I have done a lot of research on bonding and attachment with adopted older kids. And while I know we have much attachment and bonding to do, I do think this week we have made some head way. I'm not sure what made the difference between Josh and I, but I think whatever it was, it was a God send.
I read a lot about touch and adopted older kids. I gafawwed when the book said you should rock them and feed them like a baby for all the things you missed out on. I kind of put that information in the back of my mind. Somehow, I thought Josh might think I was crazy if I tried to rock him and feed him like a baby! But reading that information again this weekend made me think about what was going on in our family. Josh's attitude and lack of feeling has been affecting all of us. A mother is only as happy as her most unhappy child. Woe is me!
When you adopt a baby, you get the opportunity to hold, kiss, hug, rock, bathe and massage them. You get to meet their every little need. You're there when they cry. You supply their bottles. You get to attach to them on a very personal, very intimate level. When you adopt older kids, a lot of that is uncomfortable. It's foreign. I'm not sure who it's more uncomfortable for. Us or them. This wasn't something I was expecting. I am not typically a "huggey" type person. Being in my husband's family, I have definitely learned how to accept that, but overall, my personality is one that values the "personal space." (*Now girls (you know who you are) don't be upset. It's not that being "huggey" is bad - it's just different for me. And thank you for helping me get over my fear of the huge hug)
Even though I'm not an overly huge fan of public displays of affection, this has never been the case with my kids... as you know I can't seem to get enough of them... from smelling their stinky feet to cuddling with them even at the age of 17. It's been weird with Josh though. You hug, he stiffens. You kiss, he turns his head. I was able to do a lot of this bonding with Jameson as she is VERY affectionate. Spending hours fixing hair is definitely a bonding time for those of you with newly adopted girls! Jameson was so affectionate, even from the very beginning. She was all over me from the minute we picked her up. Josh has been a little more hesitant to commit to this relationship.
I have been trying to make a conscious effort of making contact with him. This weekend I really stepped up this strategy. When he pulled away, I pulled closer. When he hid in his room, I laid down next to him. When he walked by, I pulled him into my lap and tickled him. I allowed him his space and then invaded it, over and over again. I didn't want to freak him out, but I also wanted to let him know that I am serious and I am not giving up on him. Last night, he came and sat down on the floor next to the couch where I was sitting. I started rubbing his head and playing with his curls. He didn't withdraw. He didn't get up and run away. His back didn't stiffen.
HE GOT UP AND SAT NEXT TO ME!
He laid his head on my chest and let me rub his back and his hair, and then he fell asleep. The first time ever!
The child has not left my side today. I was the teacher in his vacation bible school class today and he participated in everything we did. He even sang in worship and did the motions to the songs. He smiled at me when he thought I wasn't looking. He has gone out of his way to help me since we got home today. Without being asked to! Trash, recycling, lunch dishes... Justine started crying in the other room, and he ran in to pick her up and make sure she was OK. (A first and something I've been waiting for!) His mood has definitely changed, and we have had an epiphany here at ellerbee eight. In thinking back over the past four months, I have to realize that everything happens in God's time. I think if I had chased him around like this when he first got home, he would have been scared to death. It was just the right time to step things up a bit. I'm a huge fan of "if it's not working, change it." And I'm not going to beat myself up over what I have and haven't done right with these children. I only have to remember that if it's not working, change the way you're doing it. And that's what I did.
For those of you adopting older children, I cannot stress how important it is to try to make up for all the things your kids have missed. The easy things. The free things. Hug them. Kiss them. Play with their beautiful hair. Let them lay next to you in bed while you read them a book. When they come into a room and look uncomfortable and don't know where to sit and what to do, reassure them and continue to ask. Continue to tickle and rub their backs when you get a chance. Continue to give these little love touches every single chance you can. Eventually they realize that you want them near you. Eventually they give in to allow you into their hearts. I'm sure we still have a lot of bridges to cover, but we both are feeling so much better!
Well I've got to go, Josh is yelling, "mom, mom..." He wants to show me his soccer trick he's been working on. YEAH!