Twenty-two years ago, when I first became a parent, I was full of ideals. I’d wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember.
I knew I wanted to do my best to be the best mom I could be. I’d always been involved with kids. I’d been a teacher and had worked with youth groups in my church. I was the kid magnet when I went out with my friends. I enjoyed being around kids and was looking forward to being a parent.
As family grew, through foster care, adoption, and one additional biological addition, I found that parenting came naturally. I had visions of what it would look like when, decades in the future, my kids would all gather for holidays. I had mental images of the kids, their partners, and their kids all gathered around the holiday table – laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
Now, that many of our children are grown, I realize that this holiday ideal has not happened. My adult kids are scattered all over the country. Some of them have more baggage than they can handle and, as a result, have had difficult lives. A number of them do not have custody of their own children. My dream of having them all in one room will never be a reality.
My situation is extreme. Most children do not have histories of abuse and neglect as severe as my children’s histories. Most kids do not have the level of mental health and behavioral problems that my children have. Most parents don’t have to worry about the futures of many children with cognitive delays. Many of my kids’ lives are complicated, at best.
I have to admit that the biggest challenge for me was to change my view on what the future holds for my kids. Most of my kids aren’t going to go on to college or trade school. Most of my kids are going to struggle with maintaining a minimum wage job for more than a few weeks or months. Some of my kids are going to struggle with living on the right side of the law. They’re going to be “that kid” at school and in the neighborhood. They’re going to need intervention in order to be effective parents to their own children. They will jump from relationship to relationship, never forming any long term bonds.
And, I’ve learned to adjust my own expectations to reflect their abilities. I’m proud of the ones who hold down a job or volunteer at their children’s school. I’m thrilled when they remember to wish their siblings a happy birthday. I get excited when they work hard and pass a class. And, I’m over the moon when they call just to chat and not to ask for money or advice. I have learned to not expect more than they can possibly deliver. Some of my kids can’t begin to live up to remembering to wish a sibling a happy birthday. Some still depend on others to house and feed them. I’ve learned to modify my expectations depending on each child’s abilities.
So, what about your kids? What are your expectations? Are your kids living up to those expectations? And, are those expectations focused on what you want for your child or what your child can realistically accomplish?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t push your children to achieve. And, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask your kids to try new things. What I’m trying to say is that you need to make sure that you’re pushing your children to do things that are realistic for them. Because when kids are encouraged to pursue their own interests, they will do well.
One of my friends has a grown son born with Down Syndrome. C has significant delays and attended a special school until graduation. A few years ago, however, his parents discovered that C was fascinated with the paper shredder. He shredded his parents’ old bills. He shredded things for the neighbors and his grown brothers. And, thanks to a grant, C was able to purchase an industrial strength shredder. Now, that young man has his own shredding business. His needs are too significant for him to hold down a job in a commercial setting, but he will sit at that shredder all day long to please his clients.
He was interested in shredding. He is now a successful businessman and is proud of his accomplishments.
So, what are your expectations? Love your kids. Support them and let them know that you will always be there no matter where life leads them. And, if their lives don’t go in the direction you hope, help them find the best way to move forward.
Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, two biological kids, guardian of one baby girl and foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She is co-owner of a counselling agency that works with children and their families.
Of course, I’m perfect, but it’s a tall order to expect of other kids!
- Rev. Kelly Crenshaw is the mom of 16 adopted kids, 2 biological kids, Guardian of one adorable toddler, and has been the foster mom of dozens. Some are lesbian, some gay, some straight, and some bisexual. Kelly founded a K-12 day school where kids could have a safe, bully-free environment for learning. She has worked with kids in the foster care system for over two decades, actively advocating for all kids, but especially those in the LGBT community. And, in her spare time, she can be found preaching in some of our area’s most LGBT-friendly churches. Feel free to send your parenting questions to her at Pastor.Kelly@comcast.net.