Friday, February 8, 2013

Don't Judge Anything for Six Months

This advice I read a number of times while preparing to bring Eli home, from several sources:  Don't judge anything for six months.  It takes time for everyone to settle in, for attachment to begin to take solid hold.

I nodded my head each time I read that advice, thinking "yes, yes, this makes sense."

And then we came home with Eli and I realized that not judging things is simply not a part of my make-up.  And you know what?  It's not a part of Eli's, either.  We've both been watching and studying each other, drawing conclusions.  Impatiently evaluating each other and our relationship.

He and I have struggled through this attachment dance, stepping on each other's feet, missing our musical cues.  We would've been the first pair voted off DWTS, we were that out of synch with each other.  For sure.

It wasn't for lack of trying, and it's not that either one of us are intrinsically terrible dancers.  From my standpoint, I was trying to dance with an extremely reluctant partner.  From Eli's standpoint, I had cut in when he wasn't yet finished with his original partner.

And not only did I cut in before their song was over in Eli's mind, but I danced weird.  I didn't dance like his original partner, I was unfamiliar with the moves they'd developed together during his first three years of life.  I was just . . . not her.

But now?  We've found our rythm.  We needed time to find the dance that is all our own, one that is uniquely "us."

So I think, at least for me, what I should've been telling myself these past months was "don't despair for at least six months" or "don't concede defeat for at least six months" or "hang in there, it gets better."  Because there were times during the past six months that I thought this child would never even like me, let alone love me.

It's hard to see photos of others newly home, whose kids are smiling brightly with their arms clasped around their mothers--oozing love and togetherness from every pore--and not judge yourself against what you see in those photos. For me, I would elevate "hard" to impossible.

But Eli and I had an epic dance party last night.  (For reals, ditching the metaphor here.)

We danced and danced to his new favorite song (you got ta move it, move it).  When I thought we were done, he came to find me while I was brushing my teeth and said "dagen, mommy" (again, mommy), so we danced some more.  With the song on repeat, we danced until we were both out of breath, laughing hysterically.

And when I caught him and kissed his sweaty head goodnight, he didn't flinch.  Well, not much anyway.

We've been home now for almost six months and things look so different here than in the early days.  When I look back at the photos of Eli from last fall, I see tension in him that's no longer there.  His badass composure has been replaced with softness and joy.  He looks younger now than he did in photos taken six months ago, probably because he's finally free to be a kid.

To any parent struggling with attachment, don't give up.  Hang in there.  Keep dancing, even if you're dancing alone.

I don't think there's anything magical about six months, but that's how long it took us.  Now we're dancing together, and it's a beautiful thing.

And I pray our song lasts forever.


  1. what a lovely post, K athleen! D o'nt you wish that you could have read this to yourself during those hard early months? So glad to hear that you and Eli are finding your groove.

  2. ps can I also say thank you for not having those stupid letters to check comments? They are driving me NUTS lately.