Attachment is such a tricky thing. If you’re born into a family, you’re biologically predisposed to be attached to your mother. When, for whatever reason, that attachment is broken, it’s hard to build back. Thankfully, T has a great relationship with one of his caregivers. He (and the others at the care home) has called her "mommy" all his life and she has done all she can to make sure that life has been good. The care and trust in that relationship has helped rebuild T's ability to attach (bond) with us.
Because Brian and I are walking into this relationship and starting new with T, we are working hard to create that bonding and attachment that don’t come easily. In attachment, it’s all about saying "yes" as much as possible. Can your child get a suit coat and bow tie? Yes. Can your child pick the restaurant for every meal? Yes. Can your kid eat pretty much whatever they want within reason? Yes. Can you kid watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone four nights in a row? Yes. (To be fair, I’m definitely down with that last one.) It helps the child feel like they have some control in a world that is dramatically changing around them. It helps them to see that we care for and love them and are willing to go to great lengths for them to trust us.
Today was the first big test of the attachment that Brian and I have been working so hard to build. In our preparation for breakfast and for the day, we told T we were going to church, then lunch (he can pick the restaurant), then swimming in the pool, then dinner (once again, he can pick the restaurant). He started freaking out that church was a bad, scary place and he didn’t want to go. We told him that our family goes every week and that we could talk about it after breakfast. We wanted to give him some time to think about it.
When the time came to leave, he started acting out in ways unusual for him. He took apart several of his Lego cars while staring off into the distance, would not hold our hands, and would not make eye contact. The last two meant we were pushing our relationship and his ability to trust us into new territory. We sat down on his level and told him we would never do anything to hurt him and that he could trust us. We wanted him to trust us with this. We told him that if, once we were there, he felt uncomfortable or wanted to leave at any time, we would. After talking to him (that’s what it felt like) for about 20 minutes and hugging him and reassuring him that he would be ok, we picked him up (he would not walk with us) and carried him to the car.
The whole car ride was suspenseful. He (thankfully) was still communicating with us through nods and shakes of his head, but it was little more than that. I gave him a box of TicTacs to hold on to and eat as he wished. When we pulled up to the church, he flat out refused to go. Brian took him out of his booster seat and he tried to get back in. Brian reminded him that we wanted him to try to go and that if after he tried, but still wanted to leave, we would.
Walking up to the church was like walking with a zombie. It was all we could do to get him to walk. Thankfully, even though we arrived late, they had three seats together on the end of an aisle (this was unusual as the church apparently had 50 people sitting in the overflow later on due to lack of seats). T automatically sat down (even though everyone else was standing) and just stared. We offered him a sweatshirt (because this church makes the North Pole seem warm), crayons and paper, a fidget toy, gum, water, snacks, etc. He didn’t want anything. After about 15 minutes of him staring, you could see him start to look around and observe what was going on. He eventually accepted the sweatshirt and gum, and even his posture was a little more relaxed. About an hour later (still just listening and not playing), he leaned over and said he wanted to go, so we did. Although doing so in the middle of the sermon was a little awkward, we wanted to keep our word.
Later, in a mall (duh!), we thanked him for trusting us that he wouldn’t be hurt. We asked him what he thought. He said it was nice and he liked the singing. He wanted to go back tomorrow. We told him we only go on Sundays, but that we could try it again next Sunday. At this point, my heart felt 10,000 times lighter. He didn’t hate us. Our attachment wasn’t starting back at square one!
While in the mall, we broke down and bought T a suit coat, dress shirt, bow tie, and neck tie. This kid. He has been asking every single day we were out for a tie. Doesn’t he know we only wear t-shirts and jeans? He’ll learn! But he’s going to look snazzy for our court date, that’s for sure!
We spent the afternoon lounging around, watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and swimming. I got to pet an awesome bulldog a ton (she’s the guard dog for the guest house). I’m pretty sure that any criminal could gain easy access by petting her belly, which she presents instantly upon seeing any human.
Tonight was wrapped up by another requested video chat session with the Oneal family and finishing up the second half of Harry Potter (with all of the scary bits skipped, which ends up to be a lot in that portion, apparently). He’s now strewn across his bed (I don’t know how he sleeps in the twisted, bent ways he does) and fast asleep.
Brian and I are so thankful T trusted us the way he did. We know this is not usual. We know this is the answer to so many people praying for us and encouraging us. Today could have gone in a completely different direction. It could have been bad—really bad—but it wasn’t. It ended up being good—really good. My heart is so full right now. What a good and faithful God we serve.