public meltdowns, attachment, and my current kid learning curve

Elias cried really hard today- for at least an hour straight. One might even say he screamed. It came out of the blue, right as the food arrived for lunch. We were at a local restaurant that was packed with a Sunday lunch crowd. Normally at the sight of food, he is excited and eager to eat. We’ve been to this restaurant before and he did great. Today, not so much. He wouldn’t eat a thing. He was inconsolable. It seemed like all kinds of people were looking at me, wondering why I was not able to calm this child. I was sure they were all drawing their own conclusions about why that was. I imagined them all thinking what one doctor said earlier this week, “clearly, you are not this child’s mother” (the same doctor also apologized for the fact that we were American later, and that made me like him again, ha). Fortunately, today, no one said anything, and we kept him outside (still crying) through the end of lunch.

It’s moments like this when I feel like I am failing at this whole “attachment” parenting thing. You are supposed to be able to comfort your kid. You are supposed to know what upsets your kid. But not me, not yet. Sure, on most occasions my presence brings peace and comfort to Elias and Cora already (although Elias is EXTREMELY partial to his dad right now, ha), but I don’t have any background with these kids, and so I’m often just as surprised as everyone else when they are sent into a panic or tantrum by something seemingly random.

I’ve had to become a student of my kids- paying close attention to things like body language and other non-verbal clues to tell me how they are feeling in any given situation. And I’m learning. I’m learning what they like, how they are comforted, what makes them afraid and how they like to take their meds. It’s a crash course. Normally, parents get to develop this knowledge over time as these things develop in their kids. But for Dave and I, it’s like we’ve been out of school for a long, long time and have just come back to a lot of make up exams. We don’t have the benefit of having been present in class. All we have (literally!) are our own attempts to study and learn. Sometimes I wish we had someone to ask about their tendencies, preferences, habits, etc. There’s no one. This is sad to me.

Good news is, I think it’s fun to study my kids. I’ve been doing it with Macy and Owen for years, and it fascinates me to learn how each of my kids is uniquely wired. I also like to research and read, and so I know that the issues we are having are not unique, and are actually not even that severe in the adoption realm. I feel we are prepared to handle these hurdles, but I’m looking forward to handling them in our community of people who understand what is going on and can show grace to us and to our kids as we figure it all out together. That’s probably the hardest part- dealing with these issues among people who don’t know us, our parenting style, or really anything about what kind of people we are. 

Tonight I’m reminded that it’s good to be known, loved, and extended grace. We all need that. My new kids, my bio kids, Dave, myself- all of us needing so much grace and patience as we walk through this transition and handle it in different ways. Even today Macy (oldest bio child, 6 years old) needed a little of this seeing/knowing love when, through big tears, she confessed she felt like a bad daughter because she didn’t have her shoes on and wasn’t ready to leave the house when I asked her to be. I reminded her that her lack of being prepared and doing what I asked was in fact a reality (I see you), but that it doesn’t affect her status as a good daughter with whom I am well pleased (I know you and I love you). 

And so, here I am, working on embracing that reality myself, just as I am attempting to extend it to others. It’s a clumsy thing- parenthood, love, shoot, life in general. We’re all just stumbling around, really. Doing our best to love and live well. There’s something to be said about that, I think. I don’t know that I’m going to totally master the art of attachment parenting (or that I totally want to anyways), but I am sure of this: my kids are loved, they will know it without a doubt, and I will continue to love them all as best as I can through whatever mess faces us on any given day. Here’s to hoping that is somehow enough.

6 thoughts on “public meltdowns, attachment, and my current kid learning curve

  1. Wow, thank you for sharing your journey…this is all so new and crazy and it sounds like you are doing an amazing job Jess. So appreciate your vulnerability and honesty along the way. You’ll never master it, and that’s ok. You’re doing a darn great job trying. You are known and you are loved. Can’t wait for you to return so we can live this new journey with you.

  2. Jess, many of us, likely all of us if we are being honest, have had moments in time like you did with Elias, with our own kids, bio and/or adopted. It does make me sad to know that there is no one you can talk to about Elias and Cora’s early life. However, our Father knows them and He has brought them to you and Dave, two incredible parents. You are uniquely equipped to handle this and I know you will. Go easy on yourself, you have had these kids for only about 2 weeks now. I am confident that your loving Elias through his tears yesterday made a huge impact on him – you didn’t hand him off, you didn’t walk away. That will stick with him, maybe not consciously at his young age, however I KNOW it made an impression.
    You and Dave are two of the most amazing parents I have ever known. Your intentionality with all your children, how you see them and treat them as individuals, celebrating their unique personalities, is a beautiful picture of God’s love played out on this earth. I am in awe of what you and Dave are doing. Know that you are being lifted up on prayer! Hugs, Rachel

  3. I will always respect, admire and honor your parenting skills. How you interact with your children, is heart-warming and so God-like.

    God has placed you in a totally different environment with 2 totally abandoned children. One day at a time, as God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

    You are dearly loved and prayed for-daily!!

    In Him,
    Pam Lafferman

  4. I so enjoyed this post. Grateful with you that He is enough and that through us and in spite of us our kids get to experience that He knows and loves us. It is because He loves you that He has beautifully created the Ludwig fam and equipped you to love and share His love with your four sweet ones. Beautiful story He is writing. Praying for your trip home and the days you have left in the twins homeland. Soak it up.

  5. Your blog has become my daily blessing…in fact most days I read it to the whole family and we are all blessed! Thank you for including us in your journey. It is a joy and privilege to pray for the Ludwig family…and it is such a such a joy to now pray for Cora and Elias by name!!! It is also so good to know exactly how to pray for each of you. Thank you for sharing your struggles as well as your joy. Sending love to all of you!

  6. Jess, I cannot express strongly enough how much love and empathy I am feeling for you right now! I wish so much that I could pause time, teleport to Uganda, and sit next to you on the porch for hours talking about all of this. I am honestly still processing parts of our first months with Zeke, now three and a half years later. I wish we could process them together more easily. Please know that I’m a phone call away when you get home, and that your precious family is always in my prayers. Love you!!!

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