I haven't said much about the "actual mothering" of the children new to our family. It's hard to know what is okay to say and what should be kept. My assumption is always that the child will some day read what their mother wrote and I want to respect their hearts. So, it takes quite a bit of contemplation to know what to say and not to say.
Each child that has come into our family, either by birth or adoption, is a vessel to strip away another layer of my selfishness and a vessel to teach me to be more like Jesus. That is VERY clear! To each I want to give the gifts of love, safety, security, purpose and most of all: JESUS. I want my children to be with me for eternity in Heaven; the rest is gravy!
Each child comes with their own personality, gifts, strengths, weaknesses and struggles. The children we have recently added to our family come also with a "history." They lived a good deal of life before we came into the picture. They've had joys and sorrows, good times and bad. They came with hurts and fears. They left friends and enemies. All of these things we knew nothing about and could not ask since we did not know the language they spoke (and they didn't know us well enough to tell us anyway).
Simple correction or attempts to get them to do what they did not want to do brought intense emotions with two of our children. Thanks to an adoption book I was reading, I followed the advice to have "time ins" instead of "time outs". This means that rather than sitting them alone somewhere I sat with them in their room. The screaming was sometimes so loud I would leave the door open so the other children could see I was just sitting there quietly waiting for the storm to pass and not doing anything harmful. I was so clueless. I would pray, I would sing, I would read my Bible some times (out loud or to myself depending on the reaction to my reading), I would play music (I figured it calmed Saul down when David played; it made sense). I asked God for wisdom, for peace for the child, for answers, for angels, for an expelling of evil that might be causing anguish, for an assurance of love. At times I would be convicted by the cry and think: "this is fear" or "this is mourning". When the child would calm enough to hear me I would assure in limited Spanish: "I love you, you are my child, I will always be your Mama." I would repeat what I had wanted in the first place and would assure them that I would wait as long as it took for that action (say, for the child to take that needed shower or later when we had accomplished more, to apologize to the sibling they had offended, etc.).
As our Spanish increased (my husband's way more than mine) I was able to find out that I was doing much of what was needed. These 2 sweeties were afraid to be in a room alone. They NEEDED me in there with them. They were afraid of what I would do. They NEEDED my assurances of love and calm waiting. I was so assured that God WAS leading me and helping me to know what to do! (So much of what I read and learned about how to help children from "hard places" was reliant on conversation which we could not do because of the language barrier. I needed wisdom from God! I could not find any advice for parents who spoke a different language than the child.)
It's not easy. Parenting is NEVER easy. At the end of the day, parenting is shepherding and is the process of making disciples. And it is a process. Little sheep need a shepherd, a shepherd who loves and cares deeply and is concerned for the outcome, a shepherd who would give up his/her life for the sheep.
We've come a long way and have a long way to go. This Mama has a long way to go and so much to learn. Of late these verses keep running through my head:
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. ~1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
There is an assumption communicated here of the gentleness that marks a mother's love. Physical gentleness has come easy with our 4 sweeties. I am not a screamer in my voice (maturity helps with this one). However, I am often too direct. Even when I achieve NOT raising my voice, even a quiet voice can sound like "quiet death" and if I arouse fearfulness, my child cannot receive the lesson.
I am trying so hard to remember to see discipline as gentle instruction. I am trying hard to remember that the children have learned things that I am trying to un-teach them. This is certainly not their fault. We are spending much time undoing. With our biological children we built a foundation. With our adopted children we must clear away the rubble formed by their past before we can build. This takes longer and is no fault of theirs. Then there are the cultural differences that I am unaware of and I parent through the screen of my American culture (One small example: Here, children call on the teacher, not the other way around. So there is an interrupting chorus of, "Teacher, teacher, teacher" in a classroom setting. In America this is perceived as rudeness but not so here.).
Age, maturity, and a different group of children have pointed out areas where I wish I had done a better job with my first 3 children. I can remember times of yelling and not being at all gentle in my parenting. I regret this and hope to change these patterns now. I am thankful that my mistakes did not cause rebellion in my first 3 children as they grew older. God has given me grace and made up for areas where I have been lacking.
I'll never be the perfect Mama. But I thank God that He never gives up on me, that grace and mercy await, and that the messy love-fest we call "family" grows and challenges and blesses us each day!