Adoption and Parenting: Becoming Accountable

If you find yourself struggling to parent post-adoption, maybe you can relate. I messed up today. This will be a shock to no one, I’m sure, but it is constantly a source of shock to me when I am hit on the head with my ability to so thoroughly do the wrong thing. 

One kid was having a hard time with a chore. Instead of being helpful, or at least not making the kid angrier, I escalated the situation. Was that my goal? No. Is that what happened? Yep. What had been just a minor annoyance turned into a furious exchange of words.

Eventually, my sweet husband stepped in and I went to cool down. I took a shower, ate a snack, and after thinking about the situation, I went back and apologized. Because, at the end of the day, I care much more that my kid knows I care about them, and can identify when I’ve messed up, than I care about the toys on the floor.

Look. In my mind, there is a way things should go and there is a way things do go; on any given hour of the day, those things are either sort of close or miles apart. I wish that for every strong conviction I had about parenting, I had an equally strong amount of will and time. But sometimes that just isn’t how it goes. There is no prescribed response. 

So when things go bad and I find myself in a high noon western movie kind of tension standoff with my kid, things go sideways and I say things I don’t mean to. And when that happens and I’ve cooled down, I need to go back and explain how I was wrong, why I was wrong, and apologize. It is honestly humiliating sometimes because…I’m the mom… and I know my mom never did this…  But if I don’t model it, my kids won’t know how. And if I don’t make it right as best as I can I’m sowing seeds for resentment and discord in our family. 

From my perspective, there are many parents that are either actively trying to re-parent their own behavior to correct wrong thinking from their childhoods, or they are looking around and feeling confused and angry for parents seeming to “do it wrong” by treating kids as humans whose emotions are as important as anyone else. Honestly, I wish some days I could just not care as much as I do. Things would be so much simpler. Sure, my kids would probably hate me and I’d feel less weird. But the world is changing. “Because I said so” barely cut it for my generation. If I tell my kid to do something “because I said so” they just look at me like I’m an idiot. Which, to be clear, is very frustrating. Ugh. 

So it’s easy to mess up, but it turns out if I don’t let my pride get in the way, it’s also easy to apologize. My kids’ memories for my mistakes are fairly short and they are as easy to give forgiveness as I am to give it to them. I want my kids to understand there is absolutely nothing they can do that will make me not care about them. This has been tried and tested in this house and it turns out that conviction is one that is titanium strong. Wading through the grief surrounding it is hard, but the conviction and truth of “I love you no matter what” makes the whole thing, while deeply painful, also truer than I could have guessed. 

I don’t have it all together. I barely get out the door with my shirt right some days. But I know my kids know I love them. So, that’s a pretty good deal I think. And if I have to come to them with humility and admit I raised my voice when I shouldn’t have, or I used my power as their parent unfairly (in their eyes), they learn it’s ok to apologize. It’s good to admit you were wrong and try to make it right. 

Will I mess up again? You betcha. Will they find my last raw nerve and bounce up and down on it with tap shoes on? For certain. But we work through it and move on. Even when the issues are huge and we have to get counselors and teachers involved, we work through it. And they know I still love them and will still be there for them if they want me. 

This is not to say kids don’t need to be kept accountable for their own actions or that they are allowed to walk all over me. It’s just acknowledging that sometimes I do the wrong thing and it’s my job to repair that damage. I raise my voice and it triggers their flight or fight (which, honestly can happen if I’m shouting to try and find them outside.) and I need to remember how much I hate to have my name yelled and apologize for being threatening. I am terse with my kid’s 2 million questions at bedtime and I can tell I’ve hurt their feelings I have to apologize and explain that it is past bedtime and I love them but please save the question for morning if it’s not an emergency. 

Taking responsibility for our actions is our job as any kind of parent–adoption or not. I just happen to be an adult and my kid’s complex history makes it easier for me to say or do the wrong thing that triggers them. I think it’s important to remind ourselves in a world that “might makes right,” we are trying to help our kids rewire their brains that were harmed from trauma and certain parenting styles won’t help them do that. We can, however, do our part in being patient, responsible, and accountable.  

Adoption and Parenting: Becoming Accountable

More Articles on Adoption and Parenting: 

Bachelor Of Science In Foster Parenting

Parenting Lessons from Disney’s ‘Brave’

How to Totally “Crush” it! Parenting Tips from Finding Nemo

What Makes Adoptive Parenting Different From Parenting a Biological Child?