- A mom
The first time we tried what is now called Developmental Re-parenting it was out of pure desperation and from primitive impulse rather than educated decision-making. Kim had just been kicked out of fourth grade Ė again. It seemed she would be around the house for awhile and at least for part of that time alone with me while the other kids were in school. Although Kim was street-wise in many respects, she was very young emotionally. Her younger sibs kept passing her up in maturity and Kim was insatiably hungry for attention. Half fearing that CPS would knock on our door but sensing that Kim needed to be a baby I developed a plan.
We set up a crib, large enough for our failure-to-thrive daughter and put it in our bedroom. We stocked soft nightgowns, baby bottles, Ensure and plenty of baby blankets. Kim and her siblings easily accepted the explanation that Kim had missed out on much of her life with us and needed some "Baby Time". Kim looked a little frightened when we closed the door to begin our experience. Since she never showed fear, that in itself was surprising.
Kim and I spent that first weekend alone. Food appeared at the door regularly but no one disturbed us. Kimmy said nothing, slept often, drank ravenously from the bottle I fed her and was surprisingly compliant. I sang songs, rocked her, read baby books and rubbed her back and arms with baby lotion. Monday we opened the door, but Kim still spent most of her time in the crib. She remained compliant but did not reciprocate emotionally.
A few days later while I was in the laundry room I heard the pitiful, mournful sound of an unhappy, abandoned baby. I rushed back to the crib, picked up Kim and rocked her for a long time while she cried, then snuggled to sleep in my arms.
Slowly Kim "grew up", learned to play baby games and to eat baby food. After a few weeks she joined the family and was able to be closes to her real age most of the time, saving her "baby time" for special scheduled visits. Afterwards Kim could sometimes ask or ask behaviorally for the closeness she craved. Did it work? Maybe. Those moments of honest emotion were priceless and unprecedented. A few weeks of intense mothering could not make up for six years of abuse and neglect. But after a stormy adolescence Kim is today a successful and happy young adult. When asked what if any interventions helped her along the way she mentions two. Baby time is one.
Later, better educated, we tried a modified version of re-parenting with a very angry son who was keenly aware of what he had missed out on in life. Sam had scheduled "baby time" when he was about nine. He loved to drink from the bottle and to be wrapped in baby blankets. Perhaps most of all Sam loved the mini-celebrations which marked his "birthdays", complete with age appropriate presents. Sam enjoyed the attention and closeness and didnít waste a minute settling in. Re-parenting did not cure Samís organic problems nor make him a model citizen. But those shared moments are treasures neither of us will forget.