by: Melissa Sadin
“The tide recedes but leaves behind bright seashells on the shore.
The music stops, and yet it echoes on in sweet refrains.
For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains.”
That was a poem that was on a wooden wall hanging in my childhood home. I had occasion to recall it the other day. As I did, I understood the meaning of the poem in a completely different way, as often happens when one takes out a childhood memory and considers it as an adult.
For me, now, after having spent the last 15 years raising a developmentally traumatized son, the poem is another way to describe the dance of attachment. Attachment is really all about trust. The kind of trust we learn as infants. If we are raised in a nurturing environment, we learn to trust that when mommy goes into another room that she will eventually return. And if she takes too long and we begin to worry, we can cry and she will return more quickly. My son, however, did not have an opportunity to practice that dance. When he cried, sometimes someone came and sometimes they did not. So he cannot trust. Without trust, the world is a very scary place.
Trying to teach the dance of attachment is like experiencing the waves on the shore. I have two sons. One, we will call Tom, is adopted from Bulgaria. And the other, we will call Ned, is homegrown. Raising two children from vastly different origins has given me a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the development of attachment. It has occurred to me over the years that my homegrown son’s poor behavior choices don’t wound me as deeply as my Bulgarian son’s poor behavior choices. When Ned misbehaves it hurts less. I recover more quickly. His tides are more predictable. His high tide is not as high and his low tide is not as low.
When Tom behaves inappropriately, his behaviors tend to wound me more deeply. It takes longer for me to heal. His tides are similar to hurricane high tides and summer drought low tides. They are harder to predict and much harder to endure. However, after the storm clears, the sun shines more brightly on a beach strewn with a multitude of seashells. Helping Tom learn to attach, watching him have the courage to trust, has exhausted me to the point of breaking, but it has also given me gifts far beyond my imagining.
Disclaimer: I do not love one son more than the other. I offer this metaphor and comparison to anyone else who is trying to keep their boat upright in a raging sea. When the tide finally recedes, it leaves behind bright seashells on the sand. I will try to remember the seashells the next time the hurricane rolls in.