Friday, November 22, 2013

Special Letter to Family and Friends

Very soon we’ll be bringing Benjamin Lilu home and starting the process of becoming a new and larger family.  This is an exciting and scary time for us – and will probably be especially frightening for Benjamin.  In his short life, he’s gone through more changes and life-altering experiences than most adults could handle.  He’s experienced the loss of a birth mother, experienced the loss of his second “home” in the midst of a health crisis, and will soon experience the loss of familiar caretakers, and the sights, sounds, smells, and language of his birth country.  His entire world will be turned upside down; he will be disoriented and confused.  He will have no reason to trust us – no way to know that we are safe, that he is secure in our care, and that we will meet his needs.

This process of learning to trust us, to bond and attach with our family, may take weeks, months, or years.  We expect it to get easier over time, but things are going to be a little strange at first and we ask that you please understand and support our attachment plan.  It is not our intention to shut anyone out of our lives or offend any friends in this process.  But Benjamin will need us to have certain boundaries in place to develop a strong and healthy attachment to us.

It will help immensely if adults limit what is typically considered normal physical contact with our son.  For awhile, this includes things like holding, excessive hugging, and kissing.  Children from orphanages are prone to “attach” to anyone and everyone – which disrupts his ability to attach to us.  Waving, blowing kisses, or high fives are perfectly appropriate and welcome!  We want Benjamin to know our family and friends – and interact with them!

Benjamin had a mother care for him for several months, and then relied on a stream of different adults for almost 6 years to meet his needs.  He’s learned to compete for the attention of every adult for basic things like food, clothing, comfort…  Charming any available adult becomes a survival technique.  While it works in an orphanage, it’s dangerous in our world.  It’s not safe for Benjamin to ask random strangers for a hug; in order to learn healthy, appropriate boundaries, he needs to begin by learning that we are the two people responsible for meeting his needs.  For a time, we will be the only ones to give him food, water, comfort him, take him to the restroom and so on.  If he asks you for something – please ask us.  For awhile it may look like we’re spoiling him – but he needs to understand what role we play in his life and he needs to know we are dependable and constant.

Also understand that our very busy, very active family – will be dramatically limiting our activities and events for awhile.  Local friends – you probably won’t see us at every field trip, every club meeting, every birthday party – at least for a little bit.  Large or small gatherings, parties, events will not be a priority in the beginning – but it’s not permanent, and it’s not personal.  At this point, we don’t know entirely what degree of medical treatment and therapy we may be facing with him, too.  We will be tired, busy tending to him and learning about him, forming emotional bonds, and getting through our days one day at a time.  We are eager to introduce him to everybody – but it may not be for a little while.  With one exception!  If you would like to be part of our welcoming committee at the airport, we would LOVE to see you!

The lives of each member of our family will be topsy-turvy for awhile, and we ask for your understanding as we navigate this new world.  We are obviously far from experts in this, but doing what we believe to be best for Benjamin.  We look forward to introducing him in person to so many of our friends and family, and hope you understand why some of our parenting decisions will look as they do with him.

Here’s an interesting analogy of what adoption looks like to an internationally adopted child:

And another great illustration of what adopted children go through:

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