The school never called. When I picked him up from the car line I knew something was off. The offense was quickly admitted to and I sighed. His daddy was out of the country on a mission’s trip and I had been a “single-mom” for about three weeks at this point. I was tired. I was stressed, and I was not prepared to have to deal with a deep discussion about sin and bad choices. I pushed forward and wondered where I had gone wrong.
Was it because his father was gone that he was acting out?
Later, with tears of repentance and deep hugs I realized something deeper was going on in his heart. I wish I had a special machine to look inside his child-mind and find the source of the fear, anxiety, or frustration that was causing this uncharacteristic behavior from him. Unfortunately, I didn’t and I struggled with the right words, the right discipline, and the wisdom to know when consequences and grace should meet together.
We are in our third year of adoption, almost a year with two adopted. We worked on attachment, teaching, and melding them into the family. Lately the Lord has drawn my attention to the three children who were here before we brought our son and daughter home. I naively thought adopting a child would be similar to giving birth. When we adopted Liana, our daughter, three years ago, we had lots of adjustments. After a year everyone knew their new role. The baby, moved very well into the big sister position. It seems she was born for it. Our boys embraced their new sister well. She is quiet, still, and gets along with everyone.
Her transition as a sibling was smooth.
Almost a year into having our son and I realize no two adoptions are the same. Growing into a family of seven has been a challenge for everyone. It seems all of the kids have had difficulty figuring out how to handle our crazy guy. They’ve all had unexplained feelings of fear, and even issues at school. As a parent, I love all of my children equally, so seeing the older ones struggle was hard on a momma’s heart.
Being intentional in my marriage is something the first adoption taught me. Jason and I need to carve out time for each other. It sort of is a no-brainer from all of the marriage advice. However, I’m finding it is true for my children as well. They need intentional (one-on-one) time from me and my husband as well.
I asked the Lord for wisdom on the day my son made a bad decision at school.
It was time I admitted we had a big family and I need to start working on being intentional. Last night my offending son and I worked on a history report. Instead of begrudging it (like I usually do), I stayed positive and upbeat. I was generally interested in his research and listened as he told me everything he had learned about Johnny Appleseed. We arranged his board, talked about how to give an oral presentation, and discussed his research paper’s outline. Never once did he complain. It seemed he was craving mommy-time.
As I headed to bed, I realized being intentional with my children doesn’t have to be elaborate. Being intentional with my children doesn’t have to be fancy. I used to think I had to take them on “dates” – set aside hours at a time to go out to eat or shop. Instead, being intentional with my children is more close to home. I sit and play blocks for thirty minutes instead of folding laundry. The dishes stay in the sink until I might spend the two hours required for a school project. Or I read the same three books over and over because my toddler still likes to lift the flaps and find the bunny.
I’m no expert when it comes to knowing all there is to know, but I know it takes time and intentionality, like a garden.
Cultivating a good relationship takes two things: time and effort. As I look for ways to give to my children individually, I remember these four truths:
1. Simple is key. Children are happiest in my presence. I don’t need to take them to the movies or a trampoline park. I can sit next to them and watch a funny show, laughing along. Or I can build towers and blocks. Reading, cooking, and everyday things are what they want.
2. Small amounts of time add up. A few minutes everyday to read, play, or engage with my sweet kiddos doesn’t seem like a lot, but several times during the day I can devote 15-20 minutes and it adds up.
3. Stay present throughout the day. Sometimes during the day I’ll try to work on some projects. My children interrupt me, and I’ve learned to expect it. In fact, if I want to focus, I know I can’t do it until nap time or even when my husband is off. So I expect interruptions so I’m not frustrated when it happens.
4. Start planning. The biggest thing I can do is work in my intentional time with planning. It doesn’t go on the calendar, it goes on my heart. I have their names and faces and I’m working on spending one-on-one time with each one of them sometime throughout the day.
Being intentional with my children takes work, but they are worth it!
We can all do a little bit here and there, keeping it simple and letting the small amounts of time add up. God has given me these children for a small window of time. When they are gone, I will still have laundry, dishes, and messy floors to clean. Mothers of older children miss the little voices from the other room laughing and playing. Let me enjoy them now, for this is my portion God has given to me.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16
You feel like you have no time for yourself, let alone God!
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