Friday, February 25, 2011

The Words Bleeding Me—Responsibility

“Isaac, son.  This is ridiculous.  Why do you not spend the five minutes required to put your clothes away?  This is not my expectation.  Meanwhile, your dirty clothes stink up my carpet and your section of the room is a general mess.  This really frustrates me, and it isn’t the first time I’ve caught this laziness from you.   Now I see that I can’t trust you when you say your chores are done.  Now I have to come behind you and double check.  I shouldn’t have to do that!  You are quite old enough to know better and I expect better.  You are acting as a bad example to your younger brothers, and if this is how you expect me to recognize maturity in you and gift you with more privileges, you’re sadly mistaken.  In fact, there will be no more afternoon friends until I have double-checked your chores, and since I am never just sitting around waiting to check people’s chores, then you will just have to wait on ME to have TIME to check you off and if that means you miss afternoon friend time—well then so be it.”

And all Isaac heard?  “wonk, wonk, wonk, wonk.”

I’m thinking it was somewhat overkill.  If the glazed over look in Isaac’s eyes was any indication to my ranting’s effectiveness, I would have to give it two thumb’s down. 

Oh, but it felt good to rant.  All that pent up anxiety, just gushing forth with such self-righteous bravado and mock concern for Isaac’s future ability as a responsible member of his own home someday, I mean, the boy won’t even put his clothes away-- WHICH I FOLD FOR HIM (what a slap in my face!)-- how will he ever be able to manage to hold down a job?!  

In my life, rants are directly and positively correlated with the perceived heaviness of my responsibilities.   I am an extremely responsible person.  In fact, I am so responsible that I become irresponsible.  Abandoning that which I am actually able to control, I fret over that which will never be mine to manipulate or turn the way I see it should go. 

Example:  I recognize a character issue in one of my children.  Within my power and responsibility are:  1st—continual, effective prayer for my child, and 2nd-- creating an environment which makes it painful for such a negative character trait to persist, at the same time rewarding the development of positive character traits.  Outside of my power is the actual changing of the child’s heart.   What do I typically do?  Well, it depends.  But, I have been known to act on that which is not within my power, causing more drama, fearfulness in them and a general lack of peace; rather than create a fertile environment where positive change can sprout, establish itself, flourish and grow.  I can provide a painful environment, all right—painful… and then some. 

Naturally, I am excellent at carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.  There is the very popular Christian book called Boundaries.  I’m sure it was written for me… though I only read the one for marriage.   And then, of course, there are all the parenting books.  I’ve read plenty of them, more to my detriment—or should I say to my children’s detriment, rather than my own.  What happens when I read such books?   My responsibility baggage only grows larger.  I stuff in more things for which I think I am responsible.   I learn some parenting technique crucial to the first five years of their lives—which now that they’re all six years and up, it must be too late and all that’s left is suffering through the consequences of my ignorance.  Shoot.

I would say that responsibility has also played a part in the process of attaching to my adopted children.  In last week’s post, I wrote of the materials making up attachment—materials I couldn’t recognize until after we came home and I was experiencing them.  If parenting brings with it a new, deep sense of being responsible for another human life, then I think adoptive parents could, quite possibly feel the weight of such responsibility two and three-fold.  Add to that extra layers:  adopting older children (who’ve already past those 1st five years of life, let’s just say), adopting after already having several children in your home who you are also responsible for (perhaps—we’ll just pretend—three boys who will now have to share everything and everyone in their life, and one who will have to share birth order to the degree of being what adoption circles call “artificially twinned”), and adopting children whom you think are one age (well under five), but turn out to be another age (almost 6). 

I can only speak for myself.  Maybe I’m the only crazy adoptive mother who has to battle constantly to keep responsibility in its rightful place.  Logically, I understand I have no control over what happened to my children pre-me.  But there are days when my eyes aren’t well focused and my mind crammed full of my to-do list, that I blur the lines of responsibility.   “What if….”, haunts me.  Fear of rejection teases me.  Responsibility for their woundedness, attitudes, relationships and future lives, piles up like my dirty laundry, emitting the odors of life’s stink and always being added to faster than I can deplete it.   All of it blocks deep binding love from taking root.

I have circled all the “I will”, “He will” and “The Lord will” passages of Scripture:
  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Ps 32)
 “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways,”
“I will rescue him, I will protect him for he acknowledges my name,
I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Ps. 90)
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge” (Ps 90)
“My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land.  I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them.  I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.  They will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”  (Jer. 24)

There are hundreds more.  Interestingly, no where have I found a passage of Scripture which commands me to do any changing of my children’s hearts, nor have I discovered where it is within my power to heal their woundedness, remove their fears or restore their hearts.  None of these things, which I find myself wringing my hands over, are within my responsibility, or ability to affect.

What is within my responsibility circle is prayer and creating an environment which makes ripe the work of the Lord.  Praying in all seasons over all things, keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus (which, coincidentally keeps my eyes off all my perceived responsibilities) and offering myself continually to God as a living sacrifice—allowing Him to do transforming work in me as well.

I’m still looking for the passage that says ranting is one of my responsibilities.  It promises to be a long search.

Grace and Peace,


Rob and Candy said...

Oh Shari, I love this post... I too struggle with the what if's and all the things I (Think I) am responsible for.
thanks for sharing. so much to think about....

Rob_T said...

Great post, brilliant explanation of what responsibility is and what it is not. I constantly look at my adopted sons, especially the older one, and I think, "You cannot do that when you get out in the world." Then I impose on myself the burden of removing some bad character trait before my boy is hurt by his own mistakes. And I have no power to do what I am trying to do. So I am on an endless treadmill of frustration. Shari, great, great observations.

KLT said...

...lots of resonance here...
...thanks for the perspective...

Apryl said...

Great post, Shari!! You've been storing wonderful observations up over the past year and now flooding your blog with poignant writing.

Mommy guilt (ie burdening ourselves with God's job) is such a struggle for me! You *know* you aren't the only crazy adoptive mom out there!
Miss you, friend!