I feel like I am supposed to share this, though I'm not sure that everyone is going to appreciate it. But something hit me in the middle of the night last night. Or more accurately, something bit me and then something hit me.
I got up to go to the bathroom, as I often do, many times, and I came back to find our dog, Quin, on our bed. He is a rescue dog and we have had him for two years. This dog loves me -- unlike our other dog who pretty much ignores me all the time. Quin is a gorgeous dog -- I found him online, and we have never regretted our decision. He is gentle and patient, hardly ever barks, and is always eager to see me. I'm not a dog person, so for me to tolerate, much less enjoy, a dog is surprising.
Quin's habit is to sneak in our room while I'm in the bathroom, wait until I get back into the bedroom and get settled and then jump off the bed and beg to be let out. So I reached over and nudged him to get him to jump off the bed and head out into the hallway. I startled him in the dark, and he bit me. It hurt. It didn't break skin, but I have bruises this morning.
As I was falling back to sleep I realized that I was not blaming the dog -- I was blaming myself and trying to figure out what I could do differently the next time to keep that from happening. And then it hit me. I wish I would have done the same thing with my children during our roughest times. But instead, I blamed them, wondering if they were safe to live at home.
I never thought once about this being Quin's fault. He responded as one would expect a rescue dog, who has had who knows what happen to him, to respond. He acted out his fear.
Are children that much different? Grant it, I don't encourage children biting their parents, but what if our response to our children's aggressive behavior were more along the lines of "how can I change what I am doing to stop that from happening again?"
I know there are a lot of kids who have behaviors that come out of nowhere. But many, many times they start with something small and escalate because of the way we, as parents respond. Things get escalated to the point where someone is in danger and then our conclusion is often to blame the child and wonder if we are safe with them.
Maybe I'm entirely out of line here, but I think I'm on to something. If I had it to do over again, and I've said this to many of you, I would have found a different answer than residential treatment or foster care for a couple of our kids. I don't get to do it over again, but if I could I would change MY response, because even a decade later their behaviors haven't changed much. I never was successful in "fixing them." Fortunately my behaviors have changed as I've come to the realization that I can change only my response to their behaviors.
I'm not going to send Quin away because he bit me. But I'm certainly not going to tap him on the head in the middle of the night again. I envision a world where adoptive parents have the same response to their children as I did to Quin last night, as my hand screamed with pain, and plan a way to stop it from happening again. I envision a world where we all have the support, skills, and training necessary to FIRST respond by wondering what we can do to change.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change
the courage to change the one I can
and the wisdom to know it's me. (anonymous)