Recently, I was reading Faith A's blog at Adoption Under One Roof about what it takes to parent a traumatized older child. The comments got me thinking about my own answer to that question.
My list goes something like this (and I certainly don't possess all of these qualities, though I strive for them):
- Honest acceptance of your own personal history and mistakes.
- Gallows humor.
- A strong belief that no life is ever "ruined".
- Street smarts.
- The ability to parent today for the sake of today - an acceptance that it might not "work out" in the long term and the child may end up in residential treatment, embroiled in legal problems, or otherwise struggling and that your decision to do this work now doesn't depend on any "result".
- A healthy skepticism of the system.
- Scientific curiosity. Why is my kid doing this? What happened right before he did this? What environmental factors can I change and how does he respond when I do?
- Empathy for the depth and range and duration of grief.
- Being cool with being different so you can weather the occasional social isolation of adopting an older child with "issues".
- Chemistry: one person's problem child is another person's "special someone". I can confidently say that, had I known the full facts of his case before I met him on his own terms, I would not have offered to parent T. And yet the three of us "clicked" and that natural chemistry ignited a deep mutual affection that gets us through things none of us would have signed up for on the face of it. We fit like puzzle pieces.
- Understanding that how far someone has come depends on where he started.
What did I miss?
Come on everybody dream along!
1 day ago