Parenting Backwards

Raising a child from birth to adulthood seems like a cycle of teaching attachment and then teaching how to let go. First you try to get a newborn to attach to a breast for feeding then after a few months, a few years for some, you ween them off of the breast and onto a bottle. The process starts all over again. Attach to the bottle then ween to a sippy cup and so on. Just think about it: we use things to comfort and nourish and soothe our children just so later on we can teach them that they will have to grow up and move on from them. A blankie, a pacifier, a crib, a toy, a home etc. Its a cycle of teaching them to attach and let go b/c that is what life is all about.

Well parenting an adopted child feels completely opposite of that to me. I feel like I am having to parent backwards. Instead of teaching Jaydn to attach and let go I am trying to teach her to let go and attach. Let go of her defense mechanisms and the tools she has been using to survive her almost animalistic institutionalized life up until now and attach to us at the heart level. Let go of her fears of abandonment and sense of self sufficiency and attach to us, her loving family that she can trust and feel safe with b/c we aren't going anywhere.

It is really hard to parent this way after years of doing it the other way. Call me selfish but I enjoy the times when Jaxon and Jovie are playing in the other room while I do my quiet time or dishes or whatever I need to do for a little while. I have taught them to trust a babysitter or a Sunday school teacher so that Nathan and I can have a date or I can enjoy worship with our church body. Teaching even toddler aged kids to let go has it's perks! But parenting backwards is a conscious sacrifice of those perks. With Jaydn on my lap 24/7, I can only catch bits of the sermon between feeding her crackers or keeping an eye on her as she destroys my notes with a pen. Nathan and I don't go on dates. Dishes, quiet times and whatever else I need to do will just have to wait until she is asleep at night. And to be honest, by then, Im too tired so it simply doesn't get done. Another example is last night. We went to a worship and music ministry Christmas party. We couldn't get a babysitter b/c its too early in Jaydn's development to leave her with anyone else so Nathan and I drove separately just in case I would need to leave b/c of the kids. So as Nathan wandered around meeting and greeting people he will be working so closely with in the coming years, I sat on a couch with a 40lb two year old squishing my face at an almost painful strength, knotting my hair with her forceful fingers and then jerking herself backwards at random times with brut force almost breaking my arms as I attempt to catch her each time. A sweet new friend offered to watch her for a minute while I ventured to the chocolate fountain and I jumped at the chance. "OH! YES! Kid freedom!," I thought to myself. I returned from the other room a few minutes later, knowing I wasn't really "supposed" to do that but Lord knows I needed it (both the break and the chocolate covered fruit). Then it was back to my lap she came. I kept thinking about how the other two kids were upstairs, entertaining themselves and what a gift that truly had become to me as one tired mommy. I went upstairs to join them and sat on the floor while Jaydn would get up long enough to grab a toy and then plop onto my lap again. The process of her seeing me as different than every other woman in the room is an arduous one.

Please know that I am not complaining. Actually I am learning out loud. I am learning how to parent someone who has no experiential reason to trust/love me. I am learning how to walk through every painful door of her self sufficiency and place Christ's redemption story there. I am not Jaydn's mommy b/c I had to be. I chose this role out of obedience to God's command through Scripture. So as in all things I experience in my life where I feel ill-equipped and unable, I believe that God has placed me here to be more reliant on Him. I know He can parent forwards, backwards, upwards, downwards, sideways and upside down- He is The Everlasting Father. My prayer is that through all of this, He will also teach me how to let go (and let God) and teach Jaydn how to attach.


plumie said...

Father, fill this sweet mother and child with all they need. More of you, trust, peace, love, joy, wisdom, a sense of your presence in the middle of this season of loving, leaving and learning.

In Jesus Name,


Hang in there Bethany and Nathan! I know you know this but God will redeem it all!!

Amanda said...

Very well said. Thank you for learning out loud!

Holly Wood said...

It is funny how things jump out at you as you read another person's life story. I am the mother of 3 children, ages 6, 3, and 1. I cannot imagine having to teach a child to attach, simply because all three of mine came out and attached to my chest for at least a year; however, I understand the feelings you express. I think part of it is moving from 2 to 3 children. It is like the baby is constantly having to fight to keep your attention...ALL THE TIME!! You can't breathe, take a shower, use the bathroom or anything without someone screaming or standing next to you! While they are blessings, go get your chocolate-dipped fruit...you deserve it! In the meantime, I am still praying I can just get everyone in my household to wipe themselves; a MAJOR feat within itself!

God bless you as you continue on this journey and share such a beautiful picture of God at work.

In Christ,
Holly Burton Wood
C-ville, Ky