Recently I came across an Adoptive Families Magazine article entitled Band-Aid Mom. In the article, Wendy Flemons, an adoptive mom, asks this important question – “Can a Band-Aid do more than heal a physical wound?” As simple as it may seem, this is a profoundly important question and one that adoptive dads should be equally interested in answering.
Flemons explains in the article her initial aversion to Band-Aids given the tendency of many kids to over-rely on the simple first aid supply that lacks any real inherent healing characteristics. I can relate. However, as I continue to learn more about the important and complex subject of attachment, I have discovered that Band-Aids are actually a highly relevant tool – literally and metaphorically – for adoptive and foster parents as they seek to help their children heal from the effects of their past. Writing about the experience with her 10 year old daughter who they adopted less than a year ago from Ethiopia, Flemons noted that she had learned two important things: “Children have pain beyond what we can see, and Band-Aids are not just physical objects.”
In fact, attachment researchers have concluded that the ability for a child to receive (and ultimately to give) nurture is an essential hallmark of healthy and secure attachment. Yet the abuse, neglect and other harms that scar our children’s pasts can impede and even prevent them from being practiced in this skill that is essential for building healthy connections. As Flemons wrote of her daughter, “[her] need for immediate healing has been a satisfying way to begin the slow journey of building attachment . . . The bandage does more than bond child to mother. It is also a way for the mom to apply herself to her child’s wounds, both seen and unseen. With our touch, we heal, protect, and connect.”
This profound insight was still fresh in my mind this past Sunday afternoon. As I was watching another unforgettable pro football game on TV one of my boys passed by me on the way to bathroom. Instinctively, I asked him “What’s wrong?”
“I have a cut on my finger. I need to get a Band-Aid,” he replied.
“Come here, let me see it,” I said. He walked over and showed me what must have been a microscopic paper cut, given that I could not see anything even resembling a cut on his finger. My initial thought was to downplay the need for him to seek care for such a meaningless ‘injury.’ But I was also mindful of the hundreds of little “wounds” to his heart, mind and spirit resulting from his past, many of which are all too easy for me to overlook, dismiss or simply ignore. So in that instant I decided to resist my instinct to dismiss and instead rely on the healing power of a simple Band-Aid applied with love by the hands of a father who is learning what it means to become a Band-Aid Dad.
“Here, let me put that on for you. Should we put a little ointment on, too?” I asked.
“Ok, Dad,” he replied as I applied the first aid. “Thanks. That feels much better,” he said with a smile looking directly into my eyes.
“Glad to hear it. You remember – any time you need something, whatever it is, you let me know. That’s what I’m here for. And one more thing – I love you,” I continued.
I am learning that becoming a Band-Aid Dad is a process. It takes practice and it certainly stretches me at times. But the more Band-Aids I apply to my kids’ wounds – both seen and unseen – the more I am convinced that Band-Aids lovingly applied really can heal.
This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Adoption Today Magazine.