The babies and I have been playing pass the parcel with a whole range of viruses for about 8 weeks, now. It's been pretty unpleasant. Last week was my turn again. I got this virus (and yes, I totally lucked out and got the ulcers and the tonsil blisters) which means that I spent most of the week popping codeine and covering my tongue in what is basically krazy glue, while ranting at my immune system for not rejecting what is supposed to be a childhood illness.
Thank you, virus, for ruining my week. The virus is why it has taken me so long to count up the entries (and the happiness tips), go to random.org, press a button and come up with the winner for the happiness giveaway. But now I've done it and can tell you that it's Imgnyc, aka Leigh! Email me your address, Leigh, and your book will swiftly make its way to you on the wings of the morning. And the rest of you all win too, because you all get to read this luminously beautiful post that she wrote a few weeks ago. I've been wanting to link to this for ages, but never quite had the right context. Well, now I do, because she won my giveaway. Huzzah!
Okay. So. Another thing I'm going to blame the virus for: I've come to think that I possibly should have dialled down the pain meds before pressing 'publish' on my last post. I've always felt pretty strongly about that issue, and I've been meaning (for more than a year) to write something about it. I was hoping that it might be helpful for people who haven't yet adopted to have a point of view to consider when thinking about how to deal with the issue when it comes up. What I really, really did NOT want to do was pass judgement on anybody who has made a different decision from the one that we made.
Another thing I really, really didn't want to do was to lay guilt on anybody. I really hadn't considered that I might hurt people who have talked (to parents, friend, whoever) and now wish that they hadn't. I'm really sorry for this - it wasn't my intention.
A few people asked for advice about what to do in this sort of situation. All I can think of is this: we all mess up. Parents mess up. Adoptive parents probably mess up more than average, not because we are worse people but because there is more stuff to mess up. I don't know what your personal messing-up areas are, but I know that I fail daily. I have ordinary motherfails: I lose my temper. I can be lazy. And while I may not face privacyfails yet, I have what might be pretty serious adoptomotherfails too, things I feel too raw or embarrassed to write about here. And I could try justifying them, but that's not the point - the point is that I have failed, and continue to fail. These things may be things that my children grow up to grieve far more than they would have if I had nailed their birth history to our front door. And it may be that there will still other things that I never considered that do it instead. What can I do about this? I can't turn the clock back.
I read a parenting blog ages ago (I can't remember which one, or I'd link) that was talking about goals for raising children. The author was writing from a Christian perspective, and she said: our aim as parents isn't to stop our children from sinning, but to teach them how to deal with their sin. (And a pretty basic definition of sin is failure to do what we should do, be what we should be). And as I've been thinking about my own failures this week, and pondering questions about privacyfails, I've been thinking a lot about this. We're never going to raise perfect children, and that's probably just as well because we are never going to be perfect parents, either. I'm not going to do a perfect job of being my children's mother. Not in the everyday ordinariness of parenting, and not the specific adoption parenting bits either. Please believe that I know I do not have all the answers. Far from it.
This is complicated, because while parenting failures are not unimportant, they are inevitable, and it's in facing our own human imperfections that we can help our kids to face theirs. A way I can really help my children deal with their own imperfection is to let them see me deal with mine. Firstly (and I'm going to keep this as brief as possible) I need to admit them - often out loud, to the person we've wronged. I think this applies both to small things like being unreasonably cranky (I'm embarrassed by how often I need to apologise about this to my children) or large things like talking out of turn. Secondly, our apologies mean nothing if we don't strive to correct ourselves. I'm working on getting less cranky. If you've been more talkative than you should have, you can not do that anymore. Thirdly, we can seek to set right any wrongs we have done. A few people asked about what to do when words have already been spoken that they now wish unspoken. All I can suggest is to speak to the people you've talked to, explain why you wish you hadn't and ask them to keep quiet about what they know. As several people have pointed out (on this blog and others) people do generally mean well. Trade on that. Fourthly, if you're a Christian, parenting drives you again and again and again to remember what it means to be forgiven because boy oh boy do I need forgiveness day by day for all the ways that I fail.
Adoptomotherfails. Crankyfails. Privacyfails. We need to face them, because they are a daily reality. Turns out this parenting lark is a whole new journey of humility. I was reading The Gospel Centred Family yesterday and there was a prayer in there that sums up exactly how I feel about parenting:
"Dear God, please have mercy on my children, because with a parent like me, they are sure going to need it".
All I can say is: Amen.