As you'll notice I'm sure, your antidote may differ from mine in details. But I have a feeling that this simple recipe will not be too different from your own! Really, there are only a few ingredients, but in my case their effectiveness seems to have come in the consistent dosing regimen. And our adoptions have been the perfect environment for the creation of my cure.
I started out in our adoption journey feeling pretty confident in my parenting skills. We had three daughters and were 10 years down this parenting road when our first two children came home from Russia. I so enjoyed being a mother (I still do!) and felt pretty confident in my role. Looking back I see that my approach to parenting at the time was full frontal attack on anything that didn't belong in our home, or didn't fit with what God says about who our children are. And it worked. Our girls responded. When an issue popped up I simply parented that issue right out the door! Simple and effective. Feeling pretty darn good about myself, I must admit.
Mind you, I had no idea I was prideful-- I just thought I was pretty good at this mothering thing!
Then we adopted and quickly entered a season of intense and pronounced parenting, a perfect setting for God to do what He does so well, that is to help me experience more of the freedom that is mine in Jesus.
Ingredient 1: A Good Healthy Dose of Public EmbarrassmentOne of our friends at our previous church, an older lady whom we had known for years, was clearly not thrilled when we shared that we were going to adopt children from Russia. She just didn't "get it." Her response was more about what could go wrong than about celebrating what God was doing. She told us that we would know if it was God if all went smoothly.
Hmmmmmm........ I don't think so!
I know that many of you are painfully familiar with what it is like to have people close to you be critical of your choice to answer the call to adopt.
So, one day very shortly after we brought our second two boys home we went to the ballet recital of a dear family friend. Yes I know, taking a 10 year old boy who just came home from Russia to a ballet recital may not have been the best idea, but we were determined to do things together as a family and figured it wouldn't be too bad.
This friend of ours from church was also at the recital, sitting just down the row. And our dear 10 year old son, a few minutes into the show, decided that he didn't like this one bit. Kind of hard to blame him. He began to throw a fit--writhing around and saying something that didn't sound so nice in Russian. Are you picturing this? A ballet recital has begun, the place is full of people queitly watching the stage, and we have a TEN YEAR OLD throwing fit. Poor Stephen had to literally pick him up-- he was 10, but very thin and small at that point from lack of a healthy diet in the orphanage, which worked in our favor this one time! He had to carry him along the row of stadium seating, requiring everyone to stand in order to make room for them to pass, including this friend of ours. Everyone in that theater turned to look at us. So embarrassing! But the worse part of the whole scene was having to walk by that one woman who we were quite sure was thinking, "See, I told you so!"
Since that time we have had an uncomfortably regular dosage and variety of public embarrassment, marked by visits with teachers, school officials, coaches, parents, and more than a few uncomfortable exits....
Ingredient 2: Picking Your Battles- On Steroids
Most parents learn about "picking your battles" at some point. It's just good wisdom. Maybe some of you who have adopted older children can relate to this, but I know Stephen and I have felt this sense of urgency, like we have to parent in double time to make up for the years we didn't have, as well as to compensate for the fact that we have less time ahead of us before our children become adults. So much of the behavior our children learned from growing up in an orphanage and from their years without loving parental supervision clearly needed our attention! But we soon realized that if we were to address every issue every time (full frontal attack style), then our relationship with our children would be always and only about correction. Who wants that?! So we learned to pick our battles. But that meant that we had to let some things go that were seriously not good-- the kind of things you are not wanting your friends to see. The kind of behaviors that good Christian parents simply do not let stand.
For example, it is a good thing for us to teach our children to greet a guest, to stand up, look them in the eye and respond-- in full sentences. No "uhuh" or "nope" for us! And when our children do this it feels pretty darn good. Chalk up a success for good parenting! But with so many issues to deal with, almost all more important and more pressing than good manners, we simply had to let it go for a season. It might not be that big a deal, except that I couldn't explain why we were not responding when our child did not greet our guest. If I could I might have been able to maintain a bit more of my pride, but it was unwise and unreasonable to go into our parenting strategies and our defense of how we really are trying to be good parents even though it doesn't look like it, every time it happened- or didn't happen as the case may be.
So, once again, I was fed my medicine. And although it didn't taste good at all-- no cherry flavor to cover up the bitter aftertaste, no food coloring to disguise the distinctly unappetizing color-- I have to admit that the after effect has been so good for me. I am thankful that God has loved me enough to put me on this regimen that is my cure for parenting pride.
I see that I am responding well to my medicine, too. I am increasingly less aware of what others think, and increasingly more at peace with the fact that my mothering is not actually about my strength and ability but about God's love and patient pursuit of my children's hearts and spirits through me. And it seems that increases in compassion and understanding are side-effects, and these are side-effects I can live with! And I have experienced a decrease in my self-reliance levels, accompanied by a marked increase in my God-reliance.
So what do you think of my antidote to parenting pride? I'm pretty sure I have a few more doses to take before it's all done, and I'm ready!