Friday, May 21, 2010

A Comment on a Comment

I was commenting on a comment on my blog post of last night, and saw it was running a bit long so decided to create a post out of it instead. If you want to better understand my comments here, go ahead and read the last post.

An anonymous commenter said:

"Besides, you love us, no one else does even if they like us."

That makes me so sad, to think that he doesn't believe that there are LOTS of people who love him. Family is special, no doubt, but I don't believe for a second that he isn't loved by many of the people who also like him. Same with all of the other kids.

You have taken Matthew's comments out of context...we were talking specifically about teachers at school and he was trying to express in 10 year old language that the love of a mother is far different than a teacher that likes you. We have many friends outside our family who love our children, of this Matthew (and I as well) have no doubt. He is loved by our dearest friends, including one who taught him this semester BECAUSE he loved him, and it was reflected in the pride our friend felt at Matthew's accomplishments. I can count several others whom I know Matthew would acknowledge love him very much, including our dear, dear friends we are visiting tonight whom I think just might rush into a burning building for any of our kids.

While I know for certain that many teachers in public school have been very fond of our children, to call that love is unwise and leads our children to improper expectations of being "loved" by "everyone", which is simply not true. Teaching our children to properly identify true "love" when it comes along in their lives is also part of our job, so that they have a framework to classify relationships with, reasonable expectations of those who cross their paths, and can recognize the real deal when it arrives. We all know folks who think everyone just loves them, or thinks that everyone totally loves their kids. All our children do a terrific job at discriminating between "love" and "like". Love means commitment, love is doesn't require as much of the giver.

Others CAN love our children and do. Teachers in school? Maaaaaayyyybbbbeeee, in the once in a lifetime unusual circumstance, but let's see here...did they spend 5 long years yearning for someone to come home? Did they hold an angry infant in their arms as he screamed and kicked and continued to hold him for 3 years until he finally knew how to accept love? Did they work day and night for years to afford to bring home some of their children? Did a teacher ever console our child as they quietly shared about the wretched things they experienced in their lives before us? Did a teacher ever lose sleep over worry and concern about our son who can't seem to remember things the way everyone else can...and then fret and stew losing even more sleep over trying to discover ways that might help him become all that he can be? While I am sure they have considered it, they certainly have never lost sleep over it.

Please don't get me wrong...we have had amazing influences from very caring adults in our kids lives, both at school and outside of it, and I have always tried to go out of my way to express my gratitude to every single person who has contributed to their growth and development. But to equate that with the love of a parent? Well, I think Matthew showed his own wisdom in that comment, for it truly is not the same.

You say "family is special..." then go on to talk about others who also love and like us, which I agree with. What I see is the problem today though is that we don't, as a society, understand the first part of your thought in the ways we should. Family IS special, it is to be cherished and adored, it is to be valued above all and those relationships should always, always come first. Today, family is NOT treasured as it should be, often because families are so broken they don't work well. We don't teach our children "family above all else" (other than God, of course), then we wonder why our aging parents are dumped in nursing homes never to be visited again, we wonder why our children act out in school making those very teachers' jobs so much harder because those children feel unloved and are crying out by their actions for offer them the love they do not feel at home. Sadly, there are millions of children who wonder why in the world their parents even have kids, because they spend so little time with them or who even when they are present in the same room are so disengaged it is as if the children don't exist other than to order around and shove them off to bed. There are parents who haven't had a full fledged conversation with their children in years. Then they wonder why their kids have no respect for them, or ignore their requests and rules.

Family IS special, terribly special. Yet it is so undervalued...or so broken...that we look outside family and are forced to lift up others to the level of love and commitment that family should offer so we can feel whole. We are living proof of that contrast, in seeing older children come home whose only understanding of love was the concern a caretaker might have shown them now and again, or the love that entered their life from their friends. Sure, the long term relationships with some caretakers may have developed into a special loving bond sometimes...but our daughters in particular are experiencing something very, very different these days, and already they are forming new conclusions in their lives as they see the sacrifices a family will make for them (and not just mothers and fathers, brothers too as Matthew showed quietly when selecting Wii games yesterday and thought only of what his brothers and sisters might enjoy, bypassing the flying games he loves), as they are beginning to understand the level of commitment that has been there for many years for them. Their eyes shine as they realize they were loved long before they joined us, and that THIS love is somehow very, very different. They are already categorizing it differently from the kinds of relationships they had before.

So I firmly stand by Matthew's statement, and I know every single one of their former teachers would understand exactly what he meant...even those who cared deeply about our kids know the difference between mommy love and teacher care. Joshie's former kindergarten teacher just had a daughter of her own, her first. The way she holds that baby, the way she gazes down adoringly at her...she totally knows the difference. And I do think she cared a great deal about Josh, just as his teacher this year did. But she could never "love" Josh the way she loves her daughter, carried 9 months inside her, brought into this world after dreaming so long of a little one of her own. It's different, family love is different, it IS special.

Our children, Matthew included, are growing up in a loving family that works. Note I am not saying a perfect family, for there are none of those in the world, but it IS a family that at least right now works well. They are surrounded by love from many different avenues and at many different levels. They feel loved, and they also can offer love back to others because they are loved by so many. They also do not live with the mistaken idea that "everyone loves me", elevating themselves to a place of entitlement which will lead to dissatisfaction when the truth sinks in that they are indeed NOT all that special to everyone they meet.

But in this family, in our family, they are deeply, deeply loved and they have family friends who love them too. It is appropriate categorization, it is wise discernment, it is understanding of the varying levels of care offered to us by the numerous people whose paths cross our lives.

Family IS special. I wish everyone had one that made them feel that way.


Karon said...

I am a teacher and also an adoptive parent, and you are right, they are two very different types of love. Your son explaind it very appropriately from a 10 year olds perspective. Love does have a spectrum, and fortunately for many kids, parents usualy fall at the top of that spectrum. As a teacher I will always remeber two of my students who were not so lucky as your kids. Their home lives were terrible and they were regularly yanked in and out of foster care. It sounds like you and your children have developed an amazing two way relationship that is helping them make up for a lot of lost time.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your previous poster. I am also a teacher and an adoptive mom. Often I will have parents who will ask why their children "behave" better for me and I jokingly say that they know that moms and dads have to love them but that I as the teacher don't have to. My own child is the same way.

Anonymous said...

If we are very fortunate in life, we have a teacher now and then who loves teaching, loves to make learning come alive for his/her students, who celebrates progress and mourns stagnancy.

If we are even more blessed, we have family in the most glorious sense, family who loves, accepts, sets boundaries, encourages dreams, celebrates each of us as unique, delightful, loved, cherished.

That is Team--Family LaJoy.


Anonymous said...

Well said ~Cori