Monday, January 17, 2011

A Different Kind of Parenting

Parenting an internationally adopted child (or even a child in foster care) requires a different kind of parenting. I have to throw out all my previous expectations, prepare for the worse and hope for the best! Now THAT is different and not what you would find in your typical new parent/baby book. However, my child will not be the typical child (the typical child in which most parenting books are geared toward- biological)... although he will be a typical child who is adopted from a hard place.

Throwing Out The Expectations
When I say 'throwing out expectations', what I mean is throwing out my preconceived ideas of what I think our adoption experience will be like and more or less just letting it be what is at any given moment. I know that sounds kind of "free" and strange but the more I learn about adopting the more I realize how much I didn't know before and how much I still have to learn. When I went to the week long Dr. Purvis class (and the months of homework preceding it) I learned more than I can process about the internal physiological affects being orphaned and not raised in a stable, loving, ever present  family can have on a child and it's outward manifestation in behavior. Basically, all is not as it appears to the untrained eye and what works (or worked) for my biological son, whom I've cradled and cared for since birth may actually be counter productive for an adopted child. Throwing out my expectations also means realizing that what I am experiencing will be totally different than what my child is experiencing. The day I first hold my child in my arms and know he is forever mine and we take him back to our hotel will be one of the top contenders for the happiest moments in my life. However, it could be the total opposite for my son - it may one of the scariest, uncertain days of his life. I have to be aware that his "Gotcha Day" may be a wonderful anniversary day that I want to annually commemorate with a celebratory type attitude but may be the exact opposite for my son. For him it may be a time he doesn't want to "celebrate" because it gives him mixed emotions, reminds him of his profound loss and stirs up feelings of abandonment. I guess what it boils down to is being more attuned to my son and his internal states (physiologically and emotionally) and being more attuned to my own "undiscovered" expectations.

Preparing For The Worst
My pastor once said to prepare for the worse and hope for the best. I forget the context... I think it was regarding financial planning or something like that. Whatever the context, the phrase stuck with me. It is my job to foresee, to the best of my ability, potential problems and plan accordingly. It doesn't mean they will necessarily happen but it is better to be prepared and proactive than unprepared and reactive. So I've been using my waiting time by continuously educating myself. Right now, I'm reading a great book called Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. If you are adopting (or adopted or are friends/family of someone adopting) this is and excellent book! I'm about a third of the way through it and love it. It's heavy at times... as is all this learning... but I keep God as my hope and my center and confidant. When my heart is weighed down with grief for my future son's own grief and the grief of other orphans, I turn to my Lord and my Savior. I have seen the reality of this Bible verse in my own life and in many others who allow Him to take over their lives: You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever! It's from Psalm 30:11 & 12... which leads to my next point :)

Hoping For The Best

How can you go through life without hope!?! I can't... at least not very well. For about a year now, I've been wearing the same necklace 24/7. My husband gave it to me last year for Valentine's Day. At that point, we were 6 months into the process of adopting. The necklace is a heart that says HOPE on it. When I first opened it, I didn't really like it much. Not that I wasn't grateful but I just didn't connect with the word HOPE. For me, FAITH was more of a word I could connect with. However, after a few days I realized the orphanage we would be adopting from in Rwanda was called House (or Home) of HOPE! Instantly, I cried and vowed in my heart to not take off my necklace until my son was home. My husband told me he picked it out because he felt it was a word we lived by- HOPE. Ever since then I have been contemplating what he said and how true it is. Not only do I have faith that God will see me through and will make good on His Promises, I have the hope to carry me through until that time. And I know that my Father is my son's Father and will do the same for him... and He will do even better things than I can dream.