I often say, “95% of all the change that’s happened in my children has started in me.” Admittedly, this isn’t something that I was expecting when I began my journey into Foster Care & Adoption. I had a simple expectation, “I’m going to change the life of a child and give them a forever family!” That’s not a bad place to start and not an all together bad motive either. It’s just mostly wrong.
The life that changed was mine.
The bad habits that were unlearned were mine.
The one who had to learn to love was me.
The behaviors that had to be corrected were mine.
Quite simply, in this journey to forever I had to leave behind the person that I was and become someone totally new. My children came to me from broken pasts, with lists of diagnosis, described behaviors from former care givers and a litany of “issues” that needed to be corrected. At first, I focused on those things and really tried hard to correct them, help the child learn to be better, do better, think better, act better. After all, in order to be a productive member of society, they have to get some of this stuff dealt with or they’re going to be a disaster.
The problem was – none of my correcting worked.
Through many mistakes as a mom, I’ve learned that I have to put aside what I think I know about parenting and focus on each of my children as individual creations of God. In the process, I’ve learned to connect with them in the midst of “bad” behaviors – to really, truly get down on their level and feel what they feel so that I can understand and help them heal.
As foster and adoptive parents, we often consider ourselves vessels for the redemption of our children. What we fail to consider is how our own redemption was accomplished – naked, bloodied and beaten – crucified on a cross.
For me to be truly effective as a mother to my children, crucifixion was required. Crucifixion cost me.
It cost me my right to be right. Sometimes, what I think just simply isn’t the answer. The answer is much more complicated, requires much more listening and is often arrived at days after the initial issue.
It cost me my right to quick fix. Connection is costly – it takes time. It means that rather than a quick consequence or punishment for a behavior, instead I focus on contentment in my relationship with my child.
It cost me my right to self pity. There’s no shortage of reasons to feel sorry for myself as a parent, but I had to quickly lose my right to pity if I really wanted to help my children. Their behaviors aren’t personal. They’re the result of trauma. To take it personal takes the focus off of them and puts it on me. When my attention is focused on myself, I cannot be useful to helping my children overcome and move forward.
Crucifixion continues to cost me and I am thankful.