This week it seems like wisdom is the most needed resource and it’s playing a game of Hide and Seek. We have been taking courses and learning so much about how trauma effects the brain and all the other things that come into play when you are a Foster Parent. The realization that life is not an even playing field where we are all given the same skills and asked to engage in a fair game has been jarring.
There are things we need to learn to accept as the norm for the kids we have in our care. Things that were not typical in our own children or in the world we raised our kids in. We need wisdom to determine what to fight for on behalf of our kids and what to accept. We need wisdom to view the actions of the Other Mother and interpret them for her children. We need wisdom to use our words in a way that brings understanding and hope, not the opposite. We’ve all heard (and said) things that I now know lack understanding!
Here’s some things I wish were never said:
- They are just lazy
- If they would actually try it wouldn’t be an issue
- Obviously they just need some discipline
- What is the big deal with … they should just get over it
- Just make a decision!! It’s not that hard
- Quit catering to that child and show them you’re the boss
- They are just manipulating you, you need to be firm
- Why should they be treated any different
- They need to drop the victim mentality and start dealing with life
So here is where wisdom comes in… most of those statements CAN be true. A child can be lazy or refuse to put any effort into something. Sometimes discipline is the answer. Sometimes boundaries are exactly what a child needs. They are not necessarily malicious or bad statements. But they are not ALWAYS true. Absolute truths are few and far between.
We have continued to learn that behaviours are symptoms. What we see on the outside comes from a internal reservoir that is the sum of all we are. If we have been given a normal healthy brain and body and are emotionally well the human potential is amazing! We are all capable of much more than we realize.
But if there has been damage to our person in the physical, emotional or mental… things get more complicated. We do not expect a person with a broken leg to walk up the stairs. We don’t say “they are just being lazy” or “they just need to try harder” when it is evident they can’t do it. We accept their limitations and direct them to the elevator, usually quite cheerfully and sympathetically. Mostly because we can see the cast and the limited mobility. Someone who struggles with anxiety might also be unable to tackle the task in front of them, but our response is rarely gracious and helpful. The reality is we are not all working from an equal platform when we tackle life’s challenges!
Our Foster Son has double jointed arms. He can put his arms in positions behind his head that make my stomach feel a little queasy. It is easy and natural for him, he thinks nothing of it when he does it. If he were to ask me to do it, I would laugh and tell him it’s impossible. I have no idea what it would take for my arms to be in that position, but it would require drastic and painful measures. I am simply not physically capable of it!
It is easy and natural for me to make decisions. I can look at a choice, evaluate my options and what the outcomes will be on each path and make an informed decision. It is easy and natural for me. When I ask him to make a decision I am asking him to do something that seems impossible to him. Just as impossible as me manipulating my arms the way he does. It is not a question of him being too lazy or not trying hard enough. He simply may not have the pathways in his brain that allow him to think through the steps required to make a choice. This is much harder for us to see, but it is no less real.
Recognizing where there are mental and emotional issues is sticky. We don’t always get the opportunity to have professionals make a diagnosis. In our proof focused society we like to have an x-ray that shows a broken bone, a doctor that officially confirms it, and a cast that the world can see. Most mental and emotional issues still go undiagnosed and the person living with them often is left feeling like they are some how less than others because of their challenges. So although there are times that we truly do need to try harder, focus more or stop making excuses. There are also times we need to accept our limitations and learn to work within them. There are also times we need to accept that someone else’s reality may not match ours and what seems simple to us may be an insurmountable obstacle for them.
Where does it come from and how to we acquire it and exercise it? We all need the ability to use our knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgement. We all make decisions and judgements every day… they aren’t all good. Our decisions and judgments have the potential to encourage others or hurt them. I know my source of wisdom…what is yours?
Let’s try to be people who will choose grace over judgement, forgiveness over resentment and hope over condemnation. If someone seems to be struggling with something you think should be easy for them, let’s assume there is more going on than you know and choose to support and encourage them.
Watch your words… unintentional hurt is still hurtful.
In the midst of the mess