We spent several days at Notre Dame before we flew back to China last month, and a highlight for me was being able to sit in on one of CJ’s Peace Studies classes. The lesson that day was an interesting overview of wars and their various changes throughout history. The professor made an observation that during the 1650’s architecture began to include larger windows because people felt safer at that time.
His comment made me think about David and this idea of feeling safe. Sometimes we can see large windows of light in his heart as he prays his heart-felt prayers and as he verbally processes Bible stories and lessons he’s learning. At other times, it seems like thick walls are around his heart when he acts in defensive and aggressive ways, to self-protect and to self-promote. Doesn’t this make sense when, until 5 months ago, there was no one in his life he could consistently trust to be there for him and to look out for his interests? He had grown used to living a life of survival at the orphanage for almost 9 years, and had learned that he could only depend on himself. If you have that, I want that too. If I don’t get my way, I’m going to fight. What do I need to do in this situation to get what I want?
Daniel has some similar issues of self-protection and self-promotion as well. But because of his serious brain infection he doesn’t remember living at the orphanage like David does, or talk about wanting to go back there like David has. Daniel has “come back to life” in our home and I believe there’s a certain amount of simple child-like trust that goes along with the care we’ve given him during his recovery.
On New Year’s Day, while we were visiting some friends in Kansas City, David made the comment that he used to drink as much coke as he wanted to and because we don’t let him drink coke, he wishes he could go back to the orphanage and not be part of our family anymore. I share that just to say that it made me realize David didn’t feel really connected to us yet. Being able to drink coke whenever he wanted felt more important to him than having a family then. He didn’t like our family rule because it felt unfair to him, and it seemed that life was really better before he came to us. Could he trust us with decisions that didn’t seem right to him? To believe that we really wanted what was best for him?
I have recently been reading a book some friends gave us about adoption bonding called The Connected Child by Drs. Purvis and Cross, and I especially like their thoughts on trust and safety:
“Our goal is to bring these children closer to us, into our sphere of warm guidance and nurturing care, so we can help them connect to their world and to the people who care deeply about them. Our intent is to see beyond maladaptive behaviors to the real child who has been holed up inside a fortress of fear. We use the term ‘real child’ to refer to the core of highest potential inside a young person. It’s always our goal to free up and reveal this magnificent inner core and to enable the child to experience his or her full potential as a loving, connected, and competent individual.”
We want to help David (and Daniel) to be freed from living in fortresses of fear, so the castles of their lives can be transformed by large windows to let in the light of God. So that they can truly trust us as their parents and fully trust God to meet all of their needs. So that they can feel safe and open up to let us into all areas of their lives without high walls of self-protection and distrust. Then they can let go of their defensiveness and learned survival skills. They won’t have to feel that they have to fight for what they need or want, to feel that no one else is there to fight for them.
“You provide ‘felt safety’ when you arrange the environment and adjust your behavior so your children can feel in a profound and basic way that they are truly safe in their home and with you. Until your child experiences safety for himself or herself, trust can’t develop, and healing and learning can’t progress.”
We want David and Daniel to have that kind of ‘felt safety’ so they can develop their full potentials and heal from their past wounds. So that they can learn and become all that God has for them.
“When a child feels genuinely safe, the primitive brain lets down its guard and allows trust to blossom and bonding to begin. Parts of the brain that control higher learning can operate. Children who feel safe are free to heal and become secure, trusting children.”
The ideas in this book have helped me to see that possibly some of the attitude issues and learning struggles we’ve been facing may be because the primitive brain has not been able to “let down its guard.” It gives me hope that as David feels more safe and secure in our home and as he learns to trust us more and more, higher learning might then be free to operate without certain blocks in the way.
I was encouraged that school was a more positive experience both yesterday and this morning. And David has thanked me for encouraging him. I realized that he is both learning better and feeling better about himself and me when I praise his efforts and progress. I want to keep growing in this area.
I want him to trust me as a Mom who thinks the best of him and wants the best for him. Who makes sometimes seemingly unfair and hard to accept decisions, but he can trust me anyway. Because he is safe and secure in my love for him. That he could see me as a Mom who is nurturing and who cares deeply for him. Who is more quick to praise and affirm than to notice mistakes and point them out.
As we see spring blooming outside these days, I pray that trust would be blossoming in our home as well. And that increasingly, the answer to one of life’s most fundamental questions, “Can I trust you?” would be “Yes.”