This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Monday, December 1, 2008

The right attitude

In Sunday School we are doing a bible study on Dickens The Christmas Carol (with Ebenezer Scrooge). We watched the first part (Scrooge in the office and then at home with Jacob Marley warning him of the spirits that would be visiting). We were supposed to watch this part while thinking about selfishness and generosity.

I'm sure the entire class gets sick of me comparing everything to my kids, but once again this lesson really brought home a lot of insight for me (and I'm an extroverted person who loves to share!).

There was the obvious Scrooge is selfish stuff, but the generosity was more interesting for me. In this version, Scrooge's clerk, Bob Cratchit was perpetually happy, no matter how miserable he "should" have been. Here's a guy who works for an uncaring skinflint, makes very little money, has many children, including a boy who is sick and lame, and yet won't listen to one bad word about his boss. The nephew who has been rejected by Scrooge over and over, and married for love in spite of his uncle's wishes, continually asks Scrooge over for dinner. As he lives he wishes the old Humbug "Merry Christmas" and throws a "Happy New Year" in for good measure! On his way out he stops and talks to Bob about his family and even asks about Tiny Tim (the lame child). He is a truly generous and caring person.

One of the other members of my Sunday School class pointed out that infants are by their very nature selfish. They are completely unable to care for themselves. One thing I learned while working in childcare is that children do not develop empathy until they are three. This means that a small child CANNOT understand how other people are feeling. Sharing is something they do because others make them. Biting is something they do because noone is preventing them from doing it, they're bored, or they like seeing the reaction it always gets ("biting back" makes no sense to them because they don't understand that what hurts them would hurt others - that requires empathy). I told the teachers and parents I worked with that this doesn't mean we don't bother with teaching them - they still need to learn and practice the words, but you can't be mad at them for not understanding. They are just too little and their brains haven't developed yet.

As kids develop we teach them empathy, caring, forgiveness, compassion, and generosity. We usually do this by example/ role modeling, which is a much better way to learn than lecture. Of course Kitty and Bear didn't get these lessons or many good examples, and developmentally they are just barely old enough to understand some of them.

The hard part for me is to be the generous person who cares for the selfish person. And to keep remembering that they don't understand and I have to "give them the words." It's much easier with cute, little helpless babies. A favorite saying around here is, "But they're cute?!" - meaning they're a pain in the rear sometimes, but they have redeming qualities and we love them anyway!

Trying hard to be a Cratchit and not a Scrooge this holiday season!


Lisa said...

I am trying to keep the right attitude too!

Anonymous said...

I think about the Prayer of St. Francis (readily available online.) It's the one that goes "Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me show love. etc..." One of the lines is

"It is in giving that we receive."

When I hear that I remember that it's not just giving out the positive vibes, but the negative ones, too. When we are nasty and short-tempered people will return that behavior to us. We reap what we sow.

Oh, and while I'm reading your blog I've got "The Muppets Christmas Carol" CD on. :)