Thursday, January 17, 2013

Foundation to Attachment

Whew. Sooo...okay it's been a while. I want you to know that in my blogging queue I have at least 20 blogs that I have started and half wrote to be thrown out and never published.

It's hard to form into words how these last couple of months have been for us. It's been wonderful, it's been hard, it's been life-changing.

Every time I start to write a blog, things change and that blog doesn't apply anymore. I mean it can be 10 minutes after I write the stinking thing.


Well I am going to attempt to explain now, and I will apologize if this sounds a little multiple personality-ish.

The best attempt to describe what these last couple of months have been is comparing it to laying a foundation. It's our job to teach Lil'Miss how to attach properly, especially since she hasn't really been shown prior to this what healthy attachment and true loving looks like. We spent the majority of the first month undoing some of the damage that was done before. You are breaking down the wall that this little tiny person has built in order to survive. We were lucky in that the trust was built up pretty quickly, so that wall came down pretty quickly...but isn't all gone yet.

Once you are able to gain their trust and that wall is broken down enough, you focus on laying a solid foundation. If the foundation is laid down too fast, it won't be strong enough. It takes time, and each family is unique in how much time. If the foundation isn't given enough attention, it won't be smooth, if it's given too much attention, you can over-kill it and make everyone miserable. If you try to push it to get done faster  than what you need and are sloppy about it, later down the line it can crumble and fall. This isn't about here and now, this is about here and now and then. It's a big responsibility. It's exhausting.

It is especially so since you are working with a child who doesn't understand what is happening. She doesn't know that you are doing everything so that she can thrive. She doesn't understand why you want to hold her when she doesn't really like to be's completely foreign to her. She resists you because it feels so odd and different than what "normal" has been shown to her to be the last two years. She doesn't recognize it as love, you have to show her that this is what love is. Kids don't like to be told what to do. Two year olds like it even less.

So you keep laying down foundation as best as you possibly can, all the while trying to convince a two year old that you are doing this because you love them. You aren't aren't a craft at your trade. We aren't taught by our parents how to attach, because we didn't have to be, it came natural to most of us, it is natural for a baby / infant to attach to it's caregiver. It's harder as they get older, as they lose the need for constant care giving and each month as they get less and less of what they emotionally need from the previous caregivers, they build up a wall. They come to you with a wall already put in place. A wall with no foundation at all.

You are also human. You aren't perfect, and no matter what or how many books you have read, you will screw up, have to undo the damage, then start over again. You lose your lose patience. You watch this little tiny person that you are putting so much effort and energy into loving spite you and not want you to touch them, and you take it personally. They don't want you. They refuse to say I love you. They only want your spouse. You reach to hug them and they turn away. You ask if they missed you and they say no. You feel rejected and it makes you want to build up your own wall between the two of you so it won't hurt so much.

In your realize that it's unreasonable for you to feel this way. You are the adult, they are the child. Sometimes, though, well sometimes it just hurts. There are going to be good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. The attachment for us is getting stronger and that is what I try to focus on, it's getting stronger each day. It's so much deeper than three months ago. I love that little girl, and she is loving us as well. She says "I love you" easily, most of the time, and runs to give us a kiss and a hug when we ask her to, most of the time. But we aren't in that sweet spot yet. We still have a ways to go.

I know in my head that this is not only normal, but healthy. You don't want to hurry and pour all the foundation too quickly or at the wrong times. You don't want it weak or at risks for cracks later on. A healthy, normal attachment period is anywhere from 6 months to a year.

Knowing this doesn't make me feel any less guilty, it seems. I still struggle with expecting too much out of myself. At the same time, I am honest with myself and have to sort of "redirect" myself when I feel like I am not doing enough with attachment. I'm not used to having to keep track of how many time I have cuddled my child today. I have two older boys that rarely cuddle and if they do, they certainly don't ask, just plop their big butts into my lap and snuggle in like they own it. Which of course all my kids do. It's not second nature to her either, so I have to show her, I have to focus on asking her and (yes sometimes forcing her in to) cuddling with me. With work and school and house it seems like I just don't spend enough time playing and taking the time that I need with her. I forget that. I forget that just three months ago her world was rocked. Then when I remember I feel guilty and down. I mean, what kind of mother forgets to love on her child!?

It's those times that I have to have an inner dialogue with myself. I can't focus on that or I will go crazy. I need to focus on what's important.

She is loved.

She is happy.

She is healthy.

She is thriving.

No, that's not even the right word...she is blossoming...and smiling and giggling. Her eyes sparkle and her cheeks are full and rosy. Her hair is getting longer and thicker, while her thighs get chunky. She repeats everything we say, which isn't always a good thing). She is a tomboy that loves her shoes. She adores her brothers and makes every day a little more sunny for being in it. She is a true beauty.

So yes, we have a ways to go, but in three short months we have come so far. We are a family. Even though that foundation is still curing and it's not hard and as strong as it will be, it's there...and it's being built to last a lifetime.