Friday, June 11, 2010

Your Childs Reality Does NOT Belong To You

Hopefully this will be a cohesive post. My thoughts are pretty jumbled on the subject as I have children I gave birth to and an adopted child and what I've learned and lived is all rolled up together in both sets of issues.

The key point: Our child's views and realities do not belong to us.

I read a post over at a friends blog about a mother who spoke out recently when her son died. He had a drug problem. And she has been crucified in blogland and her parenting questioned. Her worth as a parent and person has been questioned by others. Because its HER failure....

I have raised a son to adulthood. It was not easy. During the most important years dad was always deployed. This resulted in lots of anger and acting out. It resulted in incidents. And that first incident? It about killed me. I was feeling really broken. I was feeling like a terrible parent. We were beating ourselves up and discussing what to do -- and Hubs made the comment that we had failed. Where had we gone wrong? What should we have done differently?

And while pondering together I had a revelation. We weren't bad parents. There is nothing we could have done to prevent this (outside of never letting him leave the house). The things that I would have done different if I had it to do over again -- I don't think they would have changed the outcome either.

Because bottom line is...

Your kid is a separate individual than you.

They have their own personalities.

They will make their own decisions regardless of the teachings/parenting they have had. It is all in THEIR hands.

And that is the way it is supposed to be.

I know, I know. You are sitting there saying, "We knew that already!"

Well so did I.

Or so I thought. But just like faith -- believing something and living something are two different things.

Now jump forward a few years and add adoption into the picture.

I spend a fair amount of time reading the blogs of adult adoptees. As an adoptive parent this is very rarely a pleasant experience. (Not that it is necessarily unpleasant either - it is just reality and not pretty when you look at the true realities of adoption.)

And reading one adoptee's site is always painful for me. Not because of what she is saying about the evil adoptive parents and the industry....NO. It's just her thoughts and feelings and her life. It's real. It's all about her thoughts of what could have been, etc.

And it reflects the inner life my daughter lives/will live.

And no one can change it. Not her, not me, not anyone.

And its not even my place to try.

But you will have the people come out of the woodwork and say that adoptees need to get over themselves. Be grateful for all the good they had. Like the good cancels the bad.

How brutal!

My daughter has a life that pre-dates me. And she doesn't need to be grateful to me! Her personality is not to be bound by MY reality (sunshine and rainbow and adoption is so grand!). HER reality is that she has a mother other than myself. A mother that did not keep her. And no matter what she has with me -- it does not cancel out what she lost. What could have been.

Get over it?


So adoptees are supposed to amputate part of who they are because its ungrateful not to?

That is sick.

Because our children - adopted or biological - are not bound by what we give them. Or what we teach them. Or what we think they should feel.

They are just a separate person that we have the gift of loving. The gift of raising (if we are lucky).

And they don't belong to us. They only belong to themselves. Our boundaries and teachings and love, etc., is only valid in their lives as long as they allow it to be valid. They can turn all of it off whenever they want.

And it doesn't matter what you taught them. It doesn't matter what you gave them. It doesn't matter all you did for them. It doesn't matter what YOU feel they should think or do.

It's all up to them.

So please. Don't treat your children like their reality is what YOU make it. Don't tell kids why they should think like you and then be surprised when they reject your standards. Don't tell an adopted child the good cancels out the bad.

Respect the fact that they have their own reality. And whether that reality reflects good on you or not as a not up to us. And don't let yourself fall into the trap of letting their choices define YOU as a parent or a person.

And for goodness sake people....get rid of the word "grateful". Not a single one of our kids ASKED to be born or adopted to us. They don't OWE us ANYTHING.

****Just to be clear - I'm not saying we shouldn't parent or teach or model or be anything less than a 100% involved parent. I'm just saying you do not have control over what your child ultimately thinks. You do not put the thoughts in their head. They don't owe you certain behaviors or thoughts. They are not your robot. They WILL make decisions you would not have made. They will feel whatever it is they feel, whether you agree or not. They do not OWE us certain behaviors or thoughts.

And let me assure you, if you can really embrace this reality and live it...

it actually makes all those bumps in the road so much easier. Because you learn to respect your child on a different level. You learn to allow them their mistakes or feelings without tying yourself and your feelings up in the situation also. You learn to start building that person-to-person relationship sooner alongside that parent-child relationship. (Notice I said ALONGSIDE...not IN PLACE OF.)

So parents...get over YOURSELVES.

And find a whole new depth in your relationship.


  1. I agree with a lot of what you are saying - and you have said it very well. You are totally right that parents need to get over themselves. I also think that there a bunch of people out there that need to quit throwing stones. Parents are other parents' worst enemy. We should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down.
    But I do have some disagreement with some of what you said as well. I am going to have to give it a lot of thought and blog about it. Maybe it is not that I disagree with what you say, maybe it is that I disagree with the outcome. Thanks for forcing me to think about this in a way that will require me to put it into words.

  2. I think another important point is that only by making their own mistakes in life will your children truly learn anything that you have tried to instill in them.
    I just recently started to follow your blog and I really appreciate your views and also the concise way in which you write!

  3. I've been dealing with this a lot lately, thanks for writing this.

  4. "Don't tell an adopted child the good cancels out the bad."

    It doesn't even have to be said as bluntly as "Just think of everything we gave you" or "Just think of all the good things in your life now."

    The stated line above that you typed out can ALSO come in the form of: "Well, I'm sorry you hurt BUT we did xx and yy and etc and we really didn't *mean* to cause you pain."

    I'm sure the very last thing parents "mean" to do is cause their children pain. But if they come to you expressing pain and your reaction is to say "I'm sorry you hurt BUT -"
    you're not listening. You're too busy thinking of a way to validate your feelings over your child's, and that is NOT fair to you.

    Is it YOUR truth, that you never meant to cause them pain? Absolutely. But when THEY'RE expressing themselves, you don't need to be all defensive. Just listen and talk it out without the BUT.

  5. I just sent a comment through and was not asked to type in a notification code to ensure I am not a spammer or a bot.

    Did it go through?

  6. I need to learn how to type.

    "You're too busy thinking of a way to validate your feelings over your child's, and that is NOT fair to you." should say:

    *That is NOT fair to THEM

  7. Mei Ling - thank you for taking your time and commenting on my posts. Whether it is your intent or not - I always learn from you. I honestly believe I'm a better parent because of your comments to me, others and your blogs. I'm just so thankful that I was able to come to a place in life where I could listen...and I think HEAR what so many are trying to tell us.

    You rock!