So, I’ve written about turn key’s in adoption, specifically in adoption adjustment and attachment. If you’ve read my blog you know that I talk now and then about various keys or concepts in the adjustment process; the turn keys are the ones that seem to really matter. At least they do ’round here. If I was really organized, I’d have them all on a separate page about adjustment in adoption. But I’m not that good a housekeeper, even on blog. In the meantime, if you want to check out the other posts in this series, go here, go here, go here, here, here, here, here, and here. Whew. I didn’t realize I’d written all those posts over the past few years. Guess this is something we just keep dealing with and I keep processing. Um, yup, yup it is. If you are parenting an older adopted child and/or a child with hard history or issues, you might well be in the trenches too. If you are, read on. I’ve been thinking and that means I gotta write.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment lately, due to the awesome Empowered to Connect Conference and ongoing discussions with Coffeedoc. But also, just the intensity of parenting these past few months has been kind of insane. I’ve also had some great conversations with friends lately, one more recently got me thinking out loud and hence, this post.
Anyhow, attachment in adoption is a long, nuanced process. Adjustment to a new family for a child is a long, nuanced process. It takes much much longer than most folks realize. Indeed, it’s a lifetime, isn’t it? Well, yes, of course it is. And, to stay thematic, there are turnkeys to that process. These are some critical components that can help the process along. These keys can open doors, to the heart of a new child, to the blending of a family. But one of the keys, one of the most important keys to attachment in the whole adoption process is a key that is for the mom. Ok, it’s for the new child and for the sibs and the dad, the whole family. But, the blingy diamond studded key to this is maybe, especially, for the mom. That key is FORGIVENESS.
Ok, set down those flame throwers. Hang on. Now, attachment is a two way street. And it’s so SO SO easy to forget that. We adoptive parents turn cartwheels trying to heal and help our new kids, to check off the copious list of attachment markers and tools. Are we nurturing, feeding, tutoring, clothing, rocking, walking, singing, playing, holding (and on and on) this new child? Can we sit out the storm and hold them through their grief, weather their rage, calm the fury, be present through it all? Can we help them feel safe, can we help them feel heard, can we help them trust? Yeah, it’s a big list, in more ways than one! And each and every one of those items on that list is so big, so important. And each one is critical in helping these kids attach to us, to their new family, their new lives – to bridge from their past to the future in the now.
But the one factor that doesn’t get talked about too much is the attachment flip side. It’s the dark side of attachment when you’re adjusting to an older child or a child from hard places or with tough behaviors. It’s so easy to have the best motives and intentions. It’s so easy to get caught up in the honeymoon of a baby or toddler or new older kid and the romance of it all. But you know, that honeymoon ends and the romance fades and real life happens. Sometimes after, oh, twenty minutes. Some of you might get a little more lead time. But sooner (20 mins) or later (20 months), real life hits ya. And you realize, maybe this isn’t exactly what you expected. Sure, sure, you read the books. You took the classes. You heard the experts and knew the possibilities. But, a raging storming angry grieving child in a textbook is quite a very different thing than a raging storming LOUD angry crashing grieving child that is turning YOUR ACTUAL household upside down. And who continues to suck the time and attention and sometimes very air out of a room with their need and the seeming impossibility of meeting it.
That’s precisely when you need to go looking for your keys. Take a deep breath, look at your key ring. Remember, touch that kid, tears are ok, food and dinner is safety. But, look closer. There is a small but shiny, flashy diamond key on your key ring. See it? Grab tight. Look at it again. It’s the key of FORGIVING. Because, ya know….that’s YOUR key. For you.
You have to forgive that kid.
It’s easy to forget that, though it sounds shocking to say it out loud. (And don’t flame me, ok? Try to understand where I’m coming from, read the blog backwards if you must). But that hurt scared little kid, or big teen, didn’t ASK to have this change, this adoption, this move, those hurts, those losses, those disabilities, that complicated brain chemistry, that rage, this new family…you. I don’t think anyone stands in a cosmic line asking to be handed a big bag of trauma and loss, please, and then “Please, sir, can I have some more?” discombobulation, dislocation, and grief. Even so, those things are no picnic to be instantly parenting either. Thus, there is a chasm. And the only way to cross it is to bridge it….with forgiving. You, for YOU, have to forgive that kid for the uproar and commotion that is happening in your family. You have to forgive her for her lack of ability to cope. You have to forgive him for the tailspin that you are in, due to the dance you two are slamming.
You have to forgive him, not because he needs forgiveness, but because YOU need forgiveness. You need to lift that burden of responsibility OFF your new child. And off of you. Neither one of you would choose this tough path. I betcha you’d both rather just instantly fall madly in love with each other and go have ice cream as you feed the ducks in the park. Well, that’s for Spielberg and the movies. What’s true is that you cannot love what or who you cannot forgive. And you can’t like the one you can’t forgive. That’s how it’s set up. That’s the deal.
But ah, forgiveness….?
That’s how it’s set up. That’s the deal. So, if you can’t intellectually do it, pray for the grace to do it. It’ll come. You may have to do it over and over and over. I hope and pray that my family forgives me over and over and over. I need it that often. And, because they are my family, I expect them to try. And because this new little (or bigger) one is your new family, because you COMMITTED to them, then you need to try too. That’s how it’s set up. That’s the deal.
We forgive each other. And if we turn that key, then the door to healing and love and even like…and maybe even attachment…it opens wide.