"Puppy does have an unusually strong reaction to people leaving. Or really to anything going away." I'd like to hear more about this as it echoes in my ears as I think about Woob. I want to know I'm not imagining things or making things up.I'm not sure how to describe it other than to say when we have special visitors, he gets terribly sad when they leave. Almost distraught. He buries his head in our legs and sobs like his heart is breaking. Sometimes it lingers for a day or two as him being a little "off." You can see a lot of it going on in this old post written after one of Ray's visits.
My brother was in town for just one day the other week as part of a business trip. He and Puppy always have a great time together--Justin is incredible with kids and Puppy oozes affection right back. We had dinner together and they played and played. When we left Puppy did his usual falling apart at the thought that Uncle Justin was going back to New York. It was the first time my brother had witnessed it. It shook him up so much he brought it up with my mom the next day on the phone. "He was so sad," he said.
It's not separation anxiety. He's fine leaving us when he needs to, has no problems transitioning at the babysitter's house or at the church nursery or what have you. He's always been a bit of an explorer. This is about people coming to him and then leaving. And it's not just people. We pulled out a small bush in our yard that he's never so much as glanced at and suddenly he's crying, "I always loved that bush." That sort of thing.
The common thread is always someone or something going away and him being very sad about that loss of presence. It's also very important for him to know people miss him. He often asks if I missed him after he's been at the babysitter's or even when he and Todd just go off to run an errand.
Here I'm tempted to speculate about what's going on for him, but I'll refrain. Sudden mood swings are completely normal for an almost-four year old. It's the outsized nature of the swings when it comes to saying goodbye to certain people that has my antennae pinging. I could certainly imagine reasons for why that happens, but I'm not imagining that it happens. Is it about adoption? Maybe. Maybe not. I don't really buy into the idea that adoption can be separated out from the rest of his identity--it is part and parcel of who he is. I'm clinging to Dr. Pavao's notion that adoption is always going to add a certain complexity as Puppy works through the usual developmental stages--and that that complexity is healthy and normal. Adoption isn't something our kids work through separately from everything else that is going on for them cognitively and emotionally. They do it in bits and pieces and always in tandem with whatever else is going on in their amazing growing minds.
So we sit with him while he cries. We acknowledge his feelings. We emphasize the permanency of things that are permanent. We talk a lot about loved ones who live far away, trying to establish for him that those bonds still exist even when we can't be together. We model missing people and trusting that we will see them again just by talking about our own emotions in front of him. We don't "make it about adoption," and yet we do, because we include his birth parents in the constellation of loved ones who come and go; we acknowledge that they aren't present and let him be sad about that when he is. For now, it's all we know to do.