Monday, December 29, 2008

Return From a Month's Absence

It has been more than a month since I have blogged. I would like to attribute my absence in the blogosphere to the stresses and strains of my vocational life. As a pastor the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is challenging. The expectations (largely self-imposed) to prepare and deliver thoughtful, meaningful messages in worship and to design services which reach beneath the surface of worshipers' lives preoccupy much of my attention during this time period. With the economic challenges afoot, this has also been a season of unusually high demand from folks living at the margins of life. Their telephone calls, drop-in visits and often-impossible requests are big stressors.

I'd like to say it is these vocational challenges that have distanced me from my blog. But I don't think that would be entirely honest. In the last month I have been plagued with other issues and questions, especially related to my life as a parent, and I haven't felt these moments of personal shadow would be very redemptive for those who are accustomed to reading my words.

Don't misread the previous paragraph for anything more than it is. Our kids are doing pretty well, all things considered. There are, to our knowledge, no new illegal activities occurring in the lives of some of our kids. We are not, unlike other adoptive families, under the scrutiny of social services auspices. We have, in fact, had many good interactions over the past few weeks.

The issues and questions to which I refer above are, rather, much deeper than that, and really reflections of who I am as a person. This whole parenting process has become so much more complicated than I ever thought it could be, with fewer clear answers than I had anticipated. I am realizing a couple of things about myself, and while I don't have the data set to know if this is more than only a personal meandering, I wonder if it sounds like anything other parents experience.

(1) Parenting is less about changing a child's life and more about shaping what is already present through genetics or past experience.

(2) It is easy for a parent to lose oneself in the parenting task, resulting in confusion for the child(ren) in question as well as for the parent.

(3) Being parent to an adult child, especially one with a history of attachment issues, is fraught with emptiness and loneliness.

It's always a little embarrassing when the very things I've been saying to adoptive parents over the years come "home to roost," to use an agrarian metaphor. I mean, how many times have I blathered that adoption is "about what's best for kids, not what's in it for parents." Or, "Parents need to remember who they are in the process." I even have spoken at national conference workshops on the spiritual dynamics of adoptive parenting. It's always so much easier to speak as an outsider than to face the reality of one's own situation.

And so, in the midst of the flurry of family activity and vocational responsibility of the past month, I have had these thoughts percolating in the background of my consciousness, but with little opportunity for resolution. Perhaps I will continue to elaborate in the days ahead with hope of finding some peace in the process.


debbie said...

i think what you are thinking and feeling is completely appropropriate. parenting is all-consuming and definitely does define who you are, like it or not. i am guessing, and this is based on my foster care experience only, i adopted 2 newborns, that when you are jumping on board, halfway through, so to speak, the amount of time it takes to "catch up" and figure out who those children are as people is also parallel to continuing to raise them. i truly cannot imagine that task, combined with the fact that you and many others who do that did not realize the mental illness that went with the package. i feel that the true saints of adoption are those who adopt older children. babies and toddlers are easy. you have the time to establish the love before the really scary problems kick in. with older kids those problems are already there and you are expected to get to know and understand the child, establish a true parent-child bond, and fix the mental illness all at the same time while trying to live your lives as a family. that is pretty close to impossible to do. you and claudia are constantly learning, changing, and trying to educate yourselves on the best way to do absolutely everything for every child you have in your home. i think you do an awesome job. if sometimes, you have any doubts, reservations, or what the hell did i do moments, those are to be expected and are normal. it always saddens me to read criticisms of adoptive parents by either themselves or well-meaning others as i feel that until you have walked that walk,and not just talked that talk, you have no idea what is involved. the toll it takes on us as human beings, physically as well as mentally, is huge, right up there with the lack of support from pretty much almost everyone as far as i can tell. and always remember, that there are "perfect" families with everything they need to raise "perfect" children who have children that turn out not all that great.

Our Family said...

Amen Debbie. Bart, what you are feeling is so "normal" for all of us. My husband and I question all the time what it is that we are doing and why? Right now, #2 is going through the "I'm going to see if what I do gets me kicked out of your life" phase and he is upping the anty every day! Just last night, I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up on this child(for a moment) and then I thought...I cant do this. Then I go into " I'm a bad person" mode for thinking that and if I don't tame it, it can spiral. We question our ability to do this parenting thing all the time...we have to keep plugging away and trust that our God will get us through it AND remember the words to Mary..."nothing is impossible with God"

Bart said...

I am thinking of Mary, too, but especially from the text I preached yesterday (Luke 2:22-40), where Anna the prophet tells Mary that "a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Removing the Jesus piece from the equation, I find these words so representative of the parenting task ... I find my soul "pierced" all the time ... and wonder if I am simply overemotional or if other parents experience this and do a better job of covering?

I see many parents whose lives seem filled with joy and pride all the time ... but maybe I'm just not seeing all that's there?