Attachment Series: Stay home.

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Apart from understanding that attachment is important and will not happen immediately, as well as expecting less of your new child, one of the most important things you can do to foster attachment is to stay home.

By the time our plane landed, we had spent nearly six really hard weeks in a foreign country. We loved that place so much, but we were worn slap out from all the inter-governmental drama and from the adoption process itself. We were so glad to be home. Finally. With our whole family together. Happily ever after. The end. 

But we live a big life, remember? And The Captain and I were eager to get back to it. We figured we had those six weeks together in Africa and that was enough cocooning for us. We were wrong about that. When we jumped back into the big life with playdates and going out to eat and going to church and going to work and having dinner with friends, we mistakenly communicated to Pearl that she had just joined a family of nomads.

We were selfish, considering only our own needs of getting back to life as usual. We did not consider Pearl's need, even as a 15 month old baby, to have secure ties to her new home. She needed that time of close boundaries to explore and feel safe without having to take in and process too many new things at once. An abundance of new sights, smells, and sounds are overwhelming for anyone...especially for our children coming from different time zones, climates, and cultures.

We thought Pearl would feel safe just because we told her this was her new home.

We failed to

show her

it was her home by spending as much time as possible within our walls, just playing and laughing and being together. We did stay home plenty, and have gobs of fun memories from that time. It just should have been more.

If we could get a do-over, we would stay home. If you are currently in process and eagerly anticipating your own coming-home day, prep now by stocking up on non-perishables. Talk to your church, small group, family, and friends about helping you out with meals when you get home. Prepare your family and closest friends on what to expect and how to support you in this when you return. Work out a deal with a bud or college kid who can help you out by grabbing your grocery list and debit card and picking up what you need so you don't have to leave at all. 

Know that you will want to get out. You will want to share your new kid with your world, especially the ones who have cheered you on throughout the immensely difficult journey of adoption. Resist the temptation to do so too quickly. 

That timeline, like every other aspect of adopting, is different for every child and every situation. Just be attuned to your kid’s needs and respond to them before you respond to your own desires of escaping or getting back to your very own big life.

Attachment Series: Expect less.

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I would expect less of my child.

Our adoption journey was hard. Easier than it is for some, harder than it is for others, but for us, it was just really

hard

. It was a very difficult time of uncertainty, but one thing we knew beyond all reasonable doubt was that God had chosen this for our family. We prayed and cried and prayed and cried and prayed and cried for about 18 months. It was intense and it was difficult but we clung to the assurance of God’s calling and the knowledge that at the end would be a beautiful little girl who otherwise would not have had a family. And we knew she was worth it. And we knew that we loved her so.

Oh, we loved her so.

We could not wait for our happily ever after….for her to love us back.

Once we got home, we quickly learned that Pearl did not love us back. We were completely blind to it, because after all we had gone through so much, traveled so far, given so much, sacrificed so much…for her.

We had given everything because we loved her

. It might sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me now, but during that early, hard time, I was in so deep that I wasn’t even consciously aware that this was my thought process.

Why didn’t she love us back? Two reasons. First,

she had lost everything and everyone

she knew and to her, that was our fault. Second

, she did not know how

. The culture of an orphanage was all she knew, and she did not even begin to understand the culture of a family.

If you don’t know this already, it is vitally essential to be aware that there is (not just can be…

IS

) a huge difference in an adopted child’s physical age and their emotional age. Regardless of their physical age, children who are adopted begin with an emotional age of 0. They are infants, emotionally-speaking. Treat them as such.

When you are looking at your new big kid or holding your 8-month-old, envision that they are tiny little  newborn babies at their emotional core. This concept really solidified for me just six months ago when I held Sweet Love in those early days. I didn’t expect one thing from my biological infant…I just poured my love out to her and subconsciously knew that eventually she would love me back when she had the capacity to do so. The same is true for our adopted children. They cannot love us at first; they don’t even have the capacity. Even if they say that they love you very quickly, it is more likely that they truly do not understand what that means.

Just love them and don’t expect them to love you back anytime soon.

Remind yourself over and over and over that they.do.not.know.how.

And as you let them off the hook of expectation, you release an enormous amount of pressure from your budding relationship. 

What do we do for infants? We repeatedly perform acts of service for them to gain their trust. We do not leave them. We look them in the eye, even when they can’t look back at us, and we tell them we love them. We sing to them. We keep them comfortable. We put lotion on them. We mirror their sounds. When they cry or display any physical show of distress, we respond immediately. We use calm, soothing tones when we speak to them. We teach them that they can trust us, as their parents, (and right now only us) to meet their needs.

Eventually, after some time (and that looks differently for every child and in every situation), our children do learn to trust us.

Gradually, they will love you back.

Expect less of your child.