Extreme parenting: Every little thing matters


Claire Iver
Focus on Adoption magazine

Over the past 18 months, I have been given the gift of time with my family. In that time, I have become  increasingly conscious of the impact I have on the lives of the people around me.

We’ve been doing lots of talking lately about how everything matters–everything leaves an impression.

If we show up with empathy and kindness, it matters. If we show up with judgment and harsh words, it matters. If we don’t bring our attention to something, it matters. If you bring too much attention to something, it matters. If you eat a chocolate bar in your closet, it matters.

Nothing is hidden, nothing is inconsequential.

It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being conscious and letting our guard down around how imperfect we really are and how to adjust our actions. This is what I want to model for our children. This is what I want them to be able to do for themselves.

The Lego lie

Last fall, Ethan started a collection of Lego characters. We followed his enthusiasm as he researched, saved his allowance, and traded with his friends at school. It seemed harmless enough. Through his small purchases, and by trading one more valuable item for two less valuable items, his collection grew. Or that’s what we thought was happening. A series of events led to the discovery that Ethan was actually stealing Lego from other children’s backpacks.

Once the jig was up, it didn’t take much to get him to confess. A restitution model was put in place at the school, and apologies were delivered. We established new rules: nothing from home goes to school; nothing from school goes home. Pockets and backpacks will be checked until trust is restored.

I completely understand that he got too excited about his collection. He’d never had one before. He’s never had an allowance before. He knew what he’d done was wrong, and I knew he’d think twice before taking things again. What I talked to him about was the need to own up to it as quickly as possible. I explained that he could use his courage and his conscience to stop the metaphorical train before it gets too far down the track. Mistakes can be forgiven. It’s when people defend, hide, and blame that things get really ugly.

A dose of my own medicine

I’m trying to take my own good advice. There are times when I don’t like how I have acted. It’s true that children need the security of believing you know what you’re doing, but I just act like a confident, in-charge grown-up when I admit my mistakes. I say things like “I don’t like how I handled that. I don’t think it worked for you, and it certainly didn’t work for me. I’m going to do it differently next time.”

I’ve been reading literature on the art of zen. I find it so soul enriching. I like the idea of that the perfect life is the process of learning. Blamer, defender, perfection-seeker? No more. We need to be real, loving, lovable, fallible and ever-expanding, ever-learning parents. If we hope our children will create authentic and positive  relationships with the people they love, we need to model that for them.

Claire’s 10-year-old son was adopted from a Russian orphanage when he was 19 months old. Her second son, Ethan, joined their family from foster care at age seven. In this 12-part series, Claire shares the “fast and furious learning” that she and her family experienced when they adopted an older child.

Read more in the Extreme Parenting series.

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