Friday, April 24, 2009

Provider or Parent

My friends cannot have a child of their own. It's completely unfair, makes no sense, on and on and on. It is, however, one of those things God does in the universe every so often to teach those of us who are paying attention a lesson.

In their search for a little pitter-patter, this couple set their sights on China. Both have spent time living in the Orient, speak the language fluently, and are acutely aware of the oodles and oodles of little girls being raised in government-run orphanages there. They began the adoption process about two years ago--and just last week met their two-year-old daughter.

Let me back up just a bit. In the waiting and wading through the endless paperwork required to make this match, last summer the unexpected happened. A boy. A baby boy of a friend of a friend's teenage daughter who needed a home. Three weeks notice. A nursery to prepare. Instant family.

So with a son that could not look more like them had they mixed him up themselves, they flew their dreams half way around the world to complete the family they've started. They have known their daughter was alive for quite some time, but were required to wait and wait and wait while she stayed the required amount of time in state care. Cruel. Crazy. Calculated.

Finally, a family of four. Now with so much to do, there is also much to be undone. In the couple's most recent updates about their experience they explain their gorgeous daughter will be kept sequestered for a while as they transition her from identifying all adults as providers to identifying them as her parents--no shift changes, no rooms and rooms of other children to bathe, clothe, feed. From provider to parent--it's a transition where much more than semantics is at stake.

This provider v. parent distinction has occupied my thoughts almost continuously this week. How interesting. How tragic. I've turned introspective on this one and questioned, which am I?

I'm convinced some days my kids see me only as provider. I bristle when they bark out orders for drinks, snacks, shoes, toys and neglect a thoughtful expression of gratitude when I deliver. I've demanded to be thanked, I've withheld services, I've offered sample scripts of how the exchange may have gone in a perfect world. I've also been surprised when I hear my words come back, "Mom, may I please...?" "Mom, when you have a minute could you please...?" "Thank you" "I appreciate your help, mom." It's as if the heavens open for just a moment and you are smiled upon for resurrecting manners and awareness of others in this rude, give-it-to-me-now world.

There are also days when they need me as a parent intensely. When they race in at first sunlight to see who will win the prized spot in bed next me. When I have to shimmy into the middle of the pillow to make sure there's room for one on each side. (We'll have to see how the cuddling match will work out when there are three eager bodies to accommodate.) When they asked to be scooped up after school, read to for no reason at all, played with because I make the coolest sound effects. These are the moments when I LOVE being a parent.

However, after much thought this week, I have concluded that regardless of my children's moods that day, it is usually me who decides whether I am the parent or the provider. You see there are days when I choose to be merely a provider, a glorified zoo keeper really. Cleaning cages, offering meals, making sure everyone is safe and where they are supposed to be. These are the days when I feel more tense, more frustrated, more surprised by how much I don't get done in a day after all my obvious effort and busy-ness.

Then there are those days I admit are too far few when I actually get it. I get that this time is fleeting. I get that their simple requests for me to watch puppet shows and assume the role of whomever the villain of the day happens to be will soon end if I don't indulge. Someday they are going to stop asking me; that is inevitable. But in the meantime I don't want to do anything that teaches them that them not asking anymore will be okay with me. Intentionally or not, good or bad, sometimes we teach those things that are of the most consequence in the most unintended ways. I'm ready to be more intentional.

So I thank my dear friends and their new, adjusting unit of a family for helping me be more intentional, more aware, more respectful of this time in my life. I'm sure I will drift between provider and parent regularly, maybe necessarily. As for tonight, my kitchen is cluttered and I need to give the basement a quick once over, but I made a killer Lego spaceship today. Ty has already asked if he can keep it for himself. Victory.


Lisanne said...

Thanks for your fabulous thoughts! A great reminder :)
How did the race go?

Hallowsboys said...

Your articulate things so well, I admire that among many other strengths you have. Some I am sure you have yet to reveal. I want to get together but it looks like time has been flying by and I am not even having that much fun. Lets set a date, lunches are easier for me as my boys are all in school and I can be home in the dinner hour to maintain my zoo keeper status...Classic classic love it.

Meredith said...

My best friend has two girls from China - DEFINITELY changes your perspective on a few things. Way to go with the Legos.

Emily said...

Some of our great friends just had an adoption fall through at the last minute because the birth father didn't want someone else raising his baby (this kid is 20 years old and still in High School and doesn't want custody, but he just doesn't want someone else to have what is "his"). So sad!

I loved this post, and I've been thinking about it for days. I am definitely the provider most of the time. But, I guess if we didn't "provide" how would our children eat three meals a day or bathe or get the medidcal care they need? I just need to remember to be the parent more often because you are right - life is fleeting and my babies are growing up way too fast! Thanks for the beautifully articulated reminder!