I’ve been thinking about shadows.
I’ve been thinking about adoption shadows – by which I mean little passing things that flit across the tarmac of our families. I sometimes think of them as remnants. They aren’t full blown issues that come and squat down smack in the middle of the family room, taking up too much room on the sofa. Rather, they are shadows that flutter by, reminding you “Oh yeah, there’s still stuff here.”
Specifically, I want to talk about my sweet Gabey. He’s been home about 3.5 years now! Already! He came home an adorable wide eyed serious toddler, and has evolved into a LOUD funny smart sweet mischeivous prince of the palace. He charms the socks off of all he meets, if he’s so inclined. If not, then, he turns his attention away, no matter their efforts. And, I used to say that his adoption was our easiest ever – out of five. And, in many many ways, it was. It so was. But, as it goes in real life, nothing is ever really that simple. It would be a grave error to think, simply because his homecoming seemed simple, and his knitting into our clan seemed so smooth…..it would be a deep mistake to think that all that meant that it was simple, or seamless. Because, it is not. It cannot be. Adoption isn’t like that. And you’re fooling yourself and doing your kid(s) a disservice if you think it is. Which is not to say that you should keep a klieg light on it all, all the time. Certainly not. But, don’t dismiss those shadows.
When I speak of the shadows, I”m not only talking about that ever so topical one: attachment. It’s there, it’s always there…but it’s not usually a shadow so much, now is it? Usually, if you’re talking about attachment you’re talking about that big tangly monster of issues that IS taking up so much room on the sofa. Now, I’ve got a few different shadows that I’ve been seeing and thinking about. This post however, after all, might as well start with the biggie. All that attachment stuff is the first thing that comes to mind for most of us; it’s the big gorilla, most of the time. Sometimes, though, sometimes, attachment IS more of a shadow. It can be a shiver glinting by at a family gathering or a after a school play. I didn’t think my Gabe had attachment issues, not really, not now after over three years here. But, you know what? He does. Maybe more than I realized for awhile. He does.
These attachment issues are more fleeting moments, but they are there and we would be remiss to not keep that on top of our awareness and work to walk through them. More now, we see him willing to walk away with someone who is, effectively, a stranger, when we are football games. Perhaps he is willing to walk further and beyond because he is almost five and testing those boundaries. But perhaps it’s that sometimes, deep deep down, there is a gap. Maybe. Maybe that’s why sometimes he still turns his back and snuggles into me backwards when coming in for a hug. Because somehow frontward is TOO close, for him.
So, what do we do about this new awareness, this new sighting of these shadowy attachment tangles? Well, we don’t take it for granted. We do the work. We connect. Every way we can. When he needs us to walk him into the darkened room (another shadow, another post), we do it. When I can help him with his shirt in the morning, I do. When he wants to run to me to let me smell his breath after brushing his teeth, I breath in his little boy toothpaste. When he sits near me and asks, “Which shoes mom?”, meaning, which feet do they go on….I say “Yup, that way,” about his tumbly socks and shoes.
This special boy, he is getting bigger. He is realizing the world is a much bigger place than he knew. He is almost five now and his shoes, his heart and understanding are all taking giant steps forward. No matter the shadows, I want to make sure I hold his hand as he goes.