A recent (and frequent) discussion about the ways that birth parenting affects how we parent our children got me thinking. While it is true that being a birth mother has changed the ways in which I might have otherwise parented, I think that another train of thought needs to be visited. And so, I pose this question:
How does parenting affect your birth parenting?
While I maintain that I would have been a fine parent for the Munchkin, the truth remains that prior to the birth of my oldest son, I was somewhat clueless as to the ins, outs, whys and wherefores of children and parenting. These are obviously things that you learn as you go and, as I hadn’t yet learned them, I didn’t always get the things that were shared with me by her family.
For example, and this one shows my youth so please spare me the nasty comments, I remember being emotionally devastated when I called the Munchkin’s family on Christmas Day, twelve days after she was born, to wish them a happy holiday only to find that they weren’t even home! I cried all over myself. I was sure that they just didn’t want to talk to me, that they were screening their calls. I’m sure some postpartum hormones combined with my lack of parenting and holiday experience came into play on that one. Fast forward to our first Christmas with our first son. We weren’t home all day and he was just one week over one month old. I remember getting home that evening and thinking to myself thoughts about how naive I had been about the demands of parenting.
The truth is, parenting my sons has made me a better birth mother in many different ways. I understand some more of the things that children like to be praised for, like to receive or hear from adults. While the Munchkin is older than my sons and thus at a different level in development, I have found those similarities that last through the years. Children need unconditional love. And they need consistency.
Just like I talk with my older, verbal son about his sister on an almost daily basis, I need to remain consistent in my relationship with my relinquished daughter. I even made it a goal of mine this year. I have been sending monthly letters, albeit brief ones, to maintain that consistent contact with her and not just her mom and dad. I have seen in my own son’s eyes how easy it is to forget someone who isn’t present or isn’t involved and I don’t want to do that to myself. (Not that I think her parents would neglect to talk about me but this post is about accepting my own role!)
Furthermore, parenting has taught me to be patient with her parents. It has taught me to put myself in their shoes, to consider life and circumstance from different angles before sayign something mean, nasty or offensive. I have learned that children keep parents on their toes and that nothing is ever set in stone and, as such, I have learned that I am not the only parent who deals with those things. Furthermore, knowing what it is like to have every other family member vying for the time of my children, I have learned to accept the fact that I won’t always be the first and most important priority in their lives. Perhaps that seems like common sense to someone who isn’t a birth parent. Maybe other birth parents realized that from the get go. But I felt pretty darn important for a really long time. And that’s not to say I don’t view myself as important now. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I mean is that while I am important in my daughter’s life, I don’t need special treatment or a red carpet or any of that hoopla.
Parenting my children has taught me so much about birth parenting. I am sure that those lessons will continue and my role in my placed daughter’s life will continue to evolve over the years. I hope to pay attention to all of the lessons that come my way so that I may better serve her through experience. And yes, mistakes made are also part of the experience. Trust me. I know all about those, both with my parented sons and with my daughter!
For more on parenting after placement, read these posts.
Photo Credit: Jenna Hatfield, April 2008.