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Great Chocolate. Bad Advice. Part 2

 

Continued from Part 1

Get lost on purpose.

Sure, candy company. This is a great idea.

Let me disconnect my GPS, toss my phone and just start driving.

Forget about picking up the kids from school or assisting clients or happy greetings from me and the four-leggeds when Hubby arrives home.

Sometimes I do get lost, but not on purpose.

I have no maps in my head. I’ve tried. TRIED. Again, I blame books. From childhood through my early twenties is buried in books. Blessed with an iron stomach, trips to the grocery store or dentist were escapes to islands of treasure or conversations with diminutive females. (See what I did there?)

On annual expeditions up winding routes through mountains to see the glorious autumn red, gold and purple leaves, my mother called out every thirty seconds, “PUT YOUR BOOK DOWN!” Nothing deterred me from a good read.

Unfortunately, this also precluded me from the company of my slightly-more-motion-sensitive sibling, six years my junior, who paid attention to the road and could find his way home when he was approximately thirty months.

I still have trouble remembering…is it right? Or left?

Hubby still laughs at me for getting mixed up in the woods behind our house. In my defense, I couldn’t see anything but trees.

I traipsed out to give him something, then turned to head back to the house. He stopped me, then asked our (then seven and nine year old) children, “Which way is the house?” They pointed. Not the direction I’d started walking.

Do you need me to embarrass myself further? You get the point. I have no sense of direction. Getting lost on purpose would not be difficult.

But if I were to lose myself (especially—as so many times during our first 24 months with wild hyenas—when I feel the urge to do so), how would disappearing help? I submit to you that it would NOT.

“Getting lost,” whether a literal or figurative disappearance, is not the answer.

I can say this with unequivocal, earnest passion because for about a year, I followed this bitter chocolate advice. I buried myself, my dreams, my emotions, my yearnings. So worried that I would attach too deeply to these insanely wild creatures, only to be torn from them, I distanced myself. I got lost. On purpose.

I became an automatMom, going through the motions. On the surface, I appeared as happy as every other adoptive mom of kids with behavioral needs. We all smile in public.

Side note: Speaking of smiling in public, I just read about a couple who adopted a sibling group of five, then added a bio child. Their story is similar to our own (plus four kids) and when I read the upbeat, sappy parental commentary, I couldn’t hold back the sardonic laughter. Either 1. they’re putting on a front for the media, 2. they’re still in the honeymoon stage and the kids are doing everything they can to not screw up, or 3. (for all their sakes, I hope this is the case) it’s really a fairytale story. If it’s either of the first two, and you know them, feel free to direct them here. I can at least let them know survival is possible. 

Reality slapped me the day our son hugged me on his own (this is big) and I didn’t react. I hugged him back, of course, but on the inside…no spark of maternal warmth. Looking back, I can see that Hubby and I were both pushed to our limit and exhausted. If I could go back to give “pre-adoptive us” some advice, it would be this: FIND RESPITE. USE IT.

We weren’t aware of many resources available to us (and were too overwhelmed and spent to look for them).

The day he hugged me, I realized I’d been holding back on our kids. Being lost—to myself and to them.

For the record, leaving to “find yourself” is ridiculous. The best way to find yourself, if you notice that you’re lost? Take time in your situation to measure your reactions, your thoughts, your interactions. Decide what you want “found” to look like…and then work toward those goals one step, one moment at a time.

I am no longer lost to my children—and I do not EVER intend to get lost on purpose.

Stay present. On purpose.

You want advice?

Here’s mine:

Enjoy the chocolate. Recycle the wrapper.

Or, if you prefer, track down a vintage Esmerelda machine. Be careful though…it’s been twenty years. That”tall, dark stranger” might be stooped, wrinkled and bald by now.

I’ll just stick with chocolate.

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Great Chocolate. Bad Advice. Part 1

I’ve learned not to listen to my chocolate.

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I don’t know if your chocolate presumes to advise you on daily matters, but mine does so with the dogged intensity of a foil-wrapped yenta.

Admonitions and exhortations, bagged and available for purchase in your local supermarket. Or at least, in mine.

Some of these gems put me in mind of the suspect guidance provided by the chintzy gypsy machine in our local arcade back in the late 80’s. “Esmerelda” bullied all the pre-teens into feeding quarters into her slots on our way to the PacMan and Centipede consoles.

She never delivered on her promises, unless her “tall dark stranger will bring money to your universe” prediction referred to the leering, greasy-haired arcade attendant. He replaced quarters eaten by Galaga, so…I guess that counts.

 

Dove, I appreciate your attempt to bring moments of peace and happiness to my existence. (And with that new Salted Caramel line, you may claim absolute triumph.) However, it’s time to either

  1. find new writers or
  2. stop presuming what’s best for my life.

No offense.

Because, let’s be serious. If I followed most of the wrappers’ advice, my life would be in shambles. (Also, if I followed most rappers’ advice…but that’s a homonym for another day.)

Let’s pause to consider a few of these nuggets.

Keep the promises you make to yourself.

Right. On the surface, sounds like a great plan. This, of course, depends upon the flavor of your declaration.

During a recent conversation with myself regarding a child who shall remain nameless, I didst covenant with mineself that if such shenanigans as were occurring should perdure, said urchin’s nether regions would soon benefit from the application of velocity plus acceleration plus mass (also known as The Swatter).

Before you string me up and send me to Child Protective Services, please note that The Swatter is a plastic toy paddle that bends in half. It is a noisemaker.

AND, getting back to the point, although I promised myself that a swat was in order if crazypants did not cease and desist singing opera past bedtime, no paddle made appearance.

BECAUSE I DID NOT LISTEN TO MY CHOCOLATE.

If I listened to my chocolate, all manner of horrible promises might be kept. “If that kid doesn’t quiet down, I’ll…” “If they don’t stop throwing spaghetti at each other, I’ll…” “If my child trips the principal one…more…time…I’ll…”

Okay, that last one never happened. Thank goodness.

The assistant principal did tackle the five-year-old hyena to prevent yet another school-building escape, but he did not trip her.

A plethora of threatening parental promises stream from our consciousness all day.

Don’t give me that look; I know I’m not the only one. We don’t mean to keep them; it’s almost a habit. A tactic to manage the stress.

I like this better:

No one should keep all their promises.

Especially when you work with hyenas.

 

Indulge in dark.

Yes, the intent is convincing me to buy more chocolate. I get that. But let’s think about this one for a moment.

My kiddos love night-lights.

When I’m ready to sleep, I much prefer darkness. Even as a child, the only time I wanted light at night was to read Little House on the Prairie and Narnia under the covers.

Books are the reason I spent four years in braces; all that time spent reading with a flashlight between my teeth so I could use both hands to hold the book. These new-fangled headlamps available in the DIY store…my eight-year-old self would have cut off a big toe to get one of those. Probably even my own big toe.

For sleeping, I love dark. Flashing lights from a computer or cell phone drive me nuts; I have to cover them with a sweatshirt or other article of clothing dropped bedside (because yes, I do that).

Sometimes even a light outside my room is too much. At my aunt’s house, we leave the bathroom light shining in case of mid-night emergencies. The glossy wood floor reflects the light under the door and casts more light than you’d expect. I sleep with a pillow over my face to block the glow.

Following choc-advice, I could flip the light switch and sleep in blessed pitch.

And then, after sunup, I’d have to clean a bedside puddle because one of the kids couldn’t navigate through the blackness.

Keep your light shining.

 

How about this one?

Do what feels right.

Parent or not, I’m sure you’ve experienced that moment in which you think, “I really can’t live through another moment of _______________.”

Of course, we can and do live through it, but we don’t feel that we can.

Think of the last time you experienced the end of your wits. The frayed rope of nerves unwinding just a bit more…

  • you lose your job
  • he/she/they cheat (on a game, on a test, on you)
  • that child sasses you ONE. MORE. TIME.
  • he pushes
  • she yells
  • baby’s still wailing and you’ve changed and fed and burped and rocked
  • they scream and bicker and fight
  • your eye begins to twitch

In that moment, be honest—what do you FEEL like doing? Scream, yell, slap, hit, walk away, self-medicate, drown (yourself…others…all of the above) in alcohol or bad behaviors or the bathtub.

Nothing good.

This advice, excuse my French, is CRAP.

We must not do what feels right.

We must do what we know to be right.

Always.

And especially when our nerves are jangled and unraveled.

 

The last one is my favorite.

Continued…

Free Cheesesteak!

How about a free cheesesteak?

In Philadelphia, PA. From me.

Just sign up for WordCamp US, then let me know you did in the comments; I’ll choose someone at random and buy you a cheesesteak. In fact, I’ll let one of the kids pick a name out of a hat or something, just to be fair.

If you don’t eat meat, we can go for coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, well ARE YOU EVEN HUMAN? Oh, sorry, I mean…we’ll figure out something. Pigeon tipping, maybe.

Haddon Musings  has already signed up! Don’t miss out.

WordCamp US will be phenomenal, and here’s why.

WordCamp US Logo

HTTPS://DRIBBBLE.COM/SHOTS/2364774-WORDCAMP-US-LOGO

10 Reasons You Won’t Want to Miss WordCamp US

  1. Super-cool sessions. You don’t have to be a developer or coder to benefit from WordCamp US. Sarah Blackstock  wrote an excellent piece about the best options for bloggers and writers here. If you’re still waffling about whether to take your small business to WordPress, check this out. If you are a coder, designer or developer, you can find more information here on the main page.
  2. Amazing people. Have you noticed? Everyone with WordPress connections is just, well, SUPER! I’m not kidding. I haven’t met ONE person I don’t like. Granted, I’m sort of an extrovert and I like people in general. But in a group this large, there’s usually at least one individual with whom I would not enjoy sharing a cheesesteak. Not in this crowd. Come network, learn and make great friends.
  3. Happiness Bar. According to people in the know (Ingrid and Liam), the volunteers sharing their technical expertise are “fabulous” and “stacked deep with loads and loads of WP knowledge.” Having recent experience with Happiness Engineers, I agree. Questions about being the master of your domain? Plugin won’t plug in? App making you unhAPPy? (See what I did there? Genius, I know.) The Happiness Bar is your new happy place.
  4. Philly Cheesesteak. Steak. Cheese. Philly. Need I say more? Well, okay. Here are even more reasons for foodies to flock to WordCamp. Chinese, Italian, coffeehouse, seafood, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, like—seriously—anything your hungry heart desires. Oh, and let’s not forget the pretzels!
  5. After Party. I mean, seriously. Who hates a party? Well, okay, a couple of my friends are not fond of parties. Or people, for that matter…but for the rest of us crazy kids, check out Alx Block’s take on our upcoming fun.
  6. Swag. No, not sweeping fabric drapes or stolen goods. We are neither interior decorators nor pirates. Most of us aren’t, anyway. WordPress swag rocks. Who can resist Wapuu?
  7. CHOCOLATE. Several places wait to amaze you, but Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is UN-BEE-LIEVE-ABLE. I’m pretty sure those chocolatiers use magic. And maybe Oompa-Loompas.
  8. Be famous. I’ll be one of the volunteers behind a camera. Say “cheese” (or “coffee,” or “whiskey,” or whatever makes you smile)…you never know when one of my photos will go viral! Hey, it could happen.
  9. You could win a cheesesteak.
  10. And BONUS, you can find out what happens when I ask Hubby what he’d like for Christmas this year and he answers, “A redhead.”

People are arriving from across the ocean and down the block. Don’t miss your opportunity to join the networking, learning and celebration.

If you absolutely can’t make it, here’s an option to join the fun from the comfort of your own space. You can even get an official t-shirt.

See you next week!

WCUS-Site-Badge-Volunteer

My Truffle Likes Me Back

I’ve always had a thing for Lindor Truffles by Lindt. This is the first time one had a thing for me. And for the record…I didn’t do anything but crack the shell.

Adoption = You Ate My Cheesecake

Around here, we look for creative solutions.

It’s not so much that we’re trying to be on the innovative, leading-edge of child rearing.

Mostly, we’ve just run out of options.

Hoarding food is very typical in adoptive situations; kids who want to feel safe or control the situation may either make sure they have plenty of food available (hoarding, hiding, binge-eating, sneaking food at night) or refuse to eat.

We dealt with the food-refusal for about a year with our daughter; the situation got a little scary and our counselor referred us to a feeding disorder clinic. (It’s not considered an eating disorder until the late teens, apparently.)

On and off, we’ve caught our guy sneaking food. Actually, we usually catch him after the fact…he leaves wrappers in the trash or throws them behind things in the pantry (because I’m blind and will never notice?), or I discover that half of my cheesecake is missing. For instance.

We have tried every possible natural and logical consequence for the food thievery (commonplace or not, he didn’t buy the food, so it’s still wrong), even having him pay us back. Nothing worked. Finally, we put a lock on the pantry door. We considered putting one on the fridge, but he really only goes for desserts and snacks in the pantry. I hate it. Locking food away from them goes against everything I believe. On the other hand, if we don’t, he’ll eat himself to diabetes and back.

Just over a month ago, we noticed he’d put on several pounds. He’d also started picking up (and keeping) non-food odds and ends that don’t belong to him, so we felt it needed to be more strongly addressed.

Hubby and I sat him down, had a chat, explained that we feed him plenty of food to be sure he’s healthy. Gaining extra weight is not healthy, especially since he had heart surgery about 18 months ago. Asking for a snack is fine. Stealing food is not okay. We all agreed that he could eat something healthy if he woke up hungry (make a sandwich, have some fruit, etc).

Fast forward about three weeks.

The night of our anniversary, Hubby and I couldn’t go out, so I’d planned a dinner-and-movie date at home with finger foods and cheesecake. That afternoon, when I pulled the dessert box out of the freezer, it seemed lighter than before. A moment later, I knew.

I walked over to our son, teeth grinding. This wasn’t a snack—he’d eaten quite a bit. He saw the coming storm and paled. “Why am I mad right now?” I asked. He widened his eyes. “Because of the cheesecake.”

I crossed my arms. “That dessert was special. For Daddy. He’s put up with me for 14 years and he deserves something nice. Now what?”

He tapped his bottom lip, thinking. “You could get more?”

“No.” I fought the urge to growl. “I CAN’T get more because I have to take you to occupational therapy and then come straight home to get you guys through homework. That’s why I bought it YES-ter-day.” I was inches from losing my cool, so I walked away. Somewhere deep in my brain, I knew this would probably become a funny family story one day, but for the moment, I was steamed.

This weekend, during my read-your-blog-athon, (feel free to add to it; I’m up for more reading) the babysitter forgot to lock the pantry. I came home, took one look and knew at least one box of Hostess cupcakes was missing (mostly because we only had one, and, well, it was gone).

I asked him about it. “Yeah…I ate a bunch of cupcakes, and I found some Twinkies, and also some chocolate.” (Wait, we had TWINKIES?? Doggone it…) “Sorry, Mama.”

“So, we’ve talked with you about this before. You realize that you didn’t pay for the food, so you’re taking something that isn’t yours. You’re not just taking food from us—some of that food is for class parties or to take to people who need it. What’s going through your head when you’re doing this?”

He shrugged. “That it tastes good.”

“You don’t think about the fact that you shouldn’t be doing it, or that you might be ruining a surprise, like the cheesecake?”

He thought for a moment. “No, not until later.”

I sighed. I needed a way to communicate with him, to help him understand why he should stop.

*Ding*  (That’s the sound my brain makes when it’s done.)

I sent him out to play, then rooted around in the pantry for the kids’ candy bags. His teacher gave him a full-size chocolate bar for reading; he’s been very proud of it and we’ve been waiting for a great day at school (behaviorally) to break it out. He also had a little box of chocolates we got him for Valentine’s Day.

I ate the bar and a couple of the chocolates, and threw the rest away. Chocoholic though I am, the idea was turning my stomach. I didn’t want to see his hurt little face, but clearly nothing else we’ve done is getting through. I stuffed the candy bar wrapper in the box, then re-wrapped the cellophane.

He actually had a great day at school today, so the chocolate would have been a perfect reward. I called him inside. “Hey. Since you had a great day at school, you can have some chocolate.” His grin almost broke my resolve. Luckily for me, the box was already empty. He unwrapped the box and opened it, then stared at the vacant plastic insert and candy bar wrapper.

“Looks like someone ate that chocolate already,” I said. He shook his head. “Not me. I promise, I didn’t eat this candy.”

“I know you didn’t,” I said. “I ate it.”

He was confused. “You? Why?”

“So, tell me how you’re feeling right now. You were going to eat chocolate and you were excited, but someone else ate it. Now what?”

He stared at me. “Why did you eat my chocolate?”

I stared right back. “How does it feel when someone eats something you were really looking forward to having?”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Makes me mad.”

“So how do you think it felt when I went to get the cheesecake? Or the other times you’ve taken the desserts?”

He got it, jaw clenching. “You didn’t feel good. Probably mad and sad.”

I put an arm around his shoulders. “Yep, sad and mad, like you’re feeling right now. Look, I don’t like this, but you need to know how it feels. I hope that if you know how it feels to have someone else take your food—or anything else, for that matter—it will help you think before you do it again. You always have healthy food available for you, but stealing is not okay.”

He walked into his bedroom and shut the door. A few minutes later, I knocked, then went to sit on the edge of his bed. He’d been crying. “So, now you know how it feels.” I tried to hug him. He shrugged away from me. “You’re kinda mad, right?”

He shook his head. “No. Not mad. I’m ANGRY.”

Hiding a smile, I raised a hand. “High five for using specific emotion words.” He poked my hand with one finger.

“Look, buddy, I didn’t like this consequence at all. In fact, it made me want to cry, because I knew it was going to hurt your feelings and disappoint you. But nothing else is working, and I think you need to know how it makes other people feel when you take things that belong to them, so maybe you won’t do it anymore.”

He nodded. “I’m still angry.” He poked my hand again, still not willing to acquiesce a full high five.

I hugged him again; this time, he didn’t move away. After a minute, he hugged me back.

***

An hour later, he came trotting up to me and tugged on my arm until I bent down. He planted a wet, smooshy kiss on my cheek and said, with his cute little melt-your-heart grin, “I love you.”

***

I don’t know if my tactics will solve the problem, but here’s hoping. Anyone else dealing with the same? I’ll take any suggestions.

And next time, I’m going to find those Twinkies FIRST.

I Want You!

***UPDATE: I had so much fun with this! Please keep adding links to your favorite posts, and I’ll keep reading. 🙂 

I want you!

Actually, I want your writing.

Very excited about several hours set aside to do nothing but READ. (Whaaaaaaaaaaat?)

Yep, this weekend, the kids will have some time to themselves and I get a break in a silent, silent, silent  room with nothing but The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and YOUR BLOGS.

Chocolate truffles for my brain. The kind  my friend used to bring me from Belgium. Yum.

So.

Here’s your chance to make my weekend AWESOME. In the comments below, please insert a link to your favorite recent (or not so recent) post. Preferably from your own blog, but you can post someone else’s, too.

Thanks for being a part of my weekend. My life, for that matter.

P.S. If you order the The Writer’s Journey (or anything else on Amazon), using http://smile.amazon.com/ allows you to choose a charity. Amazon will donate to your charity with every purchase. If you don’t have one in mind, Compassion International is pretty phenomenal. I’ve seen the work personally and they’re financially transparent.

***

Photo courtesy alcantaraacupuncture.com

Under creative commons by Anna Gutermuth.

Adoption = Forgiveness with a Side of Chocolate

Our daughter harbors heartbreaking, heart-aching, anger toward her birth mother.

Thanks to a fun little disorder called RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder, not the cool 80’s “rad”), most of that rage is directed at me. One of RAD’s hallmarks is misdirection of anger toward the person who most closely represents the individual who caused pain. Most children with RAD aren’t aware of what’s happening; it’s not intentional, and it’s important for the “target” to understand that most of the child’s behavior is not a personal attack.

In general, she presents as an almost perfect child and is great at surface interactions. Anyone outside our home or very close inner circle of friends would be shocked that she’s anything but an angel. I did not immediately realize she creates that image on purpose, so was taken aback the day she complained about a classmate who did not like her, stating, “but I’m so sweet!” If you’ve ever seen The Bad Seed (which, in an ironic twist, has always been one of my favorite classic movies), imagine Rhoda. That’s my girl (without the homicidal tendencies, thank goodness).

For much of our time together, she has repressed her true feelings. Sometimes she references “pushing the feelings down” or “keeping myself from coming apart.” Once, she told the counselor that she has “a line,” and she has to make sure she stays “below this line,” tracing a chest-high line in the air. If she feels herself getting “close to the line,” she removes herself from the situation and stays by herself for a while. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she opens up a little bit; two years ago she told me, “it’s not fair that you get to see your mother.”  This year, her play therapist suggested we try something different. I sat in the waiting room to see if she would talk freely without me. She told the therapist that she is angry at her birth mom. The therapist suggested that she write a letter.

Later that week, Hubby had our son elsewhere, so I asked if she’d like to write a letter. (We’ve made a rule not to discuss the bio family in front of her brother. He’s allowed to bring it up if he likes, but if she references them when he’s present–and not mentally prepared–he has a very negative reaction.) I told her it was just for her, and I wasn’t going to read it unless she decided to share it. She wrote her feelings in large, scrawled letters (she asked me to read it), stating, “I wrote messy because I am VERY ANGRY.”

Several other times, when her brother was away, either she or I have suggested letter writing. The letters have been shorter each time, but still very angry. This past Saturday, in addition to writing the letter, she wanted to talk as we sat in the kitchen. “Why did she get rid of me? Why was she so mean to us?” Still angry, her tone was plaintive. I don’t have good answers. Or any answers, really.

Social services told the kids their mother was unable to provide care because she was “sick,” which then made our girl feel guilty for not being able to be nurse for her mother. On arrival with us, the kids had convinced themselves that social services kidnapped them from their home, had “taken” them from their family. They hated social workers, police, judges and anyone in authority. The few answers I do have are ones I don’t want to give. “Your mother put herself first, neglected and abandoned you, wouldn’t do the few, easy things the judge ordered she must do to keep you and didn’t show up to what she knew was your final meeting.” No. I refuse to break their hearts further. I remained silent and let her talk, praying for the words to help her.

My eyes snapped to the cookbook shelf, and I had an idea. “So, you’re really angry, right?” I asked. “Yes, SO angry. She took my heart and did this,” she said, making a breaking-in-half motion with her hands. “So, do you think she knows that you’re angry?” I reached for my biggest cookbook. She nodded. “She knows.” As I pulled the book down, I asked, “Do you think it’s hurting her back when you’re really mad?” She stood up, always interested in cooking. “Yes. It hurts her. What are you doing?”

I held the cookbook out to her. “I want you to hold this over your head with both hands. Don’t let go, okay?” She took the book, eyeing me with suspicion. “So,” I asked, “how heavy is it?” She shrugged. “Not that heavy. I can handle it.” I smiled. “Great! So, that’s my cookbook. If I held it over my head, it would be heavy, but you’ve got it and you can handle it. Do you think you can hold it up all day?” Her eyes widened. “It might get heavy.”

“So, you’re holding the cookbook. Is it heavy for me?” I asked. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “It’s not heavy at all for you; you’re not holding it.” I smiled. Maybe this would work. I pulled out one of her Christmas stocking gifts, a sealed plastic candy cane full of chocolate kiss candies, and placed it on the table. “Okay. You can have as many of these as you want.” She gasped happily (candy is usually well-rationed at our house). She started to put the book on the table, but I held out my hand. “Wait. You can have as many of these as you want, BUT you must keep both hands on the book.” She narrowed her eyes, determined. “I can do that.”

I let her try for about two minutes. She attempted to use her elbows, her nose, her mouth. Finally, frustrated, she said, “I have to put the book down.” I smiled. “So. In order to get to the candy, you have to let go of the book, right?” She nodded. “I just said that.”

“Before you put it down, tell me this. Does it affect me one way or another if you’re holding the book?” Slyly, she said, “I can’t give you any candy unless I put the book down. So I should put it down and give you some candy, right?” I laughed. “No, I can get the candy, because I’m not carrying the book. So does it matter to me if you hold the book?”

I reached for the candy. Now she was annoyed. “No. It doesn’t matter to you if I’m holding the book. Are you going to eat my candy? That’s not fair.”

I didn’t want her to lose focus on the idea, so I said, “Okay. Put the book on the table.” As she did, I asked, “So, now you can get to the candy, right?” Ripping open the plastic cane, she said, “Yep.” Praying I wouldn’t lose her to the chocolate, I said, “You know, when we hold onto anger, it only hurts us. When you held my book, it didn’t make a difference to whether I could get the candy. It only kept YOU from getting the candy.” Her eyes held a spark of recognition. “You’ve been holding a lot of anger against your birth mom. Who is it affecting?” Her mouth dropped open. “Me.”

“Is it affecting her?” Mouth full of chocolate, she shook her head. “When we hang onto anger, it hurts us and keeps us from getting to the love,” I pointed to the chocolate kisses, “but it doesn’t affect the other person. It can make us have bad behavior, though, and sometimes we find someone else to treat badly when the person we’re really mad at isn’t here.” She squinted at me, not getting it.

“When you first came to live here, were you nice to everyone?” She nodded enthusiastically. I ask, “Were you nice to Daddy?” Nod. “Were you nice to your brother?” Nod. “Were you nice to me?” Nod–then, “Not really very nice to you.”

“Why do you think that happened?” Eyes wide, she said, “I was mean to you, but I wasn’t mad at you. I was mad at her.” Completely floored she made the connection, I continue, “Right. And I always knew you weren’t mad at me. That’s why I didn’t get mad back.” (Honesty here: even knowing her motivation, it was definitely a lot of work not to take it personally, and sometimes I still did, but I worked hard not to react.)

“If you keep holding the anger against your birth mom, will it hurt her?” She opened another chocolate, one eye on me. “No. It just hurts me.” She slid a foil-wrapped kiss my way.

“Right. That’s why God tells us to forgive. Forgiving is deciding to let go of the anger, like deciding to put the book on the table. He doesn’t want us to forgive so the other person will feel better. He wants us to forgive because holding the anger keeps us from being able to get–and give–love.” I picked up the chocolate. “Could you give this to me while you were holding the book?” She shook her head.

“Forgiving is hard. People have hurt me, too, and when it’s a really big hurt, I think about what happened and get mad all over again. But I have to decide to forgive them over and over, because if I don’t, I can’t love others the way I should, and I can’t get the love I need. You don’t have to forgive her today, but when you’re ready to decide to forgive, I know you’ll feel better.”

“I don’t know if I can forgive her yet,” she said, thinking (and unwrapping more chocolate). “I know,” I say. “Sometimes it takes time. But now you know what you can do to feel better.”

***

The next day, she hugged me. “Can I write a letter to tell her about what I got for Christmas? I’m not going to write a mad letter this time. I forgave her. I’m still a little mad, but I feel better.” I hugged her back, tight.

Blogger JoyRoses13 has a great quote, which I’m stealing: “Bitterness is the poison that we drink ourselves, hoping to kill our enemy.”

Who do you need to forgive? It’s time to put the cookbook on the table.

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