Friday, June 04, 2010

Give Yourself a Break

I have some children, both "real" children and "adult" children, who have some tough stuff to deal with. And I am finding myself continuing to shift from anger to empathy. It's a better place to be.

For so long I was wrapped up in the need to stop them from making bad choices or then to point out how bad their choices were that I couldn't help them. Now I am doing better at seeing their situations for what they are. I am sure that my more compassionate response to them can't be worse than what I was doing before.

We have attempted to raise children who have depth of character, even if they have disabilities. We don't hand out money they don't earn. We confront them and have conversations about their behaviors. We model strength and tenacity. And when the hard times come, we weather the storms and show them how it is done.

Some of my kids are facing storms of their own right now, and I can see glimpses of character. I want them to succeed, and some of them really do want to succeed. They are trying hard. They are being confronted with all kinds of stuff. And they are doing OK for the most part.

I have been watching people beat themselves up online lately if they can't do more for their kids -- if they can't be what they feel their children need at any given moment. They are so hard on themselves and have placed so many expectations on themselves, concluding that if they are good parents every day, their kids will "turn out ok."

It's a lie.

In some situations, we have barely survived our children. We haven' been great parents every day. Bart has done better than I, but I have had many days where I have gone to bed knowing that I didn't handle things the right way. But I have moved beyond beating myself up about it all.

I did not drink when I was pregnant. In fact, I never got pregnant.

I have not abused, nor have I neglected, any child.

I have not been responsible for a single move any of my children had before they were teenagers. When they moved in my house, they were claimed and allowed to stay.

I have not taken drugs, smoke, or drank in front of my children.

I have not been an inconsistent caregiver.

I am not responsible for the damage that my children had when they came to me.

And so I take care of myself, I claim my kids, grab on to them, and hold on to them forever in my heart. I try to listen, try to understand, give advice when asked. I attempt to be as loving and kind as I can be each day, but some days I blow it.

I do not think that my children would have "turned out better" had I been a perfect parent and tried everything every book recommended. I think that had I done that, I would be more exhausted and more discouraged. I have simply chosen to do my best, apply what I can, learn from my mistakes, and offer love, forgiveness and grace.

So my challenge to you is this: Give yourself a break. Don't add more expectations for yourself to your life that make you feel bad if you can't fulfill them. Don't get wrapped up in the idea that somehow if you don't parent a child exactly the right way you are taking a chance at messing up their lives or keeping them from healing. As an adoptive parent, you aren't the one who did the damage.

Today Kari was at the end of her rope. I picked her up. We went to our favorite coffee shop and we ate tasty high-in-calories food. And we laughed some. And we reminded each other that we weren't the problem.

Someday I hope this blog reports that most of my kids have found their own success and happiness. I hope that I can report that they are connected to us and somewhat grateful for what we have done for them. But, if they haven't, I refuse to blame myself for having done something wrong to cause whatever messes they find themselves.

I'm not going to make much money with my theory of parenting very hard children. My theory is -- give yourself a break, change only what you can (which is you), don't sweat the small stuff, and grab whatever joy you can. Manage your anxiety in whatever ways you can, and survive.

It's my theory and I"m sticking to it.


Lee said...

I don't think this theory applies to only very hard children! I think it is a great parenting strategy for many many children. Obviously wee ones are usually more malleable but even there, I have learned that picking ones battles is really essential. Especially in a relatively large family (not by your standards but 4 in my area raises eyebrows!) I don't have time for instigating drama because I feel compelled to have them There are many roads that lead to the same destination. Granted some are better maintained than others, but most will still get you there!

Anonymous said...

I love it!

the UN-mommy blogger said...

You are speaking directly to me aren't you? Today and yesterday?
Well at least it feels like it and that isn't a bad thing :).

Anonymous said...

I feel like you are writing directly to me in this post, Claudia. Ironically (or maybe coincidentally) my word verification word is "cryin".

karen in nv said...

Thank you. I need to hear this over and over and over. Half of our "adult" children are repeatedly making poor choices. There are still many here at home and we have many years of parenting to endure. It is often discouraging to think that the best I can do probably won't make the difference that I hope. My head knows that the damage was done long before I met them, but my heart longs for healing. Oh how I despise fasd/rad and how I love my children that are affected by it. Karen