Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Parenting older Adoptive Children

I, by no means, am an expert in parenting of any kind. But it is interesting to be a parent in my later years (again). Everything has its trade offs. Parenting for the second time is almost like being a grandparent and a parent to the same children. I have the wisdom I gained from parenting my first set of children, and some of the same fears and hope of a new parent. I'm also no where near as energetic as I was the first time around. So I try to do my job at work, do the husbandry things around the house, take care of some of the projects the kids have for me and- then they get...Dad talking as he drifts off in front of the tube. Exhausted. I do more talking than playing, but I'm here. Of course Mom's job is twice as difficult as mine because she's a "working mom", so I try not to complain. That's a stupid title; you ever see a non-working mom?

From my first time through, I've gained patience. Children will be children and no matter how much I want it to be, I've learned, they're not little adults. Older adoptive children have issues of being traumatized from whatever is in their background. We are learning that taking on older children is not easy because believe it or not, you have to earn their trust. (Go figure, LOL) You also have to earn their respect, which is just as difficult. It doesn't come automatically with the adoption certificate. All this before you can adequately nurture and discipline them.

They may appear to be mature, but I realize they are still children and are trying to adapt and cope the best they know how. When we adopted LJ at 13ish, she was the oldest child adopted out of Ethiopia at the time. She had taken on the mother role for a couple of years, and shared the parenting tasks with her older two brothers (who we've learned were not a lot of help - Men! Typical) and her little sister. She and AJ are still trying to adjust to the fact that they are not independent little kids fending for themselves. They want to make decisions on their own, and are angry when Mom intercepts them. But then when we try to guide them toward some appropriately mature decisions/actions, they sometimes flounder. Their emotional growth was stunted because of the trauma of losing both of their parents within a couple of years of each other.

It can be very confusing at times. We have teenagers with teenage issues, then we have to add in personal character issues, orphan issues, cross culture issues, and language issues! Which monster are we trying to conquer at the time? Which two or three? We try to approach scenarios academically...what did I read or learn about this? We try that. If I can't figure it out, I go to autopilot and sort out the mess afterward. For me (I'm a big push over for my baby girls) that means giving in. Typical dad, right? Hey, I'm human!

BUT, very often around here I get to sit back and watch my children as they are doing children things like playing together, or talking, whatever. The joy comes in watching them mature and adapt and show love toward each other. Next best thing to heaven. The the biggest joy is when one of them says to me "I love you" first. That IS heaven for a dad, let me tell ya!


Cindy said...

You are so right--hearing I love you from your children is one of the best things EVER!!

Thanks for the post--it reminds me again that I am not raising mature children, they are just children and I can sympathize on the language barrier issues too--we have alot of our own..

Amanda and Andrew said...

I found your blog while doing a search on Ethiopian parenting. My husband and I will be leaving in 2ish months to pick up our soon-to-be daughter and son. They are 5 and 7 years old.

I enjoyed reading your blog and I'm going to direct my husband to it. We have been talking a lot lately about the fact that children are NOT little adults and they are still developing. I like that I read it on your blog and I'm sure my husband will appreciate reading it from another man.