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
. 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…
) 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.