Now that our children are mostly raised I spend a lot of time evaluating my 'performance' as a parent. I probably spend too much time on that.

Parenting is a constant job review. Every day provides feedback. Every day offers new dilemmas.

We decided to do parenting pretty differently, because of adopting kids who had been abused/neglected. Our relationships with those kids, whether they are adult or still growing, have been intense and stormy and full of guilt and second guessing. There are times I know I messed up. There are other times I wonder if I messed up. And there is this vague uneasy question about if things would have been different if I had just found a way to enjoy them and accept them the way they were.

I find myself pretty aware of my shortcomings. I keep thinking that we could have tried harder, known better, been more relaxed, shown more warmth, had less fear. The fear was pretty palpable. There was always the question of how we would cope if the kids keep getting bigger but they are still so angry and out of control. It made us desperate to find ways to get a handle on the behaviors and emotions while they were still small. Desperation isn't usually a good thing. It's too much like fear. And either of those lead to a lot of anger when there seems to be no success.

The other day I was going through some old stuff and I found something I had written about my day that was several years old. One of my kids had blown up. The anger had been so great that I had walked with that child for three hours before it was diffused. I had seven children. I'm trying to imagine what the other six were doing while I walked that one around the yard for three hours.

The crazy part is that I'd forgotten that. When I read it I remembered doing that many times. And then I think, how could I have tried harder than that? What more could I have done?

But his anger wasn't his fault. He had reason to rage like he did. And so when we had to find another place for him to live, it wasn't really his fault. But he felt abandoned, I'm sure of it. Three years later when he wanted to move home we could still feel that rage in him and we were afraid. How could we deal with that rage in a near adult when it had been more than we could handle in an early adolescent? And that felt even more like abandonment to him.

I hate that. I hate that my child has to feel that I abandoned him. I don't know how to work with it. How do I honor his pain and still be realistic about what we were going through? DID we try hard enough? Does it matter if we did or didn't? Can we have a real relationship now that recognizes the pain of the past but doesn't get stuck in it?

We are going to visit him in prison this weekend.

Meanwhile the other two continue to take major steps forward and backward and each day still includes the questions about whether I'm being the kind of mom I want to be. I think God has used these people to work on me. I hope that they have benefited from our relationship as well.

I feel confident in my relationships with my birth children. I know I've made mistakes there too, but there is an easiness and confidence in our relationships with each other. They are pretty gentle and forgiving with me. They've become creative and delightful people with or without me.


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