Have you ever had one of those moments of "what on earth am I doing here???" I was standing alone in a hotel ballroom next to a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. The wedding was supposed to start in four hours and I still had 20 arrangements to go. All around two-gallon buckets overflowing with colorful homegrown flowers eyed me wearily. The sunflowers, their ringleader, shook their heads in dismay.
To be clear, I am not a wedding coordinator. More importantly, I am not a florist - but for the odd last minute lending of a hand to the church flower guild. What was I doing here? I took another gulp of coffee and focused. Next on my list: Wrist corsages for the wedding party. The bride had chosen Dahlias. Beautiful pink, orange, and yellow hues - perfect for a spring wedding. I picked up the flower, carefully pierced the stem with my wire, and gently began to thread the corsage. A single petal dropped. I looped the wire around the base. Another petal dropped. Again I tenderly pierced the stem. Four more petals fell. I secured the flower to the wrist corsage and surveyed my work. All that was left was a mangled stem and a single petal. I tried again.
I stayed like that for over an hour - piercing stems, flowers, and my hands. My fingertips bled over the remaining petals creating sharp dots of red on the soft pink. Each time I thought the Dahlia would survive and remain beautifully intact, but each time I pulled my hand away the petals would drop one by one until there was nothing left.
This image came to mind again and again during our first weeks with my son Jack. Every word, every touch, every look I questioned. Were we doing enough? Too much? Did he feel safe, provided for, loved? We had been through countless trainings and seminars, read numerous books and blogs on attachment issues. It seemed like uttering an incorrect word could forever hinder our son's ability to foster meaningful relationships. If we made a wrong gesture our son would reject us and run to the first adults he saw. I feared my son was like that Dahlia. Seemingly okay until we moved our hands away. Though we knew, being new parents, it was typical to feel this way, with the added stress of attachment we analyzed every noise, every movement, every preference for some secret, hidden meaning of things yet to come.
Today, my son is doing great. I no longer worry like I did in those first days, but I know that adoption is a life long journey. There may come a time, tomorrow or in the distant future, when I will need to hold my hand around him just a little tighter. But for now? For now I am happy to open my palm and watch as he learns to run.