I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about adoption and attachment. Two things tonight really got me thinking– one was a great blog post by my friend Kelly and the other is a fantastic Facebook group for parents of hurting children by Courtney.
I’ve gotten plenty of advice on parenting over the last few months. I’ve heard comments about how my kids are doing very well considering, they’re just great children with all that they’ve been through, etc. On the flip side, I’ve also been warned that they have a lot of baggage and pretending it’s easy won’t do any of us any good.
Those first few months home were so hard. Harder than I let on to most people– really anyone but Aaron. I didn’t want to go to sleep at night, because getting up meant doing it all over again. Is that post-adoption depression? Perhaps. Is it adjusting to the new experience of parenting? Partly. But I think that there were a lot of experiences and emotions I didn’t fully understand or share that also came into play. It’s easy to tell you how my child wets his pants and that is frustrating. It’s hard to tell you how my child picks any adult over me and how painful and difficult that is. Not just as a parent trying to move forward from the past and resolve an issue, but as a human being choosing to love somebody and feeling pushed away.
In many ways, we have had it easy. I know their are families who struggle with far more difficult than we do. But the truth is, that we do struggle.
A large part of my own thinking was that it was all in my head. Feeling jealous, feeling upset that my child picked another adult over me, that was me being controlling and insecure. I didn’t generally want me and the kids to spend time with other people, because of the sort of behavior and emotions I’d get out of the kids and myself. Manipulation, triangulation and a tantrum thrown in for good measure once everyone leaves. Those are awfully big words to throw around– we’re talking about preschoolers here, right? But, for a child who spends their young life needing such survival skills, it’s not far fetched at all. Dealing with those sorts of emotions and behaviors always leaves me feeling frustrated and inadequate.
I don’t want to make our situation out to be worse than it is. But, the truth is, parenting a hurting child is different and in some ways more difficult than your typical parenting. The truth is, it’s not all in my head. I am acknowledging this, because I know I must not be the only parent who doubts themselves and thinks perhaps it is normal or just age-related, like other parents say. I also don’t want to give you the impression that our life is all cute kids and fun outings. It’s not. We are slowly making progress and it’s really only in retrospect that I can see how hard I’ve been on myself over the past few months.
Looking back, I remember one of the first posts I read on Courtney’s blog,
“Why can’t I love my adopted child?
If you tell me you haven’t said it out loud or at least thought it, then either ….
A. You don’t have a kid with attachment issues and your kid is just one of those kids that came out of trauma unscathed. (which like never happens)
B. You are lying.
C. You are in denial. “
I have certainly thought that before, especially in the midst of everyone else saying how much they loved my kids, and I guess I just figured it was all me. Someone suggested maybe it was just Post Adoption Depression. I think I personally just thought it was some failure of my own. But, I’ve just long been in denial of my own emotions and the real reasons behind our struggles.
Where are we going to go from here? Well, first of all, I’m going to be a bit easier on myself. Friends, especially those of you coming home soon or right now, the last thing you need when you get home is to be hard on yourself. Secondly, I need to do some re-considering what attachment and parenting mean for our family. And third, I might punch the next person who tells me that it’s normal age-appropriate behavior.
(P.S. Please don’t take it personally if you have told me something like that. I know it is easy to see things that way and to think that something sounds like an age-appropriate behavior or to only see how well our kids are doing, when there is actually more to it.)