Your Permission Slip

May 25, 2015 Attachment, first year home, Kelly 11 Comments

When I asked you how things were going, you started to cry. Through your tears, you told me how great your new son’s eye contact is, how he likes to be held, how he lets you know what he wants. You told me how everything is really so good, so much better than you were prepared for. But, you were still crying when you said that.

I imagine you were your social worker’s dream family. You dotted all your Is and crossed all your Ts. Not only was every form filled out completely and perfectly, but you didn’t fuss about any of the training required. You were your agency’s star student, soaking up every minute of every training with paper and pen in hand, taking notes lest you forget something. Every recommended book is now part of your library with broken bindings and yellow highlights throughout. You can channel your inner Dan Siegel and Karyn Purvis and explain the attachment cycle and define time-ins to any captive audience. You’re it — the well-prepared, ready-to-go adoptive mom equipped with a full holster of every attachment-building tool there is. 

And, then you adopted your son. 


You remind me a little of that friend we all have, the one who went to Lamaze classes or the like and somehow heard the message — or simply chose to hear it — that if you learn all the breathing tricks and positions that labor and delivery would be relatively painless, that somehow her own learned skills and oxygen-inhaling prowess would trump the reality of biology.

Yeah… it doesn’t that work that way.

Here’s what just happened. You and your husband, quite comfortable and relatively confident in your parenthood experience to the one biological child you already had, grew your family again. That’s always hard. And, since you did that through this incredible adventure of adoption, you multiplied that hard exponentially. While it’s normal for a mom to feel overwhelmed and tired and totally consumed by her new child who needs her all the time, you feel all that and your new child is not a sleepy infant and your child doesn’t understand English and you are scared to death that all the anxiety and growing sense of oxygen-inhaling failure on your part is going to break down whatever foundations of attachment have been built and that your adoption fund is going to be replaced by a therapy fund to pay for all the additional trauma you are going to bring into your child’s life.

{take a deep breath right about…. now}

All those rules and tools you’ve studied and prepped for — the baby-wearing, the co-sleeping, the skin-to-skin contact, the commitment to be the only one to meet his every need, the keeping him within several feet at all times, the cocooning, the intentional regression — they are not the end all; rather, they are the means to an end with that end being relationship. That’s the most important thing. If those good rules and tools are so binding to you right now that they are actually hindering relationship, you have the permission to step away from the books and the blogs and the webinars and experience freedom as the mother God’s called you to be to your son.

It’s not forever, but for now, find what it is that you need whether that is grocery store runs sans anyone under 3 feet tall, a break to go have coffee with a friend one afternoon, going back to your weekly women’s group with a sitter in your friend’s basement, or something else entirely different. Find what it is that you need so that you can get on track with building a relationship with your son rather than falling into a pattern of going through the motions that you think you need to do but growing seeds in you of fear, questions, and resentment — all of which are enemies to relationship.

Friend, this is hard, yes. But, you can do hard; you were made for hard. You are exactly what your son and your daughter need right now — in your frailty, in your weakness, in your tears.

– photo by Tish Goff

11 responses to “Your Permission Slip”

  1. Jenny Kleiman says:


  2. Megan says:

    Oh my goodness, thank you. We’ve been home 2 months, and I feel suffocated by the blogs and books right now. I want to do everything right, but I’m so overwhelmed and spend every second of the day second guessing everything I do. I will think things are going fairly well, and then be certain everything is falling apart. And how could my husband and I possibly be on the same page when I don’t know what page I’m on? Sorry to ramble, but thank you for a post encouraging me to take a deep breathe and give myself permission to look at the big picture for just a few minutes.

  3. Thank you… Just what she needs right now… Here’s my favorite quote that puts into words how I felt every day for awhile… but now just once in awhile… progress! *smile*

    “…you feel all that and your new child is not a sleepy infant and your child doesn’t understand English and you are scared to death that all the anxiety and growing sense of oxygen-inhaling failure on your part is going to break down whatever foundations of attachment have been built…”

  4. Kerri says:

    Nailed it on the head. Wow.

  5. Mylene says:

    Wow! I feel as if you’ve been in my house as I’m reading this article. I’m already connected to you as you led the team that ministered to my son in Baoji. We’ve been home a week ago Thursday. It’s hard trying to apply all the attachment tools and beating myself up for things I’ve missed every time I read a blog or article. Thank you for this. I missed the phone call from our agency last night on ” self care ” – my son is still a bit jet lagged and was wide awake during the time this was scheduled. I realize I do need Me time if I am to parent effectively.

  6. Carol says:

    Oh how I wish I had you when I brought my daughter home!
    At first, I thought she was autistic with all her rocking and finger play and that hating to be touched or held thing. Then she
    started responding to her sister, then her grandma. It took two years for her to form any attachment to me. But she did!
    I have a friend named Paul who is severely autistic. When we were kids, Paul taught me that people can be wonderful friends even though they don’t fit any of the norms of personality or intelligence or behavior. His lesson eventually made me realize that a relationship between a child and parent has the potential to be downright wonderful even if that relationship doesn’t play out the way it’s supposed to. Thank heaven for Paul. That insight allowed me to let go of my fear and simply enjoy the relationship I did have with my daughter instead of worrying about the one I should have. That made all the difference. Now (sixteen years later), those old worries seem so very far away. Sometimes it just takes time. And a little help from a friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2023 No Hands But Ours

The content found on the No Hands But Ours website is not approved, endorsed, curated or edited by medical professionals. Consult a doctor with expertise in the special needs of interest to you.