Thursday, March 19, 2009

Choosing What to Regret

I was asking myself this morning and explaining it to Kari on the way back from the Y, "Which would U rather regret? Doing too much or not doing enough?"

If you would have asked me that question 15 years ago, I would have said that I definitely would want to do as much as possible, to give something my best shot, to know that I had tried everything and then, if I failed, to at least know that I had done all I could.

But today, I'm not so sure.

How many hours of my life have a dedicated to attempting to change something that cannot be changed? How many endless paragraphs of words have I spoken that have never sunk in? How much emotional energy have I spent worrying about situations I can't control? How many long conversations helping a child make a good decision have I had simply to watch them make the wrong one? The phrase "beating your head against the wall" has gained real meaning for me over the years.

And so I look back on phase one of my parenting, the first 8-10 years, and I know I did too much. And I regret it.

However, I'm not seeing a lot of results from my new approach. Sure, I'm less stressed, and I realize that I can't control them, but they are still making bad choices, they still have behaviors that don't change, and now I wonder if I'm not involved enough.

But when it comes right down to it, if the outcome is the same, maybe I will regret doing too much in phase one more than I wonder about not doing enough in phase two. I just can't imagine continuing to pour that much effort into situations that don't seem to make a difference.

I'm sure that the temptation is to comment that "yes, you're making a difference, hang in there, Claudia" but you know what? With some of our children who suffer from mental illness, FASD, or attachment disorder, I'm not really sure I am. I'm not sure I ever did. And I'm not sure that with some of this stuff, any of us can do much.

Sure, we've given them stability. We've loved them unconditionally. They have parents who will never give up on them. And I am a firm believer that this is crucial. We've done a good job with that and for that I do have a sense of satisfaction. But as far as the rosy colored picture of rescuing a child from a generational cycle of abuse and neglect and placing them on new path for generations to come may not be accurate.

But, there is this, and this is what I hang on to: We have given them a choice. A choice they may not have had otherwise. They can compare where they are with where they have been and they can choose, to a certain extent, which path to pursue. And that choice, had they aged out of foster care without parents, would never have been theirs.

But like God, who created us with freedom of choice, that freedom to choose that belongs to a child is both a parents biggest blessing and their greatest curse. For when they do choose the right things, the pride and joy is beyond compare. But sitting back and watching them choose the wrong thing time and time again makes us want to somehow eradicate that freedom and insist that we be allowed to choose for them.

Will I regret adopting any of my children? Never in a million years. Do I regret some of the choices about how to handle situations? Often. And as I age and my children age, my approach may change, but the core remains strong. Permanency, even with imperfect parents, beats the alternative hands down.

And for that reason, maybe I'll choose a path without regret, and just know that I've done more than most would dare, and face another day, committed to growth, learning, and change in me .... regardless of whether or not I see it today in the lives of my children.


Julie said...

Claudia, I have recently been thinking similar things. My train started with a quote about preparing for Lent. One of my virtual friends is Orthodox and I have joined her in her Lenten readings for the past three years.

"Oh, please love me less but leave me free, I'm a prisoner of your love; because you love me you want to determine all my life, you want to shape all my happiness. If only you did not love me, I could be myself." ~ Meditations On A Theme, His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

I know that my daughter will make choices that are not well thought out and have horrible consequences. But, I have a secret, I did too. By controlling her too much, I control her God-given right of self-determination. And, if the truth be known, my motivation isn't always love; I want to control my consequences.

Great thoughts!

Claudia said...

Julie -- that is good stuff.

and your last line is brilliant and exactly who I am sometimes.

It's about me protecting myself from her attitude -- not about loving her.

Great thoughts on your end too!

Marge said...

Julie said it, didn't she? " motivation isn't always love. I want to control my consequences."

Claudia, both you and Julie have struck a raw cord this morning. I've been struggling these last few days, and your thoughts have somewhat cleared my mind. She is going to succeed or fail on her own. I'm not in charge of her and I can't control her.

With all this stress, we'll all end up (well, I already have) with a diagnosis like Cindy wrote about this morning.

Good thoughts both of you, and God bless!

CalvaryGirl said...

Interesting perspective, thank you for sharing what's on your heart.

~*~ Wendy ~*~
Raising Foodies: 3-19
Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches

Jerolyn Bogear said...

I'm giving a devotional at a baby shower on Saturday. I was planning to create a vision of this little boy, Eli, in 18 years as he's leaving their home. So with that vision of who that young man is, what do you want to put into his life before he leaves? Who do you see him becoming? But you've reminded me I'd be remiss if I don't mention that free will. I suppose in the end, we have to be who God made us to be, do what He calls us to do, and leave our children in His hands. Thanks for your thoughts, C.

Lovin' my 5 blessings said...

I am a social worker and have struggled with this question many times with the families I work with. I try and try and they still don't change or they change and then fall back into making bad choices once again. Someone told me a few years ago something that made a diffence in how I now approach my job. They told me that in many ways this is like what God has to endure from us. He is always there encouraging us to make the right choices and follow the path that he has chosen and knows is best for us. But more often than not, we continue to think that we know better and make "bad" choices once again. However, we can always know, that God is still there, waiting to forgive us and guide us down the right path once again. I think this is what being an adoptive parent to troubled children is like. Guiding, letting them choose, constantly forgiving and ready to be there to guide them once again.