A simple definition of the word imprint would be to make a mark using pressure. Every day we imprint others and they imprint us. Parents most certainly imprint their children and this can be a scary thought.
I, as an adult, was imprinted by each child I fostered. My outlook, my attitude, my opinions were all marked by the pressure of the moment. When you open your home and your heart to a child who is a total stranger one moment and then your responsibility the next, it imprints you.
I remember one small girl who was blonde-haired, blue-eyed and fair-skinned. She was so fair-skinned that when her abusive momma slapped her hard across the face, her handprint was evident in a red welp. This child, who was about four years old only stayed with us a short time as the system sorted out an appropriate family member placement and yet here, twenty years later, I can still see her face and that hand imprint.
One of the greatest challenges I face as an adoptive mother of older-children is helping my children deal with the imprints they have received before they arrive in my life. One of the greatest challenges any parent faces is being very careful about the inevitable imprints we make upon our children.
Let me tell you truthfully, there are plenty of imprints that I have made that I wish I could erase. Imprints aren’t easily erased however. Even if the ink is removed from an embossed piece of leather, the impression from the force (pressure) of the mark remains. It scars the material you might say. Lots of hearts bear many scars.
The hearts of foster children are marked, scarred, imprinted. It is unavoidable under the circumstances. I wish with all of my heart that I could say the negative imprints my adopted children received who came at older ages simply vanished when I made them my own. I wish I could say my children have never been negatively imprinted by me, the momma who loves them deeply. But, yes, I’ve spoken carelessly, lost my temper, reacted wrongly and left my own negative imprints. I may have left imprints of disapproval or rejection when that isn’t what I intended at all.
So, then what hope is there? How can we, as well-intended yet imperfect parents raise our children without ruining them?
We, as parents need to do our best. We need to improve our parenting skills. We need to break unhealthy cycles. We need to encourage our children to try rather than discourage them when they fail. We need to accept them, love them, nurture them and imprint upon them a sense of self-worth, compassion and integrity. We need to do everything we possibly can. But, we can’t put our hope in ourselves or in any other person to make perfect imprints every time.
We have hope because healing is possible. As a Christian I have hope because I believe God heals, prayer matters and in the end love wins.
The most important parenting tip I could ever give anyone is to not attempt it alone. If you don’t have a supportive family structure, purposely search out support from other sources. Our church promotes small groups as a way to connect with others. If you are a single parent, an adoptive parent, a special- needs parent, a parent of multiples, a parent who is struggling, find a group of people who will relate to those issue and understand those struggles.
I believe as a #momofmany, that the negative imprints in our life can be turned around and used for good. We can be made stronger, kinder, more compassionate than we would have been otherwise. If you have been wounded or if you have wounded another, there is great power in forgiveness. There is great hope for healing. I know it because I have seen it, I have lived it, I have witnessed it.
Today my prayer for myself and for you is that our words, our actions and reactions, our attitudes, our lives would leave imprints of hope, joy, peace and love on our children, our families and our friends. I pray that not one person will part from our presence feeling the sting of criticism, sharp retorts, impatient words or angry looks. I pray that today we ourselves will be shielded from those who would negatively impact us. I pray that we would be healed and our hearts will be made whole. I pray that we ourselves would be used by God in the healing process of others, especially our precious children. I pray that tonight when we consider today we will be able to say, “I’ve done my best, I’ll trust God with the rest.” Amen