Remembering the Journeys

Usually our girls are allowed to sleep in on Saturdays until about 10:30 am. Sometimes however, they get to go home for the weekend or for most of a day to spend time with their families. When this happens, they usually get up before 10:30, which means that I get some rare one on one time with them as they make breakfast and get ready to get picked up for their visit.

These times are special to me because I often get to have very real conversations with them. Yesterday was a prime example of that for me.

As one of my girls was waiting for her mom to come pick her up for the day she told me much of her mom’s story, and therefore much of her own. I can’t provide revealing details publicly, but I can say that her life’s story was full of struggle and perseverance.

I hope one day she is able to publicly tell her story. It’s a powerful one, and she’s a great storyteller.

But her story was a very good reminder of the stories and the journeys these girls carry with them each day. We have high expectations for each one of our girls, as we should, but sometimes it’s good to remember where they’s come from and how they got here.

Finally Friday

I.

Tomorrow Sarah and I have our weekend off. (We get one weekend off a month.) It’s felt like a very long month, so we are really looking forward to tomorrow. On top of that, my mom is going to watch our boys for the weekend so that Sarah and I can have a nice weekend with each other without having to worry about the boys.

Our best friends here at Boys Town also have the weekend off, so we are going to get together on Saturday evening for a double date night out. This is the first time we’ve been able to do this, so it should be pretty nice!

II.

One of my goals since starting to wake up with the boys and writing is that I’ll also take time to write letters or postcards to friends and family. I am not too bad at writing letters to people. But for whatever reason, I am horrible at making sure I get the letter or postcard into the mail.

So my goal should not simply be writing letters, but making sure to get the letter in the mail within 24 hours. I have a letter a wrote a dear friend of mine who was about to have a baby. It was a letter of encouragement as she prepares for her little one to arrive. And I didn’t get the letter in the mail. Time went by and she had the baby! And I didn’t get the letter in the mail in time.

I’ll still send the old letter, but I need to make sure to write a follow up to her and her family as well.

III.

Today is our citizenship ceremony on campus. It’s the time when the new youth on campus swear in as “citizens of Boys Town.” They talk about behaviors they plan to work on and improve on campus and about what they are like about Boys Town thus far. It’s kind of a neat thing for them because they get provided lunch and after the ceremony they get to go into the gift shop to choose a Boys Town shirt or sweatshirt to be able to wear to various events or activities.

Two of our girls are swearing in today. So they’ll get dressed up and we’ll get dressed up to hear them swear in. After the ceremony they’ll also receive a certificate that we frame and put up next to their rooms in our home.

IV.

Today is the second Friday of lent, which means no meat. Cooking is sometimes a hassle on lenten Fridays, so a number of the girls’ houses get together on Fridays for a potluck. They play games. They all hang out together. It’s a fun time for everyone, and it makes each Friday during lent go very quickly and something for the girls to look forward to rather than being bummed their not eating any meat.

V.

Every Friday I take the girls who had a good week to a late night trip to Taco Bell. That means they had to complete every homework assignment, they couldn’t have had any major behavioral problems at home or at school. This works as a surprisingly good motivator for our girls. In fact, one of our newest girls talks about it constantly as a reason why she wants to have a good week.

During lent it isn’t as much fun because they can’t have any meat, but I like to joke that they could still have anything on the menu because whatever Taco Bell uses isn’t truly meat.

Asking for Help

Even though we work with teenagers that struggle with their behaviors, and it is literally or job to help teach them how to change their behaviors and make good decisions, I still believe the hardest part of our job is knowing how to raise our own two boys.

Their behaviors recently have sometimes even seemed unmanageable. If we take our attention off of them for even the time it takes to go to the bathroom, they either make a huge mess or break something. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Micah, our five year old, has a genetic syndrome called Kabuki Syndrome. And some of his behaviors can be accounted for because of this. Ezra, his younger brother, seems to get joy from destroying things.

It feels overwhelming for a number of reasons.

For one, my wife and are I family-teachers, which our boss loves to tell people is being “professional parents.” So when we feel we are unable to manage our own kids, the shame feels multiplied.

Another reason is that many of the parents we know do not have this struggle with their kids on a constant basis. Yes, some kids have their moments. But it’s not a constant issue like it is for us.

Another reason is that it seems we are able to teach and help teenagers fairly well, but our own toddlers seem to be eluding our parenting and teaching.

So we’ve had to ask for help. A skill that we teach our girls on a daily basis.

We began seeing a behavioral therapist quite a few months ago to help with Micah’s behaviors. The strategies we would be using would be coming from the same model we use for our teenagers, but just adapted to younger kids.

And in many ways it has helped give us strategies with how to deal with Micah and Ezra, but it also has given us permission to address some behaviors in a way that I didn’t know to go about initially.

One issue we’ve been trying to address is when they wake up. They get up near 5:30 most days. And it’s tiring. They come out of their room and get into mischief. So our therapist suggested we get an alarm clock that has a red light and a green light. And you can set the time for the green light to go off, which tells them they are allowed to come out of their room. If the light is red, they are not to get out of bed or their room.

I set it for 6:15 this morning, and although Ezra and Micah had gotten up earlier to go to the bathroom, they both went back to their room and only came back out at 6:15 when the green light turned on.

I am thankful when strategies like this work out, even if only in the short term.