Specialists say that kids want to obey their parents so long as they feel connected. Honestly, this was the case with Jackie from day one. We made an conscious effort to connect; that was our sole purpose during the matching period. And we kept at it. Even and especially when she felt completely comfortable to test her boundaries and ours. 

The ebb and flow of familial love, when we peel one layer at a time, until we forget we were ever separated. 

The rules of our house have been thought through over time. We added things, we scratched things off. We tested. And as of right now, we have three points of reference, three pillars if you will: we listen, we respect each other, we tell the truth. I could go into details about all the ramifications and reasons for them, but I won’t at this time. What is important is that we all abide by them, adults and kids.

During this familiarization season with Ivy, a few more things stand out. 

I feel like the director of this play, as well as a main actor, and I sense the pull of prioritization of my mind and heart. 

I want to be with just Ivy at times, give her all my attention and for the world around to fade; for us to learn each other’s ways, trace the lines of our hearts, observe and patiently pursue. 

But I inadvertently took the roll of guide for the foster mom. While she has been teachable, as we stand on equal footing, when Ivy calls “mom” and we both respond, it’s confusing for my daughter. Because Ivy already started calling her by her name to get her attention otherwise. 

When the interactions are supervised, I answer questions, connecting more by necessity with the adults. But those official supervised meetings are few and far between – so they are not a big deal, but they are important reference points on our journey.

Another point of confusion, when we are together, the foster mom lavishes Ivy with hugs and kisses, soaking up her sweetness, and expressing the love enough to last a lifetime. Oddly, I understand. And yet, by comparison with Jackie’s foster mom, who deferred the attachment, slowly, discreetly, purposeful towards us, I notice a difference in the speed of connection.

As adoptive parents, I remember we made little mental effort then, because we didn’t know any better. Our lack of experience was evident (to us) as I recall I felt rather clumsy. But we were eager. our first foster mom would have us dress her in the morning, help her eat, take her to the bathroom, brush her hair… We all walk a delicate line, but, to the best of our ability, we help each other journey well. So help us God! Alas, the best guides are the kids. They lead the way clearest and most direct.

At home Ivy eats with us, whatever good food we lay on the table: vegetable salad, fruit of any kind, chicken chunky soup, pasta, plain yogurt. But so far at the foster family all I’ve see her eat is chocolate cereal and Nutella on bread. For breakfast and dinner. 

The girls are excited to see each other, Jackie cries when I take Ivy back. But together they stubbornly define their own personality. Ivy is not a follower. She purposefully goes or the does the opposite way compared to her sister. She is defiant and she protests with emotions what she doesn’t want to do. One thing is clear though: many big picture things, she doesn’t know what they mean. I remember reading in a book about asking for kids permission for things that are not negotiable, by ending a request with the question “ok?” Giving the kids the invitation to say no. Instead, asking them if we made ourselves understood, we will gently push situation in the safe direction and the direction we need or want to go. 

We want to be with our little girl all the time. Though we are exhausted. But today we had to decide with our brain to take a break. Give space, rest. It feels selfish to stay away. But I think we’ll take advantage of this amazing gift of time if space, while we have time to internalize what is happening to us. I’m sure we’ll make mistakes. And in many ways I wish we did a complete repeat of our experience with Jackie, but the current law doesn’t allow overnights, and that really distorts the actual reality of cohabitation, of parenting. We experiment and hopefully, faithfully we’ll be able to make the very best of it.