When did I get so touchy about my parenting? I notice it from time to time. I'm a little defensive about how I parent ten year old Wenxin, adopted from China just two years ago.
This time, it started with a simple question.
"Did you send him to his room?"
One little question and the mood subtly changed. My mood. Only moments before I'd been casually chatting by phone about my day. Now I was suddenly a little defensive.
Usually when I talk with out of town family by phone, I share all the funny things the kids have said and done throughout the day, and we laugh about how cute they are.
But on that particular day, I chose to share a struggle. I shared how Wenxin got frustrated during homeschool math that day. . . really frustrated. . . and how I ended the lesson early. He was done. I was done. It was clear he was too tired to think, so I decided to cut it short and try again tomorrow when we were both fresh.
Not being allowed to finish something pushes all Wenxin's buttons. He quietly whined and cried and begged and demanded that I help him finish his math . . . for over an hour.
"No, I didn't send him to his room."
"Well, we don't do that. . . uhh . . .because of abandonment issues. . . you know, our social worker and everyone we've read says adoptive kids need time in, not time out. He needs to stay near us -- especially if he's emotionally upset."
It didn't sound very convincing, even to me.
"For how long?"
"How long does that last? Are you saying that just because he's adopted, he can't be sent to his room for the rest of his life?" And wait a minute. . . here it comes. . . "After all, he's been here two years."
Now that pushes my buttons. The arbitrary deadline when none of the trauma in his past is allowed to affect him anymore. The point where it is assumed that I should move on and treat him exactly like the kids I've parented since birth.
There was one more question -- I'll get to that later -- and then we changed the subject to something less inflammatory. I'm pretty sure there was no harm done. The brief tension of the moment didn't hurt my relationship with the person on the other end of the line.
But it made me think. In fact, afterwards, I couldn't get that conversation off my mind. Why?
I came to the conclusion that when it comes to parenting, I'm both prideful and insecure.
The prideful part didn't surprise me. Ongoing . . lifelong. . . struggle.
But insecure? Really? Wenxin is my fifth child. What do I have to be insecure about?
Adopting an older child is a lot like being a first time parent -- even if you aren't. I've read the books, and followed the blogs and talked with the social worker. But this is my first time parenting an adopted child -- an older child who came with baggage. Everything I'm doing is a grand experiment.
So when someone challenges me, especially when they press their point, I stand up tall, try to look brave, and explain myself. But really . . . I know. . . and I fear that they know (pride). . . that I don't really know what I'm doing.
The saving grace of that conversation came in the form of the last question. It helped me clarify why I didn't send Wenxin to his room that day. The person on the other end of the phone asked, "Well, do you send the other kids to their rooms?"
I thought about it and smiled. No. I don't send the others to their rooms when they're crying. It's just not my parenting style.
I send them to their rooms to sleep, to rest, to read, and to play. I've been known to put a cranky, overtired baby in his crib because I needed a break and he needed some sleep. I'm no martyr.
But when an older child is upset . . . or crying. . . or melting down, I never send them to their room and tell them they can't come out until they out until they can pull it together. Never. I place a high value on helping kids work through their emotions and getting to the heart of things. I usually keep them near me and help them work it out.
It was kind of nice to see that the way I'm parenting Wenxin is not so different from how I've always parented the others. He's just at a different place in the process.
I'm going to take a deep breath and try to lighten up a little. I think we're good here.
Have I mentioned that Mike and I are attending Empowered to Connect next month in Orlando? Empowered to Connect as in Dr. Karyn Purvis of The Connected Child. Super excited about this opportunity to add a few new parenting tools to our bag of tricks.
How about you? Do any of you adoptive mamas, or mamas of bio kids for that matter, feel insecure about how you are raising your kids? Any fans out there of sending kids to their rooms, or is that a favorite discipline technique from a time past? I'd love to hear what you think.
Shared at Growing Slower.