10 Secret Thoughts Every Child Wishes Their Parent Knew

10 Secret Thoughts Every Child Wishes Their Parent Knew

1. Make me feel like I’m the most important person to you no matter what.  Please make me feel more special than your electronics, your hobbies, your plans, your work, and even my siblings.  I want to know that I matter to you.  Hold me…tight.

2. Take time to get to know what I like and what I’m into these days.  Show me how to apply these loves to the real world.  After all, they are what I like.  Spend time with me.

3. I have a voice. Listen to me. No.  Really. Stop. And. Listen.  Put down the phone and hear me with your WHOLE mind, body, and soul.  Hear me instead of disregarding me.

—– Teach me to have a voice.  —–

5. I long to spend time with you – even though I seem to be pushing you away.  If I were super special to you, you’ll want to spend time with me, too. You are important to me even though I may ignore you. Please work hard to spend one-on-one time with me.  I still love hugs.

6. When I am acting out it’s because I’m trying to get your attention. Please help me get regulated and discover the root of why I’m acting up, flipping out, running away or breaking the law.   I want to know that you “get” me. It hurts when my pain is disregarded. Validate and empathize with my struggles.  My pain is real.

7. I want you to prepare me for the real world. Help me practice difficult conversations or consider adult situations so I can navigate them on my own when I have moved on to the big world.  Don’t shelter me from them…guide me through them.

—– Practice navigating the real world together. —–

8. No matter how big I get, I still long to share my secrets with you. Please keep that door of unconditional love open. I need an outlet for someone I can trust, and I really want it to be you.  Be my biggest fan.

9. I want to be comfortable coming home to visit. If it becomes uncomfortable and conditional I will stop coming around. I want to be me — freely be me…in a no judgment zone.  I don’t want to feel criticized.  I go where I’m comfortable.  I don’t jump into the pool of “shoulds”, so why would I come home if I’m criticized…it doesn’t feel good.  Even when I don’t visit…invite me anyway…regularly.  Sweetly…kindly…without guilt.

10.  Love me unconditionally–Even when my choices aren’t what you’d choose for me.   Please keep you our love pure and unconditional — whether I’m listening to you or not.  Accept me for me and for who I am…allow me to be me.   Tell me you love me – all the time.

—– Love me unconditionally. —

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The Rest of the Serenity Prayer

Did you know there was another part to the serenity prayer?  I didn’t!  I had always recited,  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” That was it!   (NOTE:  I’ve since learned that’s not even the original interpretation.)

Once I started going to Celebrate Recovery, I learned there was a second (and more important) part to the prayer. I didn’t even know, until recently, that the Serenity Prayer was something that was used in lots of recovery programs across the nation (apparently, that’s what made it so famous). I assumed that everyone used the whole prayer.  To my surprise, I’ve come to realize the other recovery programs aren’t using the second half the prayer.  I think they’re missing out on the most pivotal part of the prayer.

The rest of the prayer goes like this:

“…Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Awesome words!  Some programs that do use the rest of the Serenity prayer substitute “He” for “Jesus”.  No matter, I love the thought behind this prayer.  On another curious note, I did some research and it’s interesting to trace back the history on who wrote it, when it was picked up by Bill W. for the AA programs and the interesting perspectives on how it evolved.

Anyway, I’m happy that Celebrate Recovery uses the second half because I think that part really speaks truth about how I learn from my hardships and welcome the diversity.  More importantly, I think it gives me an example to live by (“Taking as Jesus did…”), instructions on how do do just that (“If I surrender to your will.”), and a result if I do it…(“I may be reasonably happy in this life, And supremely happy with You forever in the next.”)

I have a new appreciation about the Serenity Prayer and it has given new meaning to my life.  What has been your experience with the Serenity Prayer?

The Complete Serenity Prayer

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

    Amen.

Recovering from Rejection and Abandonment

I remember the first time I was sent to live with someone else. I was about six years old and I remember my mom telling us we’d be staying there for “just a little while”.  I remember crying my heart out, “No mommy, no!  I don’t wanna go!”  She wasn’t listening as I cried, and she turned to walk away from me.  I remember someone prying my little arms from around her neck, and I sobbed as I watched her go.

My heart was broken and I was sacred as I cried myself to sleep that first night.  I cried because I wanted my mommy.  I cried because I didn’t understand.  I hurt…hurt so bad my stomach ached.  I cried because the people there scared me.  I didn’t feel loved…I didn’t feel connected…Oh, mommy, I don’t understand…why you are leaving me? Please come back.  Why don’t you hear me?  Why didn’t you listen to me. Mommy, do you hear me?  Please listen to me.  I feel invisible!  Are you out there?  I wanna go home…Mommy…? mommy…? mommy…?

Thinking back on that first night when my mother left me is painful.   I know I must briefly visit those moments because something in those instances defined my current behaviors and identity. It’s important for me to understand what I learned in that hurtful moment.  It’s important to take an objective look at the situation and realize the lies I’ve adopted as my truths.  It’s all crucial to recovery.  Those realizations are the bridge I need to correct some of my current behaviors and help me become a better person.

NO RISK, NO REWARD

Working through my recovery has been painful at times, but those painful times have been some of the most healing and rewarding experiences I’ve had, even in all of my years of therapy.

Why do I go there?  When I hit a ‘speed bump’ in my recovery and wonder why I’m not making progress…I start looking deeper.  For example, when I’m triggered by those around me, when I find myself angry at the littlest things, or when I’m crying and fighting depression, I start looking deeper.  I look more into why I’m holding myself back?

TRUST THE PROCESS

This particular memory is the result of a process I worked after I found I was beating myself up over how I acted during an encounter with my five-year-old son.  I realized my actions were inappropriate for what I expected out of myself as a mom.  Afterwards, I asked myself, “What in the world happened in that moment to make me get so angry so quickly and lose control?”

When looking back on the moment, I realized it had little to do with my son’s behavior and more to do with my inappropriate reaction to him.  When my son began screaming at the top of his lungs (to mask my instructions) and then threw himself on the bed and pulled the covers over his head to avoid listening to me, I started raising my voice and yelling at him to be sure he heard me over his screaming.  Wow!  That was mature behavior on my part as a mom!  When I walked out of the room, I knew I needed to work through this and get to the root of what was REALLY going on for me.  I was ashamed of myself and my actions, and I had to fix it.

When thinking back over it, I realized that what I heard him say (through body language, etc.) was “I don’t wanna listen to you.”  For me, I realized in that moment, I was ticked off because he wasn’t listening. I was being disregarded and I was being ignored.  My advice/instruction was not valued.  Therefore, I’m a bad mom because my own son won’t listen to me.  Those are ALL lies that the enemy had fed me.  They were lies I had come to believe over the years.  Those were lies and beliefs that I had owned as part of my identity.  As a result of not being heard, I felt the need to scream at him to make sure I was heard.  Wow!  What a realization.  That was big stuff for me.

While processing this situation with an accountability partner, she asked me, “When was the first time you remember not being heard, not being listened to or not being valued?”  Instantly, I remembered the first time my mother abandoned me.

Now what? What was I supposed to do with this memory?  Well, I am excited because now that I have I have this memory, I can go back to it and process it in a healthy way.  I will re-visit this memory with someone safe and find a healing way to grieve that loss.  I will work through it while someone who can hold a safe space for me to mourn the loss of my mother.  This safe person will help me appropriately deal with the anger and resentment in a healing way while learning how to forgive my mother at the same time.

This is why I love Celebrate Recovery so much.  Working the steps helps me stay accountable to my actions.  It helps me to be open and honest with myself.  It helps me understand and love myself enough to work through it even when I show up as the “yucky me”.  When I see my ugly side come out, instead of stuffing that raging moment, I’m able to look at the event, analyze what really happened, look at my part in it and then dig deeper into the reason and root of why my behavior was the way it was. Then, I can consciously change it!  I can do all of this with Jesus as my filter.

RE-PATTERNING MY THINKING

When I look back on that first abandonment, I can re-envision this moment with a different filter.  I can take away the emotion and rejection in the situation and begin to re-pattern my thinking around that situation and “re-format” those old lies and adopt new truths that God wants me to know.  The truth is I am not invisible.  I am one of Christ’s daughters.  He wants to hear me.  I can pour my hurts and heart out to Him and he’ll listen.  I know in my heart, that I am important to my family, and I know in my heart that they value what I have to say.  Now, I can take this information, these feelings and emotions and find a healthier way to express myself when I feel like I’m not being heard or feel like I’m invisible.

Why do I write this stuff and share my vulnerabilities?  It’s because I know we all have hurts.  We all have some sort of hangup or insecurity about something.  We are all called to be more like Christ (Matthew 5:48) and work on becoming better people.  Recovery (or any 12 step program like AA, Al Anon, NA, etc.) gives us practical steps to work through our behaviors and resentments. I believe everyone of us can benefit from a recovery program that teaches us to do life better.  Not only does Celebrate Recovery have programs for those of us that are addicted to something, but they also have programs for those of us working through life’s struggles and hangups.

I’m grateful for my program and the tools I’m learning in the process!  How has your program helped you?

Pain of Losing a Little Brother

It was 1986 and one week before my high school graduation.  I was in the midst of studying for my final exams when a police officer knocked on the door.   He began talking and I immediately went into a fog.  All I remember him saying was that my brother had been in a serious accident on I-95 and we needed to get to the hospital quickly.  I don’t remember much about how I got there or who I was with, but the next thing I know is we are standing in the emergency room hearing an officer re-tell a story.  He said something about the brakes failing, and it “looked like someone had tried to repair them but just put them back on without  repairing the brakes”.  He told us that whomever my brother bought the the car from probably knew the condition of the brakes  (my brother had bought the car a week prior to the accident for $80.00).  The officer continued to tell the story about  heavy traffic coming onto the highway and how my brother hit the brakes quickly and jerked the car sideways right into the path of an oncoming 10-wheel Mack truck carrying ice.  My brother was broadsided and thrown from the car.  He landed on the road where the truck then pushed the car over him.  He was in a coma and the prognosis wasn’t good.  That was May 27th, 1986.

Jeff5

I remember that I needed to study and pass my exams to graduate high school.  I remember being on autopilot and doing what I needed to do in the midst of the distractions, tears and fear. Somehow, I passed the exams and returned to the hospital each day.  The second day, when I arrived to the ICU waiting room, I walked up on a conversation where the doctor was in the midst of telling my family that if “the next test showed another decrease in brain activity they’d need to pull the plug”.  I screamed, “NO! You can’t do that!”  I was so upset and flew into a panic…It was all so surreal. My mom turned to me and abruptly told me to get it together and I had no right to act that way because he was “her son”.  I don’t know why, but that conversation changed me forever.  For some reason at that moment, I felt like she was forbidding me to feel for him or that she was minimizing my feelings and grief.  How was I supposed to shut down my emotions and compassion for my brother who I’d been through so much with and dearly wanted to know better?

I have memories of my brother–but very few good ones.   You see, I didn’t lose my brother in 1986…I lost him many, many times prior to that.   Our lives began separating as early as I can remember.

Jeff1

When he was six and I was eight I remember playing in our yard with trucks (imagining I was driving away forever).  My trip would always be cut short when one of us seemed to be called into the house for something we’d done wrong – he more than me. I remember “escaping” on the sidewalk as I’d make play noises while driving my little orange, metal pickup truck away from the pain going on inside the trailer.  I didn’t want to hear his screams , yet I didn’t want to “drive” too far away in case Jeff needed me when he came back outside to play–IF he was allowed to come back outside.  When he did, he always returned to me so angry and hyperventilating.  He would try to tell me how much he hated me, hated our step-father, hated this place and how he just wanted to leave.  I would sit there numb under our trailer and listen in silence trying not to take on his pain – oh how difficult this was.  I think this was the beginning of our loss — perhaps it’s how I started to protect myself from something bigger than me.  I couldn’t protect him from the monster inside the trailer that continued to mistreat both of us!

Not long afterward we went to live with a family from the church. (You can read more about our story here.)  We stayed together in the first home, but it was during the second home where he was sent to live with a different family.  I lost him again…although for a short while. I missed my little brother, and he was the only human connection I had from home.  About seven months later we went to live in a group children’s home where we spent the next four years of our life.  While in the home, we were separated and lived different lives. He lived on the boys side and I on the girls side.  We didn’t see each other except at meals (and sat at different tables) or on the bus on the way to school.  Thinking back on it now, I really don’t remember having any “sibling time”.  I think this was the true beginning of when I lost my brother.  I am saddened at the lack of memories I have with him during this time.  I mainly remember hearing about times when he was in trouble or causing mischief.

Jeff4

His mischief caused him to leave the group home earlier than I did.  He left in February, and I “lost” him again. By the time I went home six months later, I felt like I didn’t know my brother at all.  Once we returned home, we began fighting and experiencing jealousy of each other. I can remember he would often scream at me at the top of his lungs, “I hate you, Patty!”.  I would scream right back at him just to get even.  I’m sure all this was the surmounting anger we’d both suppressed over the years as a result of the abuse, going into care and losing our parents , dealing with feelings of abandonment and having no real family/life skills to teach us how to treat each other.  We never got any closer…our relationship was permanently scarred.

I left home at 16 and left him behind — another loss.   Our relationship was scarred and I was saddened.  It hurt.  The “little mommy” inside me, the little girl that wanted to heal his pain was hated and I couldn’t help him. We never had a chance to heal that pain and that loss is still very real to me today.

On May 30, 1986, our family gathered around Jeff’s bed and told him goodbye. As the doctors feared, the percentage of brain activity had diminished so much that it was time to let him go. It was a moment I will never forget.  His body was lifeless, but it felt like he could just open his eyes and smile at us.  Since his chest was moving and the monitor showed a heart beat, he had to be alive.  He had to wake up so we could have more time to make up and be okay with each other.  I wanted my brother back.  It wasn’t meant to be…once they turned off the machines, it was a matter of minutes until there was silence — he stopped breathing immediately and his heart stopped a minute or so later.  The final loss…so final!  WOW!  What a moment — a moment ingrained in my memory.  My little brother slipped into eternity forever.  I know I’ll see him again on the other side and I can’t wait to give him a big hug and make up for lost time.  Oh how I’ve missed him.  I am so very thankful that the last time I saw him we had a sweet exchange.  Life is short…we never know if that moment will be the last impression we get with each other.

I’ve grieved and healed a lot since then and often wish my brother was here to share some of the good times with me. I’ve since learned that I’m not an only child and I have another older brother and four older sisters on my father’s side.  Although there are many miles between us, we try hard to keep in touch, but those relationships are a work in progress.  (Another blog post for a different day.)

Life is so much different now and there are so many blessings, but I often wish he was here to share in them.  I often hear siblings fighting and hear people talking about how much they can’t stand each other.  I just hope they don’t have to experience a loss as deep as this to know just how much they are missing.

My you rest in peace Jeffrey Lee Gunnels.  You are missed.

Have you ever lost a sibling?  Do you have an amazing sibling relationship?  Please feel free to share and celebrate here with us.

Foster Families Needed

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to become a foster parent?   As National Foster Care Month comes to an end, there is still a huge need for foster parents.  See if you “qualify” as a foster family.

  • Do you have a willing and loving heart for helping a child in need?
  • Do you have skills and abilities that help you to understand what children need to overcome trauma, grow through it and develop strength and faith to endure?
  • Do you feel that God is calling you to use the home he gave you, the gifts he’s bequeathed you and the talents he’s developed in you for the benefit of these wounded children?
  • Do you find yourself with extra time…perhaps you don’t already have children or you will soon have an empty-nest?
  • Do you have past experience as a foster child or foster family?
  • Do you have a desire for a bigger family and are considering adoption or fostering?
  • Do you have a desire to serve God and make a difference in someone’s life?

If you have any of these qualities you may very well make a great foster parent.  Whether you realize it or not, foster families are heroes.  Foster families are selfless people.  Foster families are in great need.

If you’ve even had a random thought as to whether you’d be able to foster, I’d encourage you to consider looking into it.

My husband and I were foster parents for about five years and had six beautiful girls come through our home.  We still “share” time with one of those sweet little girls and she calls us “mommy and daddy”.  We’ve had the privilege of adopting another little guy we fostered while his mother was going through cancer treatments.  Another one of our young ladies still considers our house her “home” when she returns from college.  There have been many blessings with these children and our time as foster parents was a meaningful experience.

There are so many children out there that just need to feel loved, accepted and welcomed.  If you have the patience, time and willingness to do the research for opening your home, go for it.  It’s truly worth it.

Have you ever considered being a foster parent?  Are you a current foster parent?  What can you offer to someone that’s considering this role?

An Adoptive Parent’s Perspective

This post comes from a mom (who wishes to remain anonymous) who chose to adopt an older child out of the Foster Care System.  I think it’s important that we celebrate those who give a home, a voice and loving environment to the precious children in Foster Care.   She shares a very personal journey in her own words:

Deciding to adopt after learning of and accepting our infertility just seemed like the right thing to do. We wanted a family but didn’t know how we would achieve that but we were open to ideas. We researched all types of adoption—domestic, foreign, an older child, an infant, etc. Our road seemed to lead us to our local area’s foster-to-adopt program—so we registered for a class being held in our area. It was many weeks of education, awareness, discussions, etc. At the end, we decided to pursue with the intention of adopting our child—whoever that would be.

Our daughter is now a young adult, she was a preteen when she came into our home and family. Our lives were forever changed by this smiling little girl who desperately wanted and needed to be loved but didn’t know how to accept that, who struggled to live with a family she didn’t know and didn’t have feelings for, and still had so many conflicting feelings for her birth family and their situation—which was complicated. For us, it was a dream come true; for her, it was an answer to a little girl’s prayer. But, the realities of those sweet dreams and prayers were soon replaced by the realities of a very hurt child and very naïve parents. We were all struggling–we read books, we consulted therapists and friends, we worked hard but nothing prepared us for the path we were to walk and we continue to walk. Prayer became a way to survive because we were struggling terribly. This wasn’t just some random goal, it was our child’s life, it was our family—we had to succeed, we had to pursue, we had to overcome–it was our child—she was/is ours and we, as her parents, vowed not to give up on her, no matter how difficult. There are those who don’t have the conviction to make it work but I don’t judge them—they make their decisions for themselves and unless we walk in their shoes, we cannot judge others’ actions.

I believe in God. I believe He walks with us through this life here on earth. I believe He carries us when we’re weary. I believe He hears my prayers—each and every one of them—and He answers them, each of them, in His own perfect way. I believe that God has lead us to be the family we are today. Are we perfect?  Absolutely not. Have we made mistakes?  Plenty of them. But, we just keep trying and keep going. Without our daughter, we may not have these realizations. Having these struggles in our life has made us all the people we are today. This may not be the walk for everyone but it has been ours and we just keep moving. We are a family. A family that smiles, cries, laughs, and hurts together. How one’s family came together is different for many people but we just keep walking the path together, seeing where the path leads and dealing with all we find along the way. Adoption has brought us together and God has made us a family. I thank Him for my family, for my struggles, and for my life.

Getting Involved In Foster Care

Perhaps being a foster parent is not for you.  There are many, many other ways to help if fostering does not fit your family’s needs.  With it being National Foster Care Month, it’s a great time to find a way to be supportive to a child or agency in the foster care system.  If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to work with Foster Children, this is an easy way to get your foot in the door and experience this field first-hand.

Recently, I contacted the Children’s Home Society here in Palm Beach County and found that there are lots and lots of agencies under their umbrella.  I’m excited because I will be doing some group classes and graduation coaching with some young adults aging out of the foster care system.  The young girls in this facility are either teens in the system that are pregnant or have a child or they are homeless and pregnant or have a child.  Most of these girls do not have a direction or any idea of what awaits them upon leaving this facility.  I look forward to using my life-coaching, teaching and education background to help coach and empower these young girls as they begin to plan for life with their child on the “outside”.

 http://www.chsfl.org/impact

Check out this agency at (http://www.chsfl.org/impact .  Be sure to watch the video, too.) If this one doesn’t fit find a similar agency in your area to get involved with the foster care crisis now.

When I met with the program director, she mentioned she has many ideas where volunteers may come and help.  She wishes she had someone to come in and teach these girls “mom” skills and fun “mom/child” things that these girls were most likely not taught in their childhood.  The program director mentioned simple ways her volunteers may help.

I’ve added a list here that include some of her ideas along with a few other ones I’ve found on two different agency websites.  I’m sure there are many, many more avenues, and it’s definitely possible to find a place to fit in and find something to enjoy.

  • Scrapbooking
  • Leading a “Mom & Me” class
  • Crafting
  • Teaching Sewing/Quilting
  • (Repairing/Constructing)/Handyman
  • Tutoring
  • Mentoring
  • Assisting with administrative work
  • Fundraising
  • Making Meals/Teaching Cooking
  • Teaching Life-Skills Classes
  • Organizing/playing/hanging with kids on “Sports Day”
  • Offering professional support for your area of expertise
  • Cleaning Services
  • Marketing/Public Relations/Development
  • Writing grants
  • IT Support
  • Relief House Parents
  • Driving
  • Coordinating Special Events
  • Gardening
  • Repairing Automobiles
  • Babysitting
  • Respite foster home
  • Fostering
  • Guardian Ad-Li tum

Most  agencies are individually run by a program director and there are a lot that are privately run by churches.  Depending on the needs of the home, there are so many ways to help these kids  experience things they may have missed out on since being in foster care.

Go ahead, I challenge you…take the leap and find a place to volunteer.  Remember, if one organization doesn’t seem to “fit” your family, then try another one.  This is also a great way to model giving and sharing with your own children.

Do you volunteer somewhere in the Foster Care System?
Do you have other ideas for serving in this area?
If you decide to get involved and serve,
please feel free to check back and share your experience.