Forever Families: If You Can't Say Anything Nice, Don't Say Anything at All Featured

Written by  Wendy Volkmar Saturday, 26 November 2016 00:42

FF Say NiceThere are many things I have learned from Lianne since we adopted her six years ago, at age 13. If you were to ask my family, they would say one of the most important things is kindness. For instance, living with three other women (my teen daughters) meant that we all had our "cycles" about the same time every month. You can probably imagine what that was like, and it wasn't the sweet bonding time that the book, The Red Tent, talks about, either.

One particularly emotional month, the girls and I were in the kitchen after school, "talking." Lianne was sulking, Phoebe was crying and Steph and I were arguing about how insensitive I was supposedly being. Our third son Tyler walked in from work and quickly assessed the situation. "Um....I think I'll go to the store....need anything? Chocolate? Midol?" We should have been up in my room, on my bed with a pan of brownies, watching a Nicholas Sparks movie together. I didn't understand the impact my mood had or how it affected the children. I always thought I was a nice person. I was a fairly thoughtful friend, a good wife and a fun mom. I felt that I was kind, just honest and direct, too.

The first couple of years Lianne was learning English, instead of listening to my words in a conversation with her, she would study my face. If I wasn't smiling and happy, she would get moody and sulky. I figured out eventually that it was a fear response. She had learned in the orphanage that if an adult wasn't happy, it meant something bad was likely to happen to her. 

As her English improved, she would pick up on negative words I said or tone I used and would respond very negatively, again out of fear. What I realized was that much of what I said, though I didn't mean it negatively, was actually negative. For example, I would be direct when talking to my family.  "Clean up your room." "I told you to get in the car." "Put your shoes on." "Put your dishes in the sink." "Stop arguing and just do it." Now, directness is called for sometimes, but often we get into patterns where we don't speak to our families like we do our friends or even acquaintances. We can sound impatient and rude. 

I couldn't understand why Lianne didn't respond like the other children did. Since I had a long and secure relationship with the rest of the family, they took my directness (and even rudeness) in stride. Lianne constantly thought I was angry at her and that something bad was probably around the corner. It hit me like a bolt of lightning one day; "I am not a very nice person, and I am coming across rudely and impatiently." Wow. Talk about something you don't want to realize about yourself! I decided to change.

I must admit that I felt a little fake in the beginning, but I began changing my face and my words. (Do you know that if you consciously smile throughout the day, you get fewer frown lines? My theme verse became, "A wise woman builds her house. With her own hands, a foolish woman tears hers down." I learned to think before I spoke. It was so hard! Would my words trigger him/her? Was there a nicer way to say it? Does it need to be said at all? My face hurts from all of this crazy smiling!

I hate redundancy. People don't need to be corrected on what they already know. If it's negative, you can usually keep it to yourself. There is power in silence. I now say please and thank you for things that my family does. It's so important to show gratitude and to use kind words. I wanted Lianne to feel more secure, but it's been amazing to see the healing in our whole family. 

In conclusion, I've not only learned that it's important to be nice to your family, but that an adopted child may need extra sensitivity until you've bonded emotionally. In the meantime, look on the bright side: you may have avoided some unnecessary wrinkles!

Read 1149 times Last modified on Monday, 28 November 2016 15:39