For the Dads


How does the challenge of parenting a severely wounded child affect mothers and fathers  differently?

On a recent Sunday Russ and I sat down with friends who have a very difficult situation with one of their children. We two moms had lots to say.  Our children have been seen by some of the same doctors at Seattle Children’s, and accessed similar services in Idaho, but their path has been different from ours.  They shared many things that were helpful to us, and we talked about our pursuit of therapy in Nebraska. Most of all, there was a sweet and painful fellowship shared that bound us together and kept us sitting at a picnic table far beyond the time that comfort would have allowed.

As I listened to the men talk, I recognized something. Husbands and fathers are made to protect their families.  But what is a father to do when it is one of his own children who is causing pain to the family?  He is torn between loving and caring for this child with all his might – and protecting and defending the rest of the brood.  This is a gut-wrenching dilemma to be in.

As the conversation flowed between these men, who are both wonderful fathers to a large number of children, I recognized the complexity of their situations.  What are they to do?  How do they love and care for the one, while loving and protecting the emotional well-being of many?  How do our husbands love and protect us, their wives, in a situation like this?

If you are reading this, and thinking, “Well, he should just do such-and-such…,” you have no idea the world we, and families like us, are living in.

Russ’ solution for our family right now (which I support) is respite.  Dimples is happily spending time with friends and taking a break from the hard work of living in a family, and we are getting relief from the constant pull of parenting one while protecting all.  The other family’s heartbreaking solution is residential treatment for their child; sometimes that is the only answer.

By the grace of Jesus, this is a time of healing for all of us, and with all my heart, I pray that it is a time of rest for Dimples.

And to the Dads out there, you have a very hard role as you parent children from “hard places.”  I recognize the complexity of it, and wish there was more support available to you.  If Russ weren’t swamped with the demands of our life (and if he weren’t an introvert), I suspect he could start an online support group where you would discover that you are not alone.  In the absence of that, maybe you could find just one other dad who is walking this hard road, who understands what it is to love the one and the many at the same time.  Most of all, I hope and pray that you will find strength in Jesus Christ who is our great hope.

Friends, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post – or anything else.

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.

18 Comments

  1. Paula Miles Spears
    August 3, 2012

    Great post… I'm forwarding it to Tom right now. I could just walk up the stairs and tell him, but that would be so five years ago. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Michelle
    August 3, 2012

    I wait for your next post like a note from a friend I haven't heard from. It encourages me in so many ways and reminds me I am not alone. This struggle has been insane for my amazing husband. When our hurt kiddo hurts me or our other kids, he immediately wants to protect. It has challenged him in so many ways. His biggest struggle comes when he sees the strain on me emotionally and he desperately wants to protect me and take it away. We have had many conversations regarding his desire to protect me from her. He has had to work so hard to not withdraw from our daughter or resent her. He has had to process the idea that he can't protect me from her but protect all of us in different ways. This has taken him more out of his comfort zone than most can understand but God has used this experience to teach my husband so many things. Thankful for your reminder of how this has challenged him in a way I even cannot understand. Parenting a hurt kiddo has made us realize our strength and hope can only come from the Lord.

    BTW…online support group would be awesome! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Traci
    August 3, 2012

    When we first brought our daughter home at age seven, she would throw very physical fits with the intention of infliction pain on me. This was such a hard time for my husband to allow she and I to work through this very difficult time when he feels such an instinct to protect me. It took a few months for her to let his "wall" down and open his heart to her. I'm glad you posted this.

    Reply
  4. Rayia
    August 3, 2012

    May the Lord grant you both deep comfort and grace!

    Reply
  5. angela
    August 3, 2012

    love the picture… Dad dressed up for the cold… fleece and all. Kid all in beach wear. That would so look like our pictures!!!

    This is a real thing, you are talking about. Protecting the family and loving the child causing the pain… and wanting to protect the rest of the family from that pain…..

    Really struggling here with one child right now. Clinging to the FAITH that there is a purpose in all this chaos…. At this point I feel it must be to change me. To teach me to have the mind of Christ… Struggling to have hope for much else, such as redemption for the child at the moment.

    Reply
  6. Dawn Wright
    August 3, 2012

    I LOVE THIS POST!!!!!!!!! It is COMPLETELY TRUE!!!! Although our situation is not as dire as yours or your friends 😉 I know both of you and know that ours still hurts…..

    I think of it this way….it is the same reason many men won't give their blessing to do an adoption in the first place. They are trying to protect that mommy's heart of having the wait, having the healing process take place, and risking it all! It is pretty hard for men who are the protectors to do this – AT ALL!!! It is a wonder any of us have large families – much less adoption thrown in there.

    I see the hurt they experience because "they weren't there" to protect us from the rages and actions of our children. How we throw ourselves in the middle to protect our other children. They feel responsible for that even though we know they can't control it. It is hard……

    I think ALL DADS deserve HUGE MEDALS- and those who have traumatized children- well they deserve GOLD!!! And then some….maybe PLATINUM!!!!! Praying for all those dads!!!!

    Reply
    1. Mary (Owlhaven)
      August 3, 2012

      I agree with you, Dawn. These dads are doing such difficult work. The vast majority of folks just can't understand the tremendous challenge and strain of it.

      Reply
  7. Joelle
    August 3, 2012

    I really appreciate how you view the time apart as respite and beneficial for everyone including Dimples. I really grow from your positive approach in giving reasons for why you do things. So often it is so much easier to express the punitive side of solutions because of the anger I might feel inside. I like how you include the break Dimples is getting from the hard work of living in a family. It would be easy to just focus on the break everyone else needs. That gives me pause to think about the situations I face from a different perspective. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Blended brady bunch
    August 3, 2012

    What is really a shame is that there is a "dirty little secret" in the adoption community called "Dissolution". Those who have tried everything they have the means to try and come to the difficult decision that the only option is to dissolve an adoption have little information, no help/resources, and face guilt and judgment. The reality is that some children are not a good match with a family……. or a particular family can only take a particular child just so far along their path to healing. No parent…… not one….. walks through the rigorous process of having their life and family examined under a microscope with the idea that an adoption will be anything less than "FOREVER".

    Reply
    1. Mama D's Dozen
      August 4, 2012

      Oh.So.True.

      In 2008, we adopted 3 older siblings.

      In 2009, we had to disrupt the adoption of the older brother. We could not protect our 5 younger children from this teenage young man (whom we had been told was much younger).

      In 2012, we have had to now place the youngest sister into an out-of-state care facility. The trauma that she experienced at the hands of her older brother is just too much for her to bear. Her violence (and threats) have escalated to the point that we just cannot protect the family.

      Oh the criticism. Oh the judgement. Oh the pain that we bear because of the Christian community and the Adoption community that sees us as "failures", rather than as a family who has done everything we possibly can to provide healing for the children that we welcomed into our family.

      So. So. Painful.

      Reply
  9. Blended brady bunch
    August 3, 2012

    However, sometimes the reality is that you are NOT a child's forever – you are merely the next step in their journey. In my case – the state was consumed with the idea that the siblings must be placed together. (Probably because they are financially incented to do so.) However, the middle child triggered off of the older and younger and created an environment that was like a war zone for everyone in my home. Since we made the most difficult choice we have EVER made in our entire lives – to dissolve and place the middle child with another family – everyone involved has experienced remarkable healing. She is better in an environment where she is NOT reminded of her history by her shared sibling experiences – and they are so much better in an environment where she is not commanding all the attention – all the time. And our bio kids are healing from the trauma of her in our home as well. I pray for your family all the time….. I have been where you are and it is the farthest thing from easy.

    Reply
  10. Marty Walden
    August 3, 2012

    This is so true. Add that to the fact that most men are not as verbal and forthcoming as women tend to be and you have fathers that are as isolated as the moms. It's a hard place and with RAD triangulation is ever present between mom and dad and it takes real effort to keep both fighting on the same side. Because it's is NOT right having to fight your child instead of fighting for them. Great post.

    Reply
  11. Angela
    August 3, 2012

    I also love this post and you are COMPLETELY right!! My husband is so often caught in the middle not sure what to do. One thing is for sure, he wants a "quick fix" like most men but so often that is not possible.

    Our 7 year old ET daughter has been with us for nine months and while she is experiencing something deeper and bigger than she has ever known (family and love) she has deep fears that she will lose it even though we reassure her a LOT that isn't the case!! She is having a hard time completely embracing us as her family and fully trusting us (who could blame her!!) and it is hard to watch!! She tests me especially (she is closest to me) to make sure that no matter what, we are really in it for the long haul.

    My husband comes home from work each day wondering what kind of day it has been….. Thanks for the post!!

    Reply
  12. sleepyknitter
    August 3, 2012

    So true! That was the deepest pain in our family during this past year, the struggle that my husband had as our newest daughter struggled against every aspect that made us a family.

    Reply
  13. Angelina Denver
    August 3, 2012

    I understand this post so well. Also I am so happy that you can put your story into words. You are encouraging others along the bumpy way!

    Reply
  14. Mary Themom
    August 3, 2012

    Our 19yo son with RAD, bipolar, PTSD, low IQ, brain damage, trauma…. that didn't come into our home until he was 13, went to jail yesterday for a first degree felony. He's been out of our home and off his meds for over 6 months. He'd moved back in with biofamily in another state. I know in my heart we did everything we could for him, but my husband keeps blaming himself – thinking there was something else we could have done. He's the family protector, our rock. He's struggled with helping raise 2 RAD, mentally ill kids and protecting them, our other 2 children, and of course me. He's an introvert with a full time job and a part-time job. He feels guilty about leaving so much of the therapeutic parenting to me and wants to have a more active role in being a therapeutic parent and less being a warden, but that's what's needed from him right now.

    Dads really do need our support, but I don't know if an online support group would be the right thing to give them the support they need I wish there more options.

    Mary

    Reply
  15. Amy
    August 4, 2012

    Great post – our husbands could talk long as well – will email you when you get home so we can get together!!

    Reply
  16. Lori
    August 4, 2012

    I often think about these same things in regards to my husband. He is also an introvert and a man of few words as well so I often just have to take nonverbal clues from him to know how he is doing. I have seen him rise to defend me when he sees actions or attitudes that are disrespectful or hurtful to me. Sometimes, I do not tell him how I am feeling or when I am at the end of my rope because I want to protect him from the helpless feeling of not being able to do anything about it. I have several fellow adopted moms that I can decompress with. He does not have that luxury.

    I know how it sounds to people who have not lived with a difficult adopted child to hear that you need respite or that it is good for the child to be away from the family at times – good for the child as well as the rest of the family. Until I was in the position of raising an ADHD, RAD diagnosed child I would have judged that as wrong too. It does go against our natural inclination as parents. I have discovered that I do many things (on the direction of therapists) the complete opposite of what I would think I should do if I was dealing with a "normal" child.

    Thank you for expressing these issues many of us deal with. It is good to know there is a group of people somewhere that understand!

    Reply

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