Sometimes, all a mother can do is react, react, react.
It doesn’t matter how many kids you have or how many other details you’re juggling. As one of my favorites said to me last night, “we’re always at capacity.”
I’m not sure if it was the second tantrum or the seventh, whether I was correcting for the fifth time that day or the fiftieth, when I realized it. Especially with my middle child, and especially when he’s interacting with the toddler, my instinct is constantly telling me to jump in, react, protect, defend, Make It A Thing.
Don’t throw that blanket over his head, stop touching him when he’s screaming at you, he’s telling you no very clearly right now do you not hear that? please give that back to him, that’s bully behavior, we treat each other with respect, respect his ‘no’ please, how would you feel if someone kept ignoring you? I’ve already told you ten times today and I do not want to repeat it one more time or I am going to lose it…
It’s the push-pull of action/reaction and he’s playing too, but for opposite reasons. I’m trying to maintain some sort of equilibrium in a mismatched space, it’s me versus three small children and so much of my energy goes into maintaining harmony — maintaining my sanity. But in his heart, he’s only seeking one answer: Love me love me love me.
Project or person
In the adoption world, we have to be careful about setting up adoption as mission. Because once a child is in your arms, they cannot be only a missions project, someone to be saved, a point to mark down in the salvation column of our scorecard. They must become your child, with your whole heart invested in theirs and theirs in yours.
Eventually, we have to stoop low, be humble and ask our child for their love. Every day. Eventually, he’s just my child and I’m just his mom, with all the weight of what that means in its complicated simplicity.
What I had to consider was this: For any of my children, adopted or not, how am I approaching them each day? Am I thinking of him as a problem to be solved, or a child to be loved? Am I stooping low in understanding or standing above in correction? Am I responding to his heart’s cry of Love me, or am I so busy reacting to his behavior that I don’t stop to listen?
With all the parenting books and advice and trying-to-do-it-right, sometimes I treat my kids as projects instead of people.
When Joy wrote about not giving parenting advice anymore because parents ultimately aren’t 100% responsible for the way their kids turn out, it felt like a lock clicked open and I could breathe again. I don’t have to think of my children as my life’s “work,” and I don’t have to measure my success or failure by their character and their behavior.
It’s not all up to me.
I had to consider: Am I so busy trying to figure out the right formula for making parenting work that I forget to honor my children as people?
The details might feel complicated, and sometimes there are problems that need solving, but the core of parenting, the answer every day, is simply to love. To give love and to receive it, to open our heart and let our children in.
It’s only the simplest and hardest thing I’ll ever have to do, over and over and over again.