Monday, February 6, 2012


At the Created for Care Retreat I participated in an Adoptive Mother Panel. Sitting there with those beautiful mamas was such a joy! I loved hearing their responses to the questions from the other moms. What a great way to learn! One of the things that came up in responding to the question of bonding with your child in those early months of adoption was how to deal with their rejection of you as their mother. Andrea Young, a wise mama and the visionary for Created for Care, shared how often she would rock her son in her arms at night just to have him smack, scratch, and generally push her away. Such a hard experience for a mother. Andrea shared that she realized she needed to just keep holding him, keep touching him gently, nightly treating him as if he wanted to be held and snuggled. 

As If

Over time her son learned to receive and enjoy this nightly routine, and even learned to be tender back, gently stroking his mother's cheek rather than hitting, pushing, or scratching.
As Andrea shared this story, encouraging the moms to keep at it, to do what mommy's do regardless of how their new child reacts, I realized she was speaking an important truth- the truth of "As If."

What he Needs vs. What he Wants

Scott Means, who is part of our Hope at Home team and the writer of the Journey to Surrender marriage blog, writes about the need to love your spouse "as if." He says, "It means we do our best to love them “as if” they are closer to the person that we know they really are on the inside, despite what we might observe on the outside. It means having grace at the center of the way we view and interact with our spouses." I think we can take this principle and apply it to our children. Andrea knew that her son needed to be snuggled and loved, but she was dealing with the current reality that because her son was unaccustomed to this normal physical expression of a mother's love, he did not want what she knew he needed. What a wise mother she was to treat him as if he wanted it. In doing so, she gently led him to be the person she knew he would be-- one who freely gives and receives love.

Designed for his Benefit

For some this may seem difficult. Is it right to pretend like this? It hurts when your child hits you, and hurts even more deeply when he or she rejects your love day after day. If you are like me, your initial response may be to pull back, to protect yourself emotionally by withholding love and intimacy. Many adoptive parents deal with the very difficult and uncomfortable reality that not only does their child not seem to want to bond with their new mother and father, but they themselves struggle with bonding and having feelings of love with their child. I love what Gary Chapman says in his book The Five Love Languages.

 “Perhaps it would be helpful to distinguish love as a feeling and love as an action. If you claim to have feelings you don’t have, that is hypocritical and such false communication is not the way to build intimate relationships. But if you express an act of love that is designed for the other person’s benefit or pleasure, it is simply a choice. You are not claiming that the action grows out of a deep emotional bonding. You are simply choosing to do something for his benefit.”

Sometimes parenting the adopted or foster child involves loving them as if those tender feelings we desire are the reality. It is sometimes simply a choice to do or say something purely for the benefit of your child--in full expectation that the day will come when the reality will change. 

Father God, we look to you for the strength and the desire to love our children "as if." Would you place in our hearts actions and words designed purely for their benefit. Even this week, Lord, we ask you for a breakthrough with each child. Amen

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