A recent comment where I was asked about the bonding process closed with,
“Thanks…glad I stumbled upon you. I’m definitely thrilled to hear that life is really bumpy for you too.
If nothing else I have learned that my odd ability to bounce back constantly has been either enlightening or comforting for others. A kind of, “If Cindy can get through all her monstrous stuff each day, I suppose I can deal with mine.” Or the best I ever heard was, “When I think my life stinks (although they didn’t use that word, I’m cleaning it up here), I just think of your life. Then I feel better.”
Glad I can be of service. We country folks, raised in the Bible Belt, do like the theory of service to others. It’s the doing it that gets tough at times.
What about the bond between adopted older children and the new parents? Can it exist? Is it instantaneous? Do we simply fall in love with photo listings of cute children, imagining our soon to be sweet life with grateful orphans? Then they unpack their Pandora’s Boxes at our houses and we get overwhelmed with the level of emotional damage that has been wrought upon them. Do I get to second guess my decision? Lord, I can’t deal with all this?
I don’t instantly fall in love with my new children. I was always happy and excited to meet them, reassurance immediately falling out of my mouth, arms open wide with a goofy grin on my face. I’d simply step in the mama mode, which left them only the children’s mode to use and a pattern of stability would form and grow.
We’d have a glorious honeymoon period when I felt I could parent a thousand children, and then the facades would crumble and the testing would commence making me wonder if I still could successfully get shoes tied each morning. They’d lie, steal, manipulate, destroy, rage, cheat, be deceitful, hateful, angry, mean, rude, disobedient and demonstrate any other negative behavior that they could think of using.
Then it’s really hard to love them. Early on I was very fortunate to have a caseworker who somehow got through my hard head, and she explained the acting out and testing process to me which enabled me, strengthened me for the battle, it allowed me to step back and see the behaviors differently; to understand that it wasn’t about me at all.
Then it was somehow easier to love them, to see them differently, as terribly wounded individuals. It became my challenge and my goal to prove my love and commitment to them. That’s where my hard-headedness really served me well.
It sure wasn’t easy. I’d buckle and cry, I’d holler, fuss, and scream “Woe is me!” in prayer, but I’d always get back up and keep going. It’s a wonder my caseworker would even take my phone calls as I’d complain and moan and wonder aloud why love and logic wasn’t working.
Decades ago I’d run to my favorite pastors also only to gently hear the obvious, “Well who ever told you this would be easy? What did you expect?” Hearing the truth from those I respected also welded my backbone solid upright and unbreakable.
But this is how the bonds and the love grew over time. The kids watched me not quit, not dissolve into a puddle too often and they began to dare to love me back, finally understanding that this was the real deal.
Now I’m the grandmother to 13 of their children, nothing has changed. Change being their greatest fear as it always led to loss. The tough, hardened children I adopted in their pre-teens are now grown folks leaving me with the only answer I can give to other parents. This takes years and years and years, and it was never easy, but it can be done. An easy answer for a long, difficult process.