Parenting is one of the few times in life when we see our true self. When I was talking with our pediatrician about my concerns of my son being overly aggressive and stubborn, she smiled and asked me if I had earned a PhD, two Masters, and started a business before I turned 40 by being non-confrontational. I had to laugh, but every day I know the most honest mirror of my own personality is not the number of followers I have in my blog or what I accomplish, it is how my son treats others.

As we are getting ready to bring our second son (little W) home from Ethiopia, I have been thinking quite a bit about the type of children I want to raise and the type of parent I want to be. Even with a doctorate in Human Systems, my first son (big W) has had 4 years of trial and error parenting. I think of my first child, who has had the best medical care and anything he has ever needed (or wanted) since the day he was born, and wonder how both he and I can learn from my second son who is still halfway across the globe.

Without trying to sound patronizing, I wonder what we could all learn from this little boy I have yet to meet. Here is what I have learned so far.

I know I need to let go of the little things more often. My house is far from organized, the nanny bought the wrong size laundry detergent, and one of my employees wore tennis shoes and brought a bottle of hand sanitizer when we met the VP at our client site. Even as I write these I know I sound a bit pompous and too wound up for my own good, but my lesson is to remember these are the small things. I am learning to close my eyes and think of little W running around the orphanage's playground, in pink shoes that are too big for his little feet, just waiting to find out when he will meet his new family. Everything else is the small stuff.

I know I can respect others more. A few weeks ago I saw a news story of a father beating up a high school referee at his daughter’s basketball game and wondered what could make a father lash out like that and what example does that behavior set for our kids? I do not know anyone who would think for a moment that hitting a referee is socially acceptable, but how often do I roll my eyes at co-workers or lose my patience with my spouse for no reason at all? With more conveniences than anyone in developing and Third World countries could ever imagine, I know there is no reason to let anger fester. We have food, shelter, and access to a social safety-net and health care; the least we can do is respect one another and show our gratitude for our blessings.

I want to be a person who is happy with less and gives more. My second son has already taught me to say “we really do not need more stuff” more often. While I give thanks for all my family has every day, I also realize that all the “things” we have lead to almost all my husband’s and my marital quarrels and stress (who does the laundry, the house is a mess, who does the dishes, who takes out the trash). Our family is not the type that needs to “keep up with the Joneses”, but it is easy to get caught up in appearances and what my life should look like to others. Maybe my house does not look like Martha Stewart designed it, but I have a home. That is what matters most.

Like most parents, I want my children to be healthy, happy, and respectful to others and the planet. Like most parents, I want my children to realize that life is not replaceable and things are just that, stuff. I want them to know that more toy cars and a bigger house can never replace good health, deep friendships, a loving family, and positive self-esteem. I only hope I can help foster a home environment that keeps all the good, modesty, and pureness my new son already possesses as we bring him home to the “land of opportunity”. Everyone tells me how wonderful it is for us to “save” a child from a life of poverty, but I wonder, who is saving whom?

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Christina T. Schlachter is an internationally recognized professional speaker, author, blogger, mother, wife, and Ironman finisher – not to mentioned a PhD in Human Development. She enlightens, engages, and encourages audiences around the world with her light-hearted yet well-researched seminars and workshops on women in leadership and reinventing your career, body, and life.