“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Truly who could imagine a more adventuresome task, that some might call an inconvenience, 5 kids spanning 3 decades all with very different personalities, gifts, weaknesses and strengths. They have all brought us a combination of challenge and joy. This seems the path God has laid before me. This is my world raising and educating children. By God’s grace they are, we all are, learning discipline and persistence despite my weaknesses in those areas.
In a family with children from the same genetic makeup there are varying personalities, looks and talents, but there is still a familiarity, some trait you can trace back to one or the other parent or some other distant relative. I am not discounting environment and parenting practices but I know with my first three I can see, for good or bad, my own and their father’s DNA at work.
Adoptive children add not only genetic diversity but layers of unusual experience, often traumatic, to the mix. In addition to the totally unfamiliar genetics at work, there is a portion of their lives that is a partial mystery. From the time they were conceived there are unshared experiences from a possibly unfriendly environment. Children are not able to articulate or reason with these experiences. The impressions they have from the womb and beyond have an impact that plays out the rest of their lives as it does to us all. Most though have a sense of security as they are developing. The same mother’s voice they heard in the womb is the same that now speaks to them while meeting every physical need. The comforting heart beat that carried them through gestation is the same they hear when resting on their mother. For a child abandoned or given up as an infant all that is familiar being torn from them puts them in a state of shock first and then in a posture of fear. For those going directly to a loving home security can be reestablished, but there may still be underlying insecurity. For those going directly to an institution the separation from womb shortly after birth to a cold sterile environment can cause lasting fears that are not easily remedied or identified.
This makes teasing out the roots of their insecurities, habits and individual quirks no easy task. Is it a fear of going hungry that makes one of mine always interested in when and what the next meal will be? Why does he fear policemen and bugs and being alone in a room or outside? At it’s root is one’s struggle with anger because that is what it took to get her needs met? Is always wanting to be first a survival technique she needed in her first year of life? Some would say these are character issues and no doubt many of them are, but for an adoptive child there are deeper issues than the basic selfishness common to all children. A friend and fellow adoptive mom calls our children our emotional betters. I agree. They have endured abandonment, neglect, and displacement in their short lives; survived and are now thriving despite the residue of their past. It’s been a privilege and and a joy, but not always easy.
Thankfully, I’m learning many tools to help connect and engage with my children, tools that will also help them heal from all the hurts that they may not even be aware of. I’m learning that anger at it’s root is deep sadness in my children and a gentle touch or understanding word can diffuse it much quicker than a time out or a harsh rebuke. I’m learning that it’s ok to let a child know all the plans for the week or the day and that answering the same question 5 times is worth it if my child will feel more secure. I’ve come to have much more compassion towards my children than I have in the past. I’m learning to not care what people think about the behavior and words of my children and only look to correct with love and connection rather than shaming and harshness because I’m embarrassed. I wish I had some of these tools with my older children because it would have benefited them too.
I’ll speak more about parenting adopted children on other days but in this previous post I shared about a recent conference I went to that taught us methods for engaging, correcting and connecting with children from hard places. On day one and two of this 31 day series I talked about a book I’m reading, Anatomy of the Soul, that discusses the brain and attachment. Check out the 31 days of simply blogging home page if you’d like to read those posts.
Any adoptive parents raising insecure children? What have you found to help you in your parenting?