Tag Archives: bonding

The Language of Belonging

It’s called “claiming behavior.” It’s a big part of adoption, especially with an older child. Intentional actions to physically demonstrate belonging, not just for the child, but for our whole family.

We put pictures of him on the wall, alongside our other children.

We made sure his room was ready for him.

We put his old toys from foster family alongside his new toys on the shelf.

We talk about “our family” a lot and include him in all our traditions.

We got him a health card with his new name on it.

We insisted that the hospital change the name on his file, even if they weren’t willing to change the number “until it is final.”

Last week, I bought him a stocking that matches all the rest.

Nothing tentative. Nothing temporary. This is home and he’s here to stay. Of course, he’s only 2, so I’m not sure how much of that translates. But his sisters heard it loud and clear. And we did too.

The first six months of an adoption placement are viewed by some as a trial period; a see-how-it-goes-and-if-this-thing-takes time. But we’re not wired that way. You can’t practice commitment. And parenting requires commitment.

You never know what you are going to get (not with adoptive or birth children), but parents weather the storm. And even when things take a turn for the worst, even if you can’t be everything they need, even if they have to live elsewhere or are out of your control or screw everything up in the scariest ways… you don’t bail. You scramble and fumble and give tough love and soft love and why-isn’t-this-enough-to-fix-you love, until the end. The parents I see in the most painful situations with the most at risk kids are ones I admire most. Not because they are perfect or do everything right, but because they are there. Parenting requires commitment.

This is the part where it would be so easy for me to devolve into a rant about adoption dissolution. Remember the mother who put her young son on a plane to Russia, returning him to his country of origin like he was a malfunctioning toaster? I was gratified to hear she was charged with child neglect and abandonment. This type of thing is a sadly common story, and that is probably the reason for six months of custody before finalization of an adoption.

Heaping trauma onto an already hurting child seems unconscionable, no matter how difficult they may be. Yet, I can’t sit here, with my happily-ever-after story, and judge these overwhelmed parents. I don’t know what it is like for them or why their families fell apart. I just know it’s devastating all around.

When we brought our boy home, we brought him home for good. I’ve had my moments of paranoia and anxiety: that unhappy birth family may contest the placement, that social workers may decide they’ve found a better match, that aliens would steal our bodies and replace our consciousness with their own… None of them likely scenarios. Still, it is haunting when we have made an absolute commitment to parenting, but aren’t legally his parents yet.

Right now, we share custody with the ministry. Officially, he is a ward of the state. We are required to inform them of any major changes in situation or health problems. They have to sign off on significant paperwork. We do not have a birth certificate or identification for him. Obviously, they hold this lightly; they WANT us to step up and parent and leave them out of it all.

But I will breathe easier when we are officially the sole guardians of our son. It’s more than just a piece of paper. It will give us all the rights and responsibilities of any parent, exactly the same as our other children. And it is on the way.

Today it is six months since we brought our son home. Today our social worker is applying to finalize (which usually takes 2-3 months). Today we begin the last leg of our journey, and when it is over we are going to have a HUGE party! Today we celebrate 183 days of rough and tumble, snuggly and sweet, loud and crazy!

What better way than with this modern-day ritual – another claiming behaviour for all the world to see.

stickfam

So here’s us, in cheesy stick family format on the back of our mini van.

Advertisements

Staking a Claim

He learned a new word. A word MOST parents of toddlers dread. But when he pressed his drooly little finger to my breastbone and said it, my heart grew 10 sizes.

“MINE!”

He also applied it vociferously to apple slices, a fuzzy blue blankie, Daddy’s iPad and every item he likes during a two day period. Then it slipped away, as most new words do these days. It makes infrequent appearances now while he channels his energy towards the newest, greatest, most exciting word. Yesterday it was “cookie.”

mineI know it probably wasn’t the profound statement I am making it out to be. He is trying on new vocabulary. He is possessive in the way of all 2-year-olds. He is the youngest of four and prefers to remain the center of attention at all times.

But I need these moments. I hold onto them with both hands. They are a gift of proof. Reassurance that the future we hoped for is reality and our faith is not in vain. This was meant to be. He is our son. He is MINE. And I am HIS.

This same week, while at Mother Goose singing time, some unknown element triggered a bout of grief. Whether it was the colour of shirt she was wearing or the way she had done her hair or the smell of her perfume, S latched onto one of the other Moms with a frantic grip. He screamed, “Mama! Mama!” and would not let her go. Lately he calls everyone “Mama,” so that part didn’t hurt, but the anguished cries as I pried him off of the poor woman… that stung. It happened several times until we finally left.

We have spent time with her before and since then. He doesn’t pay her much attention at all. Obviously, that day, he was reliving something. And I played it cool and acted like it wasn’t a big deal. I mentally rehearsed all that I knew about unpredictable grief and trauma, and reminded myself that this is not really about me at all.

Rejection is hard to take. Rejection from your own child is especially brutal.

So, when he reaches for me, when he fusses about me leaving the room, when he checks to makes sure I’m still there, when he makes strange, when he snuggles into a hug… I need it just as much as he does.

The greatest surprise of this adoption (apart from my pitiful stamina in the going-without-sleep-marathon) is how insecure I feel. In my mind I know that things are going well; that attachment is a process and although messy and overwhelmed much of the time, our family is thriving. But my heart is not so confident.

Tomorrow we are getting together with birth family. It will be our first outing with S’ two brothers. The three boys are being raised in different homes by different people, and none with birth mom. Hopefully they will sit on Santa’s lap so she can have the picture she wants so badly. Hopefully they will play nicely with each other. Hopefully the adults will play nice too.

So here’s me, once again, not as calm and mature about the whole thing as I thought I would be. Losing My Cool is becoming a theme. But I also hope that birth mom gets a good visit with the boys. She must already feel rejected and replaced. I’ve had only a small taste and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.


%d bloggers like this: