It was my birthday on Tuesday, and to celebrate the occasion, we invited a group of my closest friends over for a potjie. Aside from one couple, all of us are parents. And so, as tends to happen, conversation turned to all things parenting and the number one theme that seems to run through every conversation about parenting, whether you agree with anothers parenting methods or not, is that all loving parents want is to do the very best for their children, raise them to adulthood and not fudge them up along the way. We are all, after all, a product of our upbringings.
Parenting adopted children, I learned a long time ago… does come with some added pressures. Just like when you parent a special needs child, or any other unique situation, you do have to parent for the child you have. I have adopted children so I parent accordingly. I’m always aware that my children have deep seated abandonment issues, that they have trust issues and that it is essential that Walter and I help them feel as secure as possible at all times.
Both of my children displayed post placement distress. And each child will experience this differently. We have good friends with an adopted child, who at age 3 has developed selective mutism. After play therapy, his mutism has been traced back to issues surrounding his adoption. Hannah has sensory issues that after much therapy were also traced back to her placement and issues of trust. So you understand that this is always foremost in my mind and in Walter’s mind when we parent our children.
When Ava was almost a year old, my life imploded. Nearly a decade of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss had left me with PTSD and Post Placement Depression, my marriage was on the rocks and Walter and I were talking about separation.
The turning point for us came from Ava. She wasn’t even a year old yet, but we were in deep trouble in our relationship and fighting almost constantly, one morning, we got into a HUGE fight into front of Ava, who was sitting in her high chair. We were screaming and shouting at each other, when suddenly she burst into tears and started hitting herself in the head. It was awful to witness and I carry a HUGE amount of guilt over the fear and insecurity our behavior must have caused that our 11 month old baby would do that.
It was that moment that Walter and I realized we needed help and went on to months of uncomfortable marriage counselling that eventually brought us back to from the brink of divorce.
One of the promises we made to ourselves that day was that we would NEVER EVER fight in front of our children ever again. Guys, all couples argue and fight. Let’s be honest about that. All couples bicker and get irritated and annoyed with each other. Do you know how hard it has been to avoid fighting in front of our children? But we’ve done it.
Except last night, last night, we had a disagreement that had been coming for a while and I kind of lost my cool, it happens rarely, but when I lose it, I lose it! Walter is the King of Silent Treatment, I am more of the Scream-Shout-Throw-All-The-Things kind of person and last night, while I was in the midst of my meld down, I stormed out of the kitchen and right into Ava, who was standing in the passage, with her show & tell book in her hands, all wide eyed and insecure and I HATE myself for it! HATE myself that I broke that promise! I am OVERWHELMED by guilt today!
I took myself off upstairs to calm myself the fudge down and get a grip on myself and then had a chat with her about how sometimes mom’s and dad’s get cross with each other, just like she gets cross with her sister, or the dog or her best friend and she shouts at them. That sometimes mom’s and dad’s need to do the same but that doesn’t mean they love each other any less. It just means they’re cross and everything will be ok.
I felt so guilty, after she went to sleep last night, I lay in bed with her, whispering to her, hoping that my whispered messages of love and commitment would make it through to her unconscious, sleeping brain. She already has issues of abandonment and commitment without out Walter and I fudging that up further.
And I went back to the conversations we’d had around the potjie on Tuesday and realized once again, that regardless of how any of us parent our children, we all pretty much have a common goal…. to raise them to adulthood without fudging them up too much!