Back to the beginning: Adoption and one-on-one time

The older kids started back to school a couple weeks ago, and just like every year, it’s a new routine all over again: Now in first and third grades, they’re in school all day, every day. They were ready for this, I was ready for this (kind of), and I held it together as I watched them walk in, then swallowed the lump in my throat all the way home.Adoption Attachment

(Change is good. Change is hard.)

But then, a new chapter emerged for Benjamin and me: Back to one-on-one time.

We really haven’t had this since Africa, since all we had was time, the luxury of African time, hours in which we had nowhere to go and nothing to do, but wait.

Baby was wired up all morning that first day, adjusting and taking in the difference. He followed me around, my little helper, demanding and repeating and making jokes (already!), like a 2-year-old, older than that, and it was a lovely preview of the school year we’ll have together.

It will be good for him; it will be good for me.

An already secure attachment doesn’t mean there’s no more work to be done. When he shows all the right signs and I feel all the right things, that doesn’t mean we’ve crossed that attachment thing off our list. Especially when I’m headed to Africa in a couple days, especially when we’ll be apart for the longest since before we were together, I’m hanging on, looking in his eyes, putting him in the baby carrier, letting him snuggle.

No, the beauty of adoption is its revelation that the work of attachment is never done — and that attachment and security is something to fight for in all our relationships, adoption-related or not.

For all my kids, I want our home and their mom and dad to be their safe place to land.

In the spoken-word poetry of Sarah Kay, I want to be “… Point B / Because that way she knows that no matter what happens, / at least she can always find her way back to me.”

A secure attachment is built in the tiniest of increments: A three-second lock of eye contact. A turn of attention toward a need. It’s the holy work of call and response, call and response.

In the early, intense phases of burgeoning attachment in adoption, we have to teach our children to call so that we can respond. We awaken in their senses something they forgot from infancy: To need. We give them the language and dance of dependency, of family. Somewhere along the way, they’ve had to forget for the sake of survival. So our job is to help them remember, to build trust in fleeting moments when their hearts accidentally expose a soft spot.

And now in the luxury of school-day time, I hope Benjamin and I will find some hint of African time again. I hope the long mornings will remind me to set aside busyness for a moment, to lock eyes with him a second or two longer, to get on the floor and play, to let my own heart be softened.

In his searching eyes, may I find my own need, my vulnerability, my desire for connection.

Because like anything in parenting, I’m the model he’ll follow. To the degree I model attachment, he will attach. To the degree I open to vulnerability, he will be vulnerable towards me.

Because yes, true love is a kind of seeing. May I be seen so that I may see.