Well, the inevitable has happened: I messed up.
I’ve read all the books (Yes, ALL the books; I love The Books.) but today I made a rookie adoptive mom mistake.
It wasn’t out of anger, I was calm and calculated. When my sweet new son was repeatedly willfully defiant, culminating with the hurling of his spoon and the contents of his lunch across the kitchen, I swiftly reached out and grabbed his dimpled hand and swatted it once with a firm “No.”
I parented him the exact same way that I have/do my other two children, without thinking twice. I realize I sound like a broken record in stating this, but it’s so easy to believe that he has always been with us; he fits in perfectly and is bonding beautifully to all of us. (Like Velcro to me.)
But he hasn’t always been with us. I have no clue how he has been disciplined for the last 20 months of his life. I am not certain that he was not physically abused. (Though I have no reason to believe so, for the record.) Fostering attachment is a delicate dance, when a child has spent all but a few days of their life in an institutional setting.
What seems like a harmless, and certainly effective, parenting tactic was a potential setback in our attachment dance. Instead of the swat on the hand, the firm “no” with eye contact would have sufficed. I don’t believe that we are back to square one in our attachment– he’s over it and totally fine, contentedly sorting out measuring cups beside me, currently— but that was the song playing on repeat in my head the remainder of the afternoon.
Here’s the deal, I cannot be perfect. That’s not what God has asked me to do/be in mothering this precious gift of a child. I beat myself up over this setback, this mistake, for hours on end. I find most adoptive parents hold themselves to a higher standard than parents in general, as if we have something to prove. We would NEVER admit that our kiddos sometimes drive us crazy and we would NEVER confess that our favorite time of day is frequently naptime– lest we suspect you believe our love to be inauthentic.
Adoptive parents, I have some bad news: You are going to mess up. You will not be the perfect parent all the time. The good news? God isn’t asking perfection of you.
Grace, grace, grace… and more grace.
All this leads me to Cocooning Survival Tactic #2:
It is perfectly acceptable to descend upon Target, purchase your curler-clad children a high-fructose, red dye laden frozen beverage, and peruse the aisles of Heaven on Earth while your youngest sits strapped into a shopping cart.
I kid, kind of.
Cocooning, for us, has evolved more into defining social relationships. Not so much that we can’t leave the house, but rather to be mindful in our interactions with outsiders.
We find our sweet boy is not at all discerning about stranger danger. As I mentioned previously, he is a social extrovert. While bystanders may find it endearing that he so easily engages with them, it is unnatural and potentially dangerous to be so trusting. We don’t intend to scare him into believing that everyone in the world is out to get him, but up until a few short weeks ago EVERY adult that he had ever encountered ANYWHERE was commissioned with the task of serving him in some capacity. If he needed something, he could go to anyone. If someone offered him food, he could take it. If someone picked him up, he didn’t fight. The only adults he was exposed to were nannies.
He’s learning now what a FAMILY is, what a MOMMY is. That we don’t go to just anyone, that we don’t hug just anyone, and that we don’t take food from just anyone. We are not just new nannies, we are his family. We are teaching him what love is.