Thursday, July 15, 2010

One Family's Journey: The Inner Circle

Today I'm going to talk about boundaries.

Our son is adorable with a capital A so people want to pick him up all the time but we are very strict about not allowing this. Here's why: Our child was young enough to know he had lost his foster mother but not old enough to understand why it happened or who we were. We were very strict about his contact with other people so that he wouldn't wonder whether or not he was going to be passed off again to a new set of parents. In order to help him differentiate between us and other people we set something up that I called "The Inner Circle": a set of boundaries to help teach him the difference between "parents", "close friends" and "acquaintances". It looked something like this:

Parents: Change diapers, provide food, pick up and comfort, give baths and bottles at night.

Close Friends and Family: Can pick him up and hold hands if our son requests. No giving him food. Only applies to people who are both close friends and family and will be around a lot. So a close friend that would only be seen 2 or 3 times a year does not fall into this category.

Acquaintances or Friends/Family we don't see often: Can say hi and play with him on the floor but no picking up.

I have to warn you that it was sometimes very hard to enforce this. In Colombia especially people are very friendly and hands on and our son's cuteness is irresistible. We did our best to be strong but there were defenitely times when I gave in and regretted it later. When we came back it was even harder. Everybody was very excited for us and to meet Elian. Some people were hurt and offended that we wouldn't let them pick him up. The "Inner Circle" strategy led to some akward moments and hurt feelings but we needed to prioritize our son's sense of security. After all, he had lost his caregivers once already! Ocasionally when I would break our "rules" I could see the panic set in almost immediately when strangers picked him up. I regret those moments when I didn't stick to my guns.

Now that we have been home awhile we are a bit more relaxed. We let our close friends give him food and pick him up. He loves hanging out with his grandparents and lives for playdates with his godparents. The bottle however is still sacred! More on that tomorrow...

Disclaimer: I am not an adoption expert, social worker, therapist, doctor or even an experienced Mom. Everything I blog about is our personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.

PS Do I have you worried that adoption is all weird rules and attachment games? Never fear because we have millions of fun, normal moments every day. I write about those on my personal blog which you can check out here.

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