Two weeks ago, we celebrated one year since the Littles (a sibling group of three) came to live at our house. They were 10 months (boy), 21 months (girl), and almost 3 years (boy). At that time, the oldest had regular tantrums, some lasting 40 minutes or longer. He was very sad-looking much of the time– sullen, almost. We expected nothing else; it was his sixth move in his short life. Although he was with his siblings, he was once again on unfamiliar ground trying to find his footing. He had a significant, though presumably treatable, speech delay, so expressing why he was upset was challenging for him.

What a difference a year makes. These days, he has a ready smile; simply meeting his eyes is often all it takes to elicit a glimpse of the pearly whites. He is mostly a happy boy, creative and relaxed in his environment. He is often the source of fun for his younger siblings and the spokesman of the group. He goes to “school” every day for two hours; it’s about half pre-school and half speech therapy. He quite often expresses himself with words these days. “My heart is happy.” “I’m angry.”

All of these victories notwithstanding, he is still engaged in a significant battle to attach. This is first time in his life he has had the same “mommy” for more than nine months. He is still not sure he’s staying. I can’t read his mind, of course, but I think many of his outbursts and choices are attempts to answer one question: “Now will you love me, or will this be the thing that sends me away? “

We adopted all three Littles in November. He knows the word “adopted” and understands he has a new name and can even say, “forever family.” Yet no one has told his heart. How can we make his heart believe what our words tell him?

We are taking a multifaceted approach. We enter therapy this week, and we are using the tools we’ve learned in books and training. We make contact with him constantly while he is awake; we keep him on his toes and come down on the side of empathy versus consequence. Yet the mama in me knows it is not a matter of what we will do as much as how much we will love him while we wait. We are not suffering, but he clearly is. I look forward to the day when I can truly say, “We’re joined at the hip.” Or even better, “We’re joined at the heart.” Sometimes love means being willing to wait.