“He’s been home for over two years. Isn’t it time you stop thinking about attachment?“
I stared dumbfounded at the face in front of me that had just uttered those hurtful words. I knew in my heart, they were said both in overly-asserted kindness and in ignorance, but I kinda wanted to scream back “Do you have any stinking clue what you are talking about?! Did you read the books?! Did you take the mandatory classes that seemed ridiculous at the time but make total sense now?! Did your child loose their only mother-figure not once but twice?! Were you there when the woman who cared for him for 15 months placed him in my arms and left the room…forever?! Were ya? Has the emotional safety of your child ever been on the forefront of your brain every.single.day?! Huh? Huh???” I chose not to let any of those things come out of my mouth and opted for, “thank you for your concern, I think we have what we need.” Where the Saturday Night Live Church Lady when you need her?
Some people get it. They just do. Either through personal experience or seeking Spiritual Wisdom, they simply understand the long process of adoption healing. It’s a journey, not a destination. Others…well, others, just don’t. I walked away from the conversation above racking my brain on how to better frame the picture of our adoption life to those who aren’t getting it. Unless you have a personalized Karyn Purvis app on your phone (which should totally be a thing, by the way!), how do you explain the lasting neuro-chemical effects of traumatic birth, abandonment, institutional care, and adoption transition? Multiple threads have been yanked from the tapestry of my tiny little human…there will always be a tiny snag in our quilt. It doesn’t have to define my little boy, but as we grow together as a family, our attachment (not to mention developmental) needs will always be a little piece of who we are. A patch. A scar. A chip in the paint.
It’s almost like…like…my niece’s food allergies. (This is seriously what the Lord brought to mind). My gorgeous niece was diagnosed with significant food allergies before 6 months of age. It was a bit of a shock and provided a learning curve for everyone in the family. The simple foods the rest of us so easily took for granted, were now a serious danger to our little girl, and if we didn’t pay attention, she could actually stop breathing. Of course, at the beginning we were in hyper-awareness mode: Was that a safe food? Did we bring extra snacks just for her? Is that restaurant safe? We should talk to the manager. We are going to so-and-so’s house…did we tell them what was OK to prepare for dinner? Do you have the extra Epi-pen or do I? At the start, it took effort on everyone’s part. And as the learning curve has plateaued and we’ve taught our sweet girl how to communicate her own needs (“does dat haf miwk o eggs in it? Miwk n eggs make me BERRY sick.“), the peripheral scanning for potential dangers has become less formal…but still very present. The allergies don’t define my beautiful niece, but are a real part of who she is. In order for us to keep her safe and healthy, as a family, we will always need to protect her differently than the other kids.
THAT is what I wanted to be able to explain to the Doesn’t Get It Person. Until my little boy doesn’t cling to me in a panic after I’ve been in the bathroom/pantry/garage/can’t-see-me-place for too long, I’m going to stay with him as long as he needs me. Until I don’t have to offer the mantra “momma always comes back” with every preschool drop off or play date with Gramma, I will hold and carry him as much as he wants. Until he trusts that food and drink will always be there when he needs it, he can share the food on my plate. If he needs to sleep with me three times this week, I’ll scooch over to my 6 inches of the queen sized bed. Because right now, even after two years, the unspoken “allergies” will indeed do serious damage. He can’t tell me “Momma, I’m scared you’ll go away forever” or that hospitals remind him of the cold beds in the orphanage or whatever else is tucked away in his tender heart. Until he learns how to run to the Lord, I’m his go-to comforter…and that is OK. That is the way God designed our family.
For this is what the Lord says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream, you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:12-13)