I don’t consider myself to be a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not exactly sure what being a parenting expert is or how one earns that title. But I can say that in the last 22 years I’ve been able to navigate some pretty rough waters. There are some people close to me that are navigating some rough parenting waters too and I think that I have something to offer in the experience God has brought my family through so I thought I’d share it.
I had my oldest daughter, Amanda when I was 17. Which means that I’ve been a mom for over half of my life. Her early years were really difficult because besides having a mom that was so young her bio-dad abandoned her when she was two. She was so young and so sweet and so happy that I honestly thought it didn’t bother her. I figured that she couldn’t even really remember much. I was there for her and so were my parents and my brother. We all loved her so much and I thought it was enough to make up for her not having a dad around.
I should add that he was a pretty bad guy. He was a drug dealer that almost always carried a gun in the front of his pants- gangster style. I met him at private school which is really more ironic than anything. His first arrest was shortly after he left us for good and when they raided his house the drug squad threw in concussion grenades and came in with big guns- I was told all this after the fact. And even though it was painful that he left, God was watching over us and we weren’t at that house that day. A fact that I am forever grateful for.
After our divorce and because of the things that he was doing I really wanted to keep Amanda away from him. I had started college and was really trying to change our life for the better. One day he called and asked to see Amanda and I said I wouldn’t let him. He didn’t support her in any way, not even in the $25 dollars a week he was supposed to pay in child support, and I didn’t want her to have anything to do with him. To say that I feared for her safety is a bit of an understatement. A couple of weeks later I got a letter in the mail saying that I was to go to mediation with a court ordered mediator.
During that meeting we, bio-dad, the mediator, and I talked about all sorts of things and bio-dad admitted to being a crack dealer. It didn’t matter to the mediator whatsoever and I was ordered to let Amanda go to “supervised” visits two days a week and a schedule of holidays. His mother was the made the supervisor. She, however, never supervised any visits.
I was 20 and was in way over my head. The courts were not on my side nor Amanda’s. Their job is to uphold the law and to ensure that everyone gets their rights. There is a very long legal leash in regards to severing a parents rights and I knew that I needed help to navigate this situation in a way that would save Amanda- because that’s really what I felt I was doing- saving her.
I had completely, radically, and totally rededicated my life to the Lord around that time and I have to tell you that I spent a lot of time praying. So, I asked God for wisdom and He gave it to me.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault,
and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
I love that verse, especially when it comes to how God gives wisdom. He gives it generously to all without finding fault.
All– that means everyone who asks. Not just Amy because I’m special or God’s favorite. Not because of anything I did to deserve it but just because I asked. And without finding fault. It could have been said of me, and probably was, that it was all my fault. I’d gotten myself into that mess and I deserved what I got. But that’s not what God was saying. He was saying that He’d forgiven me of all my sins, of all my mistakes and He was ready, willing and able to give me the wisdom I needed to navigate these circumstances. So that yes, we would be safe, but it was even more than that. God’s plan is always more than what we can see right in front of us.
The next six years (that’s how long it took me to graduate from college) I listened to what the Holy Spirit was saying and I had to obey. It doesn’t do any good to receive wisdom if it isn’t put into practice. And here’s what it was- I had to not antagonize my ex-husband. When Amanda was left waiting for hours looking for her dad to come but he never showed up I had to not chew him out. That is completely and totally contrary to my nature. When someone hurts someone that I love not only do I want to chew them out, I need to chew them out. But I kept my mouth shut. When bio-dad was wearing all sorts of bling and designer clothes, I never took him back to court for more child support. Why? Because I knew he loved money more than anything else and if he was paying more then he would want what he payed for- Amanda. Thankfully, living with my parents while I was in college enabled me to do that. When he called to have Amanda I played along and acted like I couldn’t have cared less- which I have to say should have earned me an Oscar since what I really wanted to do was scratch his eyes out. What can I say? I have a bit of a temper.
But I had to not give in to my temper. I had to encourage bio-dad to see Amanda when he would call. Usually out of the blue, once or twice a year. Because he had to think that I wanted him to have a relationship with her since he only called if he thought he could get under my skin or when his mom nagged him into it. I had to not panic and trust the Lord on the few occasions that he did pick her up. Well, honestly there were times that I did panic- like when he kept her out hours after the agreed upon time- but I took it to “the throne of grace”.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
All of this was counter-intuitive to me. I don’t know for sure that my parents were keen on the plan. Although they helped so much. For the most part they let me do what I thought was best without panicking or interfering. If anything happened to me though they had a plan to take Amanda on the first flight to Switzerland. You know, to stay. At least until she turned 18.
Eventually, I graduated, got married and Travis adopted Amanda. At the point that we started the adoption process she hadn’t spent any time with bio-dad in 5 years. He never even responded to the adoption papers we sent him. And now is where everyone would read in the story, “And they all lived happily ever after”- but everyone would be wrong. I have to get to the, “We all loved her so much and I thought it was enough to make up for her not having a dad around” part of the story. I promise it does end well, it just takes a lot of time.
I’ll share more later.