In a recent meeting with all the players in our foster daughter’s case—social workers, attorneys, birth parents, adoption experts, and my husband and me—I was asked to give a summary of T’s progress since our last meeting, three months previous. I told the group all of T’s recent successes: being promoted up a level in gymnastics; behaving well (for the most part) in school and at home; scoring on grade level in reading and math. Thinking about how far T had come in the past three years, I smiled.
“You’re really infatuated with her, aren’t you?” asked a man in the room who had made it clear in previous meetings that he did not want T to be adopted by Bill and me. He said it with a sly smile and clearly meant it as an insult—using the word “infatuation” in place of “love” to suggest our feelings for T were surface only.
I looked at him but did not respond. His words were so off base that they didn’t even sting. Infatuated. Thinking about it later, I could have responded that I wish I were infatuated with T. Infatuation is quite a bit easier than love.
Infatuation comes early in a relationship, before we know the person fully. During the infatuation stage, we delight in a person’s good qualities; everything about the person is sparkly and new. Talents are lauded as unique and remarkable, while troublesome behaviors are dismissed as quirks and eccentricities. Infatuation is a fun stage — it’s most delicious when you’re dating the person, but I found the feeling of infatuation to be lovely with each of my babies (including toddler T) as well.
Love, specifically parental love, has little in common with infatuation. Parenting and loving T has been the most difficult endeavor Bill and I have faced as a couple. At the same time, it’s been the most meaningful and rewarding experience of our marriage.
To love is to respond to the needs of another. And the more we know a person the more we understand his or her needs, both small and profound. Parenting is an intentional loving response to the needs of a child—and the more complicated the child’s needs the more difficult it can be to discover what the loving response must be. In just a few cases in each lifetime, we are privileged to actually see what another human being may need to become more fully him- or herself.
And what is parenting but reaching into the soul of a child and pulling out the true person who resides there?
Sorry, sir, that’s not infatuation. It’s hard work. It’s love. …continued next week
—by Annemarie Scobey from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.
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