Sometimes I Am Terrible At Empathy

Even LDRBRNDs have their moments

I have a hard job.

Raising kids is difficult. But my kids have a few extra layers of complexity thrown in for good measure.

First they are triplets. Lots of people have a certain reaction when my wife or I mention this fact. It’s usually something like this:

“Whoa! That must be a lot to handle.”

And we mostly smile and say

”Yes it is”

All while knowing how extremely difficult it is to raise kids in this special scenario. The fact is our kids are always in a winner take all struggle to get the most attention from us or any other adult that happens to be in the room (including grandparents, teachers, and our adult friends/neighbors). This happens because they see each other as ever present competition.

This isn’t something we taught them. It happens to be a natural consequence of being born as multiples. But we definitely strive to teach them a different paradigm. Once that says “You are valuable and will get all the attention you need.” But that is a hard message for our kids to internalize because they also have another layer of complication to deal with:

Years of abuse suffered at the hands of their biological parents.

My wife and I began the journey with our kids nearly 4 and a half years ago when they were 5 and a half because that is when they landed in foster care. Throughout this journey we adopted them a year later. We’ve worked through a lot of emotional and psychological scars especially.

Their background and pain created a tough juxtaposition of issues: incredible attention seeking (negative behaviors included) plays again a deep distrust and open defiance of adults. This manifests itself in many ways but it comes down to testing boundaries endlessly.

It is emotional labor on an epic scale. My wife and I remind myself that there aren’t many people who could have handled the challenges associated with our kids. It is a worthwhile endeavor. We have reshaped and are reshaping their lives. We believe they are in a much better situation with hope for a bright future.

But the effort to undue the damage of the first five years is immense. Sometimes it gets the better of me. Frustration and anger bubble up at peak emotional exhaustion. And it becomes easy to forget about empathy, caring, and connection.

This is all too applicable to us as LDRBRNDs as well.

The good news is that even though we can have this misstep, we can come back from it. Furthermore, we can learn to protect our emotional state better in the future.

We are far from perfect. We need to realize that, accept it, and move forward to a place where we can ask for forgiveness. It is in this process that we see the depths of our own humanity and set us up better to be able to connect with the humanity of others. That’s where the true vulnerability and authenticity lay.

Not to simply throw around buzzwords. Not to fake our own humanity (that is a road to disaster and distrust). But to show that we have our foibles. But we don’t simply wallow in mistakes. We are trying to show others how to be better. There has to be a next step.

What’s it all for?

What’s in it for others to learn?

How can my experiences be leveraged to create growth in the people I am here to serve?

How does my story encourage others in their individual journey?

What good is a life lesson if it isn’t shared? The value drops to almost nil.

On the other hand, the value raises to infinity as the lesson is learned and shared by others in an exponential fashion.

So, my hope here is to encourage people that there is something beneficial even in the trials and missteps. But we have to be willing to face them head on and be open and honest. Be willing to look like a fool, to be soft even in this hard world, and to share the hard stuff. It can be scary but it is worth it.

The other part I want to address is this idea of protecting our emotional health. One thing I have come to realize over the years (and I am far from perfect here – just struggling each day to get better), is that my emotional health needs to be protected as much as or even more than the other types of health.

When I am working day in and day out with my special needs triplets (I hate to have such a label but it is the truth), the sheer number of repetitions can get to me. Now kids need repetition in general to learn certain lessons. Some lessons take longer to learn. But our kids take it to another level. Almost every lesson has to be learned endlessly (and we as the parents have to decipher if this is a “normal” kid thing or because of our kids’ background).

The repetition can exhaust even the most stout and experienced of parents. But falling into the trap of impatience often leads to a much worse result. So I have to recognize when things are going in that direction and act to cut it off. I don’t want to be overly harsh with my kids. I know that isn’t going to benefit anyone.

In order to protect my emotional health, sometimes I have to literally leave the room or the house so I can cool down. This can be a short term solution for a small thing. It helps in a pinch if it is available. But sometimes that path wont be available. So I am working on my responses (not simply reacting) and practicing more emotional intelligence (EQ).

Now this is a topic that can be discussed at length in another post. It has becomes very buzzword-y as well. But there is real benefit for the LDRBRND. In parenting and in marketing, we all can work to better be able to connect with other humans. It starts by understanding what sets us off. Then training ourselves to see those triggers and take a different approach.

For instance, when my natural reaction is to get angry and yell, I can train myself to identify these feelings as they are coming up. Then I can get to the root cause of why these feelings are getting to me. My feelings usually come from a place of wanting my kids to experience an abundant life and a bright future. I know they can do amazing things (and they have done so much even since they have been with us) once they understand some fundamental life lessons.

But I have to be incredibly patient with them. Even when we have gone over these big ideas (honesty, integrity, kindness, respect, and self-control), these are hard lessons for a lot of grown ups to handle. So I have to respond with the opposite tact: being more patient, gentle, and soft when the temptation is to be anything but.

When I release anger, frustration, and harshness, that protects my emotional health. It then starts to help the other parts of my health as well (physical, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual). Or I can let it boil my blood and cause me to have physical issues. I have a choice in the matter. And the choice is obvious from an intellectual level. But We don’t always operate from a logical and unemotional state of being.

But we can train ourselves to better in this. My hope is that my story and my journey helps you to be a better LDRBRND wherever you may be. Even if we aren’t where we want to be with this, we can start trying to be better today. It’s not too late. And then we won’t have to suffer as man empathetical lapses. That isn’t the legacy we want to leave behind. Instead we want empathy to be a cornerstone of the legacy we leave behind for our kids, grandkids, and great grand kids.

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