Because I love you


We’ve been having a busy summer, doing lots of interesting things.  I think for years with many little ones, I deliberately chose to limit outings and spent a lot of time at home, both to save my energy while parenting tiny ones, and to allow plenty of time to do home things with kids.  But now with our youngest being 8, I’ve come to realize that it’s becoming more important to make our focus a little more outward, and to really work on saying yes to our teens as much as possible.  Even if it sometimes is tiring to their homebody-momma, it is important for them to be able to go and do things. My desire for this summer is to really work on heart-connections, and to make it obvious that we are on our teens’ side, that we’re not always trying to thwart their wishes.  Of course that doesn’t always involve saying yes– sometimes it’s impossible.  But we want them to know we do things for them and with them because we love them.   

This weekend we went camping in the mountains– had a good time fishing and playing games and visiting with family.  The biggest ‘yes’ of the weekend involved letting our teenage sons drive motorcycles off-road for the first time, a fact that completely thrilled them.   (And for those of you fearing for my kids’ heads, after the initial few minutes on the bike, the boys did wear helmets the whole rest of the day.)

Another example:  after seeing signs of good literary discernment in the kids, and getting feedback from our adult kids, John and I finally felt OK with the teens reading the Harry Potter books.  Ben (15) is devouring and loving them.  Lidya (17) is uninterested– she’d rather read non-fiction.  And both our other 15yo’s are reading them, but declare they’ve read better stuff.  Kinda interesting to hear the varying reactions.

We’ve also been taking the kids to the dollar movies and the library every other week, usually with friends in tow.  We saw Epic last week, and really enjoyed it– I felt like it was an excellent family choice.  It was fun to walk into the movie theater with 12 kids.  I sat down front with the little ones, with a gaggle of teens a few rows behind us.  Good fun.

Over years of parenting older-adopted kids, I’ve come to understand that some kids from hard places struggle to believe that their parents’ desire for them is good.  Even when I feel like I’m being very overt, very obvious, in showing my love, they sometimes miss it.

I’ve begun sometimes lately to deliberately tell them my motivation: “I’m feeding you ice cream/ buying you a shirt/ letting you have a sleepover because I love you.”

It sounds (and feels) a little ham-handed, like it should be obvious without me having to state it.  But over and over again, when talking with some of the kids, I realize they’ve totally misread my motives. And yeah — some of my offerings are fails, like when my daughter hates and feels persecuted by the shirt I thought she’d love.  But even then- actually, maybe especially then — I think it helps to remind her that my heart’s intent was love, that I was actually trying to please her.

I think when kids come to you at older ages, the love sometimes isn’t as well understood or received as when you’ve parented a child from babyhood.   And if they don’t recognize you’re trying to love them well, there’s a huge disconnect between their perception of the relationship and your feeling that your efforts are being appreciated.  It can be complicated.  But stating what should be obvious  (oddly enough) is leading to better understanding, around here at least.  It’s been a good lesson for me this summer.

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  1. Julie B. says:

    God used this to plant some hope in my heart. Thank you.

  2. FrujalJD says:

    Thanks for posting this. It is so important with kids (however acquired) to let them know that you are doing what you do because you love them. I pointed out to my son that we are living in a very expensive area of Southern California for the opportunity it affords him and he said “I don’t know if I would do that for my kids, thanks.”

    I really needed this today.

  3. Yay! And yes, I was fearing for their heads! Lol 🙂 wasn’t sure how dad survived that. Awesome that they were able to do that! So fun!

    Sounds like a super-fun summer 🙂

  4. Rich Downen says:

    Great post Mary. We are SO in the same season of life with the same kids and same strategies. Seems as if the last 6 years have been a fight, but we have emerged on the other side wiser, more loving and much more reliant on God to be our strength. Blessings to you and yours.

  5. Loved reading this post. Thanks for sharing so honestly.

    I don’t have adopted kids but may still apply some of this advice as it sounds helpful 😉

  6. Jessica says:

    This doesn’t have anything to do with your post today, but I wanted to let you know that I bought “A sane woman’s guide” and It has been so eye opening. We have four adopted and we are expecting our surprise fifth growing inside me. We are military, move often, and I’m often single parenting thanks to trainings and deployments. We’ve signed the kids up for Christian school for this year to take a break from homeschooling so I can get a handle on our home before I have a newborn for the first time. Your book was the perfect jump start in my period of seeking the Lord for help in my home happenings. Blessings to you.

  7. I love this, Mary — my oldest is about to turn 13, and we’re traveling in two months to meet our newest (2 years old). Thanks for shining some light and wisdom on the teen years that are approaching, and on how to communicate well with our littles who are adopted.

  8. Beth in the City says:

    I think this is very useful advice for any mom of teens. Even children who have lived with us their whole lives have issues – not the same ones obviously – that make understanding parental love difficult. Thank you for the encouragement and I am so glad it is helping your crew!