Tips for families in transition
On February 1, 2016, my husband and I went from being just a couple to being the parents of three kids: a 9-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, and a 1-year-old boy. Even though we had been praying for this for years, it was overwhelming when it actually happened! Looking back, here are seven things I wish I’d known a year ago.
- You’re going to make mistakes!
You’ve taken the courses. You’re more prepared than most parents. You’ve been waiting and now you’re ready, right? Then you make your first mistake. You feel terrible! These are your precious kids and you’re messing it up! From what I hear, feeling this way is universal to all parents but I think as instant parents the expectations we have of ourselves can be unrealistic. Most of us were good at something before we became parents, and it didn’t happen overnight. Neither will parenting…no matter how many courses, seminars and books you’ve studied.
- There will be a rhythm.
One of the hardest parts at the start was that we had no real rhythm and routine. Every day seemed new and it took awhile to figure out basic things: what time do we need to leave to get anywhere on time; what do I need to pack for a 1 year old and 4 year old; when can we have a quiet moment in the day? Yet over time, a rhythm unique to us has developed. It won’t always be overwhelming!
- You don’t have to entertain all the time!
We exhausted ourselves at first trying to do fun bonding things all the time. It wasn’t sustainable. “Don’t you want to play with me?” was a perpetual refrain and guilt trip all the time. I didn’t feel like we could say no. It wasn’t real life. Now we do still play together, but we also do the dishes and laundry and even play by ourselves for specific lengths of time.
- Not every change is the end of the world!
There will be some habits and routines you will inherit that you think you need to change. For us it had to do with bottles. Our littlest went to sleep with a bottle of milk .(Note that he went straight to sleep!) Those in the know will tell you this could rot their teeth. I knew we had to change it, but when? Would he stop sleeping? If he did, that would keep up his brother who sleeps in the same room. Then his brother would be tired, which would lead to a meltdown. It would be a disaster! I knew it! In the end, we simply started giving him the bottle during book time before bed and then I brushed his teeth and he went to bed. Just like that. No catastrophe in spite of all my worries.
- It’s not a vacation… it’s an adventure!
We went on our first family vacation last May to Pender Island. The first night, they went to bed at least and hour and half late and got up the next morning an hour early. So much for rest! I was exhausted. Not to mention the packing, the food, the ferry. On the other hand, for two days the kids were outdoors and exploring all day long. We went to the beach, and they played games in the trees. It was a great trip, a great adventure. But it wasn’t a “vacation”.
- A lot of parenting is universal.
There are a lot of things that are different about parenting kids who are adopted, particularly those who have suffered traumatic backgrounds. There are definitely some things we handle differently. However, I am constantly amazed how much of parenting is universal. The other day, I overheard a friend saying to her daughter, “If your tummy is too full for your lunch, it’s too full for dessert!” I had to laugh at how many times I had said the same thing! It’s great to have friends in the adoption community but other parents have plenty of good advice to share as well. They also get the struggles because one thing I’ve learned is parenting is universally hard!
- Last of all, and perhaps most important, is that tomorrow is a new day.
No matter how bad your day has gone (and we’ve had plenty of doozies) you get to start fresh in the morning. There were nights I went to bed not knowing how we would get through another day. Yet another day came and often it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sometimes it was actually good, and sometimes it was even great.
Joel and Alison Wagler live in Burnaby where they are raising three kids they adopted in 2016. Joel directs a mission for inner city First Nations families in East Vancouver, and Alison will be returning to teaching in October. They are grateful to God that they survived the transition from 0 to 3 kids with their sanity somewhat intact. They are also thankful for all the support and prayers of family and friends which helped them weather the many early storms (and the occasional squall that still passes through their household).