When We Became Parents
When We Became Parents
When we first became parents in 2001 just a short year after our marriage and immediately after we left our teenage years behind, we were very different parents than we are now.
One of the things that I have come to appreciate most about being the mother of a larger family is that I got to refine and practice my skills repeatedly. Each child brought new challenges and yet also the chance for me to redo some of the things that didn’t turn out like I had expected. With each child I learned to lean into Jesus more, to search Gods word in a deeper way and to see the child more for who God created them to be than who I thought my children would be. With each child my selfish nature took another hit as more selflessness was required from me.
In the beginning of our parenting journey we were still a part of the Old Order Mennonite Church and Community, therefore our journey looked a lot like meeting the expectations of the community, and to have our family look, behave preform a certain way.
When we became saved by the wonderful saving power of Jesus Christ, he slowly taught us how to parent for him. Our hearts as parents slowly changed from parenting to please the community to parenting to please God.
Another event that greatly influenced our parenting was the adoption through foster care of 2 of our children. The foster care journey caused me to take a step back and see the heart of the matter. It taught me to focus on not just short-term behavior and outcomes but to practice emotional and social skills that children could use their entire life. It helped me to focus on life skills of a social nature like self-control, self-regulating, perspective taking, communication, problem solving.
Most often Children who have healthy bonds with a primary caregiver, and a nurturing stable home develop these skills naturally and as parents we come along side and help refine the opportunities for the development of these skills.
It becomes a bit more challenging when a Child hasn’t had the opportunity to experience or develop a bond with caregiver, or if the bond they had was broken. Many of the opportunities for social development were missed simply because that bond was missing. When a child has a healthy, trusting, emotional bond with a caregiver their brain is hardwired to copy facial expressions, mimic actions and sounds and most valuable of all, learn to regulate their emotions and feelings through this bond with a caregiver. Many social skills are just ‘caught’ by the child that spends his days in a nurturing environment and has a bond with a caregiver.
When a Child has missed out on this bond, it takes a lot of time and effort to help them develop what their peers learned by mere exposure.
Our experience as foster and adoptive parents drew us closer to God, closer to each other and helped us develop some very intentional parenting skills. Our family culture changed forever because of our experience. And even though we look back at those 2 years where we added 3 little boys to our family and call those years our greatest challenge, we also recognize that those where the years of tremendous personal growth in not only ourselves but our family culture as well.
Most of what I share on parenting will reflect on methods that have worked for at least one of our children. Each child, even children that share much of the same DNA, responds so differently to life experiences and processes events so uniquely that just when we think we know exactly how to address a situation, another child comes along and hits the same stage and the method that works so well for a sibling doesn’t work at all with this child.
My encouragement to you from one parent to another is to develop a sort of end goal for your children and then measure behaviors and actions against that goal and parent accordingly.