by: Amanda Purvis
Editors Note: At this year’s Empowered to Connect Conference, Amanda Purvis,Training Specialist, shared this letter she wrote to fellow adoptive and foster parents. We’ve published the letter here in hopes that it letter will encourage parents doing some of the very hardest work of caring for children from hard places.
To my fellow sojourners on the journey to true identity and health:
If you decide to join me and others like us on this journey, you will not regret it, but it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Being part of something that requires all of you means you will have to release many things that have carried you thus far on your journey. You will have to release strategies that have served you well but have now become weights as you attempt to become the truest form of who you were meant to be all along. You will have to release these weights so you can help the ones to which you were called.
By releasing the weights of your history, whether they are weights of anger, pride, resentment, or unforgiveness, you will be forced to touch pain you have deeply hidden. You will be forced to get your hands dirty with what once was in your past. In that mess you will find the freedom of true forgiveness and cleansing, and you will come away, not new, but true. You will come away as the person you’ve always been, but may have hidden or forgotten somewhere along your journey.
“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe its about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you. So you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”
This release will leave you feeling naked and exposed to a world from which you’ve learned to protect yourself. Perhaps this is how your children from hard places felt when they showed up at your door: reliant on others’ kindness, grace, and power that is out of your control.
This “unbecoming” will be uncomfortable. Vulnerability usually is. But I promise you this: you were made to do hard things. Remember? You are strong and courageous. And on this journey you will meet many people just like you and me, people trying to become better for those we love most. Because we know we cannot lead a child to a place of healing, if we have not travelled down that road before.
(A quick word to those of you juggling this journey while carrying multiple children alongside of you: I applaud you, and I say, “Me too!” Remember, doing hard things is not impossible, even when it seems that way.)
In the town where I live, there is a place called “the steps.” It is 200 steps that go straight up a little mountain. I know this doesn’t sound like a lot, but come visit and you’ll see it’s a real challenge!
I try to climb the steps at least once a week. There has never been a time when I have been alone as I climbed the steps. Most often I arrive alone, but am quickly befriended by fellow sojourners who are also climbing the steps. We encourage one another, laugh as we take turns passing each other, and warn each other if there is a snake or ice patch up ahead. Sometimes I meet friends there so we can climb together. But no matter how I arrive, I have never walked the steps alone.
Look around. No matter how you arrived today, you are not alone.
Now, on occasion, I will see a Warrior Mama or a Warrior Papa on the steps. You know the type. While the rest of us are using our arms to lift each one of our legs up individually as we near the top, this mom or dad is not just climbing the steps, but they’re climbing while carrying a child, usually in a child-carrying backpack. They have purposely set out to climb the steps with the bonus weight of their child, like a feat of human strength! Their intention is to use their child’s weight as an extra challenge, as a source of growth. I don’t know about you, but I NEVER set out with that intention. Never! So I am not speaking to those parents. And honestly, they’re not here today because they probably don’t have to attend parenting conferences. They’ve superseded us all!
I want to tell you about the other parents I see on the steps. These are my people. They show up haphazardly, hoping their child would give them five minutes of alone time if they climb quickly enough. They hope their kid would play peacefully at the bottom while they complete a quick workout.
What happens to these parents is always the same: they all end up toting a child who runs up uninvited to meet them, and then this child gives up halfway to the top. I watch them make the decision, for we all do the same thing. We look down, “Nope, can’t go back.” It’s too dangerous to walk down these steep steps carrying my child. Then we look up and want to start sobbing. We have to keep going, but it is too much. And so with no other options, the newfound Warrior Mama or Warrior Papa reaches down and heaves said child over their back as they begin to shakily continue their ascent.
One step at a time.
Every single time I see this happen I just want to stop and applaud as the tears fall down my cheeks. I want to scream, “That’s IT!!!”
“That is this whole parenting thing! Right there! You’re DOING IT!”
There he is, Superman in the flesh! Superwoman, there she is!
This is life.
Because most of us didn’t realize when we started the ascent that we’d end up struggling half way up. And none of us thought we’d be heaving the dead weight of a six year old who thought he could handle the climb on his own. But here we are. All of us. Look around. We’re trying to make it while carrying others.
So as you go back home and continue your journey on the steps of life, and you realize you are carrying the weight of your babies as you yourself journey toward health. I want you to know that there are so many of us with you, cheering you on. Tears are streaming down our faces because we get it. And you’re doing it! You were made for this! You committed, it’s too late to turn back. The only way is up, and you will make it.
Because you cannot lead a child to a place of healing if you do not know the way yourself.
With all the Love,
Amanda Purvis is a Training Specialist with the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development (KP ICD) at TCU. As training specialist, Amanda’s main focus is instructing professionals working with children who have experienced trauma, in Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®). She spent many years working in Child Protective Services in a variety of capacities and joined the Purvis Institute in December 2017. Amanda lives in Castle Rock, CO with her husband and five children, and their dog, Scout.