Are you parenting in camping mode?

I love roasted marshmallows. No really, I LOVE them. I’ve only ever met one other adult who could meet me marshmallow for marshmallow around a campfire. They are this amazing sweet, melty fluffy gooey delight I indulge freely in for the couple of camping trips we take in a year.

When our family ventured off for a year-long road-trip in 2014, marshmallows were definitely part of the initial “we’re doing this!” first night celebration around the campfire. And the second night. And the third night. After all, we were camping, right?

Somewhere around week 3, I was still enamored with their puffy sweetness, but the nearly nightly roasting was making me start to feel a bit like a marshmallow myself. It dawned on me that while roasting marshmallows is a great treat as part of an occasional celebration, they simply cannot be a lifestyle. Eating marshmallows day after day has consequences that don’t serve my health, complexion, or waistline well. After a day of mourning, I gave up the marshmallow habit, relegating them back to the once or twice a year treat.

I like to think of adoptive parenting as the ultimate road-trip, in fact the trip of 2 lifetimes. It is a journey that we undertake when our children join our families and creates a road that we will travel on as long as we live.

Yes, some people would say that is true for all parents. And I think there is more to it for adoptive families. There is simply more to do, more to be, more to provide. It takes longer for our kids to sink deeply into attachment. There is more involved for them as they move towards self-definition: literally three times more. Not just the regular tasks of individuation that come during adolescence and early adulthood, but also working out who they are and want to be in regards to adoption and race. And each major milestone in life requires support and evaluation with regards to their identities.

I am convinced that our adopted kids need us more, for longer. They need us to be right next to them (or if they are teens, sometimes down the block a bit where they can see us but nobody knows we’re together). They need us to have their backs. They need us to listen, to try to understand, and to hold safe space for their anger and their tears. They need us to believe in them as they wobble and falter.

Which brings me back to marshmallows. For our kids, we have to be in this for the long haul. We have to eschew marshmallows for the equivalent of eating a hearty green salad every day so that we can show up with warmth, generosity, insight, and clarity for them.

For me parenting salad includes a few key ingredients:

  • getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night
  • feeding myself and my family foods that keep us healthy and even keeled
  • connecting with friends that can hear my struggles as a parent
  • getting the exercise I need to keep my stress low
  • finding proactive ways to vent my own frustrations
  • Laughing – a really big, full belly laugh
  • Crying my tears about the things that aren’t going the way I want them to

And then it really helps to throw in some crunchy bits:

  • Reading a really fun book
  • Mindfulness or meditation
  • Solitude, the occasional chunk of time to simply be
  • Indulging in a hobby for a little bit most days

How’s your adoptive parenting self-care diet? What is one thing you can do this week to be a healthier, happier you?

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