It’s that time of year – to reflect and be thankful. As the 20th year of my parenting journey begins, here are 20 things I have learned.
- Like nearly all parents, I know my children best – even when not using fancy words or technical jargon.
- I care deeply about my children – as I have seen in countless moms, dads, grandparents, step-parents and other caregivers.
- I’m not a perfect parent. Yet I’ve grown stronger from my mistakes.
- Eventually, I learned to be on own worst critic – because I could become a better parent by listening. First to my children and then to others. While my children are unique, their challenges are strikingly similar to thousands of other children.
- Adoption is trauma. My children had a life before they came to me. So many unanswered questions for them. How easily people forget!
- Triggers are real. They can easily re-traumatize children of all ages. Because I know my children best, I also know their triggers. And my daughter taught me an important lesson. I can become her worst trigger, if I don’t remain mindful in my parenting.
- Each morning the slate is clean. Today is a new day that begins with hope – not the negativity of yesterday.
- All kids don’t do that. Please don’t patronize me. Support me instead. I will happily answer most questions about FASD and early childhood trauma.
- Simple is always better – and that includes birthdays, holidays or any celebration.
- Spending time with my children was a priceless gift. Spending time doing “their” thing rather than “my” thing brought me closer to each of them.
- My children can be right – when I am wrong.
- Triangulation – the ugly process of my children pitting other adults against me – happened. Way too often! It’s a huge part of trauma and never goes entirely away.
- Middle school was a disaster for my kids. We need more K-8 elementary schools where our kids can feel safe and included – with fewer teachers and rooms to navigate.
- High stakes testing crushes the self-esteem of far too many students – including my own. No test ever told me – or any involved teacher – what we didn’t already know.
- Therapy can be over-rated – because highly trained therapists are in short supply. Some of the best therapy happened at home when a teachable moment appeared. Just me and my kid.
- Without question, my children’s therapists did more for me than they did for them. They validated my worth and gave me perspective.
- For some of my kids – but not all, the right medication was essential. Along with an empathetic psychiatrist.
- Self-care needs to happen every day. I learned the hard way. A down-and-out parent is an easy target for most kids, especially a defiant teen seeking independence and control.
- I often told my kids during the turbulent teen years, “Even as an adult, I relied on my parents. You might not like me today, but you will want me around later.” No doubt, they appreciate me more now.
- When I thought my children weren’t paying attention, they were watching my every move – and learning from my example. Years later I finally saw the results. For that alone, I am truly thankful. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold