I don’t have parenting down. I make more mistakes than I make right decisions. Heck, my oldest child is 6, I have YEARS ahead of me of more bad decisions, but I’ve found a game changer.
Recently I was having a conversation with a group of adoptive moms about the challenge of parenting children who have never had parents. I was reminded of a time when Sweet Girl had just been home 3 or 4 months and we were having our first post placement visit with our social worker. The conversation turned into how well Sweet Girl was apparently adjusting. I said that my challenge was determining when to enforce boundaries and when to give in. When to be hard and when to be soft. Basically, she was having meltdowns. It could be over small or large things. For example, if I told her no more chocolate, she would turn into a heap of crying red curls on the floor. Since I didn’t have the benefit of history with this child, I was unsure which parenting choice to go with.
1. Do I ignore the crying and say that it’s for manipulation for more chocolate?
Or, 2, do I get down on her level and comfort the crying and offer support in her sadness, even though she still wasn’t getting more chocolate.
The immediate result is the same in either case, she gets no more chocolate. But, I was so afraid to make her into a spoiled child who could manipulate me with her emotions. I was afraid that by giving in to the emotion, I was creating a child who would take a mile if I gave an inch.
The social worker, an adoptive mother herself, changed my life with her words. She said, “I wish, when the presented the chance, I would have always given grace. Give grace.”
For our simple scenario with sweet girl that meant picking her up and taking her to our favorite chair and rocking and rubbing her hair and whispering to her that I was sorry she was sad. Sometimes she would be angry and resist the comfort. I would give her grace to be upset. Sometimes she’d yell “more chocolate” at me. I would give her grace to not like my answer all over again. Sometimes she would steal more chocolate the next minute. I would give her grace when she was caught. Two hours later, when she would come up and ask nicely for chocolate, I would give grace AND chocolate. When she would apologize for her anger I would give grace. If she never apologized, I would give grace.
Sometimes the scenario is more challenging and someone has hit or kicked or broken a toy on purpose. Sometimes it’s in the car when the logistics make dealing with it properly impossible.
This concept of giving grace has taken on many forms with Sweet Girl, but it’s also going into the rest of my life. When my whole being is screaming at me to throw up the walls. To stand my ground. To be strong. Don’t give in. I’m learning instead, that by giving grace, I am released. You see, giving grace isn’t about the other person, it’s about allowing me to be free. I’m allowing my children to mess up. I’m allowing myself to comfort them. I’m allowing them, and myself to be weak. And through my weakness, I am free.
I no longer have to be perfect, I just get to give grace.
I no longer have to feel guilty for yelling, I just get to give grace.
I no longer have to wonder if my children know how much I love them, I just get to give grace.
So, since God has a sense of humor, I’m expecting my three tiny loves to lose it tonight and me to be tested on this giving grace business. Since I fail 98% of the time, I’m sure I will fail. I’m encouraged that the amount of grace I will be given is limitless. I am free.