Passing-Parents: when our social worker said that term to us…it hit us like a ton of bricks. We knew EXACTLY what it meant without even needing an explanation because we started to feel it more and more. That maternal/paternal instinct…it’s real and I’m beyond happy to confirm that it was very much felt by us even as new, adoptive parents.
So let me rewind a bit of what’s been going on for the past few weeks since taking custody of our Luca-bear. As I mentioned before, Luca is a social butterfly. He loves being around people and seemed to be adjusting fairly quickly to us (minus hiccups here and there and nights). We made it a point to let people know that Luca was a bit ‘overly’ social but I don’t think many understood there can be a negative side of that except us as his new parents. To most, the overly social Luca was just an adorable toddler who is thriving in his new life with us. Honestly at first we even thought this was the case and thought the night-terrors at bedtime were his only real adjustment issue. He was very much bonding to us and we felt comfortable that he was feeling more and more secure with us as his parents. So we decided that since we don’t have family here in California, we would start to slowly introduce him to our friends. It seemed to be going well…and it was especially adorable when Luca would mention his ‘aunties and uncles’ even after we parted ways. But then I started to realize more and more that he would think a little too much for a two year old…telling us how ‘auntie/uncle’ got in the car and left (when it was time to say goodbye), asking if he will see them again, and then later also starting to notice if someone in our group would briefly disappear (i.e.: if someone stepped away from the table to go to the restroom).
At first I think my worries were down-played a bit because I would tell myself I was over-thinking the situation and the more I talked to friends, the more I felt like maybe Luca was just being a social toddler who was very ‘observant’. But the concern never left the back of my mind. It wasn’t until one day my husband told me he was thinking the same thing that we realized this was a legitimate concern. Fortunately we were about to have our first post-placement adoption meeting with our social worker and decided to ask for her opinion on this matter.
And that’s when she mentioned that term. The fact that there is a term for this is what caught me off guard. It broke me actually. To think that children have to ever consider parents as ‘passing’ or ‘temporary’ makes me wonder what kind of lives they must have lived in order to feel that way. Our social worker explained more about this term and said that she could clearly see that Luca is bonding well with us, but then started to ask what we knew about his life in Korea: Did he have a lot of different babysitters? Did his foster mom leave him in the care of others often? Do you think he’s naturally social or learned? The questions gave me a headache because I had no idea how to answer any of them but they did give me a lot to think about. It reminded me that he DID in fact have a life before us. A life we may never really know about and can only speculate and no matter how hard we try to make him feel loved, he must feel so confused at the same time. Everything we discussed that day made a lot more sense and also gave me a lot more confidence to trust my mommy instincts. It’s been hard because I would go back and forth from wondering if things are ‘typical’ toddler actions vs actions from transition. It would almost seem easier if he wasn’t so social from the beginning, cried more and then became more and more comfortable with us, but instead we are learning the opposite way. Either way, the hubs and I had a long discussion and our primary concern is for Luca-bear to understand we are his parents and will never leave him.
The advice our social worker gave us was to return to keeping our world small for the time being. We will be taking a step back from introducing our little ham to people for a bit longer. And if we do happen to see friends outside, we would like to kindly remind you not to hug him or pick him up for now. Again, this is our fault as we thought he was secure with us and were okay with hand-holding since Luca is an expert hand-grabber but even this is not recommended right now. I know it’s hard because I’m a hugger and Luca runs up and hugs others without hesitation…but please understand that this is part of our conscious effort to help him understand he has parents who are not just ‘passing’ him off to others. The thought of him ever feeling this way kills me.
Luca caught a cold a couple of days ago but in a weird way, it’s been a blessing in disguise in terms of our bonding. Luca’s been slowly but surely down-playing the charm and acting more and more like a toddler: temper tantrums, crying when he doesn’t get his way, getting upset if one of us leaves the room…etc. Funny to think that we are encouraging this behavior than not but it allows us to show him love in those situations and encourages him to just be himself. And today, we had our first cry session that was caused by an in-the-moment experience. That experience being…grapes. Yep, grapes. Luca woke up from his nap cranky and hating everything. He clearly wanted something but wouldn’t tell me. Do you want water? food? are you hungry? tired? juice? Everything was NO…and then he would cry. If I left it alone, he’d come up to me making sounds and crying again. This was a side of him I’ve never seen before but we knew he would possibly regress a little with being sick so it wasn’t fully unexpected. Forty minutes of no’s and crying like the world was about to end…and then I remembered I gave him some grapes earlier in the day. Low and behold…”do you want some grapes?”. SILENCE. Literally stopped crying and looked at me. “Grapes?” He looked at me again and said yes. And then all was good in the world again for Luca-bear. I have no idea why he didn’t just tell me he wanted grapes like he normally would…but we had a heart to heart while he ate those (d*mn!) grapes and hugged it out afterward. Then…I cried in the bathroom for a good ten minutes and all was good again in my world as well. One day at a time…we will figure out this thing called life. Not just in passing but together forever.