Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tiny Thoughts

Time for tiny thoughts today, not big ones.  But sometimes, I think the tiny ones are bigger than the big ones, anyway.

Busy morning.  Five kids up early, husband gone to class, Papa over to watch kids, Mr. C to eye doctor appointment.  I'm exhausted.  I'm late.  Before our eyes are usually opened for the day, Mr. C has his examined.  Three-year-olds and ophthalmologists don't necessarily mix, but Mr. C is a pro.  He gets a sticker and a Dum-Dum, and then we go to the store and buy him the big plastic shovel he's "always" wanted.

We drive.  I will myself to pass the Krispy Kreme.  Pass the Krispy Kreme.  Pass the Krispy Kreme.  Drat that red donut light.  I can resist a donut for a dollar, but I'm too frugal (is that an excuse?) to resist a free one.  And then I don't resist the one for a dollar, either.  Mr. C is delighted by a donut date, but I'm stuck on the fact that I fell to temptation.  Again.

We drive.  Straight down 28th street.  I'm disgusted by some of the businesses we pass.  They remind me of the fallen world I live in, one in which selfish pleasure is valued more highly than love and trust and Godliness, and I long for Home.  For perfection.  I'm worn down, and my enemy attacks.  Sadness and despair fill me.

Buying flowers, I see them as tasks to be fulfilled, items to be planted.  Front yard.  Back yard.  Patio.  Planters.  Coordinating colors.  I fail to see them for what they truly are; tiny expressions of God's creativity.  His love.  Miniature blessings to brighten my life on this earth.  And for the moment, because I'm wrapped up in myself, they're lost on me.  And I wonder.  How many blessings pass me by?  How many do I miss while I'm fixed on despair?

The baby screams.  And he screams.  And he screams.  And he will not stop.  He's hungry.  He's tired.  He's hot and sweaty.   He longs to be freed from his trials of heat and hunger and exhaustion.  But more than that, he longs to be comforted and protected and cared for.  And while I don't instantly care for all his needs, don't in that moment remove all the trials from his life, I offer him my hand.  He grabs it with two little fists, one claiming pinkie, one claiming thumb, and holds on for dear life.  And he is comforted. 

Holding my hand is all it takes for my baby to be comforted.

And the tiny thought I had, the tiny yet enormous thought that sent rays of sun shining into my darkness, was this:

What if I held onto God's hand as if my very life depended on it?  What if I clung to Him, with my two little fists claiming pinkie and thumb?  My trials would not disappear, my disappointments would not vanish, but if I always held His hand, I would always be comforted.

Holding His hand is all it's ever taken for me to be comforted.  

So when did I let go and start screaming again?  When did I lose my grip and slip away?  His hand is always there, offering comfort, offering help, so why did I stop holding on?  Why, when I need Him so badly?  Why?

I don't know.  I just don't know.  But right now I'm choosing again to grab His hand with my two little fists, claiming pinkie and thumb and every promise from His Word.  And this time I'm not letting go.  I'm through screaming.  I'm through with despair.  This time I'm holding on for dear life.

10 So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  

Isaiah 41:10

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Here I am, Lord

I'm overwhelmed today, Lord.

I've been overwhelmed a lot since the summer began.  There are too many people filling up what feels like too little space.  I thrive on bits of solitude, and yet none can be found.  There is childish bickering and tattling and squealing continuously ringing in my ears, and not one of these children of mine has managed to learn to clean up after his or her own self.  I haven't mastered it yet, either.  Consequently, the clutter consumes me, and with the sleep deprivation and the ADHD and the endless lists of things needing to be accomplished, I feel powerless to accomplish anything at all. 

And so for now I sit, overwhelmed with life.

And by chance almost, though not actually by chance at all, I came across a documentary today about Ethiopian women.  Beautiful, hard-working Ethiopian women.  Hurting, suffering women lacking possessions plentiful enough to create clutter; lacking children healthy enough to bicker and tattle and squeal.  Women that are often no more than children themselves and who have already buried children of their own, being forced into marriage at tender ages.  Twelve.  Thirteen.  Nine.  Even eight.  Forced to give birth before their bodies are grown, before they are capable of delivering a child.  Ruining their bodies.  Ruining their babies.  Ruining their futures.  Outcasts, wandering in an endless desert of solitude.

And now I sit, tears streaming down my face, overwhelmed with the aching in my chest.

And I pray.  For the healing of these women.  For the protection of impoverished girls in this and other third-world countries.  For the hospital that ministers to these broken women.  And I ask, Lord, if someday You would allow me to help, too.  Do you have a mission for me in Ethiopia?  Is there money that needs to be sent?  Are there prayers that need to be said?  Do I have an Ethiopian daughter waiting for me to claim her? 

Overwhelm me, Lord.  Break me down.  Destroy me, Lord, so that I can be overwhelmed by You.  By the privilege of serving You.  Please use me, Father, for my life is caught up in ease and luxury and triviality....and yet You bless me so.  Show me what I can do to help, Lord, and I will do it.

Here I am, Lord.  Send me.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Keep Your Eye on the Goal

After a week of soggy evenings at soccer camp, my three oldest kids, along with the rest of the family, were sun-scorched today as they put their new found "futbol" skills to the test.  Three separate games were watched, three sets of pictures and videos were taken, and three personalities were vividly expressed and captured on film. 

Mr. J.  At eleven years, he's entirely a rough and tumble boy.  And fiercely competitive.  Being extremely small for his age, he's had trouble competing in other sports, but this kid has some soccer skills, let me tell you.  The other boys on his team were all much bigger, but Mr. J darted between them with the agility of a cheetah...or at least a really agile kid.  Very impressive.  He scored three goals and was always in on the action, except for the time when he was tripped and lay writhing on the grass like he'd been shot.  That's my boy, all right.  Good athlete, but sometimes I wonder if theater might be his calling.

Miss M.  My tomboy, although she hates being referred to as such.  She looks beautiful in a tutu, but you can tell she feels awkward when she's all dolled up: on the soccer field, she looks right at home.  This tiny almost nine-year-old played with everything in her, and did not stop moving for the entire game.  I got tired standing on the sidelines watching her, and I was only taking pictures.  Back and forth and back and forth, Miss M was on top of the ball wherever it went.  With no strategy at all, and frequently planting wild kicks in other players' shins, she reveled in being part of the action.  She hurt both of her ankles in the process, but no one even knew about it until we were on the way home.  That's my daughter.  She's tough.  With a few strategy skills and a little teamwork practice, we could have a soccer player on our hands.

And then there's little Miss J, five years old, distractable like her mama, and girly as they come.  She loved soccer camp.  I knew we were in trouble, though, when on the first day I asked her what she learned and she said she learned about the goalie...but she couldn't remember what the goalie was supposed to do.  She did know what she had for a snack, though, and this became the theme for the week:

Me:  "Did you have fun at soccer camp?"

Miss J:  "Yes!  We had goldfish for a snack!" or "It was fun!  We had pretzels for a snack!"

Today, when it was time for her game to start, she asked "Will we have a snack today?"

Let's just say that when Miss J's game started this morning, I was pleasantly surprised when she immediately volunteered to be the goalie.  A bit risky, I'd say, when you're unsure of the goalie's purpose, but at least she wanted to be involved.  She marched right to the net and assumed her goalie stance, and the game began.  She let in the first goal, saved a second, and somewhere around then I could tell that her mind was drifting.  Butterflies and blue skies had whisked her away, and soccer wasn't even on her radar.  A coach's friendly reminder of "Pay attention to the ball!" would bring her back momentarily, but she was never fully engaged for long.  

They played six short periods.  She was goalie for the first, she sat out the second, she played (well enough) for the third, she asked to sit out for the fourth, she delayed the fifth when she left to get a drink of water, she brought me a bouquet between the fifth and sixth, and she reclined on the sidelines with legs up during most of the sixth.  Never did it occur to her that Grandma and Papa, Mom and Dad, and all four of her siblings had come to see her play.  Not sit.

When it was over, she ran to us, smiling ear to ear.  We asked her why she liked sitting out better than playing, and she said, "I was ready for the game to be done.  I was ready for a snack!"

So soccer camp is over, and honestly, I find that I've learned something from all three of my kids.  Mr. J is passionate and competitive and driven to prove himself.  Fearless.  Miss M has a goal to achieve and puts forth endless effort to reach it.  An accomplisher.  I greatly admire people who keep their eye on the goal, so to speak.  The doers.  The self-motivated.  The task oriented.  The accomplishers.

Because I more closely resemble Miss J in thought and action (or lack of action).  I'm distracted, I lose focus, I'm unmotivated, I forget what I'm doing, I lose my way, I'm content to sit on the sidelines and dream instead of accomplish the goals set out for me.  Miss J comes by it honestly, bless her poor sweet distractable heart, and she'll most likely have to deal with these things for the rest of her life.  It's a real struggle, living with ADHD.  But there's beauty and laughter and closeness with God wrapped right along with it.

And man, are we entertaining.  

Gotta go.  It's time for a snack.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Three Fathers

Today is Father’s Day, and appropriately, I find myself thinking about my dad.  Dad is one of the most real people that I know.  He feels what he feels, he thinks what he thinks, he does what he does, and he doesn’t change who he is to fit into someone else’s little box.  He also has an infamous sense of humor (if you can call it that) that leaves most people moaning.  In fact, when Dad's humor is at it's best, the rest of the family wouldn't mind putting him in a little box.

Anyway, Dad doesn't worry too much about what other people think.  I'm pretty sure the only person that’s ever convinced Dad to change is Jesus, whom he loves with a passion.  Dad believes wholly in the Word of God, and holds its truths as the ultimate authority on everything.  He's taught me to judge anything that I hear or read in this world by Biblical standards, and has on more than one occasion redirected my thinking by directing me to the Word. 

My dad has been retired from teaching for several years now, but I honestly think he's busier now than he ever was.  God has gifted him with a servant's heart, and he gives freely of his time to others, both in our church and in our family.  My house is full of doors, windows, and moulding that he's willingly helped us put up.  Over the years, he's changed my tires (once during college in the wee hours of the morning while I wasn't even living at home), he's mowed my lawn, he's helped shingle our roof, he's fixed broken appliances, helped us move, rebuilt parts of our garage, and on and on and on.  Never once has he ever seemed put out at the thought of sacrificing a few hours...or a few days...of his time to help us.  I would love to be a servant like him someday.

The greatest quality that I admire in my dad is how he has continued to draw closer to God.  I've known and watched my dad for my entire life, first with the watchful, adoring eyes of a child, then with the critical eyes of a teen, and now with the appreciative eyes of an adult.  And I've noticed something.  My dad is not the same as he used to be.  Don't get me wrong, he's always been a good man, a good provider.  He's always been a busy, hard worker.  He's always been a believer.  But as he ages, his wisdom grows, and he's becoming more and more like Jesus.  That constant changing, molding and growing is the mark of a true follower of Christ, and it's what has made my dad truly inspiring to me.  

Inspiring is also a word that describes my husband, the father of my children.  I can't let the day go by without acknowledging what a wonderful father he has become.  We had a crash course in parenting, considering that five and a half years ago we had no children, and now we have five, but the good thing about being thrust into a sink or swim situation is that you learn to swim quickly.  And efficiently.  We've both got a lot to learn, and this parenting thing has been a wild ride so far, but I couldn't be more thrilled with my parenting partner.  He even does diapers.  Poopy ones.

My husband has risen to the challenge of providing for, caring for, teaching, disciplining, and leading a large family with varied needs, and has managed to stay almost entirely sane in the process.  At the same time, I've seen what used to be a baby faith grow and flourish as he's been pushed to his human limit.  The same pattern is emerging in my husband that I've witnessed in my dad's life...the ever-changing, ever-growing Christ-likeness that I so deeply admire.  I am incredibly blessed to have such a loving, Godly example for my children to follow.  A father whose faith will eventually lead them to their Heavenly Father, just as my father has done for me.

And then there is the Father of all fathers, the One that is worth celebrating always, and especially on Father's Day.  The One whose desire is to claim all humanity as His adopt us all into His family.

There are not words enough in the English language or any other to tell of the greatness of my Heavenly Father.  No sentence could be poetic enough, descriptive enough, or eloquent enough to capture the nature of my God, and so I come up embarrassingly short in my writing.  I can say only this:  I will be forever grateful that One as indescribably glorious as He, chose to sacrifice His son in my place...simply to save a wretch like me. 

I love you, Father.

I love you, my husband, the father of my children.

And I love you Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Her Eyes Speak

Tough day.

Tough few days.

Tough couple months, actually.

Some days it's really hard to get out of bed, knowing the day probably holds a tantrum or two.  A little manipulation.  A flailing grasp for control of the family.  Some disrespect.  A challenge to stop loving, to give up, a dare not to care.

Sometimes it's really hard to care.  There are days I wish I didn't have to, that God did not require it of me.  In the middle of it all, it's so hard to remember that she's just a lost little girl.  A sick little girl.  A scared little girl...who desperately needs her mommy to love her.  No matter what.  I know I should never define her by the monster she becomes, by her Attachment Disorder, but it's so hard.  Impossibly hard without Christ, but difficult even with Him.  I'm just so tired.

And then I see the tears.  The real tears, that sometimes don't ever come- never used to come- but more and more often do these days.  The hot tears of remorse, that pool and spill over big brown eyes full of regret.  And in those eyes, a glimmer of hope and humanity that never used to be there. 

Her eyes speak.

Will Mommy still love me?  Even though I'm horrible?  Will she forgive me again, even though I promised I would try harder and I lost it again?  Am I still accepted?  Am I still safe?  Am I lovable? 

Those eyes. 
The mirror of her healing, the window into her soul. 
Those big brown eyes.

We used to call them dead eyes.  They held no life, no hope, no future.  Only death.  Pictures from years gone by have captured the bleakness in her eyes.  They're still dead sometimes, when the sickness wins and the little girl is lost, but they never stay.  My little girl always comes back to me now. 

Her eyes speak.

They hold a glimmer, a glint of life and happiness and love.  A healthy spark, that is also captured in pictures.  More recent pictures.  When I see that spark, or I see the tears of remorse and the hope of forgiveness and acceptance in those big brown eyes, I know we're well on our way.

No matter the pain, no matter the long hard days ahead, no matter the lessons we both must learn. 

Her eyes speak... 

...and they tell me that someday my daughter's heart will be whole.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Here to There

I lost my son this weekend.

My little son.   The one with the contagious smile and the winking eyes.  My fierce protector;  my miniature knight in shining armor.  The child that can make me laugh no matter the weight of pain or grief that rests on my heart.  That son.  The most precious gift of a little boy that shows me, without a doubt, that God is indeed creative and good. 

My little man.  I lost him.

He was there one moment, under the lighthouse, picking up fistfuls of beach sand in his chubby hands.  Letting it run through his fingers, transporting sand from here to there, from there to here.  Occupied.  Mesmerized.  And the group, the big group with all the children, walked away.  I walked away. 

I left him.  Unknowingly, preoccupied with children running wild in the breeze, turning circles in the sand, arms spread wide as if to embrace the vast shores of God's creation.  Sandy legs climbing distant dunes, breathless voices yelling "Look at me, Mom!  Watch me!" from the top of the world.  Senses struck in awe of the lake stretched out in all directions before me, waves lapping the rhythm of the earth, gulls cackling overhead.  I was lost in myself, in the place where beauty and joy and laughter and worship mingle together and become one.  I forgot about him.

And then I remembered.  And then I looked.  And he was gone.

The mother-bear panic set in.  'Where is my son?  Have you seen my little son?  Is he with my husband?  No.  His arms are empty.  He doesn't know where he is.  Did he climb the dune with you?  No, Mom.  He's not with us.'  I scanned the beach, hoping desperately for a glimpse of him.  And my anxious gaze fell for a moment on the lake beyond the sand.  The giant, foaming lake that has claimed the lives of other mothers' little sons, I know.  Curious, adventurous little sons.  Like mine.

Oh, Lord, not my son.  Not my baby. 
Please, God, give me back my son.

My heart was dying.  I yelled for my son, and the baby, strapped to my chest, squalled his protest.  'Can he tell I've stopped breathing?  Can he feel the sporadic beating in my chest beneath him?'  His squalling added to my panic, and together we released our fearful cries to the wind.

'Where are you, my precious little man?  I've felt this same agony before, when you were born three years ago.  Born blue.  Lifeless.  And then, just like now, I knew I could not survive those two hour-long minutes until I saw your chest rise and fall.  Until I heard your cry.  Oh, my little love, where have you gone?'

We separated, all looking, all calling.  I retraced my steps, back up the beach, back to the lighthouse.  I knew I would see him at its base, transporting handfuls of sand from here to there, from there to here.  I ran.  Heavy footsteps through heavy sand with heavy baby and heart. 

I looked. 
He was not there. 
My little son was gone.

There were people.  Maybe they had seen him?  I ran to ask, and before I could, he appeared from behind the lighthouse.  My little son, with fists full of sand.  Transporting it from here to there, where he was lost, and from there to here, in my arms. 

We walked away.  We did not stop.  His little sand-paper hand in mine, we walked away from the beach, to the parking lot, to the van, where I cried the cries of a mother's relief.  The tears would not stop.  'Why are you crying, Mama?  Because I lost you.  And I found you.  And I love you so much, my little son, though really not my son but God's.  What a gift you are.  A blessing.  And God has given you back to me.  Again.'

"You love me, Mama?"

"Yes, I love you, Little Man."

"And that makes you sad?  That you love me?"

I laugh.  Always, he makes me laugh.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adrift in my Living Room

I'm floating in a sea of dirty socks and underwear, surrounded by waves of tank tops with ketchup stains and mud encrusted jean shorts.  My vessel is in danger of capsizing under the weight of the dark load, and I sincerely hope the permanent press is a mirage on the horizon.  The baby laundry alone is causing me to lose my mind, yet the depth of this sea is unknown.  It appears infinite to this captain.

To the south I've spotted a tropical storm of toy trucks and matchbox cars, with a whirlpool of blankets and pillows.  A fleet of life boat books are scattered haphazardly across the rough waters, skippered by able seaman Buzz Lightyear, first mate Elmo, and a crew of Little People.  They leave plastic tools- screws, screwdrivers, and hammers- in their wake, while a school of three inch dinosaurs frantically paddles from their path to safety.

To the north, a hurricane of baby paraphernalia dominates the sea.  Rattles rip at the bow, plastic keys tear at crocheted blanket sails, and my ship is violently pelted with binky-sized hail.  Swing and bouncy seat and jumperoo of epic proportion wreak havoc on my vessel, and I fear for my life.  Or my sanity. 

What shall I do? 
The crew is too big. 
The home port is too small. 
Our excessive cargo is all above board.

Perhaps I should abandon ship? 

No, before the moon rises this dark night, and with all cooperative hands on deck (Aye Aye, Captain!), this ship will get the scrubbing of the century.  From port to starboard, from sail to anchor, she'll be gleaming.  Even the poopdeck. 

I see playful breezes and calm, peaceful waters in my future.  My ship anchored in a tropical oasis...with endless sandy beaches...and sea shells...and the smell of salty air...and the sound of waves lapping on the shore...and palm trees...with coconuts...and a hammock...with no one in sight...and a drink with a little umbrella...

I know I'm crazy, but I'm gonna live in this mirage for a little while.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fifth Grader for Sale

The end of the school year is upon us.  Elementary children are squirrelly, over-excited, and strung out on last-minute cupcakes and candy.  There are talent shows, field days, assemblies, picnics, programs, graduations, and field trips...all one right after the other.  It's exhausting. 

Every year, the same thing happens.  My children become little alien creatures, unrecognizable in action and emotion:  euphoric one minute, in tears the next, followed by moodiness rivaled only by a PMSing adolescent.  Until finally the day comes.  The last day of school.  And suddenly, my kids realize that their heightened emotions have all been leading up to this single moment that will forever change who and what they are.  Wiping tears that refuse to stay in check, waving one last goodbye to friends, they cross the threshold of the school doors for the last time of the year.

This year, my fifth grade son will be lucky if I let him live that long.

Being an elementary music teacher, my husband has the unique privilege of seeing the same kids year after year as they make their way through elementary school, and he gets to know them pretty well.  One thing he's always noticed about his students, though, is that as the year comes to a close, the majority of the fifth graders are hit with the same affliction.  They become arrogant, cocky, know-it-all little jerks.  He diagnoses them with what he calls  "MiddleSchool-itis".  And our own son has it bad.  

Giant fish in a tiny pond, fifth graders have spent the entire school year being bigger (although not in my son's case), smarter, and tougher than everyone else in school.  Throughout the year, they're given special privileges (kindergarten buddies), special responsibilities (lunch helpers, safeties, flag raisers), and special events (trips, pizza parties, field day, graduation).  They've gained a wealth of knowledge, including the "grown up" talks about reproduction and their bodies, and for months they've been told "When you get to middle school...".  By the time this part of the year rolls around, those fifth graders are feeling pretty good about themselves.

And then they turn into little my son.

All of a sudden, this arrogant child seems to think that he's on equal footing with me and my husband.  That he can parent our other children.  That he can speak to us like we're the kids on the playground.  His desire to control his own life is spinning out of control (ironically), and I fear that soon he may snap.  Or maybe I will.

In order that he may continue breathing, I've decided to make up a few fliers to post around town.  If you see one and are interested, please comment below.  Just make sure you read the fine print.

            Fifth Grader with MiddleSchool-itis
 *Free to Good Home*

- can do anything
- knows everything
- makes no mistakes
- is the awesomest person ever
- can run your home single-handedly
- comes complete with parenting skills

No returns or exchanges of said fifth grader will be accepted
 while the illness persists.

Please note that this is a temporary arrangement and will be dissolved
entirely upon the fifth grader's admittance to sixth grade,
 when he will realize he is a tiny fish in a giant pond
and will cry for his mommy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Manipulation and Miss M


It's the biggest tool of a child with an Attachment Disorder, a way for them to control, even in a small way, what happens to them on a day-to-day basis.  My adopted children are experts at manipulation.

Miss M came home from school yesterday thrilled that she had been selected to sing in the school talent show, which is today.  Although I was a bit flustered by the less than twenty-four hour notice, I was pleasantly surprised...even excited...that she had done well enough in her audition last week to be chosen.  See, unlike her 11-year-old brother and her 5-year-old sister, Miss M is not naturally an especially gifted singer...but she tries hard and she really wants to be.  Don't get me wrong, she can usually carry a tune if she's singing with other people that are singing in tune, and sometimes I'll catch her singing a song that doesn't have a lot of different pitches and she sounds pretty good all by herself.  At this point, however, Miss M is definitely not a soloist.  So when she came home all excited, I thought, "Good for her!".  I figured that the song she'd chosen must have been a good fit for her. 

I was wrong.

I spent a good chunk of my evening last night listening to Miss M rehearse for the talent show.  It was awful.  Painful even.  She sang nearly the whole song in a different key than the background track, consistently came in too early or too late, and didn't even remember all the words.  I hadn't helped her before the auditions because she's sung this song for the entire year in our children's choir at church.  In fact, my husband and I wrote the song, so I assumed she knew it well enough for the auditions, although I never expected her to be chosen. 

I helped her all I could last night, and it did improve slightly, but what difference is a few hours going to make when she's already been practicing it for a year?  I found myself thinking "Who on earth would encourage this child to sing in front of her entire school?  She's going to be embarrassed and humiliated by her peers."  I wondered if maybe her audition had somehow been much better, but Miss M said that her music teacher told her she was too quiet, didn't know the words, and wasn't staying with the beat of the song.  So WHY DID SHE PUT HER IN THE TALENT SHOW???!!!

I called the music teacher this morning.  She admitted that Miss M's audition on Friday wasn't good, and that she had discussed this with her.  And then she said something that makes it all clear to me.  She said, and I quote, "But she was just so sweet, and she said she still really wanted to try it anyway."  In other words, the teacher knew what was best, but she let the eight-year-old child decide for herself because she had turned on the charm.


Sweetness is Miss M's weapon of choice.  Above all else, she desires to be in control.  When she wants something and thinks she may not get it, she becomes the sweetest thing that ever existed.  But it's only a facade.  If it doesn't work and she still doesn't get her way, she may try tears or frustration.  And then she gets livid.  My husband and I can detect the sweetness ploy from a mile away, so she rarely tries it with us anymore, but it works like a charm on unsuspecting prey.

This music teacher is just one more person in a long line of people Miss M has been able to manipulate.  Teachers, babysitters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, Sunday school teachers.  Each time she's able to change an adult's mind about something, each time she argues a "no" and gets it retracted or compromised, each time someone falls to her "sweetness", Miss M gets sicker

She learns to rely on herself more, and trusts adults and their judgment less.   

This puts me and my husband in a horrible spot. 

What do we do about the talent show?  Do we pull her out, telling her we know she manipulated the teacher?  Sometimes we have to do things like that.  Do we say nothing, even though she could be laughed at?   While she seems somewhat oblivious to her lack of singing ability, the entire school is not going to be deaf.  I'm not trying to be mean...I'm trying to protect my daughter.  Some of those kids will notice that she's not very good, and some (being children) are going to tell her...and then she'll be heartbroken.  I don't want her to be embarrassed or teased.  But I also don't want her to get away with manipulation once again.  It's just not healthy for her.  So what do we do?

We're constantly forced to weigh the situations she puts us in.  Would it be worse for her healing if we did this or did that?  Would it be better for her if we stepped in or let things be?  We have to analyze everything, and sometimes we have to let things go for the sake of her feelings.  I mean, how do you say to your daughter: "We know your audition was horrible and you only got chosen because you manipulated the teacher?"  How does that help her to form a healthy attachment to us?  Taking this into consideration, we've decided to do nothing this time except give her the best chance to succeed.
We took away the background track that Miss M was supposed to use, and replaced it with the actual recording that has people singing on it.  If she hears other people sing, she's usually on key, and she should know when to come in.  It should also help with the words if she forgets them.  Miss M didn't seem thrilled, and my son says this isn't allowed, but forgive me if I feel that the music teacher will just have to deal with it.  I love my daughter, I know what's best for her in this circumstance, and no amount of sweetness, tears or tantrums is going to change it.

So off I go to watch her, smile and wave from the back of the gym, and record her solo debut on the video camera as if she's the next American Idol.  I have to admit that I may not be paying complete attention, though, because at the same time, me and God will be having ourselves a little chat.

And please, people.  I know my children have issues and need more structure than most, but all children need boundaries.  They need to know that when you say NO, there's no room for debate, no point in arguing, and no benefit to manipulation.  They don't even need to know why you said no.  Children, especially mine, are immature and God entrusts them to adults for a reason.  They have to learn to trust that the adults in charge know what's best, and accept that their way is simply the way it is, no questions asked.  For most kids, this is just a good life lesson, but for mine, it's the difference between becoming healthy and dealing with a life-long mental illness.