While Ryan is home watching Ben, I am here and am so close to getting Paul from his orphanage! I was supposed to get him today, but was told that he’s a bit sick, so they asked me to wait. I do want him to get better for our travel home, so I’m happy to let him rest in the infirmary for another day or two. He is more likely to get better there than he would while enduring the stress of a new environment with me in the apartment.
So while we wait with bated breath for Paul’s exciting day to come, I wanted to give our friends and family a heads up on how we will be parenting Paul when we get home. It will be a little different for us. Perhaps we will be a little…weird. I know what you’re thinking. That we are already weird. That’s true. But even more so than how we’ve been with Ben.
We have parented him in a method we affectionately call “detachment parenting.” I’m kidding. Sort of. We do call it that but we aren’t cruel or detached. In fact, this chubby boy with the peas on his face (by the way this pic is at least 6 months old) is quite well attached to us. We’ve been with him nearly every day since he was born. He’s been held, cuddled, well fed, kept dry, and played with each day by his parents. He knows we are “mama” and “dada” and even though he loves playing with other people and being hugged, kissed and held by them, he looks for us when he’s upset, hurt, hungry or needs help. He knows that’s what we’re here for and he can trust us as the people who meet his needs day in and day out.
Now see this little guy?
We’ll need to parent him differently because his life experience has been so different. Paul was refused at birth and came to the orphanage at 3 months old. I don’t know where he was during those first months, but we can assume that he was in the hospital waiting for a crib to open up at the orphanage. For a long time, he’s been in a room called a laying room. Not much happens in a laying room; mostly just…laying. Bare necessities are met by different shifts of caregivers. In between meals and diaper changes, Paul was left in his crib or placed in a larger crib that had a few toys strewn in it. This is partly why at 1.5 years old he can’t sit up or put weight on his legs-he never got to practice. But he can roll over! He’s amazing.
In such an environment, a child doesn’t learn what a mother and a father are. A child doesn’t form the normal attachment to a primary caregiver because a child doesn’t have a primary caregiver. Paul is still relatively young and we are hopeful for a smooth transition for him into our family so we can try to make up what he has missed. In order to do this, our “detachment parenting” style will exit and we’ll be parenting a bit differently that usual…
When Ben turned 1 year old, we stopped giving him a bottle and moved right to a cup and straw. Easy peasy. He was ready. Paul is a month older than Ben, approaching 1.5 years, and when he comes home we’re going to be holding him like an infant and bottle feeding him frequently. We may do this for quite some time. We will no doubt look strange as we hold a child that is clearly to old to be treated this way, but we’re going to parent Paul according to his emotional age, not his biological one.
If you know how we were and are with Ben, then you know we are very happy to pass him off to other people so they can hold, cuddle and enjoy him. We love it when people do that. Not so with Paul. Only we get to hold him and carry him, at least at first. He really needs to learn that we are his parents, we are his caregivers and no one else. If we were to let everyone who wanted to cuddle him do so, it would delay the attachment process and be harmful to his emotional health. But once we see that he’s bonded well to us, you all can have at it! In the meantime, you can cuddle Ben…if he’ll let you. Kid is a tornado these days, I tell you.
I’m sure a google search would result in articles detailing what is needed for children coming out of an institutional environment. We encourage you to read up to answer some of the questions you may have about our new and different parenting behavior or just ask us! And if you ever feel rebuffed because we wouldn’t let you hold Paul, remember that it’s nothing personal. It’s just because we love the kid so much and he’s been through a lot and we’re trying to help him.
Now you may guess that since our default setting was “detachment parenting”, this new style will be a challenge for us. Your guess would be accurate. Neither of us are particularly qualified in our personality or preferences for this type of thing, but this really isn’t about us or what we want. You may want to facepalm when you watch us parent (you wouldn’t be the first), but we will do the best we can according to what we have learned for this highly unique situation. We have plenty of weaknesses that we’re sure you will witness, but through which we give God a chance to reveal His Glory. With Him, our own efforts, and your support, we can give new life to Paul and he can be who God created him to be. Thanks in advance for your support and understanding!