Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Maybe We All Need Parenting Classes (and other truths we don't want to admit)

I wonder how many parenting classes the average parent has had.  As I look at this picture, and think about the things this crazy child does, I wonder if maybe I need more!  I wonder how many parents are CPR/First Aid certified.  With all the frustrations and mounds of paperwork required for the great state of California to deem me an acceptable parent, I do think there are some good things that come out of it.  Every year, we are required to complete eight hours of classes that have something to do with parenting our hopefully soon-to-be-adopted child (we don’t have another one in our home yet, but have be current just in case we get the call).  If you include the first year of the process to get approved to adopt, that means we have attended at least 29 three-hour classes, not including the three we are due to attend this month, or the three-hour CPR/First Aid classes we have to attend every other year.  And even though we are only required to have eight hours each year, the classes are almost always three-hour classes, so that really makes nine hours each year.  The math=96 hours of parenting-related classes, not including the twelve hours we will attend this month, making the total at least 108 hours!  Okay….ENOUGH MATH!

So, what kind of classes?  Here is the list.  Many of these have multiple sessions, but even so, we have been required to take so many hours that we have had to repeat the classes over the years.  Keep in mind that these classes are for foster parents and adoptive parents, as in California, you have to be certified for both since technically you are foster parents until the adoption is final.

·         --Embracing Your Child’s Heritage (I did another blog post based on this class called “Am I Racist for Wanting a White Baby?”)
·        -- Risk Factors (which will “examine current information about inherited illnesses (including mental illnesses), congenital conditions (including cerebral palsy), and the risks and effects of prenatal drug exposure, alcohol and HIV.”)
·        -- Attachment Parenting (session is six three-hour classes designed to give tools and techniques to help children who have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect, etc., be able to form healthy relationships)
·         --Kinship Adoption (for those adopting an extended family member)
·         --Adoption after Infertility (required for those adopting because of failed fertility treatment….we had to take this one)
·         --Adoption the Lifelong Process (covers issues that arise over the life of an adopted child, including how to talk about their experience before and after adoption, how to talk about birthparents, exploring what it means to them to be adopted, etc.)
·         --The Placement Process (self-explanatory—all the nuts and bolts of the adoption process)
·         --Adult Adoptee Panel (one of my favorites—usually two to three people who were adopted as children and now share their stories, the challenges they faced and how they overcame and/or deal with issues that often arise in adopted children)

Those are the core classes that are repeated every year.  Then there are others that are taught from time to time.  Here are some of the ones I’ve seen recently:  Beyond Consequences (better ways to discipline children, especially those that have been affected by neglect and/or abuse and who don’t respond positively to traditional discipline methods;  Social Skills for Youth, Parenting the Hurt Child, Anger Issues, Shaken Baby Syndrome, etc., etc., not to mention classes about the particulars like how your adoption benefit works, applying for extra help with special needs children, plus the initial PRIDE classes which is the nine-class session everyone has to take when initially getting certified to Foster Parent/Adopt.  These classes go through so much information from the basics of the process, to many of the things that kids and parents in the system go through.   Double Whew!

My point in sharing this, is that at first, I felt a little frustrated.  I mean, you look around and you see so many people that you feel (and I know this is totally judgmental!) have absolutely no business being parents.  Often their pregnancies were unwanted, or they are on drugs and/or alcohol and continue to abuse those substances while pregnant, or they are living on the streets, or have no means of supporting a child, or even worse, of being able to actually have feelings of love and commitment to a child.  And yet, I, as a potential adoptive parent, have to jump through so many hoops and have people ask me very personal questions about past relationships and my job status, and look at my bank statement and ask how my childhood will affect my parenting.  I have to take a class about adopting after years of infertility treatment to make sure I’m in the right state of mind to have a child.  They question stupid decisions I made twenty years ago, checking carefully under my fingernails to make sure there is no dirt there.  It is really hard to not get self-righteous about how I can be a better parent than someone else.  And I say this as a person who does not look down on others for any of those reasons.  I do try to have compassion and know that I don’t know their circumstances and therefore have no right to judge.  But when we stand side by side, and they are allowed to keep their child and I have to do just the right dance to get mine, it’s hard not to start making comparisons.  That said, here is what I’ve learned from this, as I implement my silver-lining approach to life….maybe more of us need parenting classes.  We have to take classes to get certified for all kinds of things—driving a car, getting a degree, handling food as a waitress, learning to sew, becoming a Zumba instructor, and the list goes on.  And how many of those involve something as important as the 24/7 care of a human life?  I have a wonderful group of mom friends, and when we get together, do you know what the bulk of our conversations are about?  Yep….parenting.  How to be better.  How to help our children read and write and sleep better and not be brats and potty train and stop whining and be unselfish and share and grow to be wonderful, productive members of society who care for their fellowman.  Okay, maybe it’s not always worded like that, but that truly is the intent.  And yet, most of us only have a few years of experience.  Maybe it’s not such a bad idea for us to take a class on how to be better at the most important job we will ever have.  I have found that I have drawn many helpful truths out of the almost 100 hours I have spent in these classes, and am wondering if maybe, in all the frustration of going through “the system”—maybe they have this part right.  And maybe we can all take a step back and be more open to accepting help and seeking out answers from those who have gone before us and have tread that water.  Why are we trying to reinvent the wheel every minute of the day?  I’m grateful for this adoption experience for so many reasons, but one of the big reasons is that I have been forced to learn and to be more open.  I’m not cured, but I’m better for having lived it and for embracing what I have to do and seeing the great benefits, and I think letting my carefree child jump off big cement dolphins is maybe part of what makes me a good mom.

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