We had dinner last night with some sweet friends, another adoptive family from our church. As we chatted that evening, Maureen asked me whether, since CaiQun is doing so well, we still thought of her as a child who had come through trauma or not so much. I think I gave her a brief answer before our conversation was interrupted by one child or another, but I’ve been thinking more about her question since then.
Honestly, I think that very early on in our parenting journey, Matt and I decided that one of the values we wanted to have characterize our parenting was compassion. We wanted to take our kids’ feelings and experiences seriously, even if, to us, they might seem silly. That’s the biggest reason we never used a “cry it out” sleep training method with Miranda.
I think that decision made it easier for us to make some of the transitions in our parenting strategies that being adoptive parents required of us – in many ways, our initial parenting strategies were already similar to those recommended for parenting adopted children.
That doesn’t mean there’s never any room for growth, though. Back in April, Matt and I were blessed to be able to attend an Empowered to Connect conference. It was such a great refresher in so many areas and introduced some new material that we were excited to discuss and incorporate more into our parenting. One of my most vivid memories from that conference is of Dr. Purvis discussing the difference between meeting physical needs and emotional needs. For instance, if a child falls off his bike and scrapes his knee, a parent can clean and bandage his knee (meeting his physical need) and/or offer comfort and reassurance to soothe his fears and encourage him (meeting his emotional need). She later showed a video in which she used band-aids with a group of troubled teens to help them discuss both physical and emotional wounds. Something I realized as I reflected on those aspects of her presentations was that although I want to prioritize meeting emotional needs, my instinct is much more toward meeting physical needs.
One thing I decided to do differently after that weekend was to be far more liberal in dispensing band-aids 🙂 It is a fairly common occurrence in our household for one or the other of my daughters to come running to me, announcing that they have an owie and need a band-aid – I suspect most moms of pre-schoolers can relate 🙂 In the past, my general rule had been that unless there was actual blood, there was no need for a band-aid. However, the reality is that my little girls are coming to me for both physical and emotional care. Sometimes there’s not actually any need for physical treatment, but by offering up a band-aid with a hug and kiss, I can validate their feelings, reassure them, and meet that emotional need. I was happy to read later that other moms and dads have reached similar conclusions 🙂 It probably costs us a few extra dollars each year in our grocery budget, but I think it’s worth it!
Basically, what I’m saying is that I don’t think that I think of Madeleine CaiQun all that frequently as “a child who has experienced trauma.” I recognize that that’s true of her – and I fully expect that we will deal more explicitly with more aspects of her personal experience as she gets older – but at this point, I think of her primarily as my adorable little daughter with whom I am completely in love 🙂
I think quite often, though, about the type of parent I want to be and the type of parent my children need me to be. I want to be a band-aid mom, and I think my kids – both of them – need me to be that type of mom. Just this past weekend, I spent an hour one night lying in bed with Miranda. It had been an odd out-of-routine few days for us, and she was having a hard time that night, so I snuggled with her until she had calmed. It wasn’t what I had planned to do, and I checked off significantly fewer items from my “to do” list that night than I had been hoping, but that was what she needed, and I’m glad I took the time to be with her. Both of my girls need compassion and need me to be available to help them work through whatever hard stuff they experience in their lives.
This parenting gig can be exhausting…but it’s good 🙂