Parenting the older adopted child (or any child, for that matter) can be trying. I forever seem to be competing against his impressions that I just can’t relate to his beliefs, ideas, or perceptions, however reasonable they might or might not be.
After all, adults from his past likely were not paragons of physical, mental, or emotional stability. Notwithstanding more than four years together, why should he regard my intentions any differently? Variability in his trust in me to parent him while sensitively meeting his needs still leaves me with little wiggle room to make the right impression.
I have learned over the years with both my sons that less is most definitely more. They are more willing to follow along than I often give them credit for, and the more I annoy them, the less willing they become. Lectures, diatribes, incessant pleas, and platitudes in an attempt to teach, influence, or relate all too often fall flat even before I can get the first word out. Instead, I rely on what I affectionately refer to as my “hit and run” approach, where I say just enough so as to not wear out my welcome.
We live in an age easily influenced by popular culture, and others’ interpretations of what reality is thought to be. I am constantly on the lookout for easily relatable contexts readily portrayed in popular media. I have often chosen particular movies or television shows for us to watch for their subject matter, as well as how it is portrayed, handled, and worked through. We often watch together the television show “The Middle.” I am always amazed at how the show’s story lines never seem to miss a beat. It normalizes our family’s everyday shenanigans.
My oldest recently had a brilliant idea: He would resolve his problem with his iPhone battery going dead in school by investing in one of those mini iPad things “for just fifty bucks!” From previous hit and runs, he knew to do his research about different models, their functions, prices, and reviews. He thought he was ready for me. He had thought he found what he was looking for, and it included free shipping. We had to act now before the deal was gone.
He tried the old, “but this could be one of my Chanukah presents” routine, to count for more than just one of the eight nights, even. I wasn’t convinced. Besides, it was unnecessary. If he’d stop keeping the phone charged while using it, like I had tried to tell him from the start, his battery life wouldn’t be reduced. On his own for this one, I still needed to try appealing to his sensibility with another hit and run.
With the juxtaposition of my two hands into a T, I signaled a timeout. He graced me with a jaded look in my direction. I related the last episode of “The Middle” his brother and I had watched a few nights ago, where the mom was so excited about buying this dining room set she saw on Craigslist for $52. She thought it was a steal with how great it looked in the picture, and the perfect condition the seller described it as being.
Imagine the mom’s confusion some days later when she took delivery of a box small enough to fit in her hand, and then her disappointment after opening it to reveal a set of table and chairs made for a dollhouse.
My son smiled. He got it. Enough said. Just before I retreated completely, though, I was able to throw in a “by the way” and advised a cheaper option that he might just buy a new battery for his phone. He didn’t mention anything about the matter again. What he really wanted was to save his money for his school’s homecoming festivities in a few weeks.
He really didn’t need, or even want, the iPad at all, but he wasn’t going to hear that from me. He just needed a little nudge to help him think beyond his desire for immediate gratification. I didn’t forbid him to get one. I didn’t chastise him for not needing one. But, I did validate him for his good thought processes in seeking a way to keep his phone in working order should we need to communicate with each other. At least he was thinking, and still understood that a dead battery is no excuse for these ordinary days when he leaves the house with a fully charged phone.
This parenting thing comes with a huge learning curve, especially in raising older adopted children fairly new to more regular parenting practices. Even though they might not give us satisfaction, our children pretty much know, too, that there is no such thing as perfection in parenting. The key is to keep it simple, and expectations flexible; sometimes it’s the child who has to make a run for it, and figure things out on his or her own. No worries, though. They’ll come back. After all, you always do. That’s what they depend on.