Sunday, December 11, 2011

Top Ten Don'ts

This was done on a whim after my wife and kids were in bed...so don't presume this to be comprehensive or significant in sequence.  Enjoy.

#10 - Don't do anything on a whim after your wife and kids are in bed...especially a top ten list. (Nine more to go...we're gonna get through this.)

#9 - Don't minimize your foster or adopted child's sense of belonging when someone asks, "Are they all yours?"  They're yours...maybe not forever, but in that moment your child is wondering if you're going to over-explain the circumstances and implications of that question or just keep it simple.  It doesn't matter if one of your kids has three eyes, an extra leg, speaks Mandarin and is made of glitter...they're yours.

#8 - Don't commit to being the father of a child who is not biologically yours if you're just doing it for your wife.  You'll disengage, she'll get frustrated, you'll both be bitter if or when that child doesn't meet your expectations, and everyone will lose when you were just trying to appease your spouse.  You can however go through training, read some books, meet with some other men who have been there, and then see where your heart is.

#7 - Don't let them sleep in your bed.  It's one thing if they're sick or scared at some point and you make a pallet of blankets on the floor in your room.  It's a whole other thing if you've bought into some hippy "they need to be nurtured" psycho babel, and you find yourself with an 8 year old sleeping between you and your wife when you finalized their adoption at the age of 2.  Don't get me wrong, they need to be nurtured, but that's not nurturing.  It's idiotic and your marriage will suffer for it.

#6 - Don't let them be a thief of time.  They may have moments of misbehavior, illogical antics and tirades that require drywall repair.  Hear me on this...IT'S JUST DRYWALL!  Don't succumb to the feeling that you need to lecture your child for 2 hours about making good choices, self-regulating, not lying, etc. and let every other child or adult go without one-on-one time with the man of the house that night.  (Although, you will probably want to have a drywall repair kit on hand.)

#5 - Don't neglect your family and friends simply because you are overly busy caring for a child who has special needs from being abandoned, abused or neglected.  It is more work to care for a child like this.  Your family and friends may not understand completely.  But you will isolate yourself and ostracize your support network if you don't invite them in and allow them to encourage you from an educated perspective...even if you're the one that has to give them that perspective.

#4 - Don't let your wife get tossed under the bus and then put it in reverse just to make sure she got the point.  Our kids come with some baggage usually related to the feeling that their biological mother did not provide, protect or want them.  There may be little or a lot of truth in those feelings, but they will project those feelings onto your wife because she is now playing that role in their lives.  So, it can be tempting to think your wife is going crazy (and she might be), and when something happens and she acts out of character for you to not take her side.  No matter how crazy she gets...back her up.  Then, help her get out of the house, breathe fresh air, and hang with some of her lady friends without the kids on a regular basis.  Your love life will thank you for it.

#3 - Don't be inconsistent.  Your kids need boundaries, regularity and calming influences.  So whether it's eating habits, hobbies, schedules or whatever, try and keep a routine.  That routine may be a little chaotic at times, but even in the chaos of busy schedules, you still get to choose how much exposure they have to the unknown and limit their anxiety.

#2 - Don't be alone.  This is true on a number of levels, but ultimately, it's about understanding that while God may have called you specifically to this...you're not the only gifted person in that child's life.  Let the Church be the Church.  Invite them to help you with things that are needed whether it's small and you could handle it on your own...or big, and you just aren't sure how to ask.  When someone unwittingly offers you a meal, childcare, etc...take them up on it and make them a part of your team.

#1 - Don't use the return policy.  On every foster or adopted child there is an unwritten, unspoken return policy that people keep in the back of their hearts.  It says, "If this gets really hard or inconvenient, and we can't do it anymore, they are not our biological kids."  There may be hard times you are unprepared or unequipped for, and those times may not come until 4 or 5 years after a child has been in your home.  But do not assume that dissolving the adoption or disrupting a foster placement is the easiest way out.  It could be that you are the first one who needs to change...not the child.  It could be that you need a break every once in awhile.  It could be that you need more training.  Or, it could be that this is was not a good fit to begin with.  But our children are waiting for someone else to reject them holding that same unwritten, unspoken return policy in the back of their hearts wondering if they'll ever have to accept the idea that they do not have a family, a home or someone who will love them unconditionally while they heal and are restored.

As men, we lead our families, and our children and wives are hoping we will stand in the gap for them.  You don't need a Man Card or pep talk to be a better Dad.  You just need an example to follow who is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, loving and faithful, forgiving and just.  Do you know anyone like that?  Read Exodus 34:5-7 if you don't.

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