Thursday, July 14, 2011
family life and unmet needs
When we first brought Z home our biggest priority was to connect with him and meet his needs. We did our best to learn what his needs were and to teach him how to express those needs to us so that we could meet them. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean we gave him everything he wanted all the time, but we did use every opportunity we could to build trust through meeting his needs for comfort, food, sleep, affection, space, recreation, etc.
As you can imagine, this required (and continues to require) a great deal of our attention, focus, and energy, which has not been without consequence for our other two boys. Though I tried hard not to marginalize them, I didn't always succeed, and there were times where I unintentionally sent the message that Z's needs were more important than theirs. My 6 year old didn't feel this as much because he is older and can be independent with a lot of things, but my 3 year old felt it. He put up with it for a few months, but a couple of weeks ago he decided he'd had enough. He was going to demand his mommy's full attention again no matter what it took. So suddenly I had not one, but two very high-needs children in my home and life got... um, interesting.
Thank God for the wise people he has put in my life. My friend Chris also has a 2 year old and a 3 year old (and, ahem, SEVEN other children - she's amazing), so I shared my struggle with her at a recent adoptive mom gathering. "They both need the same thing from me all the time and I can't meet both their needs at the same time!" I whined. And do you know what she said? She said, That's OK. That's OK? What? But Z is adopted! I have to meet his needs! I have to build his trust! True, and I am doing those things. But Z also lives in a family, and in families we share, not only toys and books and food, but also parents. And that's OK. When he has to wait for D to be done snuggling with me before he gets his turn I am not rejecting him or letting his needs go unmet. I am teaching him how to live and love in a family. I am teaching him that, in our family, we are all valuable, we all need love and affection, and we all matter. It will take a few tears and fits, but I know it will be a lesson worth learning for all of us.