Once Upon A Prayer

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kisses for Everyone

Imagine that for the first 3 1/2 years of your life
you were told that anyone who cared for you was "mama".

"Mama" changed your diapers.

"Mama" changed your clothes.

"Mama" put you to bed.

"Mama" gave you your bottle.

"Mama" wiped your runny nose.
"Mama" picked you up.

"Mama" just so happened to be 6-8 different women 
to our little girl they called "Shu Shu".

What most biological children learn within the first few months of their lives,  adopted children need to be taught. 

Attachment is not easy, and is never guaranteed.  

Complete strangers have made comments to us about how "friendly" and "loving" Mackenzie is to them.  If you have never adopted before, you probably see this as a good thing.  I mean, who wouldn't be thrilled with a precious, sweet, social child?

With this being our first adoption, I freely admit that we thought the authors of the attachment books must be weird, or crazy, or psychotically possessive.  They tell the newly adoptive family to hunker down and isolate themselves from the world.  They cautioned us to not allow anyone outside of our immediate family to hold our girls, change our girls, feed our girls, comfort our girls but us.  They recommended high fives, quick hugs, and "love" from a distance. 

Sounds silly, right?

However, after enduring the sting of a cold shoulder time after time from our precious daughter as she nestled up to someone other than us, we started to wonder if perhaps those authors were right.  When she began reaching for our friends and kissing them on the lips we knew we needed to change our approach to attachment since our method was clearly not working.

Jacques and I so desperately want Mackenzie to understand that:

Papa and Mama kiss boo boos.

Papa and Mama are her biggest cheerleaders.

Papa and Mama will make sure she never goes hungry.

Papa and Mama will keep her clean.

Papa and Mama will make her smile when she is sad.

Papa and Mama are madly in love with her.

Papa and Mama are forever. 

We are not there yet... 
Nowhere close to be exact.  
So for now, we will just hold onto her a little bit tighter, 
and keep her a little closer.
We will continue to fight for this precious little girl 
that God has entrusted in our care. 



  1. Our first adoption of two boys (ages 4 and 6 at the time) was fraught with attachment issues. We realized really early this was the case and it helped us SO much to adjust our parenting early on. Three years later our little man is firmly attached but he still has much anxiety and post traumatic stress; along with residual attachment junk. He's still healing!

    As for Miss Mack! She is so sad and miserable in her orphanage pictures! It breaks my heart. My husband gets our sweet Analina on Monday and she's out Shanghai* forever! Praying over your little girls heart!

  2. Our daughter adopted at almost 4 years old would walk up to complete strangers and hug them. Whenever we left the house we would remind her "no hugging strangers". Pretty soon all our young children would be repeating over and over "no hugging strangers". It was really funny - since she didn't seem to catch that the information was only needed for her...the other kids wouldn't dream of hugging a stranger...and thankfully over time she learned.

  3. At first, it was funny, then silly, then significant when Mackenzie would call me Mama Papa Mimi all in one breath. Correcting her each time with one word, Mimi, the name I was called by her sisters just made her hug me and giggle. To see her happy and to feel her sweet hugs, gave me pause and no further correction....until the next time she wanted my attention and called me Mama Papa Mimi. And we would go through it once again.

    It would break my heart if my children called others my my coveted title, Mommy. Mommy is a name we earn and we value, not just the noun we use when we speak to other women.

    Be firm with those who want to hold, snuggle, cuddle and kiss your littlest baby girl. They will get over it. Be prepared to give a one sentence, quick and concice expression of ownership and the importance of your actions. If they don't respect your values, they are not truly invested in your journey. No reason to spare someone feelings when you are teaching such an important lesson.

    You inspire and motivate me with the task you have before you...and the excellence in which you approach it with. You are a mommy worthy of the title and Mackenzie will learn that in good time.

  4. Our little ones, especially our little girl would hug people she just met, as if they were friends, even if they were my friends - she had JUST met them. And, yes, we got the same "she is SO friendly, how sweet."
    It's wrong.
    It is not what children from stable places do.
    Stand your ground mama.

    Karol you have such a beautiful family.

  5. Good for you for detecting this early on! Yes, this is a situation that you must see for yourself to understand, and I applaud you for recognizing it. She WILL attach. It just may take time. You two seem like such amazing parents, so just keep doing what you are doing and SMOTHER those children with love:) God will heal those little hearts!!

    Lisa Murphy

  6. Oh, how I feel your pain! Our girls became a part of our family in 08 at ages 4 & 5. Our 5 yr. old is still working on attachment 4 years later, now 9.
    I had to talk to teachers at school, Sunday School teachers at church...take her out of a class because the teacher would consistently not honor what we were requesting. I have been judged as a mean momma so many times I cannot count. I have mentally and spiritually flailed myself over the lack of attachment as time has marched on. Jen Hatmaker has a great post on this just from a one year perspective. Good stuff.
    Remember, it's a marathon...it's faithfulness. He will supply. I pray for the Lord to 'restore the years the locusts have taken'.
    In His hands,
    Sarah Risley

  7. What a balancing act it is! When we brought home tiny ones, it was easy enough to hold them close and shield them from people who just didn't know their boundaries. But bringing home a 7 year old changed everything. It broke my heart that she called every nanny in her life "Mama". How long would it take for her to figure out that I was NOT like every other Mama she'd ever known??? Some many people wanted to love and encourage her when she got home and then spent weeks in the hospital with open heart surgery. Mere acquaintances would say "I love you" to her.... Seriously??? I knew it was a real problem when she said "I love you too!" back! The general population, though mostly well meaning, is clueless as to the overwhelming issues that we face.... But love wins the battle over time, and I'm pretty sure Rachel has figured out what "Mommy" means and is convinced that when I say "I love you", I mean it and she can bank on it!!! I'd do this a million times over! Attachment fought for makes for a strong bond in the end! God is faithful and I am the grateful recipient of His overwhelming grace for the least of these....