In the midst of preparing for our annual spring garage sale, I’ve escaped the abyss of clothing, games, and home décor to type this post. I was inspecting, folding, and pricing my children’s outgrown outfits when I came across a small, sauce-stained tee bearing the slogan: “Worth the Wait”. I lovingly touched it and was flooded with memories. 

Our youngest child wore that little shirt just 8 months ago in Guatemala City. Twenty-two months old and separated for the first time ever from his wonderful foster family, he naturally struggled to trust us. Still, he handled the transition much better than I – a grown, rational adult – would have. He was happy and easy-going much of the time.  He quickly began to cling to me and he loved his big brother’s attention.  I had read many attachment books and engaged in great conversations with other adoptive parents. I was aware of the “warning signs” and even toted a list from 4everfamily in my carry-on. Our child showed only a few of these signs, and since I was expecting to see these behaviors (and was pleasantly surprised by the small quantity), I admit in hindsight that I may have approached it a bit too casually.
Small things, like this tiny tee, help the realizations materialize. We went on a half-day tour about 24 hours after receiving our son. When we returned, we were all completely spent. We decided to order in Domino’s pizza for dinner. (If you’ve traveled to Guatemala, the picture of delivery boys zipping recklessly on their smoky motorbikes is probably making you smile right now!)
Our little guy could hardly wait for us to cut his food. He was incredibly impatient. He picked up the first piece and, as he did with almost all food items we offered, licked it a few times before fully investing – and ingesting – it. He refused a bib and did not want to be held or hand-fed. Crust crumbled over him and sauce slid onto his shirt. He did not want to be wiped off or even dabbed at for that matter.
I thought we’d just met the messiest child on the planet. And I thought that was A-OK. He was mine, and I loved him no matter how many t-shirts he ruined.
Only a couple of weeks passed before this same child popped whatever I gave him into his mouth and munched away. Without either of us realizing it, I successfully fed him a bowl of very soupy oatmeal one morning. He held his hands up, asking to be washed at a meal’s end. We did not “instruct” our son in this area or push for better mealtime behavior. It just happened.

Many months later I began to see clearly the missing puzzle piece that I’d once chalked up to poor table manners. It was trust. So simple, so obvious, yet so easily misread. God’s grace triumphed, though. He knows what I never will. He prompted me to prepare for attachment parenting even though I’d fail to see all the ways and places our child needed it. Things like massaging our son with baby lotion, prolonging cuddly bottle feedings, and giving a million Eskimo kisses helped us to bond and, in turn, address those trust issues slowly but surely.

The “Worth the Wait” shirt will be packed into our son’s LifeBox today. It’s tempting to bleach out the marinara patch, but I think I’ll leave it. It’s a good memory… of where we began and just how far we’ve come.