Out-of-the-Box-Child?

Parenting An Out of the Box Child – Part 1

My friend, Christie, recently posted a (long) list of books on Facebook that she is reading during the month of April.  She was doing it to request a little bit of accountability.  She got some encouragement.  She got some criticism.  But she listed the book, Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson – and I told her I would read along with her. I’ve read it before and even posted a review, but as I began reading it again today and this evening, I couldn’t believe how much differently I could relate to it now from the first time I read it. I had many lines and sentences highlighted already.  But then I came across a section that just rang SO TRUE with me.  The phrase that started it all was “out of the box child.”

I totally related to that phrase.  And it made me think about “the box” and what that represents, which made me think about a Jack-In-The-Box.  The thing about a Jack-in-the-Box is that it is fairly predictable.  You turn the handle on the side, the melody plays, and just at the right moment, up pops Jack with a loud bang, generally to the amusement of most people.

With an Out-of-the-Box child, though, things are very different.  And Life is NOT like a childhood toy.  It is not always so easy, not so predictable.  And some children are born just fresh

Out of the Box.

Me?  I’ve got 2 of them.  Well, 2 so far.

My oldest girl, my sunshine girl – she was born bright & bubbly.  Smiles a mile wide. Happy go lucky.  Sweet natured, yet determined.

My youngest girl, was born just as beautiful, but less bubbly & bright.  She smiled & laughed, but she also screamed for 2 hours at a time.  Sometimes just with ME, and not anybody else.  She is my sensitive soul.  Sensory-soul. The one who feels like she is going to explode if her socks don’t feel right.  If music is too loud.  If anybody in our family is upset about anything.  My husband & I decided early on, that our #2 girl was always outside-the-box.  It’s how she operates.  If you say the sky is blue, she sees it a different color.  Not to be disagreeable, but because she sees a different color.  She would prefer to dance around the dinner table as she eats.  She doesn’t mind getting down in the dirt to love on a pet.

When you live in a “Stay-In-The-Box” world, it can be really hard to be an Out of the Box kind of kid.  or her parents.  Let me be clear, I am not complaining. We have likened her somewhat to the character “Phoebe” on that show we used to watch called FRIENDS.

But a few years ago, our sweet, spirited, outgoing #1 girl – became defiant, loud, chaotic, angry, uncooperative, fearful, withdrawn.

I was not so prepared for this change.

Fairly quickly, her dad recognized some of the behaviors and changes, and eventually she was assessed and diagnosed with ADHD.  This was, of course, after one pediatrician told us he didn’t “believe in ADHD and that it was really a discipline problem.”

huh.  discipline problem = parenting problem, right?

We adapted our parenting skills and strategies, and watched her grades start to slip.  Watched her attitude shift.  And watched her body react to the stress she was feeling.  She was unable to focus.  She was unable to communicate her feelings with words.  She became angrier and we became more frustrated and it was a vicious cycle.

The next pediatrician quickly assessed her and acknowledged her ADHD and we began a journey with medications and varying parenting skills & strategies – that would often work well one day and then not-so-well the next.  My husband, being more educated and practiced in the parenting strategies, has had to coach me (and still coaches me) as much as parent our child because I have been at a complete loss.  I was desperate to help her but didn’t know how and I felt like every day I was losing her more and more.

And I have struggled to put into words this journey – both because I didn’t want to embarrass my child and because I had not yet mastered my ability to parent her…  I didn’t want to air “dirty laundry” and yet I felt alone in so much of this and I didn’t know how to even wrap my head around most days.  Can I tell you that just writing this so far, has really given me courage to keep writing.

So I will.  I will write and share this journey.  Because it is important.  And I am most likely not the only parent who feels this way about parenting an out of the box child

{I will continue this series in my next post.  You can sign up to receive my posts by email in the sidebar!}

Parenting an Out of the Box Child – Intro

When you first become a parent, it is natural to have hopes and dreams for your child.  Some of those hopes and dreams guide decisions and choices as a parent, and some of those hopes and dreams fade away.

Once we get to know that tiny bundle that comes home with us – hopefully, we learn how to adapt our personalities, bents, and inclinations to the personalities, bents, and inclinations God has given our children.

Being a parent is hard.  Parenting an Out of the Box Child, though, can present a whole different horizon than ever imagined.

An Out of the Box Child, for my intent and purposes, includes a child who might:

  • Be labeled “Strong Willed” or a “Discipline problem”
  • Be Diagnosed with a neurological condition such as ADHD, Asperger’s or Autism
  • Have a physical condition which presents challenges in the regular activities of daily living
  • Just like to dance on the outside of any regular or “normal” lines that are deemed acceptable in general

An Out of the Box Child may or may not have any specific condition, but may just flutter or charge through life with an outlook that completely puzzles, overwhelms, or mystifies his/her parents, teachers, siblings, and others.

God has created a whole wide range of personalities.  I’ve seen them categorized into 4 broad generalizations (choleric, sanguine, melancholy, and phlegmatic, for example).  I’ve also seen them arranged in a more detailed list including up to 16 psychological types (In this case, I am an ENFP).  Even this is just a reflection of parts of me, and does not define me as an individual…

The idea is that we are each individuals with strengths and weaknesses, flaws and virtues, styles and preferences.  When we marry, it can be a challenge to meld those individuals together in a peaceful life of harmony.  And when those two individuals are blessed with a child – who looks like one and acts “just like” the other (or both), it becomes a whole different challenge to parent that child well.

With love and fairness. Without unrealistic expectations or unfair demands.  With a desire to train them to know and love God, while understanding the individual personality and responding accordingly.

That would explain the thousands upon thousands of books with parenting advice, parenting plans, parenting styles, and stories of parenting “failures” and “successes.”  But I am still early on in my journey and although I have learned a lot – I still have so much to learn.

Parenting is about being who I am and becoming who I need to be in relationship to each child God gives me.  Parenting is about each individual God has blessed me with to raise – as both an opportunity to bless and be blessed in this relationship.  And to bring blessing to the world.

I was inspired to write about this topic by reading Sarah Mae’s Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe again.  And then after I wrote this (but before this post was actually published), I read Sally Clarkson’s blog post about her son Nathan and smiled because it is exactly WHY I am writing this…

I will have more posts on this topic next THIS week.  (Really.  They are written.  And scheduled).  And will continue to write about this subject because it is part of the journey God has led me on, and I know I am not alone…