Adoption reflections, Day by Day, Home ed ponderings

A Top down approach to our “different”children October 2019

This has been a post mulling over in my mind for a while, but as it’s a heartfelt one it’s taken a while to be able to put fingers to keyboard. The two prompts have been that we recently recorded a Mended Teacups podcast touching on this area, and that I signed up to be part of Sally and Nathan Clarkson’s launch team for their new book “Only You can be You”.

This book follows on from “Different – the Story of an out of the box Kid and the Mom who loved him.” It’s honestly one of the books which has touched and encouraged me the most. In it, Sally and Nathan share their memories and insights into the challenges they each faced during Nathan’s growing up years. It exudes wisdom and warmth and it resonated with me so much I cried nearly every time I picked it up! Tears mostly of relief; that others had walked a similar journey and come to similar conclusions. The feeling that I indeed was not quite so “different” as I thought I was.

I’m a mum of three “different” children, one because he simply has a glorious, larger than life character, with some dyslexic thinking and frustration thrown in, two due to early trauma followed by adoption in their lives. So, it’s been a journey for me, learning to stand up for our kids, to fight for what we believe is best for them, to be bold enough to walk a different journey and to see them through God’s eyes.

Lanky Dude recently told me about the two approaches to engineering design. One begins by looking at the problem, designing an individual part to solve it, and working on from there. A bottom up approach. The other begins by seeing the project as a whole and designing components to work towards building it. A top down approach. Both are useful.

In the midst of busy parenting, it’s so easy for me to see our children more from the “bottom up” approach; to see their various issues and challenges and look for a way to “fix” these. This can certainly be valid at times; acquiring English lessons with a specialist dyslexia teacher has been invaluable. However, I now prefer to see each child from the “top down” approach. To see his or her unique blend of abilities, personality, challenges and aspirations. To see our children as they truly are: made in the image of God, with a commission in life which only they can fulfil. To dream into the future with them. To believe in want they can do, not focus on what they can’t. To see that even trauma and the extremely challenging behaviour that comes from it is not hidden to our Heavenly Father, but that by His grace can be woven into the rich tapestry of goodness in their lives and be used to reach others with His love.

Learning to see our children like this is immensely freeing! I don’t have to worry that two of them simply can’t conform to the general testing system here in the UK. There are other ways, as Rhythm Dude is discovering. I don’t need to worry one is not reading or behaving on a similar level to her peers; she is beautiful and damaged and has progressed in tiny toe steps…but she has progressed, and happiness and joy shine out of her to others. I can enjoy the huge privilege of watching our children grow into who God made them to be.

I wonder what some of our well known icons were like as children? I wonder if Darcy Bussell was ever told to sit still, if Ant and Dec were told off for talking too much, or if Jamie Oliver’s bubbly personality was put down? I don’t know. But I do try to see that those immensely annoying habits or traits in our kids might just be the ones, when honed and directed, which could be their greatest gifts to the world.

For many years I’ve prayed that God would show me which of our children’s talents we need to invest in, and that God would put just the right people in their pathway to mentor, teach and inspire them. I try to be courageous in my thinking; to let them be who God designed them to be, and trust Him for the future.

This doesn’t mean we absolve our parental responsibility and just let them run wild! We try our best to look to the way our Heavenly Father parents us, and use the framework of boundaries and consequences, all within unconditional love and acceptance.

It’s undeniably hard work; it’s been lonely at times and has required courage to paddle against the flow. I think it’s so important to have others around who can cheer us on or pick us up off the floor. I so greatly value my now increasing circle of mum friends walking similar journeys. And I can look to the future confident that our Heavenly Father is totally faithful.

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