Thursday, January 18, 2007

Parenting and acceptance of all my children

I was at an Alanon meeting recently. It was the only one I have attended since Evan left. It was sort of weird. I understand lots of reasons why it is good for me to go, but I felt distant and frankly superior. I was no longer in the thick of it and it was easy to remember the right things to do and easy to forget how difficult it is to do those things.

There were two sets of parents there who were there for the first time. They had sons not too far away from Evan in age who were having a lot of trouble. I ended up speaking with the parents after the meeting and I don't remember what order it happened, but I did mention that Evan was a foster kid and one of the fathers said that they had adopted their son, "he was adopted as an infant, but I guess you never really know." I started to nod and get ready to talk about what can happen to a child while still in the womb, when we both realized how uncomfortable the other father was. I said something that seemed appropriate at the time and the conversation moved on.

The point though was that the other father and I were saying, "It isn't our fault. We love these kids, but the problem can be blamed on someone else. It is the birth parents' faults. I have to deal with this problem because of what they did, because of their genetic heritage."

When people ask me what the difference is between raising my bioboys and the foster boys I have two answers:

1. The two bioboys are so different I can't give you a sensible answer. Andrew and Brian require different parenting techniques and bring out different emotions in me. The question assumes that there is a way that I feel about my bioboys or a something that it is like to raise them, and there is not one way. It is like you lived in France and Japan and someone wanted to how Brazil, Canada, and China were like or not like France and Japan.

2. There is one important difference: a greater sense of responsibility or even guilt. Carl, David and Evan have the problems that they do because of their absent fathers and neglectful mothers, then why do Andrew and Brian have problems? Of course I could blame Hubby, but that won't get very far. No if Brian has trouble in school or Andrew has trouble with stress it must be my fault. I could decide that it is because we do care, but then that is my fault too, isn't it?

And if they are what they are because of me, doesn't that mean that it is my job to fix my mistakes? Everything becomes about me. If Andrew goes to a top ranked college, that must mean I did something right. Doesn't it? If he goes to a school that does not impress my colleagues and friends, well, then I did something wrong. So maybe I should try to talk him out of the attraction he has for his number one pick. Never mind that it is probably the perfect match for his interests, values, and academic dedication (if not innate ability). It is not one of the four schools within 1000 miles that people around here announce proudly that their children have decided to attend. Maybe I should push him to reconsider that list? Everyone else thinks that they are better schools.

And if Brian has trouble keeping track of school work and keeps failing classes because he doesn't turn things in, even though he gets A's on all the tests, that's my fault too. At the very least it is irresponsible of me to continue to send him to public school where he is treated as a kid with a problem instead of home schooling him. I might be forgiven for not moving to The City where there MIGHT be a private or public school more prepared to deal with his brand of specialness.

Someone asked me if the attitude of acceptance that I wrote about in the last post was something that I needed for the bios too. My answer is, "Hell yes."

Though the problems Andrew and Brian face may be much smaller, the sense of responsibility I have for them is much greater. My desire to control them, treat them as programmable and not respect them as free humans, is even stronger.

Parenting, of any kid, is really, really difficult. Sometimes every choice seems wrong. Establish a behavior plan and give rewards and we are being controlling and not respecting our kids' individuality. Let go and allow them to make their own choices and mistakes and we are being irresponsible as parents. Every decision has to be made as carefully as you can. The answer always depends upon the needs of the child and of the parent. Deciding when to enforce structure and when to provide freedom (or do both at once) is never easy.

And in that way, parenting all my kids is EXACTLY the same.

1 comment:

  1. You tackled a difficult and complicated subject well! I liked what you said about how parenting each of your bioboys is different. I take a lot of responsibility for how my kids are too. I am still thinking about this post and may have more to say later...


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