We cannot wait to see our family in Texas. Squirrel is dying to play with her cousins and we’re all looking forward to time off and a change of scenery. The only trouble is, travel can be really hard on little Squirrels and the Mamas who love them.
If you’ve lived in a place for a few years, made friends there, gone to school, played with certain toys, and gotten used to all the smells and sounds of that place…but then you are picked up one day, moved to another place, picked up another day, moved to another place…and plopped down with strangers. If you were told that you’d never go back to any of those other places you’d been—that you wouldn’t play with the toys, or see the friends, or smell the smells—then every car ride or plane ride or visit to a new place would invite the possibility that you’d be dropped off there and never go back to your home before. Going new places might be really scary. Your brain might choose to detach from all things that came before, defending against an inevitable goodbye. That wouldn’t be your choice. If your life never felt like your own. If you didn’t ever get to choose what happened to you, especially big things, traveling might be terrifying.
Our last trip to Texas to visit family was super fun. We swam and played and visited and bonded. But Lynn and I didn’t realize the level of attachment work our daughter would need to stay connected to us. We were so happy to be with family, to receive help, to let Squirrel bond with her cousins and grandparents. We didn’t know what was happening in Squirrel’s brain. Until she stopped calling us Mommy. She refused to come sit in our lap. She ignored us all together. Part of her thought she’d never see us again, so she was protecting her heart. Moving on. Doing what she’d done several times before. She was surviving.
What will it be like this time, I wonder, now that she’s officially adopted? Will it help that now Lynn and I know to have her sleep in our room while we’re there? Make extra time for snuggling? Will she trust us to bring her back home to Oakland? Will she claim us as her parents in any setting no matter how many other adults are around? How hard will we have to work to keep our tether to her?
I’m getting some good ideas reading Hold On to Your Kids about nurturing our attachment. Staying close, keeping our family rituals intact. Kissing her hair. Singing bedtime songs. Snuggling in bed together. Singing made-up songs. Coloring.
Honestly, I’m scared about feeling rejected by our little girl, even though I know it won’t be personal. Parenting is so vulnerable, right? We just love and love and love these little people. Our hearts are on our sleeves.
No matter what happens, I love getting this chance to show Squirrel we really are a forever family. Texas, here we come!