When Parenting Spirals

June 15, 2019 57 Comments

In the here and now. A month ago. A year ago. Four years ago. Twenty-eight years ago.

I doubt my parenting. I doubt why I am doing this. I doubt the decisions I made as I followed the Spirit into this life. I am so worried that my own self-righteous ego has brought these children into a journey that is all wrong… for them.

These past few weeks have been very hard. A month ago was very hard. A year ago was very hard… Life is hard today. And beautiful. I have been doubting my parenting lately (again). It’s hard to know where to put my attention when so much is spinning and spiraling. But then, a minute of quiet. Followed quickly back to a space of not knowing what the heck is going on. Day by day, spinning and turning — out and back to faith, again and back to love, another turn and back to hope.

Change

The end of the school year is upon us. Any transition sends my children into days of heightened triggers. Not anything specific, but their internal neurological systems sense danger in having their lives change… again. Even fun, growing, summer-time transitions are destabilizing. Anger is quick. Frustration is ever-present. Tears fall often.

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All of that — times seven. Seven young people right now who are living out heightened danger and fear reactions. “You are not my real mom.” “I hate her (name any sibling) and can’t stand to live here anymore.” “What’s the point? I’m going to flunk out anyway and be just like my mom.” “You have never loved me. You just have us here so people think you are this perfect person.” “I’m trying to talk to you (with a bright red face, mouth wide open, screaming two inches from my face).” Another door off the hinges and another bowl of cereal thrown across the room.

And I miss the cues, over and over again. I want to discipline out of my own frustration and worry. “We don’t treat people that way.” “If you can’t calm down, you need to leave the room.”

What I should be saying is, “You’ve been really angry lately. It’s not fair to hurt other people with it, so let’s figure out what’s going on. I don’t think you really want to hurt your sister, so it must be really confusing inside of you about why those things come out of your mouth. I think I know what might be going on. Can I share with you?”

Some days that IS what I say. A lot of days, I miss my chance. Over and over again, I miss my chance to offer healing and growth words, and love. Then I doubt whether I am the right parent to be handling so much trauma. Then I start spiraling into stinkin’ thinkin’… I am alone. Poor me, trying my best and no one appreciates it. When do I get to stop taking care of EVERYONE?

Faith

Each afternoon, for this entire school year, I sit on the front porch and wait for Isabelle and Eli to get off their buses. It is cold or warm, still or windy, raining or not. And I just sit for 15 minutes and see the weather happen without me. I am NOT IN CHARGE of what is happening with any of it while I sit there and just experience it.

And I breath.

And breath again.

And again.

My thoughts turn to how much of the world I don’t have to manage. I lean back into a Faith that tells me I am actually not in charge of ANY of it. I have been gifted with these beautiful children for more than half my life. The foster care and adoption journey is more my ministry than nursing ever was. And I find my Faith again that I am not in charge of ‘fixing’ any of it, nor of ‘saving’ anyone. I am only called to bring my gifts and my skills and my love into these young lives and to be the safe, steady place they can lean into as they heal and grow.

My faith is restored… at least for 15 minutes.

Trauma

There is a new CPS (Child Protective Services) open case for my three youngest. I worry about these little girls SO much. Their momma (my Alice) is in prison after an awful night with her abusive husband. He somehow managed to escape any responsibility for what happened and then to get custody of the girls. He is equally as emotionally abusive with them. They live this out with behaviors and, recently, with words.

At 6 years old and 4 years old, their behaviors are hitting and kicking and spitting. They swear. “Daddy says that!” And they fight to sit on my lap and get the first hug. Some days, it feels like all three of them are trying to crawl inside of me to feel safe and protected.

I came to an arrangement with the girls’ dad a couple of years ago to let the three Littles be with me during the week while he works and I can manage school days, etc. He picks them up for weekends when he wants to. We live about an hour from each other, but I know, with his extreme narcissism, if I play up to his ego and make him look like he is doing a good thing, I can help him make the decision for the girls to be with us as much as possible. I know they are safe when they are here. It does, however, impact our family in many ways. I am more tired. My older kids sometimes lose time they need with me. And this dishonorable man supports the girls financially at a minimal level. He gives me barely over 50% of what I spend on them (including expenses for clothing, food, extra utilities (bathwater), and extra things like swim lessons. So we live with less financial stability.

There have been multiple CPS calls from me and from teachers over the past 3 years about bruises and things the oldest has said. But all have been unfounded cases because the girls have just been too young to reliably tell what happened. Without witnesses, there is no way to prove that bruises, or whatever, happened at my home or at his. It’s SO frustrating because stories from my daughter (in prison) recounted how manipulative and scary this man can be. I live with a constant knot in my stomach when the girls are with him. The twins are starting to try to refuse to go with him.

This week, Isabelle, the 6-year-old came back with a big bruise on her leg and told her teacher that she got it from jumping into the hot tub from the edge of the deck. With further conversation, Isabelle told the teacher that all three girls were outside in the hot tub while Daddy was inside playing a video game. Teacher called CPS.

A social worker came to talk with the girls here at my home the next afternoon and Isabelle told the same story again and also said that she didn’t tell daddy she had gotten hurt because he would get really mad at her. She then imitated Daddy by screwing up her face and screaming, “F**k you” very loudly. The twins didn’t have a whole story to tell, but corroborated the story that daddy is inside the house sometimes when they are playing in the hot tub. 

Will this be the time that Child PROTECTIVE Services will actually take action to protect the girls? I have no idea. And each time someone fails to take action or fails to err on the side of caution or doesn’t take the word of the child, I lose patience with the system. I have worked, as a foster parent, within the system for more than 28 years now. And it is a hot mess! Yes, I hold anger and I hate it!

Love

When the Littles come spilling out of Daddy’s car after a visit (almost every weekend), they run to me as fast as they can with happy shrieks of “Grandma! Grandma!” I gather them all in with hugs and kisses and they ask questions about what they want to do… “Can we go to the park?” Can we get a snack?” Can we watch ‘Frozen’?” They barge into the house without a hug or a goodbye to their dad. That makes me incredibly sad. I grieve each time.

It is not much different than the moments each of my kids have asked (and still do), “Why didn’t my mom fight for me?” “Why didn’t someone help them.” “Why did Uncle hit me all the time?” The betrayal from their first family seems to be the biggest grief of all.

The older ones have eventually changed the questions to “Why am I even here? Why did they have me if they didn’t want me?” They translate the loss into questions of their own self-worth and their own loveability. Oh, my heart!

I have had all these years to try to grow an answer to this level of grief. Only the kids can tell if anything I can say helps… “You are SO valuable.” “You don’t exist to fulfill someone else’s needs or desires.” “You were given a wealth of gifts, some of them actually from your first mom or your first dad. You are here, not to complete THEM, but to be the only you this world has. Without you, someone, somewhere may not receive a gift or a word or a touch that they need in the moment you give it.”

Those are basically all the words I’ve been able to find. ‘You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” But whether that satisfies the questions or soothes the pain, I don’t know.

I DO know, though, that steady love in a million things I do to keep each child growing and learning and blossoming in this holy place is not lost. As much as I long to do so, I cannot undo (nor in the Littles’ case right now, prevent) the trauma. I can only be who I was called to be… the ‘right now’ mom who can hug, and soothe and build up and Love.

I can do this hard, hard thing because…. I am Loved!

Ducks

One of my favorite phrases to quote is “keeping my ducks in a row.” I try! Oh, how I try! It takes a lot of organization, planning, and late nights to keep a household running with seven kids here, one in college, one in college AND working, and one doing a job she enjoys. Not to mention my oldest in prison. I don’t need to manage the lives of the 4 oldest any more, but they (thankfully) still need me for support, love and fun.

I need to ensure that ‘normal’ daily life is healthy and nurturing for all of the children. Bedtimes, wake-ups, meals, laundry, bedtime stories, teeth, baths, homework, grocery shopping, and mama time for each kid for all normal, regular family things that need to be consistant and stabel.

I am also trying to keep balls up in the air between 5 schools, counseling, doctors, eye doctors, dentists, IEPs (special education plans) for 5 kids, dance, swim lessons and swim team, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, visits with bio families, and the never-ending birthdays (with 11 kids total, there is ALWAYS a birthday around the corner). Let’s add in a couple of broken bones here and there, the above-mentioned drama from trauma, trips to visit Grandpa, occasional CPS social workers, a flat tire. It is a rare day that all those ducks are still swimming in a row. I am usually lucky if they are even swimming in the same lake.

Seriously, the amount of detail I must keep track of every day, sometimes every 5 minutes, is numbing. I have calendars and charts and reminder alarms. I have sticky notes everywhere and lists (oh, so many lists) and sometimes, I start with a to-do or project at 6 am and fall into bed at 11 pm or 12 midnight with new lists running through my head.

And I do my gosh-darndest, best effort to be nice to myself regularly. My favorite right now is a bit of a nap every day!!! But I try to throw in writing, reading, knitting, quilting, or just plain old crossword puzzles.

Hope

One of my favorite images (shapes?) is a spiral. Back in grad school, I wrote a paper on the journey of health and likened it to a spiral. I took the image and concept from one of my favorite books at the time. It is “A Spirituality Named Compassion and the healing of the global village, Humpty Dumpty, and us” written by Matthew Fox and first published in 1979. In it, he describes life as a spiral and explains how a spiral keeps moving out and around, but always back to us, except on a different plane.

I have grown in my own spirituality and understanding of life since that time in the mid 80’s, but I continue to use the spiral as a reflection of my journey. We are who we are, but every time we circle out into the world, we gather new experiences, new sights, new people and often keep them with us as we spiral back into ourselves on a new plane. The new things we have gathered help determine the direction of our spiral. A circle goes around through cycles of experiences and is very useful as an image to understand how many things work… the cycle of generations, the cycle of abuse, the cycle of the seasons. But a spiral, while it is also cyclical, is also directional.

I like to envision that the things we gather as we cycle out and back in can determine the direction of our spiraling. We can spiral downward when tragedy, grief, abuse, anger touches us during the cycles. We can spiral up when joy and new life and healing occurs. We can’t always control the experiences, but we CAN control how we use the experiences to influence our directionality.

Because of how I have seen this work in my life, I live with hope. Always hope. I spiral out with the emotions of a lot of kids and come back having learned more about them and about myself, so we can spin out again in a new way. I spiral out with fear and worry for my Littles and spiral back in with them for more hugs and more grounding. I spiral out, sometimes with skids and tumbles through days of crazy scheduling and details and turn back in, knowing I that I live in grace and am surrounded by a world of love and support.

The spiral is the shape of Hope for me. It helps me believe that I will always come back to the center of Love and the core of being who I was called to be.

Spiraling

My doubt is often thick enough to cut with a butter knife. It feels like I am plodding through waste deep sloppy mud. Then, with a turn, I spy the center again and I am lifted up into the place of Faith and of Love and of Hope.

June 19, 2019

57 Comments

  1. Reply

    Emily

    June 20, 2019

    WOW! You are one heck of an amazing MOM! πŸ™‚

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Well….. much of the time, I’m tired and can be cranky (ask the kids). Sometimes, I feel like I’m making a difference. Mostly, it’s just what is our normal and we live each day as lovingly as we can (the kids and I). Thank you for the support in reading and commenting!!!

  2. Reply

    Lina

    June 20, 2019

    Wow! You are a beautiful and inspirational woman! To have such a huge heart and take care of these beautiful children. They are so lucky to have you. And you are doing it! Taking it one day at a time. It’s ok that the ducks are not swimming in a row. It’s ok. πŸ’•

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thank you, lina for the encouragement. I’m mostly ok if the ducks aren’t in a row as long as they are all still in the pond. I count heads where ever I go. LOL
      I hope to inspire and would like to encourage people to look at big or little ways they can pitch in for a foster child.

  3. Reply

    katie

    June 20, 2019

    You keep loving on those kids like you are! They will grow up to know and truly appreciate the love and effort you give to them. I also liked how you put the pictures of flowers up with such a tough post! I’m sure it’s hard to find moments of peace in times like these, but keep writing!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thank you, thank you for the encouragement. I love to write and I hope to inspire. And, of course, these kids have my heart forever.

  4. Reply

    Jennifer Morrison

    June 19, 2019

    It is such a challenge. I love that you are sharing openly about the challenges that are faced when parenting in this manner. It is beautiful and challenging and your sharing helps others to know they are not alone.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Thank you, Jennifer. I also want to be honest about the journey of foster care so that those who are committed to this know what they are getting into. But I hope I am sharing a lot of other stories that show the joy and blessedness of this life!

  5. Reply

    Tricia Snow

    June 18, 2019

    We all doubt our parenting. You are doing great things!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Thanks, Tricia. The doubt comes when levels of fatigue rise. And fatigue rises when the emotional circles grow bigger. I recognize that… it’s just part of the journey. I really appreciate your good words.

  6. Reply

    Anonymous

    June 18, 2019

    You’re a superwoman and you’re a a blessings to them! I can imagine what you’re going through everyday to take care of your children, it’s more than a full time job itself. I came from a family of 8 and I see my mom working hard (even sleepless nights) just to take care of us.

    Kudos to you!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Oh, Good Lord, not a superwoman. I’m just trying to honor my journey. I gain strength (and a few naps) from my community and my family. And I have learned (mostly) to live in the moment with these kids and not try to make it come out all right in the end. I am part of the journey and I have been gifted with strength and a certain amount of determination (stubborness), but it is not up to me how it ends. THAT is the gift. Kudos to your mom. My sister has 9 kids… only she didn’t adopt and didn’t have twins. I admire her, too.

  7. Reply

    Anonymous

    June 18, 2019

    Our social services system is flawed. Too many children, not enough workers, rules that don’t make sense… It’s unfortunate but, they are with you the majority of the time so to CFS they are safe… Remember that the most important thing you can do, is hold the hope

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Flawed, oh my yes! The hardest part for me is the inconsistency between staff. There doesn’t seem to be a standard for what constitues risk. I know I couldn’t do! I’d err on the side of the child every time and would be removing kids righ and left. Seriously!!!
      Hope! Yes, that, always. And love.

  8. Reply

    Laura Lee

    June 18, 2019

    You’re such a blessing to these children. I was a foster parent for a few years. At one time we had 8 children under our roof from 16 months to 16 years. It was a tough road for sure.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Oh, my! You know exactly what this story is about. From one foster parent to another, thank you for pitching in!

  9. Reply

    Jen

    June 18, 2019

    You are a stronger woman than I am. I don’t know if I would be able to handle the situation as you have. Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching story.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thank you, Jen. I’m not sure about stronger. We each have our own skills, gifts, and journeys. I bet that if I heard your journey, it would be full of different kinds of strength. I’m happy you came to read.

  10. Reply

    Ramae Hamrin

    June 18, 2019

    My first thought when I read your story is, “How can you do that? I couldn’t!” but I know those comments aren’t always helpful. People said that to me when I was homeschooling and now that I am dealing with cancer. We can do what we choose to do if our convictions are strong enough, and sometimes if we can do things because we have no other choice, like cancer. Anyway, I applaud you for helping the world be a brighter place for these kids. I know it’s not always easy and may feel like you get lost in the shuffle, but you are truly doing the work of angels.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      This is one of the most perfect things anyone has ever said to me. Exactly this. I am uncomfortable when people hold me up to be a saint or whatever. I am not writing this for the accolades. I want to inspire people to step up and find their strength for their journey and maybe inspire someone to foster kids. Maybe not 7 or 8 at a time, but one at a time would make such a difference for that one kiddo!
      I appreciate your support.

  11. Reply

    Anna

    June 18, 2019

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It is hard to imagine what you are going through for anyone who has never done fostering. And this post opens the eyes on many insides. You are a very brave, strong and wonderful person! It is amazing what you do! Keep going, the higher power will help you on this journey. It looks like this is your dharma (the real purpose of your life). I applaud you that you do what you are meant to do! God bless!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Oh, Anna, thank you. I do try to stay true to what I’ve followed. Part of why I write is that I want people to know what these kids are like…. beautiful souls who need all of us to hold them up. I hope and pray that all I write will shine light…. mostly love, always truth, even if it’s hard, and peace.

  12. Reply

    Michele

    June 18, 2019

    I applaud you for what you are doing for these kids! I honestly don’t know how you do it all. The world needs more people like you. Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thanks, Michele. Some days, I don’t know either. So I rely on the joy and the support system I have. And yes, I do take time for me. Naps are good. LOL

  13. Reply

    Allyson Spieler

    June 18, 2019

    Wow, I’m so sorry that is happening! thank you for sharing

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thanks Allyson. It’s part of the path I have chosen (or has been chosen for me). And I choose the joy!!!!

  14. Reply

    Stacey

    June 18, 2019

    You are such a blessing to these children! You are enough; they love you. I know it’s not always easy, but you’re there for them. Best wishes on your journey.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thank you, Stacey. They are a blessing to me, too. It is not always easy, but the joys are amazing! Thanks for the support

  15. Reply

    Angela Greven | Mean Green Chef

    June 18, 2019

    All I can say is Thank God you are there to love and protect your grandbabies! CPS certainly has many flaws, including caseloads that make sure children fall through the cracks. You’ve helped many and continue to do so even when in doubt because your heart is on the path it knows that you belong on. More prayers for love, health, and growth for all. πŸ€—

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thank you, Angela. I am so blessed. The journey (and some of the days here) can be brutal, but I wouldn’t change anything. Because I truly believe this is what I was called to do. Thanks for the prayers!!!

  16. Reply

    Heather

    June 18, 2019

    Wow… it is hard to imagine what this is like for you and your kids. My heart breaks for them and their fears. I am so happy that thye have you, the one constant in their life. You are a special person!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 20, 2019

      Thank you, Heather. My heart breaks, too, but I get the joy of their wonderful hearts and minds. Kids are kids and they are fun. Thank you for our support!

  17. Reply

    Nicole Cruze

    June 17, 2019

    Such a difficult situation!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Thank you, Nicole, for coming over to read. Parenting in the system is very difficult, but SO very much worth it with all I have been given.

  18. Reply

    Kymberly Irwin

    June 17, 2019

    Wow. I truly hope it all works out. You’re doing an amazing thing for those girls. Don’t ever question that part. You need to be their constant in life. Kudos to you and all you’re doing. Hang in there. πŸ™‚

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Thank you, Kymberly. To be honest, they are doing amazing things for me, too. I know how blessed I am. I appreciate you coming over to read.

  19. Reply

    Leigh Ann

    June 17, 2019

    I honestly don’t know how you do it with all the outside issues weighing in on you and your family. I hope you all find peace through the adversity whenever possible.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Thank you, Leigh Ann. It IS the outside issues that weigh on me. My brain keeps trying to swirl at warp speed, but if/when I focus on our everyday, “normal” life, I can rest in how blessed I am.

  20. Reply

    Laura

    June 17, 2019

    Yes, you are loved. And, you are admired. I’m in awe of what you have to go through every single day. It’s wonderful to hear about your journey. What you do for these kids is amazing! Thank you for taking care of them. xo

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Thank you, Laura. I am deeply loved and I know it. And blessed. The days are joyful, tedious, lovely, brutal, ordinary, busy. There is more Joy than Sorrow and, with the trauma these children have had, I love what we have here.

  21. Reply

    Karie

    June 17, 2019

    Thank God the children have you. This is not fun the system needs so much help. Best of wishes to you and your family.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      Thank you, Karie. The system is broken. But we ARE blessed and I wouldn’t do anything differently.

  22. Reply

    jen

    June 17, 2019

    WOW there is a lot to process in this post. Prayers…

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 19, 2019

      I REALLY appreciate the prayers. It is life and is blessed. Thanks!

  23. Reply

    Haley Kelley

    June 17, 2019

    This really spoke to me, my husband and I are attempting to take in a family members 3 children and we have 1 of our own. I worry about complications like this and it’s so good to know I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing so much

  24. Reply

    Kendra

    June 17, 2019

    I was exhausted from reading this, but also inspired that you have given so much to these humans that needed you so badly. I will lift you up in prayer that you will continue to provide for the needs of these children as well as for yourself.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 17, 2019

      Thank you, Kendra. I accept all the support and prayers I can get. It is a hard journey. But I don’t regret a minute of it!

  25. Reply

    Joanne

    June 17, 2019

    Wow! This is so emotionally draining! Prayers for the children!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 17, 2019

      Thank you, Joanne. I’ll accept any and all prayers for my sweet kids.

  26. Reply

    angela

    June 17, 2019

    You are very strong and doing so much good. It is not an easy system to work through and with I am sure. CPS for sure has a lot to improve on and these kids deserve much better. Thank you for doing what you can for them when they are with you.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 17, 2019

      Thank you, Angela. I am SO not strong…. just determined with a heart full of love. The hardest part is having to “play games” around the system and the dad in order to protect the Littles. I have learned a lot over 28 years and it helps. Thank you for reading.

  27. Reply

    Jill

    June 17, 2019

    Those children are so blessed to have you. They are so much better because of all of the things you do — even on the days when it doesn’t feel like it. Please know you are an angel on earth for them, and many others.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 17, 2019

      Thank you, Jill. Probably not an angel… just a following the journey that was laid out for me. I have SUCH a strong support system and they have the wings for me.

  28. Reply

    Jennifer L Markell

    June 17, 2019

    Wow, to say you have your hands full is an understatement. I applaud you for looking out for these little beings…they will forever be thankful, even if it doesn’t always feel that way now.

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 17, 2019

      Thank you, Jennifer. I do have my hands full. But I am blessed so abundantly. I just need to remember it and live by it!

  29. Reply

    Tina

    June 16, 2019

    Thank you so much for sharing this story!! I pray that the children stay safe. CPS and the judicial system have flaws, many, and sadly it’s the children that suffer from this. I can empathize with how you feel when time and time again you do the right thing take the legal course and it fails to help the children. Thank God the children have you to look out for them. You’re an inspiration and they will remember all your love and support. Best wishes! To all of your family!

    • Reply

      Karla

      June 16, 2019

      Thank you, Tina! It’s a long, hard journey with blessings at every turn!

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