I quickly walked up the steps at the church where our daughter, Brielle, attended her first day of preschool in the three-year-old classroom. I knew deep inside that she had a great day. I knew that she was going to love school.
Brielle ran to me and hugged me the moment she saw me. Her teacher told me how she asked for a TON of snacks and had a really great day. Per the norm, everyone there instantly loved her. Her smile and laugh are contagious. She’s a fun kid.
Right before I left, the teacher said one more thing. “It was so funny. Brielle was really confused because she ran up to me, hugged my leg, and called me, mom.” The teacher rightfully and innocently laughed at how cute it was.
One of my fears as an adoptive mom is that my child wouldn't attach to me and would call any woman in authority "mom." It's one of the reasons why I kept Brielle by my side as much as possible after coming home.
That morning, I forced a smile while holding back the fact that one of my biggest fears as an adoptive mom was happening. This wasn’t a scenario in a Karyn Purvis book or video. This was my daughter’s real life.
In that moment, Brielle’s teacher had no idea the thoughts that were swirling through my head. Let’s be honest, sometimes I wish I didn’t understand the ins and outs of attachment and bonding either. I wouldn’t mind a day or two living in a “la la land” of sorts.
What Most People Don’t Know
Before we finalized Brielle's adoption and stepped off of the plane from China, I had no idea the level of concerns and questions surrounding attachment that would swirl through my head. On top of that, post-adoption feelings of isolation and loneliness creep in. The fund-raising is over. The Facebook support group pages have no more new posts.
Our family's life doesn’t always fit into a nice, tidy box anymore, and sometimes the swirl of questions is daunting.
Is it normal for every meal to take hours? Is it normal for kids to call their teachers mom? Is it normal for a child to tap on the leg of the Publix delivery lady (I had a coupon for free grocery delivery. Winning!) to get her attention so that she can grab her hand to give her a tour of the house?
The answer is probably not, but I don’t know.
I find myself staring into Brielle’s dark brown, almost black eyes searching to see how she is doing. It’s like I believe there is something in her eyes that will tell me if she’s healthily attaching or not. Something that will let me know that she is OK.
If I do decide to voice a concern I have with Brielle’s behavior, I usually get a response like, “oh, the toddler stage.” I say this a lot of times too. Maybe it is, but what if it isn’t? These attachment questions are constantly present.
Growth Through Fears
As I drove away from the church preschool that day, I remember thinking that I needed to call someone right away. I needed someone to talk me out of driving straight to a therapist’s office. Thankfully, I did simply drive home.
Here’s what happened in the days ahead as my dramatic reaction faded and my brain could normally process what had happened…
God used one of my fears to usher me into a place where I could simply seek Him and what He had for me through this experience. God used this as a reminder that He put me into Brielle’s story at the time that He did and for a purpose. She is ultimately His little girl. God is in control of her past and her future.
God has used Brielle’s life to teach this mom so much.
Our family doesn’t have to figure it all out right now. It’s OK to not have the answer to every attachment question that creeps into our minds. We simply do our best to attach and bond every day. We attend Empowered to Connect (coming up in April). We read books. We seek counseling, if necessary. We connect with other adoptive parents. We continually learn and grow together as a family.
So, the day Brielle called her teacher mom has led to days of growth for me. It is just like God to work through my fears to help me be more like Him.
After all, He’s adopted all of us into His family. He has experience.
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:4-6 (NIV)
P.S. Scott and I love connecting with other adoptive families. If you are a current or future adoptive family that needs someone to connect with, contact me. We’d love to talk with you!
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