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My childhood idol was Mary Lou Retton. I still get goosebumps when I watch the final vault of the routine that earned her an Olympic Gold Medal.
It isn’t so much the sprightliness and symmetry of her flights and handsprings that thrill me, but what is penned in her expression: pristine delight, bubbling-over pride, and, most of all, glory. She knew what she had won before she won it.
Approaching adoption with the mindset that you cannot fail is what will make you the kind of parent who triumphs, no matter what anyone else may tell you. Here are some tips for preparing while you wait and pray:
You don’t need to read every parenting book out there and, frankly, it is confusing to listen to too many different philosophies. I talked to many adoptive parents who hadn’t read any books, and their ignorance-is-bliss attitude bore them away on an international flight with very little of the what-if-they-do-this stress that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But having some sort of game plan is wise, especially if, like me, you have never been a parent before. “The Connected Child,” by Karyn Purvis, came recommended, and I was glad that I had been expecting the defiance and wildness that the children exhibited at the beginning. Although I couldn’t see it right away, the book gave me confidence that gentle correction, consequences, and compromises would yield gradual but lasting improvements.
When the kids began to get ready for outings without being told and eagerly paraded their school projects in front of me, I knew that I was on the right track. Additional accomplishments would soon follow.
Use your team
Plenty of folks will have opinions about your parenting style, and it is crucial to ignore the negative ones. But there are times when a comment or suggestion from an experienced parent can quickly illuminate your path.
Adopted children grow exponentially during their first year. I remember my mother remarking that the kids needed longer pants. At that point, I was just glad they were putting on clothes in the morning and would never have thought about ankle insurance. Many moms and dads have been constructing sandwiches, harmonizing outfits, and kissing boo-boos for years, and their veteran advice can save you a lot of aggravation.
It’s also important to share with those who will reassure you that your struggles are not uncommon. I was glad to know I wasn’t the only mother who gave her son a pack of mini-muffins on the way out the door because breakfast was often a battle.
Employ the power of your springboard
I was a little overpowered by the magnitude of energy radiating from my kids at first, and it may have just been because it had been so long since I was their age. Endeavoring to domesticate them right away is frustrating for everybody. It is much more fun to make good use of their intensity.
Chase each other around the yard until neither one of you can speak. Skip and sing all the way to the grocery store, or scrub all the windows in the house together. It is great bonding time, and it takes your own inner free spirit out for a drive.
Learn what you can from each routine
Instead of stressing over the results of each attempt to develop my kids’ behavior, I started connecting with what I learned that would help me the next time. For example, If I wanted my son to retrieve his own cleats for soccer practice, I figured out the battle would be easier to win if I told him exactly where to find them.
If I wanted my daughter to be more confident and less contentious about her homework, I learned to praise her more while she was working. There is nothing wrong with admitting you could have done something better, and small upgrades can go a long way toward increasing your success.
Raise your hands and wave on the dismount
The only thing you can be sure of at the onset of your journey is that you will make mistakes. Forgive yourself immediately, knowing that you have done a delectable thing by giving a warm and affectionate home to an orphaned child.
Celebrate every achievement, if only with a cup of tea and a good paperback. And remember that you, too, are a sneakered, chocolate-cheeked, pint-sized person’s superstar.