"YOU LOVE ME NO MATTER WHAT, RIGHT?"
It doesn't always seem fair, but the hard work of healing requires a deliberate willful act to choose love.
Written March 11, 2020
Right before this picture was taken Marcus said to me, “Mom, when I was a baby you knew you wanted a baby.” To which I replied, “Yes, God planned for you to be mine.”
Marcus has no conscious memory of his birth parents, and I see the wheels in his mind turning--trying to figure out how and why his story is different. There's loss, but he doesn’t have the memories and words to claim it.
In the research I've read, bonding between mom and baby begins in utero. Babies already know the sound of their mother’s voice and heartbeat even before they are born. So even if a child is removed from his biological mother shortly after birth that child experiences a sense of tremendous loss. The person who felt like home to him is no longer there, and he is helpless to do anything about it. I’ve often heard the belief if you adopt a child as an infant you'll get “a free pass” so to speak in regards to the trauma and difficult behaviors, but research shows this isn't always the case. People tend to paint the concept of adoption as beautiful (which it is), but there is the sobering truth that it gets its start in heartbreaking loss and grief.
So our Marcus is trying to piece together his past and that includes working through some major emotions. This has come in the form of arguing and a lot of button pushing. I’ve read children with trauma have an innate ability to know exactly what buttons to push and how to push them. It's a survival mechanism. It's an instance of testing love, i.e. “Will you love me even when I do something bad? Will you love me even when I push you away?” Marcus is setting out to get those questions answered-- even if much of this is beyond his conscious reasoning.
Lately in addition to his behavior, there's been a lot of verbal testing in the form of “Mom, I don't love you” talk. He's gotten so used to my usual response of “Ok, Marcus. I still love you no matter what” that now he'll finish the whole statement himself. Saying, “Mom, sometimes I don't love you. But you love me no matter what right?” He's just making sure. My response to this, even through gritted teeth due to my having to deal with whatever turd like behavior he's been up to, is “Yes, Marcus, I do.”
I absolutely have no doubt he loves me. He can be an unbelievably sweet child. He seeks time with me and affection from me like none other, and many times wants my affection at the same time he's yelling at me. He loves me, and so trusts me with the full extent of his emotions.
It doesn’t always seem fair but this is the hard work of healing. It requires the deliberate willful act of choosing to love someone even while they are behaving in unlovable ways.
But in all of this there is a gift. I have been given a small glimpse of the love and effort God the Father has put into my life. I am that broken child—who in my sin and in my failures has given Him my worst, yet His response to me will always be, “I still love you no matter what.” I am worth the effort in His eyes. And as hard as it is for me to remember some days…so is Marcus.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3