Since I was super smart about being a parent before I was one, I would often compare it to bowling with bumpers. You put up boundaries, and those boundaries keep your kids in line. BAM – parenting. Done.
Where’s my book deal?
But so far, six months in, it feels more like I’m attempting olympic curling. You’re on ice, it’s really slippery, you push your stone (small child) towards the target, then start frantically scrubbing and sweeping to try to course-correct because who knows where this is all going to land…
It’s this strange contradiction, that as a parent, I am completely responsible for the trajectory of my child’s life, and yet I feel most of the time, that I have SO little control over the destination.
It was so wonderful to get asked to share on NHBO for Father’s Day. As I sit here in front of a nearly blank computer screen, I’m struck by what little wisdom I have to share thus far. I end each day with more questions that I started with.
Before Nova came home, I assumed that if I could look forward in time half a year, I’d be amazed at how much I had learned about parenting in such a short period of time. I am amazed at how much Nova has developed (she’s two years old), but I have no idea where this whole thing is headed.
Nothing about the process of parenting an adopted child from another country has become more clear to me over time. Only the effects that my words and actions have become clear, and that is always realized in hindsight. It’s hard for me to forget the way it felt when, several months ago, I was in the car with Nova and she went off on a tangent:
“NOVA!! SIT DOWN! PICK IT UP!! DON’T DO THAT! NO!! KEEP YOUR SHOES ON! LISTEN TO ME!!”
Is that how I sound to her? My own words, being shown to me through the filter of Nova’s feelings. Better get out the broom, and sweep that ice. This stone is getting away from me…
I’m reminded of a scene from The Neverending Story, where Atreyu is approaching his second of three challenges: The Magic Mirror Gate.
Falkor: I knew he would be safe.
Engywook: Nonsense! You don’t understand anything! The worst one is coming up. Next is the Magic Mirror gate. Atreyu has to face his true self.
Falkor: So what? That won’t be too hard for him.
Engywook: Oh! That’s what everyone thinks. But kind people find that they are cruel, brave men discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves most men run away screaming!
I’m going to tell you something that I probably shouldn’t. It would be dishonest to talk about our struggles without confessing a few things. Nova goes to bed easily (basically always has), she stays in her bed (always has), sleeps 11 hours and loves to eat raw vegetables (always has). Other adoptive parents reading this are probably giving me some serious side-eye right now. Two of the biggest battles parents deal with, are simply not an issue with Nova.
We were handed a perfectly healthy little girl that is a good eater and sleeper. Even with that being the case, I now require a nap (sometimes two) everyday, and can’t keep my eyes open past 9:30. This has revealed something about me, and I don’t like it. I’ve always thought of myself as a really disciplined hard worker – tireless and persistent. But I’ve read stories from other parents, and have gotten somewhat of an idea about what it’s like to have a child with major sleep issues (as I google – is a “nighttime nanny” a thing?)…
I know we have it pretty easy, and I’m having a hard time keeping up.
The fact that Nova now constantly says, “What time is it?” (she doesn’t know about time) and “I’m so tired!” (she’s not) or “Dada needs a nap!” are all pretty good indicators of what things look and sound like through her eyes. I over-correct, I under-correct; but it’s as if “parenting” itself can only be viewed as a reflection, and only heard as an echo. We watch our words and our actions come back to us, but through the lens of a child.
And as I hear that echo come back to me through Nova’s voice, I adjust, I learn, I change.
And I wonder, who’s teaching who here?