Wednesday, April 27, 2011


N & Mommy

J charging a wave

Before we had kids we loved to go surfing together. We lived in LA and we'd go as often as we could, to the local beach before work or down to Orange County on the weekend. Surfing is one of those things that is really fun once you get the hang of it, but pretty brutal in the meantime. There's a steep learning curve, and you're gonna go 'over the falls' (surfer lingo for getting tossed upside down in a wave) a few times. But the feeling you get when you find your footing and cruise down the face of a wave for the first time... it's indescribable, and makes every lungful of saltwater worth it.

We are learning to surf again. Not in the break at Redondo Beach, but on the unpredictable and exhilarating waves of life with a newly-adopted toddler. The number one rule of surfing is always respect the ocean. Don't turn your back on it, don't get complacent, don't think you know what's coming next. The ocean we must respect these days is our son's healing heart. Though we are novices in these waters and have gone over the falls a few times, we are starting to get our bearings. Here are a few strategies that have helped me catch some waves this week...

When Z is in a funk, or mad at me for imposing a limit on him (I don't let him play with knives, I am so mean!), it can be very hard to bring him out of the bad mood. One thing that works almost without fail is playful movement - especially the kind of movement that activates the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. Tossing him in the air, rolling him in a blanket like a burrito, swinging him backwards and forwards between my legs, flipping him upside down, spinning him around, are all ways to do this and he loves them all. A few minutes of these activities and he will go from scowling and throwing stuff at me to giggling and smiling into my eyes! There are some moods that are immune even to this, but 9 times out of 10 it does the trick.

Pretend & Role Play
Another strategy that has helped me connect with Z in the tough moments is using stuffed toys as a sort of 'intermediary' between us to help bridge the gap. He gets mad at me (or maybe just mad). I don't like it, but I am learning to accept it as a normal part of our journey together. When he is mad, he won't make eye contact, he won't give or accept affection, he won't engage with me in play or respond when I talk to him (unless you count angry grunts or screams, which I don't). Using a stuffed animal has helped us to reconnect in a few ways. I can use the stuffed animal to model appropriate behavior to Z (i.e. giving and receiving affection, gentle touch, interactive play). I can also allow Z to interact with me through the toy -- even when he is unwilling to interact with me directly, he will often still indirectly engage with me by making the animal give me kisses or play with me. I can then slowly transition from interacting with the toy to interacting with him as he is ready and comfortable.

That's all I have time for today -- my little surfer dudes are up from their naps and the waves are rolling in... surf's up!

1 comment:

  1. Love this analogy! For one, my teenagers love to surf. Two, we adopted a toddler back in 09 and are going back to surf the ocean :) This time on the YWAM beach. We loved Karen Purvis before we adopted Bella and I remember one thing that she said that we really thought worked was breaking up the day with rest (nap or quiet play like reading), activity (active play), and snack...then again. Role playing was huge, too, for us.