I am not a good parent

Today I had my third therapy session.

I realized after two therapy sessions that I hadn’t said anything really critical about myself yet. It felt like I was potentially going to therapy to stroke my own ego and to get another person, someone I am telling myself is an objective and learned voice, to tell me I’m a good husband, a good parent, a good employee, a good person.

But I don’t _actually_ want that.

So I told my therapist that.

After meandering for a while, I finally found the voice inside myself that I feel the most insecure about. The voice that says,

“I am not a good parent.”

Cognitively I don’t think I believe this to be true.
But I feel the pressure to never let that be true constantly. 

It has something to do with control. I can identify that. It also has something to do with the weight that I give to the voices around me. I give too much time, energy, and thought to the opinions of people around me, especially to those that are complete strangers.

I often feel my kids are out of my control. And I think deep inside I tell myself that because of that, I am not a good parent. When we are out and about and my kids throw temper tantrums, it feels like every person is telling me this with their glances. At dinner when they refuse to stay in their seats, I feel like I am a failure. I can’t even get them to sit down for more than five minutes at a time. I feel this especially when we have guests over.

So my task these next couple weeks is to pay attention to this voice. Where am I hearing it loudest? Where is it coming from? When and where do I hear it the loudest?

It’s so hard to cognitively know something isn’t true true, but continually try and override the negative tapes in my head that seem to play on repeat in the background.


What I’m Into These Days

Outside of talking to my closest friends, books, podcasts, TV shows, and movies are the tools that help me slow down and process my life. It’s not that they help me escape my life, but rather quite the opposite. They help me work through my own story and narrative with more clarity and insight.

Here are some of the resources that have helped me recently:

  1. The Robcast
    Hands down the most helpful resource I turn to in my life is Rob Bell’s podcast. Just a few years ago if I would be afraid to say such a thing. The circles that I have come from view him as a heretic and dangerous. I heard so much about Rob Bell when I was in seminary. I made the mistake back then of hearing about Rob Bell rather than hearing from Rob Bell.His podcast is life-giving to me. His attitude and personality are so encouraging to me. His interviews and insights are insightful. His sermons bring clarity to my sometimes fuzzy faith.
    There was a recent documentary that came out about him that I liked called “The Heretic.” It’s on iTunes and Amazon if you want to watch it.
  2. Tell me More
    This book by Kelly Corrigan was one of the most truly authentic books I’ve ever read. It had an incredible balance of being vulnerable and honest about the messes while also not coming off smug about being vulnerable and authentic. It’s a fine line, and Kelly is incredible at telling her stories of struggle and mishaps in a way that doesn’t come off as “Oh look at how authentic I’m being by telling you this messy element of my life and personality!”
    I found her book incredibly validating and helpful as I’m processing through a number of things myself.
  3. Frederick Buechner
    Another author whose transparency is life-giving. I’ve read a couple of his books, and am currently reading another. He reflects on his life a lot, but how he handles the events of his life impacting his thoughts about faith and God are extremely honest and helpful. He challenges me to truly be honest about my own faith.
  4. Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) 
    I’m not a fan of empty platitudes. And neither is Kate Bowler, the author of this book I read in one day. A day in which I was extremely stressed and upset about my children destroying my kitchen one morning. It was timely and helpful in my processing of the elements of my life these days, and how I process God’s involvement and goodness.
  5. Lady Bird 
    I’ve now seen this movie twice. Once in the theater, and once with my wife a few days before the Oscars. Living with teenage girls, this was a fun one to watch, yet it was hard to see how her mom talked with her. It seems very similar to many of the moms of our girls that we work with.
  6. Sci-Fi shows
    For whatever reason I’ve been really into sci-fi shows and a few movies recently. And there seems to be more and more coming out. I must not be the only one. Sci-fi shows are usually dark, though. It must resonate with the elements in my psyche that maybe can’t deal with the fact that Donald Trump is our president and I don’t really understand the world around me that would continue to defend his behaviors.
  7. Love
    This show on Netflix is funny and frustrating. But Sarah and I just binged the final season this week. And it’s sad to say goodbye to characters I’ve learned to frustratingly root for. But I love a story which makes you root for people, and Love definitely capitalized on that. The show is now done, and I already miss it.

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.

Marathon Days

Yesterday was a marathon day. Once a month each girl in our home has a team meeting. A team meeting is where we meet with a girl and all her supports – her family, her PO, her GAL, her therapist, our consultant, and any other supports that might be involved in her life.

Yesterday we had five of those meetings.

Also, the girls didn’t have school because of their conferences. So I met with each one of their teachers and talked about their behaviors in class and about their effort and grades.

I met with a lot of teachers.

Micah has been throwing progressively worse and worse tantrums each day when he has to get dressed for school. Yesterday’s was so bad that Sarah didn’t know if she was even going to be able to get him dressed in time to get on the bus. It took me coming home in a rush from the conferences and practically forcing clothes on Micah to be able to get him dressed. And even then he kept saying over and over that he didn’t want to go to school.

He eventually got on the bus and got to school. But it was a struggle and a half.

With the girls home from school we had to feed them lunch and have tasks and work for the girls who were in trouble and had lost their privileges for the day.

That actually takes up a good amount of energy.

We were down a good amount of ingredients for the house, and so Sarah took all the girls as well as our assistant to go to the store. I stayed home with the boys. It takes a while to go shopping for a family of 13 (if you count our assistant).

One fun thing about the day is that my cheap little lens adapter for my Fuji camera came in today. So I can now use my favorite 50mm F1.7 manual lens from my Pentax on my Fuji. Really makes it fun to shoot with my manual lens again.

I went out last night with my friend Jeff after a long day. It is so nice to have a friend to go out with every week to debrief and unwind. It makes me better at my job and it makes  me a better person.

First Morning After the Adventure

Right now I am sitting at an octagonal table in my living room. The table sits next to a set of four windows lined with about fourteen pots of variety of cacti and succulents. Sarah and I really like houseplants. There’s more succulents scattered around the house. Our senior assistant seems to think them to be a bit excessive. The first time she came into our home she grumbled, “You guys have a lot of plants.” She clearly did not approve.

It’s supposed to unseasonably warm today, but I can tell that it is quite windy outside. And looking out my window now, it looks colder than it probably is. The sun looks to be fighting to make an appearance. But I see no blue in the sky. Only a grey ceiling of clouds.

I sit here in silence. Sarah took the girls to church and dropped off the boys to a lenten Sunday School class. She let me stay home and be by myself. Which was nice and unexpected.

I’ve been up since about 5:40 this morning. I first heard the fan turn on in the bathroom and then a loud door slam. “Probably Ezra,” I thought to myself. After a few moments of silence I started to wonder what was actually going on behind that door. I got up and went into the bathroom to see Ezra just finishing up and flushing the toilet.

He scurried back to his room through our living room and again slammed the door. I opened it quickly to see him jump into bed and get under the covers.

“Stay in bed, you two.”

Micah, who had been sitting up waiting for his brother to return from the bathroom, laid back down and I closed their door to hopefully get a few more moments of rest before having to watch them while Sarah continued to rest.

I got about twenty minutes before I heard Ezra come out of his room for the morning. It was about 6:00. Sarah and I have now established some new routines. Today is their beginnings. One of the biggest and most important elements of the new routines is that I am the one to get up with the boys every morning until it’s time for me to work with the girls at 7:20 am or so during the week. On the weekends it’s a bit later.

I got up this morning and took a couple pillows and my comforter off the bed to go rest out in the living room while the boys played with each other. I threw the pillows down in front of our door, and laid down with my blanket. I didn’t want them sneaking a chair over to the door to unlock it again, and we don’t have a long enough couch for me to lay down on, so it was the most logical place to rest.

The boys played fairly well with each other. There was some bickering and some pushing here and there. Another recent change is that if the boys fight over a toy, the toy gets taken for a time until they will be able to earn it back. I didn’t have to take away a toy because after my one prompt of them needing to share with each other or else it would be taken, they figured out a system of borrowing that appeased them both, at least for the time being.

It’s Sunday, and eventually when 8:00 rolled around I turned on CBS to watch Sunday Morning. Ezra borrowed my phone to play a game and Micah played with toy cars.

Sarah eventually got up and made a plan for church. I had forgotten about the boys having Sunday School, so we had to start the battle with Micah about getting dressed. It’s been horrible recently, and has been progressively getting worse. He refuses to put on pants and shirts because they “mess with him.” He doesn’t like tags or seams. He has given up on wearing jeans altogether. Every day it is now a battle just to get clothes on him.

Eventually we got them both dressed, but even walking out the door Micah was still complaining about his pants, threatening to take them off at any moment.

Sarah is going to have to go to the store to pick up brunch foods. We didn’t have the ingredients to cook brunch this morning. The reason why we don’t have the ingredients for brunch this morning is a story that goes back to yesterday’s adventure. An adventure I still am unsure I have the words to address quite yet. But I will soon.