October 17, 2013
Imagine telling a very budget-minded control-freak that for one whole day, she’d have to let go of the very reins that she tightly grasps in her hands and say yes to anything that her children asked. This was our recent experience, and I lived to tell the tale.
My husband and I began our adoption journey in October 2012, and although we were praying for our future children from that moment, nothing prepared us for the transitional experience of actually receiving children into our home. My “Momma’s heart” had been fully prepared by God well in advance, but the wants, needs, and desires of my children have very much challenged me to rethink daily habits and routines. Without a doubt, I have been challenged on a daily basis, sometimes a moment by moment basis, to consider the “why” in my world of structure.
I’m absolutely a structure-oriented woman. My husband would lovingly describe me as a control-freak, and I have been accused numerous times in my classroom of being OCD. Chaos freaks me out. Operating without a plan brings anxiety. Change causes panic. In sum, flexibility is not my middle name. It is a wonder that God would choose to give me children, let alone children from “hard places.”
Our children, ages 10 and 12, are in desperate need of stability and nurturing. Thankfully, shortly after our children came home, we were invited to attend the “Empowered to Connect” class through our church. We were hesitant at first to attend. The books we had been reading warned us about filling up the evenings with too many activities—taking up time that could better be used to snuggle and bond at home. The more we prayed about the class, the more it became evident that we must participate.
The first night of class was so refreshing. Being surrounded by other adoptive and foster parents and hearing their stories reassured us that what we were experiencing in our home was actually normal. We discovered other parents who were struggling with structure vs. nurture. At the end of class, we were given a homework assignment. A Day of Yeses. My heart rate increased. I forced myself to take a deep breath. My husband took one look at me and burst out laughing. “Are you actually having a panic attack over this?” he asked. My children, on occasion, are overly materialistic, and I envisioned us emptying our bank account in one day responding to their requests. Yes, I was panicked, but I reminded myself that God’s grace is sufficient. Even I could say yes to our children.
Anyone who has ever tried to accomplish anything great knows that the accomplishment doesn’t come easy or without fear. Saturday approached and, if I can be absolutely honest, I was mortified. The morning of our Day of Yeses, I had a Cross-Country meet to coach. I left the house and wished my husband luck with the homework assignment. I felt a little relief knowing that I would get to miss a few hours of the day. However, when I arrived back home, the kids had figured out the theme of the day and met me at the door with their questions. Before I could even set down my bag, my daughter was asking if I would play a game with her. I was tired and hungry. I looked at my husband, who once again was laughing at me, and I proclaimed loudly, “YES!” The smile of joy on my daughter’s face began to melt the edges of my rigidity.
The day continued with many more Yeses, and each time, I found it easier to say yes. Additionally, I found the connection between us growing stronger. In the moments when I would struggle with my own pre-conceived notions or when I would need to say no, but knew that I couldn’t per the assignment requirements, I watched my husband creatively find a way to say yes. Your yeses don’t have to be immediate gratification yeses—I’ve learned that it’s okay to say, “Yes, sweetheart, I would love to rearrange your bedroom furniture, but let’s sit together on the couch for five minutes first.” They still received the yes they were hoping to hear, and I still got the rest that I needed, even if that rest occurred in miniature moments throughout the rest of the day.
The biggest lesson I learned through our Day of Yeses was that my children did not ask for material possessions, as I had feared. The things they asked for the most revealed their love languages. Quality time and physical touch are what our children craved—two things that I can whole-heartedly say yes to. Often times, we as parents say no to our children because what they want is inconvenient to us. The reality of our situation is that we adopted older children, and our time with them is limited. I can put off folding laundry and/or checking Facebook, if it means that I am pouring myself into raising two confident, loving individuals who will be prepared to face the world when they set off into adulthood. I don’t need to rigidly control what kind of chips go into their lunches; it’s fine to let them have a choice. Our daily routine has certainly been smoother since I’ve learned that structure does not mean rigid, that compassion is more important than pre-conceived notions, and there is freedom in saying yes to our children.
Photo Credit: Caren Parmelee
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