Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Summer Rhythm

Confession:  While I love writing and connecting with friends through writing, my ability to publish a blog post is greatly hindered by school vacation.


School breaks present unique challenges in our family, often resulting in emotional regression and exhaustion for all of our members.

I want to love summer, but as I strive to meet one or two of my children’s needs, it feels as if I’m actively neglecting the needs of my other children.

For years, we fell into an unnatural, summer routine of meeting one child’s needs while everyone else waited in line- becoming less healthy by the moment.

Until this current season.

Over the years we’ve realized our two children who are adopted need an unusual amount of structure to feel safe and enjoy themselves.

This makes sense to me. When two of my sons came to live with us as older children they had no reason to trust me. They weren’t calmed by the rhythm of my heartbeat or voice, and they probably had little reason to believe I was capable of meeting their basic needs.

When my two biological sons were born, they would cry and I would meet their needs. They already knew my scent, voice, and the rhythm of my heartbeat and, therefore, my presence was regulating for them. Through closeness and repetitions of me meeting their physical needs, my sons began to expect me to to be close and to meet their needs. They began to trust me. They eventually began to sleep longer between feedings and we established a natural routine based on trust.

For two of my children, the rhythm of our routine is comparable to the regulating nature of a mother’s heartbeat. [Tweet This]

After almost six years, I see signs my children are trusting me outside of the routine. But still, they thrive with as much routine as I can provide.

Therein lies the problem:  our two children who don’t have a history of developmental trauma are stressed out and inhibited by the intense structure that causes their brothers to thrive.

Yes, our four children enjoy each other and can have one or two weeks of vacation together in relative harmony. (Which is a recent thing, a major blessing, and something we do not take lightly.)

But after that initial two weeks, two children are looking for structure and two are pining for down time.

We tried day camp to add structure, and it wasn’t healthy for our children. For a couple years our sons attended a therapeutic camp and they loved it! The staff even knew how to make the transition smooth as to minimize loss. Sadly, the camp had an “off” year and as one treatment provider said, “If you’re going to run a therapeutic camp, you can’t have an off year.”

She’s right. That camp, exceptional while it lasted, is no longer an option for our family.

This year, with the help of our state, we were able to hire a babysitter (who is a friend) for a few weeks. Each day, for those weeks, she repeated a routine that was comfortable and involved a tremendous amount of physical activity and fresh air for our sons.

They had a blast! Beyond having a blast, this is the first summer our family has continued to make real relational progress and was able to begin the school year strong.
Our summer solution this year is by no means the solution for all families with a complicated dynamic. It might not even be the solution for us next year. I share our experience because I want you to know that if you somewhat dread summer due to the unique obstacles it presents for your family- you’re not alone!

I know how it feels to take a Facebook break because I cannot read one more status update from a glowing parent anticipating the bliss of endless summer days with her children.

I know what it’s like to adore my child and cry myself to sleep because I’m not sure I’ll ever get one moment’s rest from meeting his complex needs- moments I desperately need to preserve my patience so I can love him well.

Like some of you reading, I celebrate unique milestones such as our first summer of continuous fun and uninterrupted progress.

And, for the first time, I have high hopes for our next school vacation.

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  1. What a challenge to meet differing levels of need for structure with your kiddos. It sounds like you are figuring ways to do just that.

    And as you say, even mamas need to have their needs met sometimes.

    Congrats on your best summer yet.

    1. Thanks, Lori!

      I do know my needs should be more of a priority than they currently are. Working on that.

      Parenting is not a sprint, I hear. But I need to actively remember and do something about it.

  2. Thank you for such an honest post. There are a lot of us out here who aren't doing status updates about the wonders of unlimited free time, summer smores, and stargazing. The breaks are important, especially when you're meeting such diverse needs at home. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for connecting, Laura! It is so good NOT to be alone!


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