Sometimes You Have to be That Mom
It’s really my goal in life to never be that person. Since having kids, I strive to not be that mom, you know the one who thinks her little angel can do no wrong, or the one who packs a lunch for her kids wherever they go because they only eat organic/local, or the one who is always asking you to watch her kids but never has the time for yours, or the one who has snotty, whiny, misbehaving rugrats having a major case of the “gimmes” at the grocery store. Sorry if I stepped on any one’s toes there.
I admit, the motivation to never be that mom is really pretty selfish, but it is what it is.
He spent his first 6 months walking around on a leash. Yup, I was that mom. I couldn’t even trust him to walk from our van to our front door. He spent many a visits to the library running to the end and throwing a tantrum because he couldn’t explore freely like the older two. I was that mom with a screaming, misbehaving toddler. I hated it. I could imagine people thinking, “Can’t that woman get her child under control?” because that’s what I would have thought. Before Ty. I felt like I wanted to wear a sandwich board that read, “This child has recently been uprooted from the only family he can remember–a family he loved. He has switched languages and cultures and was born 15 weeks early. Cut him (and me) some slack. Just look at my other children and please don’t categorize me as that mom.”
At a recent training for our current adoption, we got an excellent article from Empowerd to Connect entitled, “Ten Questions for Parent Preparing to Adopt or Foster.” After our experience with Ty, the questions hit me square in the gut.
5. Are you willing to be misunderstood, criticized and even judged by others who do not understand your child’s history, the impacts of that history and how you have called to love and connect with your child in order to help him/her heal and become all that God intends?
6. Are you prepared to advocate for you child’s needs, including at school, church, in extracurricular settings and otherwise, in order to create predictablility and promote environments that enable your child to feel safe and allow him/her to succeed?
7. Are you willing to sacrifice you own convenience, expectations and desires in order to connect with your child and help him/her heal, even if that process is measured in years, not months?
I wish someone had asked me these questions before we adopted the last time. Or, maybe it’s better they hadn’t. I might have run screaming in the other direction like Jonah and missed out on all this growing and stretching God had planned for me.
Today was another perfect example.
Ty is not allowed to have chocolate because of the way it affects his behavior. For the past couple weeks, we’ve restricted gluten as well to see if it’s a factor. Because they’re not allergies, I forgot to list them on his VBS form. As much as it pained me, I was totally that mom on Monday when I dropped of his special gluten-free, chocolate-free snack with him and politely asked the VBS group leader to make sure he only ate what I had provided. It was even more painful when I explained it wasn’t an actual allergy but was behavior related. I could feel the guy rolling his eyes on the inside.
Day 4 of VBS, I dropped off his snack as usual except today, they didn’t use it for some reason. Ty was super excited when I picked him up to announce that he had OREOS for snack. Seriously!?!!? We were doing so well. And OREOS!?!? Couldn’t they have slipped up on Goldfish day?
So, I sit him down at our volunteer lunch (like I have done every other day this week) with a bowl of raspberries for him to eat while I get our main course. I had my back turned for less than 2 minutes, and he had put a handful of mulch into the berry container and then proceeded to wash the berries off in his siblings’ lemonade cups. The rest of the afternoon was downhill from there. The human part of me wanted to make him “pay” for his bad decisions. How dare he do that? I wanted justice for the older kids who had done nothing wrong to deserve to miss out on lemonade at lunch. Because of his background, he does not respond to high-level, cause-and-effect discipline. Even though I wanted to push him away because I was so angry at him, he really needed me to spend extra time with him so he didn’t have any other opportunities to misbehave while the chocolate wore off and so my connecting to him would help him reregulate and process why eating an oreo had been a “thumbs-down” decision. It meant I wouldn’t get to decompress after VBS while the kids played quietly together. It meant he had to be glued to my side while I gave him my almost-undivided attention because he has even more trouble self-directing when he’s on chocolate.
When I drop Ty off tomorrow, I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll reiterate Ty’s snack policy. It’s the battle of pride versus setting my child up to have a “thumbs-up” kinda day.
Lesson learned? Sometimes you just have to be that mom.
Patrick and Melissa, who was adopted from Korea as an infant, have two biological children and a son adopted at age 2 1/2 from Korea. In May they, started a paper chase for a sibling group from Ethiopia. They reside in Maryland where they started a ministry called Grafted Families. Its goal is to serve Gospel-centered churches as they care for orphans and vulnerable children. Melissa also has a photography business that specializes in adoption homecoming and foster family photography. You can get to know Melissa better on her personal blog and Patrick on his personal blog.