Sunday morning, the Stockton Record’s front page story, of the one-year old Honduran boy’s court appearance before a judge in Phoenix, who was embarrassed to have to ask the child if he understands the proceedings, has compelled me to share my thoughts.
I generally don’t discuss political issues with friends or even family because I don’t have all the information about things, and I don’t know what is true and what is hype, among all the noise.
The article says the boy was silent and calm during his one hour wait and during the hearing, until he was handed off for a moment, from a worker he knew to another person, as they were preparing to leave the court, when he cried hysterically at the brief separation.
It is likely that the boy was separated from his mother when his father brought him to our border, separated from his father who has been sent back to Honduras, and separated again and again from employees who must meet his basic needs.
That feeling is like being in free-fall, with nothing familiar to grab onto. Some adults enjoy that feeling and engage in activities that produce it. But I think most people, and especially young babies, want to feel they are connected to others in some manner.
I was not physically separated from my mother, but there was an emotional separation due to my mother’s episode of depression late in my first year. The effect of this was not apparent to me as a child or young adult. I developed the habit of keeping busy which I continued after I was married. Short periods of having nothing to focus on, such as waiting in long lines at the grocery store, or at a medical appointment brought up feelings of anxiety. I started carrying a book with me everywhere.
After I had my first child, keeping busy was easy. When we moved from state to state for two years in the early 70’s I felt unconnected because I truly didn’t know anyone beyond acquaintance level. Then, in Virginia, the friendly south, I became close to a number of people.
Moving to California in August 1978, with it’s fenced in yards, was difficult, but I soon found weaving friends, and I kept busy. When I went to college at age 42, I didn’t feel close to anybody in classes, and lost time with my other friends, but I was very busy with two young teens, and a household to run, plus homework. In graduate school, I tried to discover what caused people to feel connected to others.
But the gut level feeling of being all alone hit me unexpectedly one day when I went to a funeral home to get information about a package deal my mother had made with them costing $900 a month, which she had no way of paying. I was told someone would see in a few minutes.
Sitting in the empty lobby, I had nothing to do. No magazines available. I had nothing with me I could write on. No one else was in the building but the one woman who had gone back into her office. My mind reeled. It had nothing to focus on. I felt like I could disappear and no one would know. This was before the I-phone. The wait seemed endless. I didn’t know that the person I needed to talk to was driving across town from their main office, until he walked in the door.
Some years later, while working at the University of the Pacific Library, I found information about Adult Attachment problems and came to understand that if a baby in that first year or two of life does not experience a secure bond with their mother or primary caregiver, they will have difficulty with feeling close to others throughout their life.
My concern is wider than just what is happening to this child in Phoenix and all the others caught up on this mess. Remember those pictures we used to see of a mother carrying her baby on her body until the child could walk? There was important bonding going on.
I am concerned about all the mothers and children already in this country who are so easily separated from each other for almost any small mistake. Are the children, now being protected, being set up for social and emotional difficulties they won’t understand throughout their lives?
What will our culture look like when the babies who have parents who are constantly focused on their phones, the internet, or working several jobs, grow up and do not feel a sense of closeness or connection to others? Will they join a gang to feel connected? Or, will they choose numbness with drugs, or even death?
What will our world be like when displaced people all over the earth have no feeling of belonging?
If you want to know more about my search for connection, my memoir “Looking for Connection” is available as an eBook on Amazon here.