Lesson from our tiny teacher: water, prayer, gratitude

This afternoon, in the midst of playing, our 23 month old stopped and asked me to pray before she drank her water.

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As a result of this simple request, so many thoughts flooded my mind.

I thought of what a gift it is to know that the water she’s about to drink won’t make her sick.

The fact that her “dirty” bath water from last night is much cleaner than what most of the kids in the world will drink today.

And I thought about the reality that we’d all die much sooner without water than food…yet, we bow our heads in thanks for food much more often than for a simple glass of water. Hmm.

Thankful for our tiny teacher. ❤

5 Reasons NOT to ask: “When are you going to have kids?!”

People are nosy.  People are curious. People want to share their thoughts and opinions. I’ve been guilty of this myself. But when it comes to asking a couple without children, “when are you going to have children?”, I’d like to recommend the biting of tongue technique. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Would you go up to a couple with no clue of their financial situation, and ask them:  “when are you going to be debt free?” Likely not. Why? Maybe because finances are private (for whatever reason). Maybe it’s due to the reality that a person can hope and plan to be debt free but cannot control the exact date of when it will happen. Maybe asking the question could discourage the couple due to their current reality. Hmm. But a similar intimate question is asked all the time re: “when are you going to have kids?!” The same reasons why people don’t randomly ask questions about finances could be applied here.

2. The typical question is loaded with assumptions. It’s often phrased as, “WHEN will you have children” vs. “do you plan to have children?”. We would never ask a high school student who we barely know, “when are you going to University?”. Why not? Well, that would assume too much. What if they don’t have the grades to get in? What if they have received rejection letters to each school they applied to? What if they are taking a year off? What if they want to go to college instead?. We may instead ask what their plans are for the fall.

3. When throwing out the typical question: “when are you going to have kids?”, be prepared that you may make a person cry. They may cry right then and there or afterwards. You never know if a couple could be trying to conceive and it’s not happening. I’ve read about a woman being asked this question while she was physically recovering from yet another miscarriage. A deeply personal question such as “when are you going to have a baby?” could cause a person to sob after you are no longer around. Be warned.

4. Continuing the topic of assuming,  I’ll throw a couple more “what ifs” your way. What if a person decides not to have children because they have a health condition that would make parenting extremely difficult.  What if having a baby would make their already challenging health condition much worse? What if a couple is aware that they have a predisposition of passing on a serious genetic condition and they feel that they can’t do that to their child. What if a couple recognizes that they both came from dysfunctional families and feel strongly that they are likely to repeat the cycle again. What if…. You fill in the blank.

5. Lastly, what if a couple can’t have children. I mean that they really can’t. I read a blog post yesterday of a women who tried for 10 years to get pregnant and even did two rounds of IVF. 10 years. There was nothing obviously wrong with them. They were classified as “unexplained infertility”. They tried everything to get pregnant and it did not work. As you can imagine, they are now totally spent emotionally and financially. They do not wish to get on the adoption roller coaster after all that they have been through. They are done. She is focusing on building a beautiful future as just the two of them. The sad reality is that some who desperately want to be pregnant and have a baby are not able to despite their best efforts. Next time you think of asking, “when will you have a baby”, keep in mind that it may never happen for that couple, ever.

Last week, I became aware that it was National Infertility Week. I’ve learned that as many as 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility (and there’s such a thing as secondary infertility – an inability to get pregnant despite already having a child). In my life, I’ve been exposed to the heartache of infertility while standing by close friends in their darkest days. My advice would be this: unless you can sit down over coffee and talk to a close friend re: children, don’t spring this question on anyone unexpectedly or jokingly. Think of, “what if…” before asking such question to someone you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking about their finances. Children are wonderful. Babies are precious. Remember that some people won’t experience pregnancy, birth and raising children for whatever reason.  Biting your tongue may prove to be both wise and kind. And if you must ask, please do so 1:1 and not in the middle of a baby shower. For their sake and yours.

Can you add to this list? Thoughts, experiences, suggestions?

Attachment and Adoption

Attachment. Most go through their day to day lives without an understanding of terms such as “secure attachment”, or “insecure attachment” or “reactive attachment disorder”. So why is “attachment” on my radar? For one reason, I have learned a little about the utter importance of attachment as it relates to child development in my social work training. But that was several years ago in my BSW program. More recently, as friends and acquaintances adopt or are attempting to adopt, attachment is a major topic.

What is an attachment disorder? This article by an adoption educator is excellent! Click here to read the whole thing. Here’s a brief explanation:

Attachment disorder essentially occurs when a child has not developed a healthy sense of being able to trust others and internalizes a message that she will need to look after herself because there is no one else who can be depended upon to be responsible for her. This child may appear outwardly charming, outgoing, “together,” even quite appealing, but their underlying motivation is to get their needs met themselves.

Several years ago, I volunteered to help run a VBS program. There was a little girl from the community who came the first day. She checked out all of the adults and then chose me to try to be close to while at VBS. Within 30 minutes of meeting and hanging out with her, she took my hand and asked me, “will you be my mommy?‘ My heart melted. I was so flattered at the time. Now, learning about attachment, I reflect on that experience differently. This was a little girl (not adopted), who was a latch key child, who was not able to relax and go and play with the other children. No, instead, she was motivated to get her needs met for adult attention by asking me to be her mommy.

I work with a Child Psychiatrist. In her years of practice, she has come across the devastating effects of attachment disorders. The vast majority are children who were adopted. While most were adopted as toddlers and older, in one case the child was adopted as a newborn! This shocked and surprised me. I have also been made aware of the devastating effects of attachment difficulties. I have worked with several teens with attachment disorders and it is heart breaking. I wish so badly that I could give them back their early years , I know their current difficulties stem from not having their basic needs met in those formative years. While attachment problems certainly can happen in children who are not adopted, the vast majority that I have come in contact were.

I appreciate the following blog post (and the comments!) regarding how ill prepared many who adopt internationally are in regards to attachment and other adoption related challenges. Several who have adopted chime in and state that they have been surprised to realize that their attachment work with their child will last for years. They expected, at most,  to experience 1-3 months of attachment work when first home. Here’s the blog post from “Scooping It Up”, it’s really worth the read: Agency and Social Work Fail.

The fact that adoptive parents are beginning to open up and talk about attachment difficulties related to adoption is a step in the right direction. Adoption agencies and social workers do a disservice to the child and new parents by not educating and preparing them for attachment difficulties. It may be helpful to be prepared for the worst case scenario re: a child’s attachment so that appointments with professionals are booked for when the child comes home. Prospective parents should also receive training re: attachment being a two-way street. Sometimes the adopted child does not have difficulty attaching to their new parents but it’s the parent(s) who find it difficult to attach to the child. “Fake it till you make it” has been a motto for these types of situations.

Attachment and adoption: its a topic that needs more understanding for adoptive parents, their family members, and their extended communities. Hopefully, with more understanding, the shame surrounding attachment difficulties related to adoption may be lifted. Then, and only then, will a newly adopted family feel less isolated. Then they will begin to receive more casserole dishes and less judgement in their time of need.

Book Review: No Kidding

Hubby and I enjoy going to Chapters (a large book store in Canada). We grab a drink from Starbucks and look at books. A couple months ago, I came across “No Kidding” and it became the one that I browsed through whenever in Chapters. This collection of personal stories are short, easy to read, and thought provoking.

book-review-no-kidding-women-writers-on-bypas-L-NzEZ2vI opened this book expecting to read stories by women who are happy with their choice not to have children. To my surprise,  I didn’t find this book to be all positive re: being child-free. While some of the stories left me feeling neutral or encouraged, there were quite a few stories that left me feeling sad and discouraged. In some cases, I wasn’t convinced the author made the “right” choice to remain child-free. Some woman knew since they were a child that they did not want to raise children. Often, this early “knowing” was a direct result of a troubled childhood OR a mother who complained and/or looked miserable while raising them. Other women in this book placed their career as their “baby” and before they knew it, their possibility to have children biologically was nil as their egg supply was finito. There were others who called themselves “conservative or traditional” who didn’t have children as they held out for marriage and it never happened. These women were not willing to parent without an equally committed partner.

An encouraging theme through out the book was that regardless of the reason for remaining child-free, all of the woman feel that they are living a full life. None of these women are in a deep dark hole as a result of never having children. Some feel that not having children was the best thing they ever did. While others, not sure if it was the best idea, have come to terms with their reality. Even the select few who still experience some longing re: children (but its no longer a possibility) are mostly satisfied with their life. As a result of this book, I’m more aware of the variety of paths that lead a person to live child-free.  And encouraged that these authors are happily living their lives – whether they intended all along to be child-free or not.

On turning 30 and not having children

In April, Lord willing, I will turn 30. In recent months, I have started to think about this. There’s a real panic that sinks in when I remember how close I am to my 30th birthday.  As I dig deeper, the panic seems to stem from the reality that I won’t be a mom by 30 years of age. While I may not have dreamed of having children as a child/teen/young adult, I must have assumed if I did have any that I’d have them by 30. When I compare myself to friends my age or younger than me with children, I feel little. Gosh, they seem to have accomplished so much in their lives and they aren’t yet 30!

What’s interesting is that I have had others (some young moms) compliment me in what I have accomplished thus far in my young adult years. I received my masters and work in my field. Due to not having children early in marriage, we have been able to pay off our student and consumer debt.  We purchased our home 3 years ago and do upgrades when we can afford to. We have traveled to a few of our “bucket list” locations. Of greater significance is that we have had these years to work on our marriage and that has produced much fruit!

Some young mothers can struggle with turning 30 and feeling that they haven’t accomplished a lot while at home raising a young family.  Yet, here I am, turning 30 in April and feeling anxiety when comparing myself to young mothers. I know that “comparison is the thief of joy” – T. Roosevelt but it’s so natural to compare. The preconceived notions on where we need to be in our lives by a certain age aren’t helpful. They only make a non-mom or a mother feel lousy.

I’m mentally preparing myself for 30. Trying not to compare or freak out. I may not be where society might peg me by 30 (a mom), but I don’t want that to take away from the blessings I have to celebrate in my 30 years of existence. Here’s to not panicking, feeling like I’m not enough, or that I’ve accomplished nothing. We’ll see if I can keep this perspective when the dreaded 30 is days and not months away.

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3 thoughts on “knowing” you want to be a parent

Here are some thoughts that I have had since writing last week’s blog post:

1. I was never the type of girl who dreamed up and planned details of my future wedding. That just wasn’t me. I thought about finding the man of my dreams and being married but that’s about where the dreaming ended. I did not know what colour my bridesmaids would wear until I was making the decision while engaged. It really shouldn’t come as any big surprise that I haven’t always dreamed of having children.

2. While there seems to be a lot of women who always knew they wanted to be a mother, there are others who thought they never wanted children and changed their minds. There are some who never gave whether or not to have children much thought until at some point in their lives, they did. A person who hasn’t always known is not any less worthy of being a mother or father than those who always knew.

3. Just because a person always wanted to be something doesn’t mean that ends up being their reality.  Sadly, there are lots of women who always knew that they wanted to be a mother who never ended up being one. Life sometimes gets in the way of our dreams. Knowing that one wants to be a parent isn’t a guarantee that it will happen, unfortunately.

Ultimately, I want to keep in mind one of my favourite quotes: “Comparison is the thief of joy”  by Theodore Roosevelt. Comparing oneself to mothers who have always known that they wanted to be one can make a person feel inferior. I plan to remember point #2 and keep in mind that comparison is the thief of joy!

Parent Confessions

My first parent confession happened several years ago. Out of seemingly nowhere, a father shared with me that if he could go back in time he would choose not to have children. This surprised me as he seemed to love children and was a doting and devoted father of two.

Recently,  I was out for lunch with an empty nester. She said the following to me, “I didn’t think it through before having children.” She stated that she was happy in her marriage and thought that the next logical step was to have a baby.  She shared with me that she didn’t think that the sacrifice was worth it in the end.

While I was surprised by the two “wouldn’t do it again” confessions, I found myself even more surprised by a different kind of statement.  In the lunchroom, a mother said to the group of us that she could see her life as equally fulfilled whether she had a biological child (she does), or adopted instead or had no children at all.

I am not sure why I was told these parent confessions. Maybe because we don’t have children? Maybe they saw me as a safe person to share their regrets with? Whatever the reason, it now causes me to pause when I hear people say,  “you’ll never regret it (children)”. The internet provides anonymous confessions by parents who say that they regret having children.  I wonder if a more accurate expression may be, “it’s likely that you won’t regret it – but I can’t say for certain, you just might.”