When I was in 4th grade my teacher had a coupon system. Everyone got 10 coupons at the beginning of the year and each coupon was like a 'get out of jail free' card for turning in your homework late, but if you kept all 10 coupons the whole year there was some special prize. I don't think I'd ever turned in homework late, but for some reason this whole system pushed my crazy button. I remember sobbing in my bed because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep all 10 coupons all year. My mom rubbed my back and told me it didn't matter, that I should just do my best and not put so much pressure on myself.
Fast forward 20+ years and I am still not taking her advice.
True, there are no coupons or prizes in adoptive parenting but that hasn't stopped me from putting insane amounts of pressure on myself to do it all just right. And you can imagine the resulting neurosis, since there is no right way to do any of this. "I'm just so afraid I'm gonna mess him up," I told my sister the other day. "Oh, you will," was her immediate reply. "We all do. No sense being afraid of it." She is younger than me, but a far sight smarter.
The trouble started a few weeks ago when Z began having trouble at bedtime and reverting to some old behaviors. Normal, right? Not the end of the world. But in the blink of an eye guilt, fear, and pride crept in and turned a small setback for Z into a huge messy pit for his mama. I fell down the wormhole of worry and forgot a lot of important things on the way.* I forgot to take a long view of things and to accept setbacks as a normal part of the journey. I forgot that I am not in control. I forgot to give myself grace. Most significantly, I forgot that Z belongs first to God. His life, all of it - good, bad, painful, and beautiful - belongs to God. I am Z's parent, but I am not his creator, his healer, or his savior.
And in that truth there is great freedom to let go of all this pressure. The pressure to know exactly what is going on inside him... his Creator knows. The pressure to heal what is broken... only the Healer has power to do that. And the pressure to do it all right so that he will look back someday and be OK with himself and his life... Jesus Christ is the only thing that makes anything OK. I pray that Z knows this for himself one day, but that is the work of the Holy Spirit.
By the way, the real issue behind the sleep and behavior problems? Good ol' fashioned separation anxiety. I figured it out when I dropped Z off at the church nursery and, for the first time ever, he had a total melt-down. The exact same kind he's been having at every bedtime. I probably looked like a horrible mom as I walked away grinning, but I was so happy to have an answer I couldn't help it. Now at bedtime I give him extra reassurance (Mommy is right here, I'll be close by, I'm not leaving just stepping outside the room, etc), and pop my head back in the room a few times to prove that I haven't disappeared... and it works! He lays his head down and goes to sleep. All that drama and worry, and it turns out the kid likes us enough to be sad when we leave. I guess we're doing OK after all.
*I also cried big alligator tears of self-pity at the YWAM Ethiopia moms group last week... and arrived late... and left early... and I'm the one who organizes the group. Yeah, it was that kind of week. Thanks for the grace and Kleenex, friends!