upside down: an introduction

Upside Down is available in its entirety – complete, revised, and expanded –  through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and WestBow Press.

upside down: understanding and supporting attachment in adoptive families

Our kids – most of them – love to be carried upside down to bed. There’s squealing and shrieking and giggling as Vince grabs them by the legs and swings them upside down, hauling them up the stairs and flinging them into their beds. Alas, he doesn’t do this with our 13 year old anymore.

After a hard day, after months of hard days, Andrey had pushed us away all day – he does it, mostly, by pushing himself away from us – and Vince picked him up before bedtime. Held him by the stairs. Hugged him, smiled at him. Got a little smile out of him, too. Bounced him a little, for the beginnings of a giggle. And then…

He started to swing him upside down.

Andrey screamed bloody murder, terrified.

Vin picked him up again and held him. Andrey did not trust that he would not drop him on his head, and I suspect the glimmer of a guilty conscience recognized that his behavior might have made it somewhat tempting to do so.

This trust issue is a biggie, and we’ve gotten past several small things with Andrey and Reagan….terrified screams don’t spawn from high-fives anymore, Duck-Duck-Goose is tolerable, and ecstatic shouts of “SLUG BUG WHITE!” followed by friendly jabs no longer initiate traumatic cowering and tears.

They still don’t wrestle with Daddy and the other kids. The grey area between rough housing and violence is too shady for them to know they’re safe. 

After 19 months in our family, they still need convincing about safety, love, and trust. I wonder if they start to believe it sometimes but get scared, and push us away. They’ve known rejection and abandonment, and they test with every broken tool they’ve got to see if we will reject and abandon them again.

Will you really care for me? Even when I push you away?  Even if I repulse you, are you really for real? If I persist in self-destruct mode, will you really stay, for good, forever?

No one has before. You can’t really love me. Surely. 

But we do.

They have great value. They need to believe it, though.

They’ve been home for nineteen months, but they were in institutions for more than eighty months. In those first, most formative three years, Andrey was in the institution that has become infamous, and somehow lived.  His behavior tells the story for him.

Often, he or Reagan – or both at the same time, which is so awesome, almost like having a double root canal without anesthesia – still refuse to participate in basic family routines. They don’t trust them, or they want to be in control. Or sometimes, they’re dealing with fallout from interaction with other adults, which confuses them because they’ve never known family or forever before…and they’re still in the process of being convinced that we are family, forever. Their interaction with other adults is as limited as possible to help the convincing. It feels upside down for all of us.

Hello, welcome to Copperlight Wood. I will be your Mommy for the next several millennia, until the cows come home. This is for good, forever.


We all need convincing at some point. The Creator of the world turned everything upside down to show us we were valuable, cared for, and loved – His own children, for good, forever – and the Savior let Himself be shattered to save the broken.

But for some of us, it takes a long time to believe it. We don’t trust Him, we want to be in control, and we’re confused.

Will you really care for me? Even when I push you away?  Even if I repulse you, are you really for real? If I persist in self-destruct mode, will you really stay for good, forever?

No one has before. You can’t really love me. Surely. 

But He does.

He’s teaching us how to love like He does, and it’s the most refining, sanctifying process I’ve ever experienced.

matthew 16

Over the next month or so, I’ll be sharing more about this upside-down-ness as a resource for adoptive families to know that they are not alone in what often feels like a very lonely journey – not as an expert, but as an adoptive mama in the trenches and learning with you, with a lot of help from other adoptive families who have been kind enough to contribute their own experiences.

There will be links with resources.  There will be ideas for communicating about these oh-so-special needs with others in your community. You can share it with friends and family so they can understand what they need to in order to walk beside you in a more supportive way.

There will be comforting camaraderie, and only as much sarcasm as is absolutely necessary. 


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upside down: an introduction — 7 Comments

  1. Thank you for voicing what we live with in one of our two adopted boys. Unfortunately, he is 21 and still knows the dance steps. This information was not around 19 years ago…it is scary, humbling and painful to see how the past can interfere with the present. And the future. Your words are a good reminder to this tired momma. Trust is a HUGE issue. Ill ok forward to your future posts.

  2. As an adoptive sister, thank you, thank you for writing this series. Trying to explain, ignore, excuse, correct, laugh-off, butt in…it’s exhausting. Sometimes I think my aunts and uncles will never “get” their nieces and nephews, my siblings. It takes a lot of patience.

  3. I came back to reading this after reading part one. this whole adoption spectrum is mind-boggling to say the least. Trust and control are huge issues that we encounter nearly daily. who knows what becomes engrained before 9 months of age and how that affects the rest of ones life. It is most definitely a learning process filled with trial and error and the exhaustion of trying to help others outside the house understand – even the grandparents. Thank you so much for telling this story that is still being written for your family and for my family and so many others.

  4. Your thoughts and words are so encouraging to me, even though I am not an adoptive parent, but teach in a rural village. These kids though, due to similar circumstances react in ways that are very hard to process sometimes, and if it were not for the grace and love God has given for me for them, I would pack my bags and run. I am not in a forum where I can love and speak openly to them, but their behaviors and words are fierce and cry out for you to care enough to stay and teach, even when they are mean and do all within their power to push you away. The truth is, most teachers do leave after their first year, or some after the first few weeks, because it is difficult. God has graciously been showing me how to love these kids, and teaching me that I don’t always get to pick and choose what I, in my romantacized ideals, think would be the changeable, lovable, child. He is also teaching me much about myself, which isn’t always very pretty. I love your writings and appreciate the time you take to write and share your heart, talents, experience, and your amazing talent!! Thank-you!!

  5. I missed this when you first posted it, but at 15 months home our son still can not handle wrestling with or being turned upside down or tossed into the air…all ways my husband tries to interact with him, just like the rest of our kids and it has been hard that our son can not handle it. Thank you for writing this series!

  6. God Bless you and your family. My heart gets full every time I read one of your posts about adoption. It takes me back to where we were and where we are now. God is full of grace and mercy. So many days of parenting I needed truck loads of both. Thank you for writing it reminds me of what God has given us. We have gone from a baby that wouldn’t let us hold her to a tender hearted teenager that loves God, her family and her friends.