One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Why Must I Parent So Many Children to Learn Such Simple Truths?

This week, I've been thinking about my role as mother to so many different kinds of children, with various histories, needs and genetics.  Almost any mom with more than one child can testify to the fact that each child is unique, but having raised at least 50 children and taught hundreds more in my role as coach and teacher, even I am amazed at the range of my exposure to and insight into people.  

Perhaps the most telling result of this is that I am far more tolerant than I used to be. I think it is safe to say I was once quite judgmental, always imposing my ideas of what should be on others.  I still do that with my children in my role as parent, but that is probably because I am old fashioned and still believe that parents are entitled to push our personal values and agenda on our children as long as they are living under our roof and dependent on us.  

At this moment, we have 21 children, ranging in age from 1 to 31.  We have 3 children by birth.  The additional 18 children are either legally adopted and/or we became their legal guardians. And we have fostered a total of 52 children for some length of time. 

Depending on the time of year and the needs of our older young adult children, we typically have between 12 and 18 people at home at any given time.

We have babies and toddlers.  We have preschoolers, elementary-age kids, middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, married children, grandchildren... and the list goes on.

We have fostered and adopted in every age group.  We have sweet, adorable children that joined or family at or near birth and have few issues related to their past.  And we have had some not so sweet, not so adorable teen-agers that we accepted into our family without question at a time when they had experienced far more tragedy than most will ever know AND they were at the age when it is challenging under the best of circumstances to enjoy being around them.

Our skin colors vary.  We have milky white children.  Olive skinned children.  Dark skinned brown children.  Caramel colored children.  And just about every shade in between.  All our children are from the United States.

We have children with special needs.  Gifted children.  High school Salutatorians.  High school dropouts. Kids who struggle with college.  And kids on scholarship. 

We have accepted pregnant teens, some of whom were pregnant through no fault of their own.  We have attempted to provide stability in an unstable situation and teach these young mothers how to care for their own children – even when it means we do most of the care-taking and parenting of both mother and child for many of the first years and sometimes permanently.

Some of our children suffer from mental illness related to their past or to their genetics --  acting out in every way you can imagine -- and some ways you can't imagine. But we also have children that are choosing to go into the missions, counseling and other helping professions because of their experiences in our family.

We have experienced the tragedy and grief of losing our teenage daughter, who recently died in a single car automobile accident.

We have had children born into addiction, but we feel blessed that we have had no children with chronic physical illnesses.

We have children that have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused.  We have children that have lost their mother (either literally or figuratively). We have father's in prison.  And children who have no idea who their biological father is.

We have biological families who are intricately involved in our family on a daily basis.  And we have biological families who are virtually disconnected.

We have children that are strongly grounded in our Christian faith. And children that seem indifferent, at best.  

We have children that are depressed. And children that are optimistic in the face of tragedies I can only imagine.  

We have children that need much discipline and structure.  And those who need little.  

We have children in private school, public school, no school and we home school.  

As I write this, even I am amazed at the vast array of experiences I have had as a mother. Our uniqueness has played a significant role in my life. These experiences have helped shape and grow me as a mom.  I certainly am not the same mom to my current babies, toddlers and preschoolers that I was 20 years ago when I was raising my first set. Thank goodness.  And by necessity I have developed many skill sets for raising teenagers that have proven useful as I endured and persevered through these not so fun years that never seem to end. 

I have learned that my role requires constant ingenuity and flexibility and a willingness to think outside the box as well as endless repetition (which I hate). It requires honesty and commitment.  And determination and perseverance.  And a little ADHD helps.  

This is the backdrop upon which I think and write and speak. And live. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this post and all the avenues you covered. I LOVE my journey as a bio, adoptive, and previously fostering mom.

    Why must I parent so many children?....probably the same as you....because God has called me to do so. He doesn't select all people to all things in life and I feel honored He'd call me to be a mom to many (3 bio kids, married. 8 kids at home currently and will be 15-18 kids at home by the end of the summer). I LOVE my life!