Our soon-to-be second son had immediately reached for dinosaurs off the playroom shelf. I should have dove in, right then and there, and played with the dinosaurs alongside him. I realize he may not have even been receptive to that, at his age, having just met me. But instead of even trying to connect over dinosaurs, I had this mental checklist fogging up my head of all I wanted to do and all I wanted to give him.
And I actually had this thought, “I . . . don’t know how to play with dinosaurs.”
My older son has never really cared for dinosaurs, so we don’t own any dinosaur toys. I have very little experience playing with dinosaurs, and I had no idea our littlest boy would have a dinosaur obsession! I can do cars. But WHAT DO I DO WITH DINOSAURS?
This moment was one of several when I realized adjusting with this baby (two-year-old) will be completely different from our first. Sure, I feel more confident and way less nervous going into our second toddler adoption from Korea. But for heaven’s sake, I need to brush up on my dang dino skills! Every attempt to redirect our youngest into something I had prepared to do with him just further solidified his love of dinosaurs. And I know, I know, I should have just gone with his flow! The jitters are real and messy at the first meeting!
Eventually — the same with meeting our first son — bubbles and catching him down a slide in the playroom helped open our little guy up to us. And I thought, why didn’t we START with these things? But we hadn’t, and as we walked out of the agency a few minutes later I was feeling mostly like a failure. Thoughts of what I should have done differently tantalizing each of my steps. After beating myself up over it all, my husband talked me out of my funk (as he usually does). When my head cleared a bit, I came to this realization:
THIS is the part I’m bad at. I’m bad at charming children the first time I meet them.
I’m an introvert, and trying super hard to connect with a child I just met takes all of my energy. Regardless of whether it’s my friend’s child or if this is a child I’ve loved as my own at a distance for months or even years. A love deepening while waiting for intercountry red tape to clear and allow us to finally meet our soon-to-be child.
I could also think through multiple factors affecting our first time meeting our child. He may have been extra tired that day, and it’s possible the room had too many toys. It seemed to keep our oldest from really connecting with his brother at this first meeting too because there were all these awesome toys he wanted to play with! Our youngest had also just eaten before our meeting, so food wasn’t a motivation that day. But considering all factors that could make me feel less of a failure, I’ve also come to the point of acceptance that maybe I’m just really bad at this part . . . .
And so what?
Maybe I stink at charming my kids at the beginning. It was the same case when we met our first son. And it’s generally the same with my friends’ kids until we get to know each other more. I’m a safe person for children. But I’m not good at connecting with them right away like some other people are.
Plus, at the time I met each of my sons — they weren’t mine, legally or otherwise. These boys weren’t waiting around dreaming for me to come get them. No, to them their foster mothers were “Mom.” That’s all they consciously knew and could understand. They don’t understand the role of foster mothers is to care for them in the gap until they can go to their forever family.
But even though this first part in getting to know our child is super awkward and uncomfortable as we learn each other’s ways and preferences — and I overthink every part of it — I know it will get better. He will fully and completely become my baby in all the ways that matter as we get to know one another and grow in love and attachment. It’s a very purposeful, intentional time of bonding — but it’s the part that begins melding our hearts and lives together. That miraculous sort of love that we’ve experienced with our oldest son, and I know we’ll get there with our youngest too.
By the way, in case you’re wondering — our second meeting with each of our boys had far more connection between us! I think we all just needed a day to get over our jitters, get used to seeing each other in person, clear the fog, and really see one another more deeply in order to connect.