One really nice side effect of adopting out of the foster care system is getting a new perspective on parenthood.
We parents do a great job of beating ourselves up. We could spend 16 hours a day making meals, carting kids around to lessons, dishing out discipline, reading books, playing family games, refereeing sibling fights, doing laundry, helping with homework, reminding them to brush their teeth, changing diapers, giving baths, and we still get to the end of the day and say Man, I did a really bad job at parenting today. Why can’t I get myself together?
I don’t know where these expectations of the perfect parent were created, but I know so many of us try to live up to them and live in a constant state of defeat.
In the process of adopting Jac0b, I’ve learned just how much the little things matter to raising independent, compassionate, productive adults.
You really are getting so much right and want to encourage you in those things today.
Showing up. The simple fact that you are showing up is a huge win. Seriously guys, I don’t care if you sit on the couch all day and do nothing, the simple fact that you show up is a huge win. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever leave. It just means when you do leave, the kids understand where you’re going, you go where you say you’re going and you show back up when you say you will. Maybe you have to do it by phone because you’re out of town, but do they know you’re out of town? Maybe you are divorced and don’t have them for the week, but are they cared for? If yes, you’ve shown up for them. Huge lessons of trust by just showing up.
Feeding your kids. I don’t care if it’s roast beef and mashed potatoes or McDonald’s. The simple fact that your kids are getting food in their bellies 3 times a day and not having to figure it out on their own or go without is huge. They are learning trust in huge doses. And believe me when I say even though you are worrying about their health with fast food, they probably prefer it.
Taking them to school. I don’t care if you homeschool, pay for private school or send them to public school. The simple fact that you are actually getting them to a place to learn is a big deal.
Caring for their needs. For younger ones, this looks like changing their diapers or giving them baths. For older ones, this might look like applying a band-aid to a scrape or helping with homework. Having someone react to them when there’s a problem—HUGE.
Correcting bad behavior. This includes all the annoying things kids do. Commenting loudly in public about a stranger, hitting someone when they’re mad, calling someone a name, snatching things out people’s hands, not saying thank you, etc. All of these things are TEDIOUS to correct as a parent, but it’s huge. This helps them be adults that are capable of having friends and jobs.
Encouraging them. Whether it’s when they share, or hold a door, or clean up after themselves after dinner, or they just look cute for the day, it’s HUGE for them to have someone behind them that believes in them.
And as a bonus:
Family moments. This includes all the extra things you do through the year…walks around the neighbhorhood, trips to the library, afternoons at the playground, pumpkin patches, trick or treating, birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, fireworks at July 4th, beach trips, visits to the zoo, the roller rink, bowling. These do not have to be expensive, blogworthy, Pinterest pretty moments. Just simple efforts. It may feel like it’s not important and superfluous but it’s not. You’re teaching your kids about the world around them and it’s huge.
I was talking with the principal of our school and they said one kid they were helping came to school knowing nothing about how the world around her worked. She didn’t know what a police officer or fireman was. They had to show her videos in the morning before school teaching her about her world. All of these trips and conversations and pointing out the fire trucks? HUGE.
And here’s what I know if you’re reading this. You’re doing so much more than that.
But hear me when I say these simple things of consistently showing up, getting them their basic needs and trying to make them into halfway likable people is A LOT. It doesn’t feel like a lot because you’re doing it by default, but it is. It really is enough. The simple things are teaching them trust and love and integrity and compassion and boundaries and about the world around them.
Sadly, Jac0b came to us not getting a lot of what I just listed. I honestly never realized how big of a deal just showing up was until 3 months ago. Seriously, when you get to the end of a hard day and you want to beat yourself up, pat yourself on your back if in some way you showed up for your kids.
The gymnastics lessons, the perfect grades, the trip to New York, the cooking lessons, the brand name outfits, the 3-point nightly sermons, the completely organized play room, the perfectly decorated holiday tablescape, etc, etc. those are great, but please, let’s not beat ourselves up about not doing them at the end of the day. They are GRAVY.
You’re doing better than you think, parents. You really are.