“This is much harder than I thought it was going to be.” I hear this phrase repeated over and over by foster and adoptive parents after they’ve begun their journey. It’s true. Parenting a child from a hard place, a child who has lived most of their life just trying to survive, is nothing less than “hard.” For me, it’s been the most heart-wrenching, difficult and exhausting work of my life. It should be hard work – it’s the work of the cross; laying down our lives (our comfort, our “peace,” our routines) to save another. When I lay down exhausted, at the end of my rope, with nothing left but to call on Jesus – He smiles. This is the place that miracles happen.
Answering the call of God on our lives to be His hands and feet to wounded children comes at a price. Yet, all too often, we jump into it without truly counting the cost. This kind of parenting, parenting in the broken places, is messy. Broken hearts bear ugly scars and mending their wounds takes time, patience and resilience. It’s the very things we need the most – our time, patience and resilience – that are the first to get worn down and tested.
What is the price we pay to parent our children from hard places?
- We spend the time becoming a “professional” parent. As a parent of a child from a hard place, we understand the importance of educating ourselves. In this journey, we’ve signed up to be continual learners – whether our agency or county requires it or not. We learn about PTSD, Attachment & Bonding, Behavioral Disorders, Sensory Processing Issues, Drug & Alcohol Exposure, Sexual Abuse and more. We learn, we learn more and we never stop learning because our kids are worth saving.
- We have patience with our child, even in the most difficult moments. We understand that, especially at their worst, our children need us to be with them – holding them, comforting them, bearing their burdens along side them. Sometimes we have to make hard choices, but it’s a choice that we’ll make standing beside you the whole way.
- We are resilient in advocating for our child, even when they are pushing us away. We advocate with schools, counselors, doctors, social workers and community resources to gain access to the best of the best treatment for our kids. We advocate for our kids with our kids – fighting for them even when they’re fighting against us.
- We deeply understand the power of belonging and being known by someone. Communicating to our kids a sense of belonging – that we know them (the good, the bad and the ugly) and yet we will eternally value them and they will always have a place to call home wherever we are – is priceless. Their acceptance of this may take years, but when it does settle in on them – the transforming power is breathtaking. Wait for it, watch for it, plant seed and after seed for it. It will happen.
- We become continual intercessors on behalf of our children. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t offer up multiple prayers, multiple times a day, on behalf of my children. I pray often, I pray specifically, I pray daily.
Healing work is hard work, but it’s oh so worth it.
Mom, Dad – there is another side to your child’s struggles. I understand it’s tough right now and sometimes you feel like you’re digging through broken glass to save them. All those cuts, bruises and bloody places that you gain – they bring you closer to the cross. Sometimes it’s only in our deepest pain as parents that we can relate to the deepest pain of our children. Dig into those moments in prayer and discover the beauty of redemption.
Just as I was about to post this, I noticed on Facebook that two of my adoption/foster care friends had written posts along the same lines. Seems like we’re all on the same page. Here are their links, these are well worth the read!