Our youngest, who was adopted along with her sister, often would say, “What about me?” I know this is a typical younger kid in the family wondering, but my mommy guilt (see above) kicked in, and it was a good thing. It caused me to reflect a bit - am I pushing her off more often because she is more mellow and not as needy? Am I giving too much attention to the negative behaviors of the other instead of rewarding the good choices this one is making? And then - what about Caleb? He is a teenager, so he doesn’t need my direct parenting for everyday things anymore, but he still needs me. Am I giving him the time and care he needs? Does he resent all the time and focus the girls require?
Mommy guilt (or parent guilt) can be debilitating if we fixate on that feeling and allow ourselves to feel hopeless. If we use it as a kick in the pants, it can move us in the right direction to better parenting. In my case, I wallowed in the “how can I ever give all of them what they need, I’m so tired!!” feeling for a bit, then I stopped the pity party and started being more intentional.
I started paying more attention to the one that is making the good choices, and encouraging her in that. I began to have the other sit in “time in” so she gets my time and presence, but not my attention for the not so great choices. I talked to Caleb about his feelings toward the girls and there was no resentment there, he said he knows I am trying. Now, I make sure I check in with him after the other two are in bed - when he wants to talk and connect or get some help with homework, even if it means a few less minutes of sleep for me. Although spending time with each child brings great joy to me in different ways, I still need to practice being present for them.
The result? The teenager’s grades have gone up, the little one stopped asking, “What about me?”, and the other little miss is not acting up quite as much...and I am continuing to learn how to be a good parent after 16 years, 3 kids, and some fosters. But for the grace of God go I!
What are some ways that you are intentional in your parenting of kids with different needs?