For the longest time, we were the perfect little family of four. We had a son first, and then a daughter 6 years later.
And we had all those parenting rules we used.
You know the ones:
1. Do not co-sleep. Children belong in their own beds. Or, parents need their privacy and have no business bringing kids into their beds. Kids will stay in your bed forever and be hard to get into their own beds. And kids need to know how to put themselves back to sleep...to self-sooth.
2. Do not let your kids be picky eaters. They will not starve themselves and will eventually eat what you give them as long as you don't give in. This is important as you are building up their future health by feeding them a balanced diet.
3. Put your child in child-care type situations as soon as possible. You don't want to have a child that will only go to mommy. Children that will not go to others are spoiled. It needs to be broken. This is not healthy for the child.
4. The goal of parenting is to teach independence as soon as possible.
5. All you need is love. If you love a child, they will love you back. Are wounds are healed by love.
6. Screaming, crying, acting-out children in public show a lack of parenting skills.
7. The younger the child at adoption, the less likely you will have problems.
8. If I am not racist, my kids will not do anything or be racist either.
9. Therapy is only for the really bad kids.
10. Your kids actions are a reflection on you.
Some of these rules the first two taught us were no good. But for the most part, they played right into all this.
And then we adopted. Talk about one of the most rewarding things we have ever done!! It's a whole different dimension of love brought into our family. And talk about life lessons at every turn!
Lately I've seen a rash of posts on parenting issues. And I read these and laugh. 5 years ago I would have been nodding my head in agreement and dancing all around that band wagon.
Not so anymore.
So here is a glimpse of some of the parenting lessons our little Mighty Mouse has proven to be faulty at best -- and ridiculous to the extreme.
1. Co-sleeping. Talk about a hot button issue. And before I get any lectures, you need to know that we lost a niece that was under a year old while co-sleeping. Yes, I know there are dangers..although in that case I do not believe the co-sleeping was in the least responsible -- but I've heard all about how that had to be it. Hogwash.
a.) Children need their own beds/rooms. Ok. How about when the child has been co-sleeping with foster parents or, as in our case, sleeping with a crib mate or in a room with 30 other infants. So, you think its humane to slap that baby down in a bed and a room all by herself? No sounds of others sleeping to comfort her? Just dead silence in a situation where there has never been silence before? And playing a radio is not a physical presence. They know that.
Now, there are different ways of co-sleeping. It could mean in the bed. It could mean in a co-sleeper, attached to the bed. In our case it meant in a travel crib right up against my side of the bed. I could reach out a hand and touch her when she got restless and upset...and she would quiet right down and go back to sleep.
b.) Parents need their privacy. Yes, they do. Get creative. It can be done. Different timing, different rooms, whatever. Have an affair with your spouse. Get a sitter and go somewhere..... It's a season. It's not forever.
c.) Kids will never leave your bed. Whatever. Now, it will be harder for some than others. In our case, we moved to a new house at two, showed her what room was going to be hers and she slept in it from the first night on...even on a sleeping bag before the furniture arrived. Yes. We were shocked speechless. Others have a harder time but it can be done.
And on that subject, once MM was old enough to be out of a travel crib, we changed the arrangements to a sleeping bag. No padding. Nothing special. We didn't make it comfortable on purpose. And after moving to her own room, whenever she needed us at night and was frightened, we drag out the sleeping bag and she can sleep by the bed. (From day one she had a crib in a room that she shared with her sister - and it was always referred to as her bed.)
d.) Kids needs to know how to self sooth. Ummm, with adopted children, you have to BREAK self-soothing behavior and teach them to rely on you as a parent. This is shooting yourself in the foot and prolonging attachment. Mostly this is a orphanage behavior but is also seen in negelcted children.
2. Picky eaters. I think I covered this in my last post pretty well. Our child will hold out until she looses enough weight that we have to stop. Its not worth a neglect charge. Some kids have the staying power and will to outlast you beyond the safe point. Don't assume all kids can be manipulated with food withholding.
And yes, the fact that she is not getting the nutrition base she needs drives me insane. I want her to be healthy. I want her to eat meat and veggies. I want my choices of out to eat to be NOT limited to whether or not they have something that she will eat. (And now that she is almost 5 I have no problem with eating in front of her and telling her she can eat when we get home since she doesn't want anything they have. I don't cater very often.)
3. Child care situations. I used to think a child that couldn't be left for an hour was a spoilt brat. I beg forgivness for this now. MM spent years terrified. Think about it. Abandoned at about a month old while you are sleeping. Six months later handed over to complete space aliens after waking up from a car ride/nap. It seemed like every time she closed her eyes, her entire world and everything she loved was GONE. How does she know I'm coming back? The others didn't. And this is all pre-verbal. All these memories are remember by feelings, not words. And those feelings? Terror. Fear. Confusion. Crying. So, in situations where it looks like she's being left by her latest love interest....complete terror. There is no crying it out. It is sheer terror. And the only answer is mom. Guess what....babysitters and child care can wait a couple years. Its a season. A season the child NEEDS in order to learn to trust. She has NO REASON to trust at this point. (It took 3 years for her to work through this...but now she is easily left and comfortable being left.)
4. Independence as soon as possible. See above. What she needed to learn was trust and relationships. She needs to know there are people she can depend on...and practice. This will help her be a loving mother later on. If she never learns dependence, she will spend a lifetime of broken relationships or skin deep relationships that never go anywhere.
5. All you need is love. No. Love does not fix everything. Some of these children come to you unable to love. It can take years of therapy to work on this...as again, most of the damage was done before language developed in the child. They might not be able to tell you the problem...they just react to the primal memory of the feelings. Some children cannot be fixed. Ever.
6. Screaming and acting out in public are parenting issues. See above. And some disorders NEED a non-reaction at first. You have no idea if THAT KID is one of the damaged ones, and THAT MOM is doing what she needs to do at the moment.
7. The younger the child at adoption, the less likely the problems. Thousands of parents can refute this one. The child had 9 months with their birth mother even if they are given away at birth. The fact that the child has no language does not mean it has no senses or feelings. You have no idea how each individual child is going to react as they grow or even right away.
8. If I'm not a racist, my children will not do anything racist/ or the flip side, if a child does something racist they got it from the home. BIG MISTAKE. Whether your child started child care or kindergarten first, they are spending larger chunks of their weekdays with others than with mom and dad. And in the pre-teen and teen years they are all about their peers. Be careful what your kids pick up from care givers, teachers and peers. It's not always the parent responsible. BUT, the parent is responsible for STOPPING the problem and teaching the kid what they did wrong, etc. But don't fall into the trap of immediatley assuming racist comments come from the home.
9. Therapy is only for really bad kids. Therapy is supposed to help....hopefully BEFORE it is used to fix. I've read several stats that say that adopted children are over represented in therapy. Duh. We are forced to go through so many classes. We are taught what kinds of things could be potential problems and where to go to get help. How many birth parents are given this same info? NONE.
If you think something is wrong, it is okay to look for answers and ask questions of professionals. They will tell you if you are over-reacting. And they probably know better than your neighbor what are the big warning flags. There is no shame in trying to fix a problem before it becomes too big to ignore. Trust your gut.
10. Your child's actions are a reflection on you.
If your child does something stupid, like keying cars or shoplifting or something -- this does not make you a failure as a person. If you taught them right from wrong, walked the walk and were a parent for that child.....then you did right. You can't beat yourself up with what is wrong with you or how you are a lousy parent. We were all born with free will. The kids are more than capable of doing something they have been taught is wrong. YOU didn't do this.
If you know you've been the best parent you can be. If you respond and teach in the situations where your kids are in the wrong. Let the guilt go. You did your part. They have to do theirs.
So. I hope those die-hards on some issues will at least consider that they might not have the answer for every kid. It just doesn't work that way. And I was one of the worst offenders of this kind of thinking at one point.
We are all different. We know this as adults. So why would we expect everyone to parent the same and there be only one right way?
We need to grow up.