A prayer for the motherless daughter

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorLesehu was her name. She was only 18 months old when her mama — like so many in Botswana, Africa — died from AIDS.

I met her at the daycare center that my friend Marie Jose, a Catholic nun with 20 years of service in that country, had quickly put together to address the emergency of the alarming number of orphaned children as the pandemic took more lives each day.

As the numbers of orphans at the center grew, the children took care of the toddlers while the overwhelmed volunteers worked to give them all a good meal and make sure they were safe for the time they were there.

Sister Marie asked me what could be done for this little baby, Lesehu, who was so despondent that she barely moved at all. She did not eat, would not walk, and she had the expressionless face of a person in deep shock. Her mama was gone. Her world had completely changed in the most incomprehensible way. She was like a boat whose moorings had been severed, floating with nothing to anchor to, adrift in feelings that were too much for a tiny person of such a tender age.

I gently put her in my lap and hummed softly to her heart. After some time, she let me feed her while my concerned friend watched and nodded that this was good. Soon after, the traumatized child fell asleep in my arms. When it was time to go, I left some Bach Rescue Remedy with the caretakers for her. I placed a feather light kiss on her little forehead with all the force of my love.

No parent wants another family’s child to be left in a bad situation. So we make donations where our contribution will help. We might sign petitions or call our representatives to try to have impact on the conditions that cause such calamity. These actions have important value. But in this world of ours, there will always be those little ones who find themselves dependent on the care of strangers since their mama is no longer there.

rope heartWe know from emerging scientific study that the energy, the potent essence, of thought and heartfelt concern does indeed travel across time and space to reach the ones for whom we are directing our attention. The field of nursing has a substantial body of research about the positive impact of prayer on the recovery of patients after surgery. Plants grow measurably better when someone has sent them positive energy. The Institute of HeartMath conducts pioneering work on the reach of the quantifiable energy of the human heart as it communicates to others across great distances.

Yet, independent of what science has to say about it, whispering a deeply felt wish on behalf of another person is just something we instinctively do. It’s built into us to focus our caring into a prayer for another’s well-being, to keep them safe, increase their happiness, or to bless them.

From my side of the world, I have thought of Lesehu often and wished that there was a way I could ease her sorrow. So it was a great relief when I realized that I could — this is my prayer for her:

May the love of the Divine Mother soothe your sorrow and dry your tears. I offer my piece of that energy to you now with all my heart.

May you be certain that the Mommy who gave you life wanted you to live and to thrive. She watches over you still.

There is nothing you could have done that would have changed how things happened, so let that doubt rest.

May you always know that you are worthy of love and deserving of happiness.

May you have thoughts that bring you peace and ease the longing for that which you do not have because of circumstances beyond your control.

May you reach for healthy relationships that fill you up with the sweetness of sincere caring.

May you make the best choice for your highest good in every instance so that your confidence in yourself grows as you grow.

May you believe in yourself, because I believe in you. 

May there always be someone kind nearby to encourage you, to celebrate your successes, and to comfort you when you need it. 

May a kind woman’s hands braid your hair with tenderness and let you know that becoming a woman is a wonderful miracle.

May you draw to you people and experiences that nurture you, that delight you, and that show you that you are creating the life of love and happiness that is your birthright. 

When you become a woman, may you have the confidence to pass gracefully into all that will come to you in this lifetime.

May you find true love with the soul who will adore you and cherish your true essence.

May you know that in your belly is the spring of life that connects you to the woman who brought you into the world.

May you laugh and giggle freely — I will hear you and smile, little daughter.

May this love I send out reach all children everywhere who can benefit from it. 

What if we do have the ability to shift the suffering of another person by sending our love and concern to them via the “quantum telegraph service”?

I am going to respond with that human instinct, because it feels true to believe that though I cannot touch this precious child’s face, perhaps my voice can be a whisper of love that touches her heart.

Raising kids with grit…and an interview with Jane Stevens of ACEs Too High

siblings-937393-mAttachment Parenting International (API) is directly involved in building resilience in communities across the nation and around the world through its local API Support Groups and accredited API Leaders by supporting secure parent-child attachments.

It cannot be emphasized enough how important secure attachments are. To be sure, resilience is something we all want for our children — actually, resilience is something all children need.

This scientific-sounding term, “resilience,” may seem really abstract and difficult to define. Perhaps you’ve heard of resilience by its other names. Synonyms include: grit, hardiness, toughness, adaptability, rebound, perseverance, tenacity.

In the most basic definition, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. I like to think of it as emotional toughness.

It’s the ability to rebound from frustrations and disappointments, to not get lost in life’s inevitable valleys between the high points, to persevere — all the while staying true to oneself, remaining passionate about life and never giving up hope.

Secure parent-child attachments and resilience-building go hand-in-hand. Positive discipline, coupled with warmth and nurturing, makes for an ideal child-raising atmosphere.

There is no need to expose our children to harsh situations with the misguided intention to raise them with grit. True grit — resilience — is not a mean-spirited or emotionally avoidant individual who has grown up building walls around his or her vulnerability. True grit is the ability to feel all emotions and to know how to manage healthy responses to those emotions, no matter the situation, without feeling a need to avoid or destructively act-out his or her strong emotions.

API helps parents learn how to develop this true grit within their children. API is a resilience-building resource, funded entirely by donations, yet offered free to all parents no matter their income class, life circumstance or location. Evidence-based parenting — like the approach advocated through API — is one of several areas of community-based resilience-building practices.

jane stevensJane Stevens, founder of ACEs Too High and the ACEs Connection Network, elaborates on resilience and its opposite — trauma — in this API interview.

API: ACEs are integral to understanding resilience. ACEs basically outline the childhood environments that are more likely to predispose people to grow up without developing a high level of resilience. Jane, what are ACEs?

JANE: ACEs are Adverse Childhood Experiences.

ACEs usually refers to the 10 types of childhood adversity that were measured in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, a family member who’s an alcoholic or addicted to other drugs, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, witnessing a mother being abused, a family member in prison, and loss of a parent through separation or divorce.

That doesn’t mean that there are no other types of childhood trauma. There are, of course: living in a war zone, witnessing a sibling being abused, witnessing violence outside the home, and others. It’s just that in the ACE Study, only 10 were measured.

API: Thank you, Jane, for providing this quiz for readers to learn their own ACE score (as well as their own Resilience score).

JANE: Many people who learn about the ACE Study and who calculate their own ACE score say they’re relieved, especially if they have a high ACE score. They say that their life finally makes sense.

They also understand that they’re not bad. They coped as best they could under dire circumstances. And knowing that they’re not bad people opens the opportunity for them to change their lives. It’s quite empowering information.

API: Looking at your website, we can see that higher ACE scores are associated with adult alcoholism, chronic depression, perpetrating domestic violence, smoking, being raped, suicide attempts, teen sex and pregnancy, employee absenteeism and job performance. From your website:

“At the same time that the ACE Study was being done, parallel research on kids’ brains found that toxic stress physically damages a child’s developing brain. …

When children are overloaded with stress hormones, they’re in flight, fright or freeze mode. They can’t learn in school. They often have difficulty trusting adults or developing healthy relationships with peers (i.e., they become loners). To relieve their anxiety, depression, guilt, shame and/or inability to focus, they turn to easily available biochemical solutions like Marijuana, if your son us medicated  check out this online dispensary canada for a great variety of strains for medical use.

Using drugs or overeating or engaging in risky behavior leads to consequences as a direct result of this behavior. For example, smoking can lead to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or lung cancer. Overeating can lead to obesity and diabetes. In addition, there is increasing research that shows that severe and chronic stress leads to bodily systems producing an inflammatory response that leads to disease.”

This is significant on an individual level, so what does this do to a community?

JANE: Communities whose residents have high ACE scores and few resilience factors are difficult places to live.

Essentially, the community is in a state of constant and chronic traumatic stress. This means that it’s difficult for people to thrive, or to raise children who will thrive.

API: What are your hopes in helping people learn more about ACEs, their own ACE and Resilience scores, and creating a network of resilience-building groups?

JANE: Once people learn about the consequences of ACEs, the effects of toxic stress and that trauma-informed practices and building resilience can create healthy individuals, families, communities and systems, they can never look at a homeless person without seeing an abused child.

They can never look at a young man in juvenile detention without wondering why the schools he attended did not intervene in his journey from the classroom to prison.

They can never look at communities without wondering if they are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices. And if they are not, they begin asking: “How can we start?”

API: It’s wonderful that people like Jane Stevens are working to raise awareness of ACEs and the effect of traumatic childhood stress. In addition, through her ACEs Connection Network, she is working to guide connections between trauma-informed and resilience-building groups to help individuals with high ACE scores find pathways to healing. This is much needed.

API works at the issue of trauma and resilience from another angle — prevention. It’s clear that the key to positively impacting a community is to first address the family, to get to the heart of the matter — the parent-child attachment relationship — in order to both prevent high ACE scores and to help our children develop resilience.

On Jane’s website, she writes about how resilience fits in with ACEs:

“Fortunately, brains and lives are somewhat plastic. The appropriate integration of resilience factors born out of ACE concepts — such as asking for help, developing trusting relationships, forming a positive attitude, listening to feelings — can help people improve their lives.”

This is exactly how children are raised in evidence-based parenting approaches, such as is advocated by API.

Peace coverRead the entire API interview with Jane Stevens in The Attached Family‘s online “Nurturing Peace” issue.