I've never forgotten a conversation with my mom almost a decade ago. For two weeks, my sister and her husband and Pedro and I attended our mission's "Field Preparation Seminar" while my parents tended to multiple small grandchildren. At the time I believe it was four grandchildren ages four and under for fourteen days!
They did a fabulous job of grandparenting, of course. But I remember my mom lamenting how easy it was to become impatient with the needs and whines of so many little ones. "I thought I had overcome certain attitudes," she said, and with her typical sensitivity was disappointed in herself (though I am quite sure she demonstrated more patience than Mommy usually did, because she is just that wonderful.)
She pointed out that it is relatively easy to remain civil and mature in a relationship of only two adults. Yet kids have a way of causing our sin nature to rise to the surface and show what is still hiding in our hearts. In the years since I have certainly experienced that truth over and over!
Parenting prunes us. And adoption awakens us.
Particularly when adoption involves children from "hard places" (children with histories of early trauma or neglect), it can bring entirely new challenges into the parenting arena. Because of their early experiences, our children from hard places do not respond to the same parenting techniques in the same way as their siblings.
Trying what we know and having it not succeed can be frustrating and discouraging. It can trigger impatience and resentment. And often, it awakens us to the reality of our own inflexibility and selfish hearts.
I appreciated Jamie Ivey's candor in a recent blog interview (emphasis mine):
"Recently someone asked me what has been the biggest adjustment in our family since we brought our kids home from Haiti. It never takes me long to think about this answer because I have thought about it so many times. This doesn't sound like an adjustment, but more of a realization, but my biggest adjustment has been the reality of the ugliness in my heart. The reality of my sinful nature. If parenting brought some of my sin to the surface then adoption yanked them all to the surface."
We have one precious child who processes life through a different lens than all the rest, and he has been my "awakening." He has been my "pruning." There are times when he makes me laugh, and times when he makes me cry. And there are times when he makes my heart squeeze with tenderness.
Because that same lack of "polish" that sometimes leads to awkward social interactions is the one that allows him to bury his head in my shoulder and shed real tears at the kindergarten graduation of his friends. And that same overabundance of energy that makes it impossible for him to sit quietly through devotions or family story time, is the one that places him at my elbow anxiously seeking to help in the kitchen when his siblings are nowhere to be found.
I am a work in progress, and I have far to go. But I am thankful for the tender Gardener who prunes my soul, and the precious children He uses to do so.