Baby J had his first therapy appointment this last Friday… I am excited about this for him, and so hopeful for him and for our family. Our little guy has had so many changes this year, and he has not handled a single one of them well. And with more change, and unknowns on the horizon, we felt that it was time to get our boy some help.
I am already looking forward to watching him succeed at this life. I know he has the potential to handle hard things, and I know he has it in him to form strong attachments with his family. I know this sounds a little crazy…if you know baby J, you might think I am overreacting a little bit. He is sweet, he’s charming, very friendly, and those dimples go on for miles. He’s well-mannered, and generally well-behaved.
I know. I have heard how very sweet and cute, and lovable he is. How he is “just a regular boy,” or “but he’s so happy,” or “so sweet,” or “such an easygoing little guy.”
Yes, he is often all of those things. All of those things you see at church, or at a playdate? Yes, he is those things. He is sweet, and he is learning to be sweet to me. He is happy, but no one is happy all the time, and sometimes my precious happy boy has an angry side that worries me.
He is easygoing…especially when he is playing or generally doing anything that he wants to do. And he is a “regular boy.” But he is also a boy who went through neglect that we can’t possibly understand, and he is also a boy who has spent three scary months alone in a hospital, and then was sent to live with new people for a year, and then was just left one morning before he was given to us.
This regular boy has some deep trauma in his past, and that trauma affects his present, and his ability to securely attach.
He is loving… he knows we are his family, and he shares a bond with us, for sure. But a bond is just a part of the puzzle of attachment, and we still have a ways to go with our baby J.
We see this especially in the way that baby J reaches out to anyone else, even strangers… when we first got to his theraplay appointment, it was interesting to watch him happily go off with the therapist, someone he had never met before, to play. She was quick to point out that she was a stranger and that he should stay close to mom at first, but without that reminder, he would not have looked back. A child with a healthy attachment would have looked to mom, checking in with her, to make sure this was ok.
In an elevator, baby J will grab strangers by the hand, tell them his name, and would happily go anywhere with them, if I did not pull him back. He is smiley, happy, ready to play, and engaging. He is cute, and people respond to him readily. I likely responded to kids like him before I had kids with attachment issues… they make wonderful eye contact (with everyone but parents), and they smile, and charm, and why wouldn’t you respond? But now that I know…now I don’t respond, except to point kids back to their parents. “Oh, I can’t hold your hand, because I am a stranger. But you could hold your mommy’s hand,” I might say… or “you don’t know me, but you could ask your daddy for help with that!” Sometimes it’s not an attachment thing at all, just a friendly child, but sometimes, when I glance up, I see that appreciation, that relief in a mother’s eyes, and I get it. I understand that feeling of thankfulness, because I feel the same way when the man in an elevator tells my son that he can’t hold his hand or tell him his name, because he is a stranger, and little kids should not talk to strangers. I love that he got that, and that someone else helped enforce what we tell baby J all the time.
In just a couple months baby J will have been with us for as long as he was without us… even though he has been with us for over two years, he was without us for much longer, and he is still learning his way in a family. But we will get there, I know we will. And I know it will be beautiful, and I know that maybe even one day we will not remember a time when baby J was not completely attached to us, his parents. But for now, we have some work to do. We are just beginning therapy, and we are perhaps a bit behind on getting the ball rolling, and we don’t know yet what all of this will look like.
But we do know it will take work…and we do know this boy, and his precious little heart, are worth doing whatever it takes.