My thoughts on attachment. Rough. Sharp. Unpolished. Here goes...
- -I embraced attachment parenting books. It all made sense. It would be hard, as a single mom- but my kid needed it. - I didn't know attachment parenting theory was developed for parenting biokids. Not Adoptive Parenting. Not for traumatized kids.
- -I had never heard of "Therapeutic Parenting".
- -My child is not "Attachment Disordered". But I wish I had known, that RAD like behaviors can still be exhibited in a child that is still learning to attach. It only makes sense, he had disordered attachment in his life.. pretty much all of it!
- -I happened across a few RAD mom blogs early in my paper chase. I was shocked such a thing existed. I had sympathy. "Those poor people. That's rough.", I thought- then quickly erased it from my mind. "My child was Ethiopian, and they are happy children and my agency is top notch and these kids are VERY well cared for. These are not Eastern European orphanages!!", I pompously & naively dismissed. -Even after realizing not all of that was true, I somehow, still glazed over the idea of my Ethiopian child being Institutionalized with hard Trauma (capital I capital T). I, literally, was blind to what was before me in my referral photo among many other things.
- - I wish I had been schooled in how to address the manifested behaviors from the beginning. - Because, by freaking out- which I'm quite skilled & schooled in- only made it worse for him.
- -It was six months, before I started seeing signs (hints, really) of secure attachment from him. Until then, everything was based in anxiety. -Only then did I begin to wonder if some of his anxiety was from 'feeding' off of me. Was he just mirroring me? I don't know the answer. But I know I should have questioned it sooner.
- -It wasn't until these hints, of secure-ness, began seeping into his heart -and our lives- did all H-E Double hockey sticks begin to show up now and again. What is worse than Anxiety? Answer: FEAR.
- -I wish I'd known that seeing him work through the FEAR of loving, being loved and being lovable- would be as painful as it is. -Scratch that. I'm glad I didn't know.
- -I wish I'd known that attacking the 'behaviors' that drove me bonkers was not the way to my childs heart. I wish I'd been able to see that these are simply coping & survival mechanisms.
- -I wish I'd known that some of the "red flags" we are warned to look for- sometimes don't show up until far far far after being together as a family.
- -I wish I'd known that big charming smiles for cameras and coyly giggling for new people (yes adoptive parents you are new people) are actually a coping mechanism for institutional living.
- -I wish I'd realized what 'control issues' really meant. It isn't just who shuts the light off, who sits where, who chooses the book to read, what food they eat... - it is also how the child, attempts controls the parents behavior- by pushing all the buttons you never knew you had. (And seeing the look of satisfying relief on their face when it works... is painful)
- -I'm glad I read this post from Stacey. We were in the midst of our first pass through Hell when I read it. It wasn't until then, that I realized a big part of the problem. As easy as he had initially transitioned into school, as much as he was enjoying it- I had no idea that it was actually a BIG part of our problem.
- -I'm really grateful that his school is accommodating and assisting with our attachment processes. Knowing what I know now, I'd leave and find another if they weren't.
- -I'm glad that I found professional help. Because as a single mother- no one else really has your back. No one else can literally SAVE your child when they are drowning (figurative). There are professionals that do this for a living. Find one if you need it.
- -I'm glad I finally realized that I can not 'fix' my kid. He doesn't and didn't need fixing. But in the anxiety of trying to respond to each action - trying to figure out 'Where'd it come from' and 'What am I supposed to do to fix that' place... that was the trap I fell into. Healing comes from only one source.
- -I'm frustrated and saddened that even though I blog openly so that others will NOT need to make the same mistakes I made- there are people reading this that will, in the back of their head, hear "my baby's an infant/so young, we won't have any attachment issues" or "My child is healthy and so happy. Look at that smile.", "I'm married, so our child will have twice the chance for attachment."
I'm happy to report that my son and I are doing well. Great actually. We are in "secure" mode right now. I'm sure that looks different, for everyone. With every slight transition, schedule change there is a chance of backslide. We make progress every day. But I've learned what I need to do in order for him to feel safe and not alone. I'm happy to report that he is beginning to show further signs of feeling secure and permanency in our family. He is a joyous blessing. He truly is. I love love love him. LOVE being given the opportunity to be his mom. It is a love so indescribable. It makes my heart hurt and arms ache to hold him.
I've come to believe that secure attachment between a parent and child is hindered by one major thing- FEAR. I may be wrong- but in the here and now of our journey, that is what I believe.
If there were advise to be given it'd be: learn what it looks like when your child doesn't feel 'regulated' or 'safe'. Learn what their triggers are/can be. Learn what you can do to avoid triggers or get them to feel safe again. (this sounds callous, shallow, insensitive and simplistic when viewed through the lens of those parenting children who suffer with RAD- and it is, honestly. I'm not attempting to address that at all! There is NO comparing between parenting RADish kiddo's and parenting a child that is rapidly healing. My heart and prayers go to them daily and I continue to learn from them) (Jillian, Christine, Corey, Courtney & Rockstar, Cate, Diana)
Love is hard stuff!! It literally breaks your heart. So for him to be trusting me enough to love him- that is BIG BIG stuff. Big. Heartwarming. Heartmelting fall in love head over heals happy happy joy joy wonderful stuff.
So there you are Claudia. It isn't pretty writing. It likely isn't likely to keep anyone reading to the end. But it's what I have- right now. Tomorrow is another day.
ETA: After re-reading this and reading your comments, I'll need to post a follow up post to this. I'll link it when I do. Thanks everyone!!
For you long time readers... I've got many posts started that will get us all caught up and posted soon. Hope to provide you with some context for this post.