Friday, October 14, 2011

When a Kiss Is More Than Just a Kiss

How does a little girl become a daughter?
Is it because she grew in your womb?
Is it because of a name on a dotted line?
Is it a decision?
A feeling?
Because she looks like you?

I've read a lot about attachment and bonding.  What's interesting is that even though the experts emphasize how important it is, they don't even really know what it is or where it comes from.  Obviously it's not all biological, judging from the atrocious behavior of some birthmothers.  And the way that adoptive mothers would lay down their lives for a child not of their race, color, body. 

I've never written about bonding here.  And I know that's because with my other two kids, I was extraordinarily insecure about it.  I did not feel instant connection with my children.  They felt like strangers at first; someone else's kids.  And that made me feel like something was wrong with me.  I devotedly, dutifully took care of them....but it all felt very, very strange.  But of course, when everyone says to you, "Oh, you must be so happy!" and "Aren't you just so much in love?"  I would smile and say, "Oh yes, yes, of course!" and wonder why it was so hard to actually feel that way.  And when my children would reach for a stranger and hug her the same way they hugged me, I felt a knife go through me.

But it happened.  I don't even know when; there wasn't an instant difference from one day to the next.  I just knew that one day I looked back and knew I would lay my life down for these children; that I loved them more than life itself; that they were of my flesh, my heart, my soul.  That their smiles made me happier than anything else. 

So this time, with Lily, has been completely different for me.  It's not that I felt any different at first:  She still felt like a stranger; I still had to fight feelings that she didn't belong; taking care of her was a duty.  And she was not very happy with me either.  But I wasn't stressed about it.  I knew how to anticipate what I would feel....but I also knew that it would change. 

And because I've been able to feel much more objective this time, it's been so much more interesting to me to sit back and watch the attachment happen--in Lily, in my family, in myself.  It's such an amazing process.  A child who once belonged to no one, now belonging to us.  Us.  And she's realizing it, and we're realizing it. 

She was outside yesterday, and she fell and hurt herself.  Barely hurt herself, of course, but she is a bit of a drama queen (what two-year-old isn't?) and she screamed.  But she screamed for me.  "Mommy!" 

Very good sign.

She runs and hugs Daddy and Grace when they come home.  She comes to me when she wants food.  She brings me my phone or my purse or my shoes....all the time, even when I don't ask for them!  And last night, for the first time, she said to me, "I want kiss."  Meaning, "I want to kiss you."  She wanted to give me a kiss. 

And I wanted her to kiss me.  Every day she gets cuter.  I don't know if that's because she is changing or because I see her differently.  Probably both.  Her eyes gain more expression every day.  Her excitement for life increases every day.  She understands more, speaks more, dances more.  It's a beautiful thing to behold:  A little girl becoming a daughter. 

She still grabs on to any woman who comes through our door.  But I just laugh.  Old habits die hard.  She'll learn.  I did.
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