We have now fostered our little guy for nearly six months, and our adoption process is plugging along, perhaps 2-3 months until we travel and head back to the US for his corrective heart surgery.
I still go into shock when someone asks me how many kids I have and I say “five.” I think to myself, wow, that’s a lot.
Until we took in an extra guest with special needs for respite care last week for 4 days and 4 nights.
After he left again, I breathed a sigh of relief, “Whew, only five.”
In February we had to leave the country for some required travel, and I came back early with our 5 year old daughter to minimize time away from him, thinking about all that attachment stuff.
It was startling to see his reaction at the door when we joyfully arrived to take him home again.
Even though we had video skyped twice with him while gone, waved and blown kisses, he was afraid to come to me initially and clung to our friend’s arms. Of course, after a few minutes of playtime on the floor he was ok again, but that initial moment was a stark reminder of how fragile that connection is, even after nearly 5 months in our home.
It only took ten days to redirect him.
My friend the psychotherapist told me infants under 1 year, when separated, will begin to attach to a new caregiver often within 7 days. Over one year, less than 14 days.
I remember my adoptive families in the US–as we saw them in our clinic they would say “oh, he bonded from the first day with us and is very attached now at one month” and yes, that may be true, on a preliminary level. But those deeper bonds of trust, mutual giving and love, take time and repeated shared experiences to forge and nothing can speed it up.
As we move along, I see him begin to trust us more: he throws temper tantrums like you wouldn’t believe, he flings himself on the floor, has become a rigidly picky eater. In the beginning he was docile, submissive, and ate every bite on his plate. Now he’s acting more like a “real” 2 year old. And he is learning that although we don’t permit certain things, we love him and pick him up and don’t scold him when he throws a fit. We just snuggle or whatever until he’s over it.
We are eagerly counting the (unknown) number of days until we can finalize the adoption and get on a plane to the US. It’s kind of weird to not know when the traveling will happen, but suddenly a notice will arrive in the mail saying GO NOW. Especially when we plan to be gone from our home for the next six months. Good thing we’re used to packing fast (here’s an unsolicited plug for my favorite invention ever).