Thursday, March 03, 2016

Gains and Losses for Aaron and Jada Too

One of our considerations in deciding to adopt again was what it would mean for Aaron and Jada.  On the plus side, they'd be gaining a younger brother, and we hoped that would be good for them, in terms of cultivating their nurturing side and introducing them into the African-American experience in America.  And, in fact, this has happened so far, for which we are very pleased.

But Asher's arrival is not without its costs for Aaron and Jada.  Their parents' time, energy, and love is scarce, and it has become scarcer with the introduction of a very needy fifth person in the house.  The proliferation of chores combined with the reduction in parental bandwidth has made for less of us for Aaron and Jada, and more home responsibilities for them to bear.  Indeed, people close to us gave us wise counsel as we were contemplating a third adoption that this was a real and serious downside to going in this direction.  And, it is true, and I don't discount or sugar-coat that loss for Aaron and Jada.

The flip side, though, is that this too is part of their growing up process.  For one, they are now at the age (9 and 11) where it is appropriate for them to step it up at home.  We make them wash the dishes and mop the floor and help with laundry, and it is a good thing for them to do so.

On a deeper level, it is another reminder that the world does not revolve around them.  We who are of means and are parents in the year 2016 have many luxuries at our disposal when it comes to our kids.  We don't spoil them per se, but in many ways they live an unbelievably charmed life, in terms of material possessions and life comforts and worry-free existences.  And, on one level, it should be so: kids should be allowed to be kids, part of being of means is being able to take care of your own, and life is for enjoyment if  you have the ability to live so for yourself and your kids.

And yet it is important to remember that life is not all comfort and ease, or that every material need or life whim should be accommodated if the means to do so is there.  Empathy, a service orientation, and a healthy sense of humility are important characteristics to cultivate, and they can be hard lessons to learn if life is all unfettered ease.

I am reminded of a friend of mine whose elderly parents are at the point that she may need to move back closer to home to at the very least be available for them and at the very most take care of them.  Her children are thriving in their school, church, and social circles, and to uproot them in order to be there for her parents would be socially costly for those kids.  And yet sometimes life isn't about what we want for ourselves in a vacuum, but rather to the extent that we are connected to others we carry with us obligations to others that sometimes need to be met in inconvenient and costly ways.  Whatever is next for my friend, her kids are learning an important lesson about their mother's commitments and about their own need sometimes to sublimate what they want so that others can be served.

Sometimes it is right to let kids have what they want.  Sometimes it is right to not choose something for ourselves if it will impose costs on our kids.  But sometimes it is right to make decisions that are the right thing to do, even if it will impose costs on our kids.  Life is like that, and as a parent it's my job to prepare my kids for that part of life.
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