I heard an interesting talk a few Sundays ago from the reverend at my church (cslsj.org) about a monkey trying to get a donkey to climb a tree. The monkey kept getting frustrated again and again in his seemingly endless pursuit. The reverend’s point in short was that often we, monkeys, try to get others, donkeys, to do or think what we want them to do or think when really what we need is more monkeys. That’s so true. How many times in our lives have we wanted donkeys to be monkeys and visa versa? I’m totally a monkey and I’m trying to push my son, the donkey, up a tree. I want him to be more like me when he’s not.
My son is GREAT just as he is. He’s an adorable, healthy, innocent boy with lots of personality, energy and intelligence. I’m truly blessed. Yet as his parent there is sometimes a contradiction going on because I think that he would be great IF he actually tried at things he did, or IF he actually listened to me. (AKA: came up in the tree with me which mostly he does not do because he’s doing his own darn stubborn thing on the ground!)
As an adoptive parent of a child who is quite different from me, it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in the fact that my son does not have my genes and therefore is not like me in many ways. But really, as my husband pointed out, does this matter when raising a child? Isn’t the point of raising a child, any child not just an adopted one, to raise him or her to be the best person that he or she can be even when sometimes he or she seems nothing like you and pushes you to the limit daily. I have friends with biological children that might attest that their children too can be donkey’s in their lives and I’m certain my parents would tell me at many points while raising me and even today that I was or am a donkey in their lives.
I believe it’s the ego that desires the children we raise to resemble ourselves. To be Mini-Me’s, which is why I think many adoptive parents need to mourn the loss of having their own biological children. I know first hand what that grieving period was like, yet I didn’t expect that after 6 years of raising my adopted son my ego would still being desiring that my son take after me at least a little bit.
I wonder if my path would be an easier one if I lived with someone who was more similar to me vs. living with someone who’s sometimes more of my polar opposite which can be utterly exhausting. Being female and raising a boy can feel overwhelming for any mom; we all know the saying, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” Well having an adopted child of the opposite sex sometimes adds complexity to this saying because it can feel like your child is not only from a different planet but is also from another galaxy!
Finding a way to deal with and to embrace my child’s uniqueness has been a process for me, one in which I’m clearly still working on but I know it’s worth the effort or I risk being continually disappointed throughout my life. I believe all parents need to grapple with this at some point, both adoptive and biological. We all must let go of wanting our children to be carbon copies of ourselves and push our egos aside because there is nothing wrong with a child that is vastly different than us. On the positive side it can be very eye opening and enlightening seeing the world from such a different perspective from your own. Being able to let go of our own desires and expectations and embrace what we have allows us to stop fighting endless battles with our children and gives them allowance to be the unique beings that they are.
Whether our child is the donkey, the monkey, or a creature from a different galaxy altogether he or she can the live his or her life to their fullest potential without interference from us because we’ll no longer be getting in their way pushing him or her to be different; instead we’ll simply be watching our child shine.