That song, that car, that book, there just seems to be something that brings us to a life we perceive as more simple and more sublime. The warm feeling overwhelms us and removes our trepidation of current events and shows us that things were so much better then than now. For me that nostalgic feeling happens every time I watch the greatest show “The Wonder Years.” I have been educating my son on the classics of TV and major film cinema. After all I can’t allow him to grow up thinking that the drivel put out on TV today is the pinnacle of our creativity. After he devoured the entire series of “The Wonder Years” we watched the three part series of “Back to the Future.” He loved it, and I loved it even more.
At my age there is just too much to do to waste time in front of a TV but then again, when it comes to spending quality time like that with my son I realize that it isn’t much of a waste. Let me qualify we rarely watch TV in our home, my son is 11 and he is really coming of age in his middle school years so I know that there will be a day when I will wish he would slow down and watch a movie with his old man. What a blessing it was to watch those shows with my son. And for that time we connected. He still talks about the movies and laments why there weren’t more in the series, and who doesn’t?
I ponder these times and I have a hope that my children will look back and think; “I had a great childhood.” What father doesn’t want that for their child? It wasn’t always that way for me or my oldest son. He came to our home when he was 4 years old, after seven placements in two years through the foster care system, he was hurt, scarred, jaded and sometimes downright out of control. But we weren’t going to allow the hurts of the past to change the hope of his future. We wanted connection and we wanted progress.
I would love to tell you that everything came easy when connecting with a hurt child but that wasn’t often the case. This was our first child so we didn’t have experience with a child that had endured trauma and here we were with this 4 year old that had to learn to survive on his own and now we wanted him to need us.
He was his own man and he wanted us to know he didn’t need us and honestly it felt sometimes that he didn’t want us. So the questioned needed to be broached…how do we connect with this hurt child?
This question is posed by every foster/adoptive parent on the planet, not to mention some biological parents. So how do you connect with your hurt child? We started by shutting ourselves down from distractions and focused on our relationship with him. We missed the first and most important years of his life, in regards to attachment and development, so we needed to make up for lost time. We used certain lotions to activate his sense of smell to help him feel safe; we fed him with a spoon, yes a 4 year old. But it worked. We got on the floor and engaged him. We held him and we read to him, a lot. So much so that he is now the top reader in his district and placed third in his middle school of 800+ students for a geography competition, (to qualify that he is in 6th grade and the middle school is 6-8th graders. If you can’t tell I’m a bit proud of his accomplishments). But I digress, we were just seeking to connect and attach to our child, the byproduct was that he absorbed things that helped him succeed in the outside world. We weren’t training him to be a top reader but he felt loved and that gave him the environment to be successful.
I often wonder if our son will look back on those times, and even the current times, and have that nostalgic warm feeling that I get when I watch “The Wonder Years?” I want him to look back and think how great his childhood became despite the difficulties it started with. There is always healing from past hurts and there is certainly hope when hurt seems to be the only thing present.
We now have three other children so it is a lot tougher to devote that one-on-one attention to each of them, but we are trying. It’s not as easy to take my oldest son to a Bears football game but those were special times that we’ll never forget. You can buy a million books on the attachment process, and there are some very good ones out there but what I have learned is that to heal the hurt child and see attachment you have to approach the situation with connection in mind. Not connection for you, because it’s easy to meet on our terms but connection for the child. What do they like? My youngest son loves doing crafts, not me at all, but I take the time to engage him in that process because if we can connect on that level the tough times won’t be nearly as tough and he will understand that even though his old man is well…old, he still wants to be a part of his life.
When I think about the legacy I leave behind I like to see my children in that legacy. What have I passed on to them? Was I a disconnected and disengaged father who rarely spent quality time with them or was I the dad who dropped everything to help with a crazy project idea they had. One time I built a Lego table with my son and I let him do the hammering and even some sawing, because he wanted to and if I wasn’t going to show him how, who was? He was so excited to put that thing together and we had a great time. The end product wasn’t of the highest quality but I wasn’t building a table, he was, I was building a connection and that is of the highest quality.
*cue the credits with that heart touching song*