Cocooning is a big thing in the adoption world. Parents stay home a lot and meet all the child’s needs so they learn to trust them. Shannon Dingle explains.
Upon returning home after adopting, friends in the know have asked if we'll be "cocooning."
Maybe, maybe not.
Before I explain that, let me step back for those of you who are wondering what butterflies have to do with our return to Raleigh. Cocooning is a big thing in the adoption world. You stay home a lot, meet all your child’s needs so they learn to trust you, and stay away from anywhere with a lot of stimuli, like church and restaurants and the grocery store and so on. The intent is to keep your child's world small in the beginning so that they learn to trust you and learn what family is and learn about all the newness within a controlled and limited environment.
That would be hard for us. And I don’t think it’s necessary.
For starters, we have cocooned here in Uganda. Almost six weeks of time together has helped our children understand each other and understand how our family works. That’s not to say they’ve learned all there is to learn, but they’ve learned enough that the introduction of other people will not be detrimental in the way it would have been after week one or two with us.
Next, we are homebodies anyway. After having spent half of October and most of November away from the comfort of home, we are ALL ready to stay away from any place with a lot of stimuli.
Furthermore, we’ve had a rough go of it here in Uganda health-wise. We’ll need a lot of appointments in the beginning – our typical physical and occupational and speech therapy appointments for Zoe and Robbie, the pediatric infectious disease specialist for our child with HIV who has also had an infection here (suspected to be typhoid), the pediatrician for Zoe who had malaria here and another of our Ugandans who has still not fully recovered from a bout of malaria that almost killed her a couple months ago, and the school system for Patience, who is anxious to get started with school and whom we’ll probably be starting sooner than we initially planned.
Finally, church is a big part of who we are as a family, and I’m not sure we’re really teaching our newest children what our family is about without being immersed in our local church. Will we immediately drop them off in Sunday school? Probably not. For Philip, though, he’ll go to the same class as Robbie once it’s time, so it won’t be the same as just leaving him on his own. For Patience, we expected kindergarten to be an appropriate placement for her once she starts school, but we’re realizing she may be better suited for 1st grade with ESL support. We’ll see what the school system says, but if that’s the case, then she’ll join Jocelyn in Sunday school too. (Anyway, our children’s ministry team is absolutely amazing, so they’d be fine with Patience starting in the 1st grade class and moving later if that’s best for her transition.) So that only leaves our two year olds in different classes, and Patricia will hang out with me in an Ergo or sling for the first month or two at church.
Plus having Angie with us for three weeks helped the newest ones see that Mommy and Daddy could still be Mommy and Daddy with another grown-up helping too.
So will we cocoon? Not in the truest sense of the practice. We’ll do what works best for all of us, and we’ll switch up our plans if and when we need to.
That said, we do have one request. If you are in our home or see us out, and we seem to be struggling with discipline for one or more of our children (especially the Ugandans, but also the other three since they’re in the midst of major life changes), there are some ways you can help and one way you could possibly make things harder. You can help by offering a smile to encourage us; that gesture means more than you know. If you have time, you can help by loving and engaging the children who are not having a rough time in that moment so that we can focus on the one who is. The one thing that could make things harder for us is trying to help with the child who is struggling. Doing so might undermine our role as parents for that child. More importantly, we know the trauma they have experienced and the emotional maturity they have or lack. We respond to misbehavior and disobedience through that lens, so our parenting style might look different from what you expect and be different from how you might respond in an attempt to help.
For example, you might see an almost seven year old girl having a toddler-like tantrum and a mother who is having a hard time physically with her daughter, but we need to get through that struggle together to grow in our relationship. We know some of where she’s been and how she’s hurt and what progress she’s already made, and God has used all of that knowledge to equip us to be the best ones to meet her needs. For the sake of our child’s privacy, I won’t offer more details than that, but please, trust us.
In ways I won’t begin to describe, other than to mention that our first three children have experienced serious sickness while here in Uganda, please understand that all six of our children might act from places of trauma in the beginning. Please be patient with them and with us as we adjust.
I love y’all.