I've talked before about the attachment cycle, a baby cries and a tender, responsive, and consistent care giver is suppose to respond, every time. This cycle of, I have a need- I get upset... You hear me, you come- you help me calm, this is the attachment cycle. This cycle happens hundreds of thousands of times in an infants first year of life, and it lays the foundation for self-worth, self-efficacy, and mental health.
Unfortunately, three of our five kiddos didn't get this ground work laid correctly. And we are working to help shift and replace their foundations. I consider it one of our most important roles.
The negative self talk is heart breaking for me and comes from this experience of: I cried and no one came, I do not matter. Or I cried and someone came and treated me poorly, thus I am bad. The way I often describe it is this, most children walk into a room and assume everyone in that room adores them, and wants to hear all about their minecraft explorations, or worm digging, or football practice, they assume that they are the center of the universe. And so it should be.
Many kids who didn't have the correct attachment foundations don't feel this way. They walk into a room and assume they are disliked. They assume that they are the worst, or the stupid-est, or the one everyone is laughing at. And so many times any correction, or rule enforcing comes across as a direct confirmation to them that their worst fears are true.
"I knew I was the worst one."
"I knew she didn't like me."
Recently the negative self talk had taken a turn for the worse with one of our sweet babies. So we began talking with him regularly about how his choices, whether good or bad, do not effect our view of him. We talk with him regularly about how our love is constant, just like Papa God's.
Its been interesting to see his development as this truth has begun to take hold in his heart.
Yesterday I totally messed up with him and flipped my lid. As I was apologizing (a few minutes later) I asked him, "Do you still love me?"
He looked up at me as if I were crazy.
"Of course!" he exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.
As I pulled him in tight I whispered, "Thank you! That is exactly how I feel whenever you make a poor choice. Of course I still love you! I will never stop loving you."
He asks for reminders about his status of unconditional love. What I have found most interesting is this, he often asks at dinner.
He still needs confirmation of his spot at the table.
And that makes me cry.
And yet, what I love, is that now, instead of sitting there silently questioning his worth and his belonging. He reminds himself.
Sometimes it is a quiet whisper I hear him saying to just himself as he waits for his turn to talk about his day, and sometimes it is a declaration that he makes to all of us. "You guys love me no matter what!"
Progress is slow when you're shifting foundations.
But progress is progress.