We’re facing a lot of unknowns. All parents (and people!) face uncertainty but adoption adds a complicated layer.
Eli has spent over 2 years in an orphanage where his needs were probably not met in the best way. We are so grateful to the orphanage for taking care of him - but we know that it’s hard to be attentive to the many children each nanny is responsible for. We don’t know what his day-to-day life is like there but we imagine that he spends a lot of time fending for himself.
One way children in orphanages learn to get their needs met is to be super charming. They instinctively learn to woo the nannies so they can get what they need to survive. By being cute and loving, they learn they can get the attention that they’re missing. They aren’t being manipulative - it’s purely a survival instinct.
When kids are adopted and come home to their families, they have to learn to trust that their mom and dad will meet their needs - which is a hard process. They may look to ANY adult to meet their needs - even going up to strangers and holding their arms out to be picked up. This is called “indiscriminate affection” and as you can imagine, it can be dangerous to the bonding process and even to the safety of the child.
We’re going to be super protective of Eli for a time. We are going to work our hardest to help him understand that we are his people and that we are the ones that will meet his needs.
His world will be turned upside down. He won’t understand what’s going on. Adoption is beautiful but it is also rooted in trauma - he has lost his birth family and now he has lost everything that he knew. You may think that at 2, he won’t be affected by it - but studies show that this type of loss at any age has deep effects. (For information on brain development and neglect, click here.)
We will be doing everything we can to help him feel safe and secure so he can begin to trust us.
What does this mean for our day-to-day life with our friends and church family?
It means that in the beginning, we will stay home with him and cocoon. He’ll spend most of his time with only us so that he can learn to trust us and bond with us. We’re not sure how long that will take and how that will look just yet.
How can you help in this process?
When you meet him, please give him space. He’s adorable and you’re going to want to give him smooches - but please resist for the sake of our bonding process with him.
If he asks you for something or tries to hug, kiss, or be held by you, please redirect him to us. “It looks like you need something, let’s find your mama or dada.” (Chances are that we'll be right there, but if you help redirect him verbally, it might help him learn.)
More ideas? Pray for all of us. Check in on us. Bring meals. Meet us at the zoo or playground. Spread the word (especially at church) that he’ll need some time and space after he comes home.
It’s going to be very hard and uncomfortable to set the necessary boundaries but we are doing this so that he can learn what a family is and that we are never going to leave him and we will always take care of him.
We so appreciate everyone that has been on this journey with us and we are so grateful that you’re so excited for us and for Eli to come home. Thank you for your patience as we try to figure all of this out and we can’t wait for everyone to meet him.
Note: We still don’t know when we will travel, but we’re hoping for the end of the month. We should hopefully find out within a week or so.