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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Attachment Journey: Part 3- Working It Through

In Part 2 I had gained some peace through prayer for our attachment journey but there was still the business of learning to start working with the wiggling mess of tears in my arms. How would I take lemons and turn them into lemonade? Clearly, on this particular night Jonas was locked in a cycle he couldn't get out of and it was new to me. He'd never reacted this strongly before. It was time to dig through my parenting toolbox and find the best tool for the job. My mind searched through catalogues of information I attempted to store there during the long wait for Jonas to come home. I landed on what you may have heard parenting books refer to as "redirection". I call it good, old fashioned distraction. I had read in some adoption resources about using mirrors as tools for attachment. Jonas and I had played in front of the mirror several times before and he enjoyed it. I figured it couldn't hurt to try it now.

I trotted down the hallway toward the full length mirror in my bedroom with a new plan of action. Off went Jonas' pajamas and mommy's shirt. Skin to skin (yup, read that in a book too), I embraced him in front of the mirror. At first Jonas wouldn't stop his screaming but with a little coaxing he began to wave "Selam" (hello) at himself. He just couldn't resist his own good looks and he was soon found giving himself flirting glances and smiles. Still, no desire to even look anywhere near the vicinity of my eyes. So I sat there with a persistent smile on my face (Which was no small feat, because, you haven't truly lived until you've had to sit your half-naked self in front of a mirror for an hour or so and stare at your tummy chub, ahem, amongst other things.... Try keeping a smile on your face then! ) while I continued to tempt him into playing his favorite games. Eventually he conceded to a game of peek-a-boo with himself in the mirror. It took several rounds of that before he'd play peek-a-boo with me through the mirror. I was gaining ground on him even if he immediately turned his head away from me after each"boo!" At lease I'd held his gaze through the mirror for a moment.

I continued my campaign for more eye contact by switching up my tactics. Now I began using encouraging words of affirmation. I said things like, "Look at that mommy. She loves Jonas so much. She's a good mommy. She's gonna take care of Jojo's needs." (Now, I'm not gonna lie. It felt a whole lot like brainwashing even though I knew better.) "Jonas is a lovely boy. You are worthy of love because God says so." And on and on. Every time he smiled I called him my happy boy. By now he was responding when I called his name and would shift his eyes to me.

I cajoled him into playing more games with me. Eskimo kisses, butterfly kisses, tummy tickles. He softened more every time. Towards the end he began laying his head against my chest and smiling at himself in the mirror. Truthfully though, I wasn't sure whether it was because he was enjoying a snuggle or because his head felt too heavy to hold up anymore. After he had been thoroughly exhausted I held him while he drifted off to sleep. He still wanted his head turned out from my body. I resolved not to require too much from him. He had acquiesced to my pleas to draw near to him. It wouldn't be wise to push the point tonight.

By the end of the evening I was both energized and a little bit scared. Energized because I had done it- I managed to work through some of his detachment. Every little bit counts and I knew that over time these little victories would end up winning the war. Scared because there's no way to know how long he'll put up a fight. I had to pray again to ask God to sustain me for the long haul because the thought of weeks, months, years possibly of this kind of work seemed daunting.

Next time I'll share a bit about some of the behaviours I've come to recognize Jonas throw up as barriers to our attachment and the tactics were trying to use to combat them.


the Steiger's said...

this bring a lots of memories back. It was a scary time for me with Jordan and yet I (and the whole family) learn so much from it.
I remember moving forward and then taking big steps back. Yet here we are with Jordan (almost a year since we came home) and she is as any other kids. She loves her momma (and she LOVES here daddy) and her brothers ans sister. I saw a change after 3 months then a big change after 6 months, then again at 9 months and I can se she is doing even better now.
It is a hard work but can you imagine how much work does God has with us?
love, Lenka

Melissa said...

Hi Jen - You don't know me but I saw your post on the Ethiopia attachment group and just had to check out your blog. I was so struck by your son's name and age as we are awaiting a referral for a child less than 12 months old and we are planning on naming him Jonas. Since I don't believe in coincidences, I believe in the Lord working in my life, I decided to check out your blog. I love that you are writing about attachment as that is what has been on my mind and I don't even have him home yet! I also am grateful for your willingness to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly of attachment. It is so refreshing and HELPFUL. Anyway, I could write forever here but I will stop. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

Melissa (in Ohio)

Sherry said...

Wow Jen I can only begin to imagine what that must be like. I can only hope that one day I will have the chance to be a great Mommy like you. Sounds like you are doing great. Love ya!