Unlearning

Guest post by Denise Beeman Sasiain, foster mother to Summer, 17, who will stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood; Isabella Hope, 3, who they’ve had since birth and adopted last year; Xavier (aka X-man), 2, who they are in the process of adopting; and Daniella Joy, 1, who they’ve also had from birth and recently adopted. 

Denise and Izzie

Denise and Izzie

Yesterday I was driving in late afternoon traffic.  I was behind a slow moving vehicle that unfortunately seemed to be going the exact same place I was headed. After several delays, I said out loud, “You are driving me crazy.” Not a second later, I heard my 3 year old in the seat behind me repeat the same words, mimicking my exact intonation.  I hoped that she’d soon forget those words, but what’s the likelihood of that?

I suddenly felt a huge responsibility to make sure that I teach my children, through my example, a good way to live and to be. I also saw with amazing clarity the tremendous challenges that lie in parenting a foster and/or adopted child, who has had years or even decades to learn and imitate another’s behavior. Let’s face it, much of what they have learned and imitated is not what most would consider appropriate behavior. How a parent responds to rush hour traffic is just one small example. How do we begin to teach characteristics like discipline, integrity, and living a balanced, happy life?

The best way for children to unlearn inappropriate behaviors is for them to see correct ones lived out daily in front of their eyes.  Quality time is awesome, but it doesn’t mean quantity doesn’t matter. Lots of time being together will serve to model good behavior and has much more of an impact than any lecture ever could. Patience and understanding will be our fallback throughout the lengthy process.

As if to seal my thoughts and convictions on this topic, later that evening I heard my teenage daughter say to my son, “You are won … der … ful. I love you soooo much,” using the same intonation and wording that I typically use. With tears in my eyes, I turned away and silently hoped that those words and even the intonation will long outlive me as she says them to her future children and even her grandchildren.

It is crucial to remember as we parent, that our words, our parenting styles, and even our lifestyles can and will be passed down to future generations. Will our influence, and our legacy, be a positive or a negative one?

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