Our first social worker tried to prepare us. He told us about Michael, the Cambodian child that he had adopted. Michael was a fisherman from the day he could toddle. He was drawn to any open water. He would peer into it, hand grasping a stick like a spear and trying to poke the Jesus bugs. Even as a toddler.
He graduated to fishing rods as he got older. Any time Michael was not in the house they knew he was fishing in the river. He was always easy to find.
His adoptive mom and dad were oblivious to fishing. It is not that they disliked it. Fishing simply did not make a blip on their radar. It elicited as much interest in them as a discussion regarding the finer points of paisley patterns would elicit in me.
Michael's passion for fishing was genetic. There is no other explanation.
The culture of parenting styles
Whether we appreciate it or not, our culture of parenting is "tuned-in" for personalities that are similar to our own. We seek mates who are similar to us in critical ways. The acorn does not fall too far from the tree. It is likely that the styles that successfully raised us will be successful on our biological progeny.
We, of course, have little appreciation for the things that simply fall into our lap. We are oblivious to how finely honed our family/cultural techniques are for people who are very, very similar to us.
Adopting kids from an assortment of backgrounds strips away the complacency (and conceit) of cruise-control parenting.
Adopted kids have a different biological heritage. Our "finely honed techniques" hit a rough patch.
Genetics might not be the only reason why adopted kids are not as predictable. It can be that they are trying to connect with two heritages and we have somehow telegraphed what we know about their origins....similar to the reasons why good science requires double-blind experimentation.
One example is our oldest daughter. She was raised in the Roman-Catholic Christian tradition but she has been drawn, like a magnet, to the evangelical, literal Christian tradition. Both her biological mother and grandparents were of the evangelical, literal Christian tradition. Was it genetic or was it because I knew about her birth mother's heritage and somehow telegraphed it?
Our oldest boy lives in a black-white world of absolutes and has a strong sense, a passion, about how the world should run. He shares those attributes with his birth mother.
These differences (and others) have forced me to be more open to parenting tools that my parents did not need to resort to, even though they raised eight kids.
One of those tools is the Self-sooth box.
Some kids seem to be unable to change their direction when they find themselves on a bad path. Call them bullheaded, stubborn, knuckle-heads...whatever. They find themselves in a hole but refuse to stop digging.
The self-sooth box is a box of distractions. The contents will vary by the kid's natural proclivities and age.
Examples of contents might include:
- Fidgets (tactile)
- Stuffed animals (tactile)
- Fur hat (tactile)
- Super ball
- Silly putty
- Calvin and Hobbes books
- Transistor radio (sound)
- Recorder or harmonica
- Jar (unbreakable) of rice with trinkets in it. (visual)
- Scented votive candles (olfactory)
- Sour jelly beans
- Chewing gum (different flavors)
- Playing cards
- Bubble blowing
Good luck. We are all in this together. I am pulling for you.