gratitude: words of wisdom

Last week BrightSide and I attended an adoption conference a couple of hours from our home. Making this happen wasn’t exactly simple; our being gone from o’dark-thirty to after dinner required some serious coordination.  BrightSide’s parents rose to the occasion, coming to town so the kids could spend Thursday night with them.

We had to leave for the conference by 6:00am, so his folks were in charge of the Friday insanity. This meant juggling getting the kids fed and out their door on time for school, navigating the drop-off line, finding a time to stop by the house midmorning to let out the dogs, meeting the bus at home for T-man, then going back to school to pick up Bear after her club meeting.

It was a lot to throw at his parents, even taking into consideration that the kids are pretty self-sufficient these days, but in the end I was so grateful that we could go.  It was a wonderful experience.

This was the fourth year that the county’s department of social services had organized this particular conference for child care advocates (social workers, DSS employees, and adoption agencies), foster parents, and adoptive parents.  Meeting people from such a wide range of backgrounds was a wonderful way to witness all the ways the community is influencing children’s lives.

There were three keynote speakers throughout the day, each one sharing their story about growing up in the foster care system and pivotal moments in their lives.  Adults who showed a resilience and strength in their youth I can hardly comprehend, who now dedicate their lives to advocating for children.  The incredible fortitude of each speaks to the power of having that one person who believes in a child, has faith in who she is and who she is yet to become.

We also had the opportunity to attend a workshop in both the morning and afternoon sessions. The hardest part of the conference may have been deciding which to select since there were so many interesting topics being presented!  In the end, these were our choices.

During the morning session we attended a workshop called “What My White Parents Didn’t Know…and Why I Turned Out Okay Anyway.”  I was drawn to this one because the presenter was an adult who’d been transracially adopted, and I believed it would be valuable to hear a firsthand perspective from someone of color about her family experience.  While there were several noteworthy points, this session turned out to be less valuable to us than the afternoon workshop.  This may have been because we’re so far into this experience and have done a lot of research ourselves into conscious parenting for our unique family.

The afternoon session was phenomenal and would have been worth the drive all on its own.  It was entitled “Life is Therapy: Embracing Negative Moments as Healing Moments” and was presented by Heather T. Forbes.  Here are some excerpts from the workshop’s description that convinced me it would be worth our time:

“The majority of interventions for children are done outside the home, in a controlled and regulated environment…[however,] adopted children often only demonstrate their most difficult behaviors within the context of their home…they often present outside their home as well-adjusted, engaging, and likable children.  ‘Raw’ moments seen at home are rarely, if ever, seen in the offices of clinicians nor are they easily recreated during these treatment sessions.  The result is that the chaos continues in the home, despite out of home interventions…This will be an interactive and emotionally intense session with powerful exercises and role plays.  Participants will leave saying, ‘Now I get it…now I understand how to put science into action!’ “

Okay, I’ll admit that I blanched a little at the whole “emotionally intense” and “role plays” part, but we took a chance and man, did it pay off.  Big time.

Ms. Forbes discussed the brain – the neocortex, mid-brain, and reptilian brain – as well as which part your child is accessing during those raw moments at home.  She discussed strategies that would be ineffective in the moment, when your child is firmly lodged in the mid-brain (limbic system), and both BrightSide and I looked the list over with dawning realization about our interactions with T-man over the last few years.  When we reviewed effective strategies there was indeed that ah ha moment, an instant when suddenly the science of the kids’ meltdowns and how to handle them merged in a blinding clarity.

It was so freaking cool.

We left that session and bought the books Ms. Forbes had brought to the conference (nerd alert!) so now we’ve even got reading material to flesh the whole concept out.

There are so many things about this day that I’m grateful for: BrightSide’s parents dropping everything to make it possible for us to go, the county’s commitment to children in organizing such a powerful conference, the people we had a chance to meet over breakfast and lunch, and that ah ha moment in the afternoon workshop that I truly believe will change the way we parent through the raw moments in our house.


My post as part of Colline’s Gratitude Project.

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