Instinctively as parents we want to fight for our children.
Fight for their rights.
Fight for their health.
Fight for their relationships.
And most importantly, fight for their hearts.
My husband, Ben, and I knew pretty early on as parents that we wanted to prioritize relationship over rules with our kids. We learned from other parents what it looked like to have adult children who loved being with their parents and also adult children that really didn’t love being with their parents.
The difference seemed to come down to the relationship. There seemed to be a bond in the relationship where the child, at no matter what age felt loved, heard, and connected. Not once did we hear, “it was the rules, strong hand, and frightening discipline voice that helped us develop a secure relationship with our parents.”
Now, don’t get me wrong I’m a firm believer in rules and boundaries in the context of a loving relationship. And with biological children I feel it is a fairly natural thing to form. At least with our three biological children it was natural. There was always this momma bear instinct to protect my children and tell them all of the good I saw in them from the day they were born. They were raised hearing truth about who God is forming them to be. They believed the good in themselves. I fought, and continue to fight, for them to know their worth.
Then, on Valentines day this past year, I found myself in a different fight.
I found myself in a fight for a frightened, traumatized, abandoned 7-year-old boy from Colombia.
That was the day we adopted this boy as our own and began the fight to reprogram the lies he was told by his birth mom, his caretakers, and his orphanage peers.
The lies that he had a dark, black, cold heart.
The lies that he was not intelligent.
The lies that he was angry.
The lies that it is okay and acceptable within a school setting to be hit with a stick if he didn’t behave. Or that it was ok within a family to be beaten for making a mess or spilling a drink.
Because of these lies, for a couple of months we were faced with early pick-up phone calls, school suspensions, meetings with school social workers, school psychologists, principals, and teachers.
Our son had not grown up hearing the truth about who he is and about his safety and security within a family. The fight we were in now was to build a team of people that saw him for who he really is and who could teach him truth about who God created him to be.
The truth about how his smile and giggle light up a room.
The truth about how talented of an artist he is.
The truth about how smart he is.
It was now our fight to sit in the hard meetings with the school to brainstorm how to help him feel secure enough to get him to a place where he can learn.
It was our fight to tell his story in a way that is honoring to him and his future.
We were so fortunate to have a team of educators at his school that are for our son and for his future, and we quickly found ourselves in a fight together. It wasn’t our family against the education system. It was our family AND the education system.
We found ourselves joined arm in arm with our local church where he was connected with a small group leader that saw his heart for what it was. She continues to pour into him week after week and love him exactly where he is.
We were surrounded by family and friends that may not have known exactly how to help, but they showed up, listened, and loved us through one of the toughest parenting seasons we’ve ever had.
The fight within us as parents is one that I will honor and leverage to the best of my ability to ensure the relationship with my children wins every time. And we are so glad that we don’t have to fight it alone.