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A Thought

In this life we can not always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.." :) Mother Teresa

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“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis


I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)

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Monday, March 18, 2013

ADOPTION or ATTACHMENT ( And the Mama Factor)

I wrote yesterday about our weekend.  I wanted to write in more detail today about how some of it could have been avoided, and also about why I am GLAD it wasn't. :)

We really worked through some underlying "stuff" and I really do want to share some insight I gained.

Attachment issues and Adoption issues are NOT the same!  They are NOT!  While some of the behaviors one sees popping out COULD be similar, HOW you handle them will determine your success or not.  They CANNOT be handled the same.
That would be like changing the radiator out when your real problem was the alternator.  Different!
They are both part of the engine. They both cause the vehicle to not work... but the solution is DIFFERENT.

For the child who has had a trauma background, like ours, change is hard.  They will interpret that change VERY differently according to their past experience AND according to HOW they understand the interpretation of that experience.
(meaning, little kids have things happen to them, and they don't know why, so they come up with something for it to make sense)

Our girlies are no longer little. They are all teenagers now. 
I have been prepared for a LONG TIME for the cycle, the processing of interpreting old experiences, to come up and visit again. THIS IS NORMAL!  We ALL begin to rethink and reinterpret our early childhoods at some point.
As we begin to develop our own ideas and thoughts, and contemplate more mature ideas about life, life issues COME UP! 
I LOVE THIS STAGE OF PARENTING..... It is like watching a butterfly freshly coming out of the cocoon and just beginning to spread it's wings. It hasn't taken off or flown yet, it isn't ready.  But it is getting ready! :)
It is when you can really TALK, and girls do love to talk. :)  You can sit on the bed and gather them all around, tell them stories of your own childhood, and they can share stories about theirs; and then giggle, laugh and cry.
These talks are talks of healing and understanding ; they are rich AND fun.

Yesterday Miss Alli got hooked on talking.  She LOVES telling and hearing funny stories.  "Please mama, tell another one!"  This is GOOD, HEALTHY communication!

Why I titled my post Adoption or Attachment is because over the weekend we had some behaviors that were over the top on the absurd side. 
I was seeing them as "controlling".  I was seeing them as "disrespectful".  I was seeing them as "defiant". 
What I WASN'T seeing was that I was the PROBLEM!  Yes, ME!

The issues were NOT attachement related. Our girls are attached. They love us. They have expressed this in MANY ways. They CARE for us, they are GLAD they are here! 
The issues though very MUCH had to do with disrupted lives... NUMEROUS foster placements or adoptive placements. 
The funny thing is, I can TOTALLY IDENTIFY.... We moved SO MUCH when I was younger, several times in a year sometimes.... that I didn't feel settled. 
Now, Imagine if that move included new family too!
While my girls knew they were just moving down the hall, they had not been given TIME to process it as they should have been. Things felt out of control for them. Just as when they had NO choice and NO warning, and were just "moved".
THIS IS WHERE THEY ARE. They are NOT STUCK.... they are at this point in the process.
It took me MANY YEARS to not start packing at a 6 month mark of a place that I lived and start looking for new apartments.  It made no sense.... or did it?  To the one who hadn't been through all the unprepared moves ( we learned how to move in literally hours)  they wouldn't have understood.
My husband lived in the same house for most of his growing up years. The thought of moving was so foreign to him. LOL

So, for the girls, underneath the understanding that they were moving to the next room, was that forboding  feeling of impending doom.  And I had not prepared them.  "Moving day!" I said Happily!
How could I have been so stupid!

We pressed on to finish.  We want them to change up roommies now and then to learn to live with each other in closer quarters.  That was NOT the issue. 
The issue was lack of preparation.

So, their ugly popped out and so did mine.  What I found was, as they were spiraling, I started to do the same thing.
NEVER a good idea. :)
I found myself being "controlling" to try to control the out of control, instead of STOPPING and regrouping; getting to the source of the issue and then  dealing with it peacefully.

While Alli was painting her dresser, I was busy cleaning behind the other big dresser and in the process moved it, without our other daughter's permission.  I also moved the book case. And then, she came in and started to cry.  "Now my posters aren't right!"  And I said, "well, why don't you move your posters?" duh...
"Why are you crying?"  "Moving a dresser is just not a big deal!" 
Well, if it wasn't a big deal, why was "I" making it one?  Control.....

As a child, we never decided where anything went. It just was.  And you know what? I didn't like it! And even though I didn't like it,  the change of furniture that didn't seem a deal to me. But it was a HUGE deal for my daughter.  Why did that bother me? Why did I then make it a deal?  Maybe it was my own issue coming back to haunt ME.

I went to pray and regroup..... I went and talked to Mike.  And then, I went back and told my daughter.  "You know, this is your room, not mine.  You can put your furniture the way you like it. If you want it to be where it was, that is ok. "
 Now, that last scenario had nothing to do with adoption OR attachment, that had to do with MY ISSUE.... and it resolved when I dealt with my own sin.
One thing we did talk about later,  was HOW to handle a problem when you are overwhelmed.
We came up with some ideas together.  Instead of "You covered my posters on purpose!"  How about, "Mama I like the dresser the way it was, better." :) 

Later, I took my daughter's one at a time into my room to talk.  And what happened was nearly miraculous.  Things my Anna,  wouldn't talk about before, started to pour out.  Memories of being moved and leaving behind precious things.  Memories of being unprepared for moves.... BINGO.... they would just come and get her.
SHE KNEW LOGICALLY she was staying HERE.... it wasn't about that. It was about the HURT she felt as a little child, being controlled, not being allowed to be a child growing up in a stable environment... not being able to stay anywhere. She didn't know why.

I was able at that time to piece together for her a timeline of events and why some of those moves took place.  We had a very grown up conversation as we rocked in the rocker and snuggled.
She made it VERY CLEAR that she loves us. She feels SECURE with us.  This was NOT about THAT..... :)
It was more about feeling "fake".... "like I had another life and while I'm happy living this one.... that other one isn't gone."  Very mature thoughts. :)
I can SO UNDERSTAND THIS..... I had another life too.  I had a different family too.  I was divorced. When I was newly remarried, I felt the same way. I was in a new state, new friends, and many people didn't know.    God uses the ugly things in our lives for such good.
I was able to share with my Anna that it is ok for people to not know. Or, if you want to tell them, that is ok too.
She said something quite funny.  "Mama, most of our friends and so many people at our church have adopted, it seems more like adopted is normal and being born into a family is more unusual!" LOL

So how would I handle an adoption issue, vs. and attachment issue differently?
Attachment has to do with RELATIONSHIP.  That is all about working on connecting with each other.  To talk about how we relate, or how we feel about having parents or sisters or even being in a family. It would have had nothing to do with what was going on in her heart.  I would have missed the Forrest for the trees!
Adoption has to do with being placed in a family... kerplunk! It is like being from another planet and just being "PLACED" elsewhere.... she HAD a story and a life BEFORE....
She was hurting because of  past memory due to placements and finally adoption.
We had to talk about THOSE issues.  She NEEDED me  to know and NEEDED to tell me that she LOVES us and wanted to make very sure we knew that the issue was totally different. 
It would have been VERY frustrating for her, if I had only gone on to talk about our relationship and then did something like keeping  her by my side  ALL THE TIME  or PLAYING ATTACHMENT GAMES, or,  not allowing the play date we allowed yesterday.  It would have made ZERO sense!  Her issue was not about attachment!
Instead, we talked about what was on her heart.  We talked about her feelings and the processing of the information she had,  into a greater understanding at a more mature level.  She was also given permission to NOT have to feel like everything was  neat and perfect in her life.  NOBODY'S LIFE IS NEAT AND PERFECT!  I think it was really helpful for her to accept the ugly of her past, and to know that it was NOT HER FAULT....
She also learned that MANY kids struggle with the same issues and feelings.  Mom and Dad will always be here... ALWAYS, at any time to talk, and  to understand. 

Yesterday, a friend came over who also had a very similar background to my sweetie.
She is reading the book "Three Little Words" and can identify with much in the book.
I was telling her about our day the day before, and she very CLEARLY agreed that the issues are NOT the same.
She is a lovely lady.  For those of you who are dealing with difficulties.... my friend is a shining example of HOPE and HEALING and what the Lord can do in one's life.
She also stated that some things will always be with you. They are not up in your face all the time, but they are there.  You cannot relate to some life experiences because you NEVER experienced them and that is a reminder to you of your beginnings.
This friend also had a good relationship with her final family. She remembers doing things that made no sense, and make no sense to her today, except she was a hurting kid, and kids do NOT think like adults.... even older ones. :)

A few more thoughts on attachment:
When our girls were newly home, we didn't leave them with anybody. We didn't do too many outside things.  We kept things simple and scheduled.  We played hand games and sang songs.
Life was very structured, but not harsh or unkind. 

But for older kids, it is a little more complicated and different.  They NEED to have outside friendships and relationships.  It is NORMAL for them.  It seems to hold them back in this area and it can be damaging to your relationship, and cause a child to be very frustrated.
While they MAY BE very young emotionally, that doesn't mean they don't also have older kid feelings and angst. NOR does it mean they are going to STAY young emotionally.  Our kids are NOT STUCK.... they are growing.
Giving them the opportunity to explore a little in a safe environment is a good thing!  It seems some of the more "extreme" attachment parenting suggested by some can cause PROBLEMS in both relationship and also in self esteem.... constantly being reminded that "you are different!"

Three of our  girls, came home before the age of 8. Had they come home at 11, like Alli, they would have gone to Sunday School without us, not with us if that was their choice.  They would go to play dates without us, not with us once home for 3-6 months.  There has to be a sense of rationality when it comes to older children. 
Alli was 11 when she came home.  We handled things a little differently with her because she WAS older.  She was given the option of going to Sunday School. She preferred to stay with us for a while.
When she was beginning to blossom, I did allow her to go on play dates where I didn't stay.  She has some very good friends who love her. They know her story.  Giving her these opportunities helps her to feel "NORMAL" and she LEARNS from her new experiences.

OLDER child attachment happens very differently than with much younger children.
Going shopping!  Dinner dates!  Going for a walk, or just talking, facilitates attachment.  Getting to know them and sharing so they can get to know us, facilitates attachement.  No judgement... no "you did what?"  Just listening...  And yes, older kids still like the rocking chair. :)  But if they don't, that is OK.... we have to work with them where THEY ARE.
Just some thoughts. :)

I am so thankful that we NEVER STOP LEARNING... and WE NEVER STOP LOVING!


Dawn said...

This is SO true Christie! Our kids had a life that is part of them, before they ever came to us. And the more we can integrate all this, the better for them. Love your blog! I'm always nodding my head as I'm reading! :)

Annie said...

I think that adoptive parents have been sold the "attachment" idea, but that much more often the problems (as in your case) have nothing to do with attachment and everything to do with early trauma and all of the fearful things looming in the children's unconscious memories that pop up surprisingly to disturb and distress them. Only if we are patient and talk to them, can we help them let those things come out to the light of day....and I've found that usually, when they come out into the open the children can come to grips with them and banish them....and the difficult behaviors (associated with that particular trauma) cease.

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