Saturday, July 27, 2013

Up for the Challenge, Part 2

Just in case you are wondering what on earth I am talking about when I mention "parenting challenges" with adopted children, here are a few we have dealt with at some point...
  • sensory issues (for us, one child prefers limited sensory input while another seeks it out all of the time)
  • trust issues
  • obedience issues (which often have fear at the core of them..."Will they get rid of me if I disobey?"  We deal with lots of "tests" of our commitment)
  • anxiety issues (especially fear of separation)
  • communication issues (especially for international adoptions where English might be a second language)
  • relationship issues (learning how to love...sounds easy, doesn't it?)
  • self-esteem issues
  • sleep issues (we have been fairly fortunate in that one)
  • attention issues
This is not an exhaustive list...just a few that came to mind.

I remember once mentioning some sort of issue on Facebook that we had dealt with that morning.  A (well-meaning) friend who does NOT have adopted children asked, "But isn't that just an excuse for their misbehavior?"

Um, no.

We don't excuse misbehavior.

I have just learned that sometimes there are issues bigger than what we see on the surface.

So, moving on to what I really intended this post to be.

What have I learned from all of this?

I mean, parenting is a challenge, and the past few years I have faced more challenges than I ever hoped to.  I have cried a lot. Prayed a lot. Screamed at God a lot.  Regretted a lot.  And learned a lot.

So all is not in vain.

I have learned...
  • to be a better teacher.  I see kids in a whole new way.  Even children who aren't adopted could face some of these same issues. I understand now. I get it.
  • to have thicker skin. I still don't have the thick skin I would like to.  Words and critiques still hurt me.  But I am learning to shake it off.  Yes, that was my child who just blurted out that in appropriate comment in public...what can I do? I shrug. I can train and teach but I canNOT control that tongue. Trust me I have tried.
  • to not judge.  There is so much judgment in the world.  And for some reason, parenting is fair game for the judgment game.  But I don't play that game.  I have been humbled. I have learned.  Sometimes you can do all you do but ultimately your children are who they are.  Parents handle different situations in different ways.  Who am I to judge your way is better/worse than mine?  We do what we have to do with what we know and have to work with...
  • to be an advocate for my children.  Not an "in your face" kind of advocate. Not abrasive or defensive.  More like "We have found that this works for this child..." or "Here is a little background on this child..."  So far, all teachers and caregivers have been respectful and open to our thoughts and suggestions.
  • to not take things at face value.  Not long ago, one child swatted the head of another child (and a loud protest from the swatted child followed).  THANKFULLY, I had been watching the situation. A bug had flown onto the swatted child's head.  The "offender" was trying to get the insect out. It was not malicious, not intended to hurt.  It was actually an attempt to help (though the swatted child didn't seem to think so :).  I was able to adjust MY reaction based on that.  I am also learning that certain behaviors are often driven by fear.  If I can soothe those fears, no matter how "silly" they seem to me, I am much more likely to get a good response.
  • that it is not all about "winning". Yes, I want obedience and respect but I can't command it.  Even if I get it by commanding it, would it be genuine?   So sometimes I have to approach things differently...I still hope for the same final result but it may look different.
  • to be creative.  For one child, running around the block can help us have a better day at school. If that works, why not?  
  • to pray.  A lot.  Though probably still not as much as I would like to.
  • to be honest. I am probably honest to a fault.  I could sugarcoat things.  Pretend everything is perfect.  But it is just not who I am.  (Please note:  It is NOT complaining or is just being honest. Some days are hard.)  I am thankful for the opportunities that honesty has opened to talk with other parents who are struggling too.  We shouldn't walk alone in this world nor feel like we are the only ones dealing with these things.  If I can get even one person to think, "Wow, I am not alone...", then all of this is worth it.
  • to educate myself. I read more "professional development" books and articles now than I ever have my whole life.  I am doing it for myself as a parent but find that often these same things work in the classroom.  
  • there is hope.  I mean, I know THE Hope of the world.  But I am reminded recently that there is hope.  We see big changes in one of our kiddos (and HOPE for big changes in another :).
  • to celebrate the good days.  Okay, "good' may be relatively speaking but we take what we can get around here.  Even on the "bad" days, I can often look back and remember that we still have come a long way.  And that is a good thing.  For all of us.
  • to do what we feel is right to do.  It may be against what the world, what friends, what strangers, what even family thinks (that one is the hardest for me) is the right way to handle situations.  However, as someone who is IN the trenches all of the time, we just have to handle things the way we see fit. And if it doesn't work, then we try something else.
  • to tag team.  My husband has always been involved, but since I am the one who is home more, I am much more likely to do deal with misbehavior/issues.  And I have always taken pride in the fact that I can.  Except sometimes I can't.  And that is okay. I have learned it is okay to call him and say, "Help me..."  And honestly, there are times he just handles things better than I can/do.  And that is okay too.  
  • to not compare. Okay, I still struggle with that one but I am learning.  It isn't fair to compare these situations to a family who doesn't have any of these same situations. We are going to come out losers every single time.  
  • to just walk away.  Sometimes it is necessary.  That could mean from the child who is pushing my buttons.  Or it could mean from others who feel the need to judge us.  Sometimes I just have to walk away, head held high, and remember, the only one who will ever judge me as I should be judged, is God.  
  • to laugh.  Sometimes my choices are laugh or cry.  And the crying does come on occasion. But more often than not, I choose to laugh.  
Well, I must get to bed because there is a LOT more parenting to do tomorrow.

Hopefully this post gave you just a small insight to where we are in life right now.

We don't want pity.  We don't want judgment.  We don't want advice (unless you are in a VERY similar situation).

We just want prayers and encouragement and empathy...

More later,

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