Friday, December 2, 2011

Understanding Attachment~Part IV~Misunderstandings/Our Stories

If you haven't read the first three blog posts, you can click on the following links."Understanding Attachment~Part I~How it May Start"."Understanding Attachment~Part II~How Our Children May Feel and Moving Forward"."Understanding Attachment~Part III~Helping Others Understand".At times we faced misconceptions about the reality of attachment. No one has tried to be ugly in ANY way, but when attachment issues haven't been faced personally, there is no reason for the understanding to just automatically be there.

Common Misconceptions:
1. She will get over it. If you just treat her like you do a biological child, eventually she will trust you to come back.
2. Your being overprotective by not leaving her in a nursery situation, in an area with a lot of children, OR at all. She needs to figure out what her world entails and she is just manipulating you by crying.
It's actually a "no" to both of the first two and often it's exactly the opposite. At times unattached children will just assume they have been left for good and are pleasantly surprise that you came back. The crying may actually be a good sign when you leave (a sign of the beginning of attachment) and a lack of crying can be a bad sign and a sign they are not attached. Those who may not have a reason to understand attachment may think the lack of crying means your child is totally secure in your love. Often it means just the opposite, that they aren't attached. They aren't bothered by the fact that you are leaving.3. It won't hurt her if I hold her. You are around her all the time and she KNOWS she belongs to you.Sadly, often she may have felt she "belonged" to many (depending the situation) and may take a long time and a lot of work to feel like she belongs to you. When it bothers her that you are handing her to someone else (even occasionally)...this may be a good sign. We need to be their anchor in an unknown world. If she doesn't care if we hand her around (after what she may have been through) that is more of a concern. Remember it's very likely she doesn't believe your permanent at this point. She may not even want you to be.4. They look happy and well adjusted, therefore they ARE happy and well adjusted.No, this CAN (though of course not always) just mean that they are not attached YET and are not bothered by your leaving or handing them over. It does not mean they are well adjusted, just that they may have no clue what well adjusted is. Also, sometimes others can see the "charming" or "manipulative" behavior that some children may have used to survive. This is not well adjusted. They may have had to use these behaviors (the false "put on" front) to survive in an orphanage situation or get any attention.
All these things are just possibilities. Some children have very quick attachment and honestly, that's what we are praying for when Jael comes home. We know the reality though, we know that a child going immediately to someone new without being concerned...well, can be concerning. You see, we've been through it before and though (in the long run) our transitions have been easier than some (also harder than others). It was rough at times. We think it's important to share the reality AND the rewards.

It was 2003 when Max came home from Russia. He was a beautiful little boy, that was used to the neglect he received
(See "A Adoption Story-Max"). He was underweight and extremely neglected. He had never been outside and most of his life was spent ignored in a giant wooden play pen with 10 other little ones. He didn't even have a chance to attach to friends because he was moved to the next "group" as he increased in age.

We read the books. We went to the seminars, yet when we look back we find we only recognized about half of the issues that were happening. He seemed to attach to us instantly. He recognized us as his security and cried if we left him, looked us in the eyes, and seemed to know we were his parents. We thought that would be it. That was not reality. Yes, he had started to attach, but other issues started cropping up.

Though we had some food issues, some of the biggest issues we saw were sensory related. It wasn't the fact that he hated touch, but EVERYTHING overstimulated him. A trip to the grocery story would bring about biting, hitting, and kicking. Too many people brought about high anxiety (even when we got past the biting, hitting, and kicking). He then started challenging us. We honestly didn't recognize this for what it was. He was seeing if he could drive us away. He had not completed attachment. There was a part of him (we believe) that didn't think we would stay and not abandon him.

Yes, at 13 months people generally attribute things such as this to the toddler years. I am the first to say, "Don't blame everything on the situation they came from." Yet, this was (what we now see) an issue from Max's year without us.

If it could go down the toilet, it did. If it could be challenged, it was. There was no saying, "NO!" on his part. There was just defiance in the actions. It was not easy. We love and loved this little guy, but it did bring a level of frustration that we hadn't seen before. Let's be honest. He instantly was/is 100% our son (as all our children), but training a child to trust you, to be loved, while you are facing open defiance is a challenge. We look at our little ones and our hearts melt, yet they are coming from hurt and getting past the wall of hurt and neglect can take a (obviously not literal) sledge hammer at times. It can be painful, but very worth it.

Max is now nine. He has a smile and a gleam that we just LOVE. He is SOOO smart. We didn't do as intense "attachment work" with Max and did struggled longer because of it. Yet, he did come through and survived our mistakes and the hurt of his past BEAUTIFULLY. We are still learning though and occasionally still filling in some fissures. He is amazing and we are so thankful he is our son (and always have been).

Bekah came home from Ethiopia in 2007 at 15 months. She had spent the first year of her life with her biological family. In the small orphanage she was at, she was a favorite. Her feet hardly touched the ground. When our oldest son and I traveled to Ethiopia to bring her home, she wanted the nannies...not us much of the time. This was a good thing though. She was attached to her nannies, thus she knew how to attach
(See "A Adoption Story-Bekah).
Once we arrived home, the challenge became obvious. My poor husband....

She decided to trust in me. She decided to attach to me. She decided to do everything she could to not attach to her daddy. If I was in the room, she would play with him. If I left the room for a MUCH needed nap, she would go catatonic and not respond to anything. You see, I had become her anchor in Ethiopia and when I went away (nap) he was the one that "made" me leave. In public, she still acted like she was "shopping" for a daddy, while keeping an eye on me. This is where attachment work was VERY necessary. My husband took over ALL baths. He tried to do all the feeding he could, while still working to support the family. It was rough. My husband handled it well, but occasionally it would hurt. How could it not? He had understood, this time, the possibility of this happening and expected it. Yet it took six months to START getting past this. A light bulb seemed to go on at about six months. She began to run to her daddy when he came home to give him a hug.

Then the moment came. The moment when we knew she had finally attached. All the kids LOVED to go to the store or "out" with daddy. They take turns, loving their alone time with him. One day Bekah FINALLY decided that it was her turn to go with her daddy. When those arms came up and she pointed to the door, BOTH my and my husbands eyes filled with tears...before he turned and walked out the door with our sweet Bekah.

Bekah's favorite necklace (at four) was her "Daddy's Girl" necklace. Food and hunger issues still come to the forefront at times, even at age five, but healing has taken place on a huge level and we are so proud of our little Bekah.

In 2010 came the twins. The twins were relatively easy. Though at first Rachel made us earn her smile, they grew to love quickly...through the extreme neglect we believe they had faced. Even now though, we look for the appropriate signs of attachment growth. We try to be aware of warning signs. Now our Gabe still LOVES his food and may always struggle with feeling hungry.

*Side note and a little off the subject...a conversation was had with an adult recently. This adult was adopted as a child and still carried rice in her pocket. She had a residual fear of being hungry. She said it wasn't all the time anymore, but it is built in.
Attachment does and will happen. It is worth the rough journey. Attachment is a wonderful, sometimes hard, exciting, painful at times, lovely journey. The work we do with and for our kids is worth it. If you will be facing it in the future or are facing it now. Don't give up. If you need help, get it. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. There are things we don't share here on the blog. There are rough things that happen. Yet with each bump in the road comes blessing as you pass over it.

Just know you are working for the Master Carpenter, God. You are rebuilding foundations that need more work and have some voids. You are helping create a foundation of love and safety in your child and family. You are helping create a child that CAN attach.
"It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." I Corinthians 13:7Adoption Resource #1, #2, and #3
"Adopting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky"."Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky"."Parenting Adopted Adolescents by Gregory Keck".

Other posts in this series..."Understanding Attachment~Part I~How it May Start"
"Understanding Attachment~Part II~How Our Children May Feel and Moving Forward"
"Understanding Attachment~Part III~Helping Others Understand"
"Understanding Attachment~Part V~When Parents Find a Hard Time Attaching/Choosing Love"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VI~Putting the Pieces Together"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VII~To Those Who Will Be There"
"Understanding Attachment~Part VIII~Spiritual Warfare"

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