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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Bratcher, CMHC

Wildflowers: When parenting is not what we expected

When I first thought about parenting, I must admit it was all about me.

I thought about what I imagined my experience as a mother would look like. For my biological children, it was about the typical experiences of seeing excitement and joy on their faces, hearing them call me “mama”, and so many different things I dreamed we would do together. When I stepped into the foster and adoptive mother role, it was many of those same things but also about what I would be able to give them as a parent.

All those visions aren’t bad things. I genuinely wanted all my children to be happy, safe, and loved. Yet in the last 20 years of parenting, I have learned more than a thing or two about what it means to see my children as they are versus how I want or hope they will be.

Parents envision these tiny little mini-me humans and maybe we hope they will want to do all the things we want to do, like the things we like, and above all love us as much every moment as we love them.

This is not cloning folks……..

Instead, we get to meet these humans who want what they want, fear what they fear, and sometimes have no idea what to do with the love we want to give them and can act in very unloving ways in response.

In our program, we have come to view our girls as wildflowers for exactly this reason. A wildflower is something that is exactly itself and may not fit in the mold that our rows of tulips may be growing. They have a sense of freedom, often lacking conformity to what we imagine or even planned for them.

A wildflower can often be mistaken for a weed, something that is unwanted, in the way, even challenging or difficult that we don’t want to clutter our garden (or our routine).

Parents ultimately want their children to be safe and have a good life generally.

Our way of helping that to happen is often to guide them down a path that we have experienced or been told is the best way to get there. We may want our kids to go to college, to participate in a certain sport, hang out with certain people or believe certain things. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. That frightens us.

So, we may beg, threaten, coerce or even bribe our kids to just do it our way, to just follow the path we have laid out for them. When they don’t, we often feel there is something wrong with us or something wrong with them, or often both.

We stop asking questions and listening.

We start demanding. We blame and we withdraw. Then we wonder why we don’t feel very close to our kids, and they don’t feel very close to us. We worry that something bad will happen to them and they feel like we really don’t understand them and may not even love them.

This is where we bring in our wildflower approach. Each person, adult or child needs many similar things just like a flower may need many similar things. Humans need food, water, shelter, safety, love, and connection (among many other things). Flowers need soil, sun, air, and water. Each human and flower, however, often needs a varying amount of each source and it may vary quite a bit from one to the next. Honeysuckle must have something to climb while thyme stay close to the ground. Some people need to be surrounded by others and some need lots of quiet space to recharge.

When a person experiences trauma and loss, many of those needs may change. Perhaps we need more time to get to know someone, time to trust them and to test them over and over again. Perhaps we need encouragement to battle to repeated negative statements in our head that play repeatedly like a broken record. Perhaps we need someone to help us figure out who we are without telling us who we are.

Raising children that don’t fit into the picture we imagined can be exhausting, discouraging, even scary. Sometimes you may even feel like giving up.

Instead, we encourage you to take a step back as you consider your young wildflower. What do they need? What do you need to help them? What do you need to help you?

When you don’t know how to answer those questions, as many of us may find out, it’s time to look for the experts to help us in the learning curve. You would find an expert to help with your garden, your health, even your house. It’s ok to get some support while trying to love your children in some of the most challenging developmental phases of their lives.

The next time you are going along and see something that doesn’t quite fit in or isn’t what or where you expected, think of the wildflower.

Remember all the beauty and grace that the unexpected can bring with a deeper understanding of unexpected garden of life.

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