Monthly Archives: January 2014

My son is the cutest: Battling the ego of parenting

A stranger at the grocery store told me how cute my son is, and I said, “Thank you.”

josh butterfly

My son is so adorable. Sometimes I just stare at him for minutes at a time. I wish I could write down everything he says because it is cute and witty and insightful. He is extremely bright. He picks up on things quickly, and he remembers everything. (Which can be good and bad). He is a natural athlete. He loves to dance. He has great rhythm for a 5-year-old. He is a good little singer, too. He sang his prayer the other night, which was precious (and surprisingly on-pitch). He really is the greatest kid.

There are so many reasons why I love being a parent. But do you want to know my favorite thing about being an adoptive parent? The freedom to brag about my kid. Let me explain. I get to talk about how cute and smart and wonderful my child is and people don’t think I am the world’s most self-centered person because I did nothing to contribute to his looks or his athletic ability or his smile. I didn’t take excellent care of him in the womb, playing Mozart and eating organic foods. I didn’t have a natural childbirth in a birthing center or find the best doctor and the most reputable hospital for him to make his entrance. I didn’t sleep train him to teach him to self-soothe and be more independent. I didn’t co-sleep with him to increase his sense of belonging and create the most nurturing, safe environment possible. I didn’t start teaching him to read at age 2 or put a football in his hand as a toddler. I didn’t do any of those things. And because of that, I seemed to have gotten a “pass”. And I take full advantage of it.

After a year and a half of being a parent, I realized that something changed. The comfort I used to feel in not taking responsibility for the first 4 years of my son’s life seemed like a distant memory, and I found my own identity too often wrapped up in my son’s behavior, relationships and overall success. Any feedback that was not warm and fluffy felt like a personal attack on my parenting and Josh’s character. I have been quick to assume that people “just can’t relate” or that our situation is unlike any other so that I could maintain my position and keep my ego intact. All of that healthy distance I thought I had identified as an adoptive parent went out the window and I began taking complete responsibility for every action, word, thought and feeling that my son had. Of course, the irony is that I have been counseling parents for years on maintaining a healthy identity apart from their children and not letting egos interfere with good parenting.

After much reflection, I have realized that my initial tendency not to take responsibility for my son’s early years and my more recent over-identification of everything he does are both wrapped up in my ego. Eek. As painful as this realization has been, I am grateful for it. I tell my clients often that the annoying thing about raising your awareness is that you can’t keep pretending like you don’t see something. Okay, it’s blinding me a little now.

As a parent, I need to acknowledge that sometimes I get defensive because my ego is being bruised. But other times, I get protective of my child because it is my job. Sometimes, the line between the two is hard to distinguish, so I will keep working on it. I will stand next to all the other parents who fight this battle of ego, biological and adoptive alike.

And in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy my “pass” and talk about how cute and intuitive and precious my son is. Not because of anything I have done (or even anything HE has done for that matter), but because of the miraculous and awe-inspiring gift that children are. I want to grant all parents a “pass” to talk about how amazing your child is every now and then. You also have my permission to stare at your children for minutes at a time. Parents of teenagers, you may get some heat for this. That’s okay. I still see my mom look at me that way sometimes- like I fell from heaven and landed on her lap and she can’t even believe it. That’s not pride or ego. It’s gratitude. And it makes me feel extremely valued.

A stranger at the grocery store told me how cute my son is, and I said, “Thank you.” I don’t know why. It just came out. What I wanted to say was, “Yes, he is. And he’s loving and insightful and funny and full of life. And I am so honored to be his mom.”

Embracing my love-hate relationship with Christmas cards

I love Christmas cards.  I love the thoughtfulness.  I love the deliberateness.  I love the creativity.

I hate Christmas cards.  I hate the pressure.  I hate the expectation.  I hate the reminder that so many people I know, even those much busier or more overwhelmed than I, find the time to send a meaningful card. 

I received a Christmas card from my husband’s grandmother who has been in the hospital the entire of month of December.  If that’s not humbling, I don’t know what is.

The truth is I want to be a Christmas card sender.  I really do.  I have done it twice.  The first time was 2009- the year I got married.  Our wedding was in July, and by the end of November, I still hadn’t sent thank you notes yet.  (For the same reasons that I struggle to send Christmas cards obviously.)  At that point, I had three choices: 1) Send regular thank you notes at the same time others are sending Christmas cards, 2) send a Christmas card that can double as a thank you note, or 3) climb into a hole to further avoid the pressure of both and slowly alienate myself from all meaningful relationships. So I sent Christmas thank you cards. (A serious etiquette violation, I am sure.)

Fast-forward to 2012.  My family underwent significant changes, culminating in the adoption of our son.  Our year had been so rich and full of blessings, and we received so much support and encouragement during that time from our family and friends.  It only seemed right to send Christmas cards.  I wanted to.  I had a second motive for that card, too.  (You notice a theme here?  I really like to “kill two birds with one stone” if I can).  Although my husband and I tried to be open about our process of becoming parents, we hadn’t had the opportunity to really share our story with a lot of people in our extended support networks.  I was concerned that some of our older relatives without Facebook might see our Christmas card and be extremely perplexed at the sudden presence of an adorable 4-year-old boy.  I also felt ready to share more of the story, and this seemed like the perfect time and venue.  I included an insert in the Christmas cards about our journey toward parenthood that culminated in the finalization of Josh’s adoption on December 12.  It was a year worth celebrating.  It was most certainly Christmas card-worthy.

I thought this would be the start of the new me.  The Christmas card-sending version of Karin.  I knew it would take energy and time, but it felt worth it.  So as the holiday season approached again, the plan was in motion.  We had scheduled to take family pictures with a photographer friend of mine, Linda Bainter, on December 12th-the first anniversary of our adoption finalization.  It was a beautiful day filled with love and cute poses.  I couldn’t wait to put the pictures on our Christmas card.  I knew I would be cutting it close since we decided to wait until our adoption day to do the photo shoot, but I felt ready for it.  I was embracing my identity as a Christmas card sender.

Well, here I am.  2014 has begun, and no Christmas card.  We just completed a whirlwind 12-day extended family and friends holiday tour, and now I am sitting down on my couch, heavy with the realization that I didn’t do it and contemplating how late one can send out Happy New Year cards.

Since the start of a new year is a good time to make changes, I thought about making it my New Year’s Resolution: Become someone who sends Christmas cards.  In fact, let’s throw in birthday cards and thank you cards, too.  But as  I thought more about it, I realized I had already told myself that before and it didn’t seem to work.  I realized I was missing something in this resolution.  I needed to dig deeper.  So instead, I decided I want 2014 to be the year of thoughtfulness.  Maybe that means thanking someone (in writing) for a sweet gift.  Maybe it means sending more letters (by hand) to dear friends who are far away.  Maybe it means calling someone instead of texting to say hi.  Hopefully, it means sending Christmas cards next year.  Not because I have to or feel obligated to, but because I want to be someone who can slow down and be thoughtful enough to remember and honor people in my life.  I truly do want to Wish them a Merry Christmas and send Love, Joy and Peace and say Happy Holidays.  I also enjoy the opportunity to celebrate my own family and invite others to celebrate with us.

It’s the start of a new year, and I want to start this year off on the right foot.  I resolve to be more thoughtful and deliberate this year.  I resolve to value relationships over expectations and performance.  And I resolve to continue to use this blog as a way to share my heart and connect with others.  Thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given me through this vessel.  It means more than I could say.  Whether you are family, a friend or an internet stranger, you are blessing to me.

So to all of you who take the time to read my posts, here is my Christmas card.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and I wish you love, joy and peace in 2014.  I pray that each one of us will continue to grow more fully into the person we were meant to be this year and every year of our lives. God bless.

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A very special thanks to Linda Bainter at Lovin’ the Light for capturing the spirit of our adoption day.  My son keeps asking when we can play with you again. 🙂