Sunday, December 10, 2006

Imprinted

I started reading this post over at "Lumpyhead's Mom" and she referred to this post about her adopted brother and I started writing a comment that was so large I decided to bring it back here.

My brother is adopted from Vietnam. He came over on Operation Babylift and for the first 2 weeks he was placed with another family - an older, childess couple who was expecting an older child, not a toddler. He cried quite a bit, and they decided they could not handle it. The agency then looked on the list for a family with children and found us, a family with three and room for more.

When he came home to us, he didnt cry for several weeks. Ever. He would fall down and hit his head and get up and just keep walking. He was only 19 months old. A child psychologist told my mother that he had probably made the connection between crying and then being rejected by the first couple, and did not want to risk rejection again so he stifled his tears. Censored his feelings. At 19 months.

Just thinking about my boys, at 21 months, having the wherewithal and fear to stifle their natural need to cry makes ME cry big fat, hot tears. They cry and laugh and shriek and howl with laughter in any given minute. They give big hugs and wet kisses indiscriminantly. They have no filter, no censor.

As we go through the daily marvel that is our life with these two boys, I often catch myself in a moment and wonder if they are going to remember it. Last night they followed me into the front living room as I checked the huge, heavy, lit wreath hanging outside in front of the bay window. I was afraid the high winds would knock it down, or worse, bang it right through the window.

As I stood there watching it, a huge gust came up and set it swaying back and forth. The boys were in front of me, little hands pressed against the glass. The gust frightened them and they pressed back against my legs, mutterring warnings to me in toddler speak. I pulled them back onto the loveseat with me and explained about the wind and not to be afraid.

We sat there in the glow of the Christmas lights, warm in our snug house, the boys in their fleece PJ's (and inexplicably wearing their snow hats). I called Tom in from the kitchen to join us and we sat and watched the wind blow the lights in the trees outside. The boys snuggled on our laps and chattered on about "wind- wind!" and "yights". We did eventually take the wreath down (the gusts were 30 miles per hour) but not until the boys decided it was time to move out of the comfortable warm glow and onto to their next adventure.

It was a wonderful 20 minutes or so.Will they remember that? Will they know about wind the next time? Or will they still press back against me in that wonderful way that toddlers do, reaching for my leg and pressing head to thigh? Do my 21 month olds remember individually any of the good things that happen to them every day, or do they live in a sweet whirl of laps and hugs and baths and chasing Daddy around the house, so comfortable it just blurs into the background?

My brother certainly gave in to crying eventually, but never like most toddlers. He grew into a brilliant student and is a huge success in his field and a wonderful brother and son. He will make a great husband and father. But even now, at 32, he is reserved and holds his emotions closely in check. I cant help but wonder, what came first? Was he destined to be so reserved, or did his experiences at all of 19 months leave that imprint on him?

What imprints am I leaving on the little people in my world?

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