Family Friday Part 1

Russ and I traveled to Montana last week for Family Friday at Dimples’ program. I’ve been replaying the weekend in my mind since we got home and think I’ll write it out for my own benefit; you can read along if you like.

The trip started with a beautiful drive through northern Idaho and into western Montana. I was struggling with leaving my younger children again so soon, and overwhelmed at being gone for another weekend. In the midst of packing I had a call from Bee’s new therapist and we scheduled the first of a series of appointments. The reality that I just added a three hour a week commitment to my schedule nearly had me hyperventilating. I had to kneel down on the floor in my room, rest my head on my suitcase, and just breathe.

Thankfully,  Russ had more emotional strength than I did, so he was able to listen as I poured out my “overwhelmed at our kids’ needs” thoughts. As we drove, the scenery got more and more beautiful, and eventually, I was able to relax and transition into the trip. It was good to have time to talk and catch up on the big and small things of our lives. We got into town at 10:00 and headed straight to the hotel, knowing that we were expected to be on campus at 8:00 the next morning.

Family Friday began with the parents, kids, and staff all gathered in one large group. We passed a microphone around a large circle and introduced ourselves. Each person shared a goal for the day, mine was to share some sweet moments with Dimples. The kids returned to their classrooms and the parents broke into smaller groups. Our group was made up of the most amazing, wonderful parents. We shared stories about life with our kids, and many people said things like, “It feels so good to know that I’m not alone and that other parents have shared these difficult experiences.”

The conversation flowed along and it seemed that the parents were encouraged by one another. Then one of the therapists said that she wanted to move into an exercise and if we didn’t mind, she wanted to have Russ and I work with her. I laughed and said, “As long as it’s not a role play, I can do it, but I’m truly the worst actress in the world.” She laughed and said, “Well it is a role play.” I felt just a little panic – I seriously hate role playing, it’s supremely weird and uncomfortable for me. Not only that, it’s even harder to do in front of a group of people I’ve met only 45 minutes earlier.

Then she told us that she wanted us to role play a situation with Dimples where we were trying to connect with her in the midst of a difficult moment (or something like that – to be honest, I can’t quite remember). In the seconds that followed, I was flooded with memories of rages, I felt the fear, I remembered the last horrible night before Dimples went into treatment, and saw the faces of my other children. In that moment I felt physically sick. I choked out something about how I couldn’t do it, covered my face, and burst into tears. Russ pulled me closer to him – everyone sat in silence.

Then Russ started to talk about our experiences of trying to handle rages and trying to keep everyone safe. I knew we were messing up the plan for the meeting, but I couldn’t even take my hands from my face. I felt embarrassed that I had fallen apart when moments before I had been a relatively calm, intelligent, competent mother. I breathed deeply for what felt like a long time, and finally managed to uncover my face, grab a kleenex, and begin listening to the conversation again.

After my massive fail at role playing, nobody else was asked to role play, and interestingly, no parent said, “I’d be happy to do it. Let me give that role play a try.” I wonder if anybody was sitting in the group hoping they would get a turn.

Thanks for reading, I’ll share more tomorrow.

Lisa

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

35 Comments

  1. Karen NumberTwo Hannaford
    September 23, 2013

    I hate role play. Bad enough when you are doing something rather removed from yourself, but to be asked to do something with so much emotion involved must have been awfully hard. You mentioned that people had said how good it was to know that other parents had been going through similar troubles to themselves, so I bet they understood! They were all probably thankful that it wasn't them!
    Thank you for sharing. Somehow people who have it all together are really boring. I can't identify with them at all. I really like real people who have problems and struggles and yet keep putting one foot in front of the other and use their experiences to help others.

    Reply
  2. blesseday
    September 23, 2013

    Wow. I am sure that would be therapeutic for some, but why would they assume the parents are healed more than the kids? I'm so sorry that happened–and yet, perhaps it was a grace-thing, and you beautifully embodied the sorrow and fear and helplessness a parent feels in a way that the therapist or other parents needed, for greater understanding, or empathy, or emotional liberty. I'm praying God used it for His good purposes, and that He restores your spirit, dear woman, and releases you from all the old, painful feelings. Much love from CA today!

    Reply
  3. Laine
    September 23, 2013

    Thank you for sharing. You are braver than you realize. Your posts inspire me every time. Having been in that hard place with my kids, I would end up breaking down too if asked to role play. Some things are just too difficult to re-live. Thank you for your courage to share you story. God bless.

    Reply
  4. Karen A.
    September 23, 2013

    Oh, how very difficult that must have been! I ached for you in reading it. I can see why she might have chosen you – but there are often things going on with people that don't show on the outside (not knowing whether you'd met her before or not – but my thoughts are the same either way). As with our children who shouldn't be judged by what is showing on the outside, parents also should not be judged. I know the feeling of remembering in a physical re-enacting way. Praying for you, and sending hugs. And for the record – I also hate role plays — I think they are much more pressure on the participants than they are of benefit. If they need role-play, let the facilitators demonstrate.

    Reply
  5. Vertical Mom
    September 23, 2013

    I have a feeling that the rest of the group was thinking, "Yes, I'm definitely not as alone in this as I thought."

    Reply
  6. Chantelle
    September 23, 2013

    I don't think anything strikes FEAR in my heart quite like those 2 words … 'role play'. 🙁 I join you in HATING it with a passion! You did just fine given your circumstances. A hug was in order and hopefully they won't ask you (or anyone!) to do it again! ((((hug))))

    Reply
  7. Chantelle Pratt
    September 23, 2013

    I’m sorry for your experience but relieved that I’m not the only one who LOATHES role play! It has NEVER benefited me in any way! I’m way too self conscious, fumbly and uncomfortable to gain anything good from it!

    Reply
  8. Julie Blair Pitts
    September 23, 2013

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa. Our roads are different, but nonetheless very similar.

    Reply
  9. Gloria Elizabeth Scott Griffis
    September 23, 2013

    Lisa, I have no idea as to why the Lord has allowed certain families to experience trials such as these. I only know that He is there with us in the midst of them.

    Reply
  10. sleepyknitter
    September 23, 2013

    Oh, wow, Lisa. Wow, what a day for you. I would have responded in such a very similar way, and yet I don't have anything comforting or wise to say now. Just "been there, done that," and big, big hugs to you. Makes me cry just thinking about what that day might have been like for you, and what the years were like that led to it. Hugs. And I do hate role play so very much. My first trauma-parenting conference called for role play, and even though that was only twenty minutes of the entire conference, I cringe every time I think about the conference (two years later) because of those twenty minutes. Yuck.

    Reply
  11. Mary (Owlhaven)
    September 23, 2013

    I have to think that all the people in the room understood where your emotions were coming from. Don't feel bad that you let those feelings show. Parenting wounded children is the hardest work ever, and it leaves parents with trauma wounds too. You would not have judged anyone else for exhibiting those emotions, including your child, so be that kind to yourself too, ok? You didn't fail. You are a great momma.
    Hugs,

    Mary

    Reply
  12. angela
    September 23, 2013

    been there. Well, not exactly "there", but went to a depression recovery seminar where a group of us were learning to facilitate recovery groups…. they put us in a circle and we were each asked share along the lines of our own grief experiences. Such a difficult topic. People had unbelievable stories to share and we were all teary. My grief was nothing in light of losing a loved one in a horrific accident, or such, but it was the realization of how our family was so changed since adoption. What we once cherished was NO longer. We had a new family and it was going very, very hard and it was very very fresh and real. I fell apart in front of everyone. I looked up and the man chairing our group happened to be a friend from our church and also had adopted children and what I saw in his face was great compassionate understanding for which I was thankful.

    You are an amazing mother. It is beautiful how you feel so deeply for your children. This journey may never be easy, but we have HOPE.

    Reply
  13. jgumm
    September 23, 2013

    Just the words "role play" make me hyperventilate! Love that you were in a safe place and I'm sure you weren't the only one feeling that way.

    Reply
  14. Katie Szotkiewicz Patel
    September 23, 2013

    That sounds hard Lisa, but I bet your reaction ministered to someone in that group….showing them that they aren’t alone in struggling with all this. Hugs!!

    Reply
  15. Jessica Fields Rudder
    September 23, 2013

    I almost wonder if that wasn't more helpful than a roleplay.

    I tend not to like roleplaying because it's so – for lack of a better word – fake. The responses people give are usually nothing like what the actual person would do in that situation. I was in a meeting once where we roleplayed sales calls and 90% of the 'calls' ended with happy customers agreeing to purchase. I think about 1-2% of calls in reality end with purchases….in other words, our roleplaying was a lot different than reality.

    Perhaps the fact that the thought of roleplaying one of those situations brought up so many emotions allowed people to recognize that where there is that much history, it's hard to come in at the ground level when something is going down. I'm sure it was positive for some of the other parents to know that they aren't the only ones overwhelmed just at the thought of trying to connect with their child when their child is raging.

    Reply
  16. Rosemary
    September 23, 2013

    Wow, doesn't sound like a fail to me. Rather, it sounds like a moment of profound openness and the serving-up of a teachable moment to the facilitator. What at first glance feels like a failure is so very often an opportunity to build strength. Be it for you or another patent in the room, you have them an opportunity to grow.

    Reply
  17. Amy Louise
    September 23, 2013

    Lisa I think you did what every parent in that room would have done or felt like doing. God Bless you! You did not fail.

    Reply
  18. Mom-2-6
    September 23, 2013

    I am so sorry. It is good to remember that parents of children with attachment disorder often end up dealing with PTSD themselves. I know, that sounds so clinical. What I really mean to say is that I too struggle with intense grief and sadness that the life I had thought I would have is not the life I do have. And sometimes, current events trigger sad/bad memories of past events and I end up reliving the emotions. Not to mention that my other children are hurt too. Lord, have mercy on all of us.

    Reply
    1. Karen P
      September 23, 2013

      I agree completely. My kids have some hurts and trauma from past foster care experiences that were bad. I'm never quite sure when those memories will surface and what will trigger them. So thankful for God's tender mercy and healing.

      Reply
  19. Karen P
    September 23, 2013

    I am sorry your weekend started on such a hard note. I know that I have surprised people at times by bursting in to tears when asked a seemingly innocent question. It happens. I'm sure that everyone in the room could identify. I hope you have a great week!

    Reply
  20. Allison Kelly
    September 23, 2013

    Rooting for you Guys. I Know How u feel. I have Been in a Group therapy Setting as well its hard.

    Reply
  21. Emily
    September 23, 2013

    Oh friend. Love you.

    Reply
  22. Lori Schneider
    September 23, 2013

    I’ve never done group therapy or role playing, but boy do I empathize with the feeling of being overwhelmed with one more thing to add the already long list. Praying for you and your family!

    Reply
  23. Kelly
    September 23, 2013

    Seems as though this may have been an example of those "cracked pots" you posted about a few weeks ago.
    I want to thank you for writing about this… it encouraged me… and helps me to know that I am not alone, that these emotions that seem to want to swallow me whole, this fatigue that is ever threatening to drag me to my knees… it's normal.
    This job really is "that" hard.
    Thank you for writing about such a hard moment.
    I am praying for your own restorative sabbatical soon.

    Reply
  24. Monica Alderete Wright
    September 23, 2013

    Oh that is brutal! You, Russ and the other kids have gone through a trauma too. I think maybe role play will be rethought in the future. Continuing to pray for you and Dimples.

    Reply
  25. Virginia Grubaugh Johnston
    September 23, 2013

    honest~~

    Reply
  26. Terri Ulrich
    September 23, 2013

    I have never liked to “role play” and understand why you would struggle to do so. I totally get what you are saying and all the feelings of personal trauma when you parent kiddo’s suffering from a history of trauma. I love reading your blog. Thanks for your honesty!

    Reply
  27. Paula
    September 23, 2013

    Role playing is yucky. Hugs, mama.

    Reply
  28. Dawn
    September 23, 2013

    🙁 TOUGH STUFF!!!! I can't pretend to know……I know our children and their trauma, but it is soo hard. Thank you for being so brave and honest! Sharing is helping so many others! THANK YOU!

    Reply
  29. Allison Kelly
    September 23, 2013

    Just So u know I Don’t like role Playing. I JUst Don’t Get why we have to role play

    Reply
  30. Margaret
    September 23, 2013

    thank you for sharing Lisa…I am wondering how you felt about the program as a result of this, did you question it, did things improve, did you end up having a check in with the facilitator later, etc? It sounds so hard when you are trying to partner with them to work with Dimples…I will look for your next posts to see.

    Reply
  31. Allison Kelly
    September 23, 2013

    I don’t think that role playing helps me it just makes situation harder and more stressful

    Reply
  32. kristine
    September 23, 2013

    Oh my! I am sure that most if not all of those parents had been to places that you have been with your daughter. Watching you be authentic and real and having it all come in on you, that had to help some of those parents.

    Reply
  33. Erika
    September 24, 2013

    Your bravery was beautiful! It shows just how raw the emotions are and it was an educational experience to help others. Pat yourself on the back and know that you did the right thing because your feelings are not only ok, but also completely valid. Hugs.

    Reply
  34. Mamitaj
    September 24, 2013

    Oh! The intense emotions that can flood us at any moment! Thank you for being open, honest and real. That brings healing to us all. I don't role-play, I re-enact – with all the ugly raw emotion of the real situation. I can't do pat little responses that are fake and meaningless. What you see is what you get. What I see with you is a mom that has been hurt and broken and fearful – a mom that loves deeply, prays fervently, hopes patiently, and believes faithfully. You are beautiful in all the right ways. 🙂

    Reply

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