Bonding…for the last two months, this word has been lingering in my mind day and night. As much as I hate to admit it, it hasn’t come super easy for me to bond with my new son. At first, I felt really, really bad about it. I mean, I loved this kid before I knew him. How could I be struggling with something so simple, so fundamental, as bonding?
But, in the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking with a much clearer mind (thank goodness!) and what I have discovered is that with my three biological children, bonding came naturally. It was never something I had to think about. I remember nursing them in the wee hours of the morning and looking into those tiny little eyes, just staring into the darkness of those sweet newborn pupils. I remember getting lost in awe. I would touch their fingers and toes and rub their tiny hands and bald heads. Even when I was really tired and could barely stand to keep my eyes open, I could still feel their warmth and every little move they made. As they got older, I would occasionally lay down with them for a nap and I would just hold their little hands and rub their fingers until they finally fell asleep. As they grew and became toddlers, I caught them when they toddled their first steps and collapsed into my arms. I stared into their eyes and tried to hold up my end of the conversation while they were telling me long stories in jibberish that I didn’t even come close to understanding. It never once dawned on me that what I was doing was so important. I just was being Mom. Now that I am in the midst of a completely different experience, I am so thankful that I did those things through the exhaustion, through the “I’ve got so much else I need to be doing” because I’m seeing firsthand how important it was (and still is!).
I don’t have that history with James. And boy does that hurt sometimes. It’s hard to know that those years are gone, never to return. So when he came home, though I don’t think I expected him to immediately bond to me, I know that I was shocked when it didn’t just magically happen over the first week. It took me several weeks to realize that building a family is a marathon, not a sprint. Time is the only thing that will heal the hurts that he has had in his short 7 years. And I’ve also realized that bonding is not actually something that just happens like I used to think. It is the direct result of a loving parent purposely lavishing love and affection and making connections. So, guess what? I have started holding his hand and rubbing his little fingers. I’ve started staring into his eyes while he tells me all about the video games going on in his mind, even though he might as well be speaking a different language. I’ve gone back to those early years, and begun to see those exhausting years in a whole new light.
You know, with this post, I wanted to do two things…first, I wanted to fill you all in on how we are doing and give you an update. Those have been pretty spotty lately and I apologize. This process is complicated and involves so many feelings and emotions that it’s difficult to put them into words. I have a lot more that I want to tell you about, but it’s just not time yet…so I’ll trust God’s timing and allow Him to lead the sharing of our story.
The second thing I wanted to do was to encourage the moms (and dads) who are in those early years, when you don’t think you’re doing much. I am seeing the fruit of my efforts from those early days with my biological children and the absence of those early bonding moments with my newest son. What you are doing matters. The weariness and tired…it’s all worth it. Trust me. Hold their hands, stare into their eyes, listen intently to their jibberish. And you know what? Then, when all that is done, get on Facebook, pick up your yarn, turn on the television to HGTV and let your mind rest when you can. This is hard work, parenting…and I’ve learned that reading the advice of all the experts can make you feel like you are either an A+ parent or a really sorry parent. And it can change daily-ok, hourly. I’m sick of all the articles saying what we should and shouldn’t do. In the last two months, I can sum up parenting in a few words: Follow God. Pray, pray, pray. Trust God. Love abundantly. Rest often.
I’ve been really working on bonding the last two weeks. And two nights ago, after I had been up all night with yet another round of stomach bug with Hannah, I was sending the boys off to church without me, and as James was walking out the door, he turned around and said, “Love you, Mom.” Then, he looked back at me again and smiled really big, totally aware of what he had just said and the weight of those words. I still tear up when I think of that sweet moment. The Upward jersey he was wearing, and that great big grin on his face. I’ll never forget that moment. That was an amazing moment and it made the past two months SO worth it.