Infants who are born into healthy, stable environments learn to trust their reliable caregivers. These little ones experience love through attentive, ever-present people who will feed their hungry bellies, change their wet diapers, swaddle, snuggle, and soothe. Although babies lack the language and cognitive skills to articulate a normal adult-child connection, they are more aware than may appear. These crucial, early months outside the womb are essential for attachment and trust building, especially for kids who’ve suffered trauma.
Given Sam’s early stress, I have marveled at his healthy reliance on me. His entrance into the world was marked by the profound loss of his first family, the gain of his second family, and a lengthy stay in the hospital. While in the NICU however, he never displayed signs of worry that I might leave him. He seemed confident that I would show up to his bedside, detangle the myriad wires connected to his tiny frame, and hold him close for hours, his heart beating against mine.
A month later, our family pulled into the driveway and settled in at home, where we continued a gentle rhythm of care for Sam. We fed and burped him, sang and chatted with him. He never seemed concerned that we might miss a feeding or leave him to fend for himself. Through our attention and presence, he had the assurance that we would meet his needs. We were creating a lifelong bond, one that we continue to build.
These days, Sam trusts that I’ll lift him from his crib when he wakens and yells. He expects that I’ll provide food when he signs ‘eat’. When he wants to crawl up on my lap to read, he presumes I’ll gladly accept.
He has full confidence that I am for him and will choose to engage him whenever he invites me to participate. I’ll welcome his full-throttle hugs, even when they level me. My arms will hold and comfort him when he hurts and those same arms will be there to catch his compact 34 lbs. when he dives off the trampoline.
For over 3 years, I’ve had the opportunity to show up in Sam’s life. He knows that I’ll be there because I’ve been a constant presence over the past 1,156 days of life. Whether helping him to find a lost toy or holding his mask while he endures another breathing treatment, I’ve earned his trust. He can be certain of my fierce love and loyalty.
Sam is teaching me, too, that I can trust the ones who know and love me. These select few have proven dependable by showing up over time, accepting me in all my flaws, while pointing me to the One who made me. I can believe that they seek my good. They graciously sift through my words, listen well, and speak the truth, gently wrapped in love. These extraordinary individuals don’t assume the worst about my intentions; they know me well enough to know when I’m struggling and need extra support. They’re not afraid to reach out and ask the hard questions.
The past few months have been difficult for many reasons. When I’m tempted to retreat, to hole up and stay guarded, I come back to these remarkable humans, disguised as rare gems. I believe in the reality of their hopeful, humble words–their faithful presence in my life.
Sam teaches me to trust the ones who know me well and love me. I’ve been there for him, to care for and comfort, to laugh and play, to share victories and struggles. His simple approach to our relationship is a glimpse of what I have received from a small circle of people who’ve proven themselves worthy of my trust. And I’m so deeply grateful for the gift of these precious few.