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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dance of Attachment, Year 5

Although I feel like I've shared our attachment story with y'all, I actually haven't shared that many details. I guess that's by design because - even though this is a fairly anonymous blog - I still feel the Tongginator deserves her privacy. I've been a bit more open about my own attachment struggles during my first year as a momma. (So if you are struggling to attach to your newly adopted child, please don't feel alone. Because you aren't.)

Anyways, in brief, the Tongginator really struggled with attachment issues for about three years. It's kinda difficult to point to a month on the calendar and say, "this! this is when it all changed!" because her attachment issues subtly shifted through those years. If you subtract the major sensory issues we dealt with and the failure to thrive crud, our honeymoon phase lasted over 10 months. The non-sensory-related raging began just before Christmas, 2005 and lasted for a long, long time. So, too, did the sleep issues. And the anxious attachment.

From the beginning, we did it all except cosleeping: babywearing, regression, keeping our social circle VERY small for months on end, gentle holding time, always having either mom or dad with her (usually me), time-ins rather than time-outs, constant parental interaction, consistent routine and the like. Once the raging and night terrors began, we added co-sleeping to the list. It drained us. It frustrated us. It puzzled us... here we were, doing all of the "right" things, yet still struggling so very much, while so many others did half as much and their children appeared to transition easily.

That's when I learned that some children just struggle more. It's not always a matter of how much or how little their parents "do," it just IS.

From about 22 months of age until... er... now, the Tongginator also proved herself to be a very strong-willed, highly persistent, smart child. When she didn't like something, she'd let you know it. And she forced power struggles even when we sought to avoid them. Even when they didn't actually exist. I mean, I used to be a teacher, y'all... I actually have VERY strong behavior management skills... and the Tongginator whipped my tail. When she couldn't control me in obvious ways, she began seeking to control one of the few areas she had left: namely bathroom-related issues. We began using an If-Then Behavior Chart. We continued with our attachment parenting.

We strove to be patient.

And gradually - oh, so gradually - things began to get better. The last of the major power struggles ended a few months before the Tongginator turned four. Which basically means that the husband and I had been through the wringer for three years at that point. I mean, even our honeymoon phase was anything BUT a honeymoon phase because of all of the other issues we faced. I've been committed to the Tongginator since before we met her. I grew to love her during my first year as her mom. But it wasn't until about a year ago that I truly began enjoying being her momma on a consistent, day-to-day basis.

Before that, it felt like a ton of work.

With sprinkles of rainbows thrown in to give me hope.

It's still not all ladybugs and red threads. We have our moments... ALL of us. But we've finally arrived. And I KNOW that now - for sure - because of something that happened on Saturday. As y'all know, the Tongginator fell ill this past week. When she's not Seriously Sick, she typically prefers to hang out - by herself - on the couch: watching TV, sleeping and reading books. She doesn't complain. She doesn't whine. Sometimes I don't even think she realizes how miserable she should be because of her sensory issues.

But this past week? Hanging out by herself just didn't seem to cut it... she totally spent three days suctioned to me like a limpet. (The last time she did that, she ended up having strep throat, a double ear infection and a urinary tract infection all at once.) The Husband and I felt so concerned by her abnormal behavior, we took the Tongginator to the pediatrician on Saturday morning. Yes, the same Saturday about eight inches of snow dumped onto our little town. Which tells you how concerned we felt. And the diagnosis?

A cold.

Just a cold.

I can't tell y'all how much the Husband and I grinned. We seriously couldn't stop smiling. I know the attachment process is a life-long one. I know we can't stop and call it a day. But I finally feel like we've arrived. Because she wanted me. All the time. Touching her. Taking care of her. Sitting next to her. Loving on her. Y'all, I think we've finally arrived.

And it feels so darn good.

55 comments:

Buckeroomama said...

Smiling big with you, TM. BIG.

Joan said...

That is so cool! Super Cool!

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

That's awesome! Thanks for that reminder....especially to those of us who are still floundering through the attachment process.

Denise said...

Thank you for your honesty, which is sure to help others who are on the attachment road. I am so excited for you and this important step!!

LucisMomma said...

Wonderful! So happy for you that she is seeking your embrace when she is not feeling well.


I think the "attachment process" ebbs and flows. At least at our house. Things seem to go well, and then bam! it's like we've taken 5 steps backwards.

My DH thinks he is taking DD for a day-long trip (4 hours each way) to his oldest son's DD's birthday (ok, that's my stepson's DD, to make that not so unclear). Without me. Because I'm not invited, but DD and DH are. Besides all of that garbage, I don't think the visit will happen. I think she'll be a total mess as soon as the party's over, crying "take me to my mommy, why did you take me from her?" I know this because it's what she did the whole year DH was deployed ("why is my daddy gone, I want him, why did he leave me?") She is 10x more attached to me. O, a can of worms. Why can't DH just skip this one party? These are the same folks who have a DD the same age as ours, and gave our DD a COUPON for a popcorn at the movies for her Christmas present.

Dawn said...

What an exciting time for you - an what an encouraging post for those still in the middle of this struggle. Our friends who adopted a son from Russia are still struggling... four years later. I know they cling to stories such as yours for hope.

Go snuggle up and watch a few more hour of Food Network! LOL

Blessings!

A Beautiful Mess said...

:) snots and a clingy kid can make a mama do the happy dance!

Enjoy

jen@odbt said...

That made my heart smile. I'm so happy for you all and know what a journey it's been to get here.

Kim K. said...

Honesty is always the best policy. Thanks for always keeping it real.

The Source said...

Awww...makes my heart happy! I'm so glad your baby girlie is finally at a place within her self that she can welcome those feelings!

Norah said...

Thank you for sharing this. I can't tell you how much I truly appreciate it.

monica said...

Beautiful.

Jillene said...

This is a BEAUTIFUL post!! Who knew that a common cold would be such a milestone?! Beautiful!!

Magi said...

That just made me tear right up. Congratulations!

prechrswife said...

Wonderful!

Debra said...

Yippee! May life continue to improve for you all. I know struggles and how wonderful it is to have peace.
Yeah!
Debra

Laura L. said...

This is wonderful, and I so appreciate your honesty and how you bless others who are on the same road.

Stefanie said...

LOVE this!! What a blessed cold that is!!! WOOHOOOO!!!!!!
This is a wonderful post, lady. You've outdone yourself, which is a pretty tough job :)

Love Letters To China said...

Amazing story... Thank you for sharing!

openid said...

"and it feels so darn good" -- it's as though i can hear the exhale in your voice.

i'm smiling with you, friend.

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

As for the strong-willed, highly persistent, smart child business, my son sounds so much like your daughter. He's always been a very difficult child, behavior-wise. He's sweet and kind, but VERY strong-willed. (Not that I'm trivializing your adoption/attachment experiences, but some kiddos are just stubborn. My mom claims it's a sign of intelligence. . .)

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

and you're right, it is getting easier. . .but what do you suggest for the teen years?

pickel said...

I think we suffered through the same things with you. Except now, AJ is attached at the hip...he really always has been. His sensory things don't really get in the way now. It's just the mental and emotional ones.

It takes a LONG time, doesn't it? But, the arrival is so nice. Smiling with you.

Snap said...

Great feeling huh?! I felt that way the first time Katie allowed herself to fall asleep in my arms at almost 2 years home. So glad she wanted YOU for that cold. :) Congratulations on making it!

planetnomad said...

:) May it continue for the rest of your lives :)

rosemary said...

I admire you so much and I am so glad that your amazing daughter has you for a mom. Thanks for sharing your story it really encourages me a lot. Becoming a mom is scary stuff and for some reason many women won't admit that or maybe they're not feeling it but I'm standing on the eve of it and I'm terrified. All I can do is keep telling myself that I'm committed to this little boy 100% and hope that it's enough.

Donna said...

Life is SWEET, huh!

Donna
Our Blog: Double Happiness!

Janet said...

THis makes me want to cry. Number one, for happiness for you....number two, because I feel so far off from this with Adam. Still, it does give me hope.

Mamatini said...

The end made me tear up. We haven't gone through near what you have, but Isa has always been resistant to expressing and receiving physical and verbal affection. So when it comes, when she wants to snuggle, when she takes my hand on her own, when she initiates the "I love you", it is sooooo huge.

Last year, when I went to Germany on my own to celebrate my mother's birthday, she wrote in her journal every night I was gone. Letters to me. She gave them to me when I got back, and they are the most precious evidence of her love that I have ever gotten.

Holly said...

thank you thank you thank you for sharing this TM.
so many thoughts swirling through my head.
My husband is HOME...in the bedroom with all the kids playing guitars..gotta run!

Nicole said...

Thank you for writing this.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Such a great post. I'm laughing cuz I have been "brewing" a post in my head about the ups and downs of Li'l Empress's attachment and some things I've noticed since we took the bottle out of the night time routine. I have been telling myself for almost two weeks that it's a season, it will pass, she'll level out, etc. etc. Alot of what you are exhaling in relief and rest over is what has been revisiting our house in little glimpses lately . . . This post is full of hope and encouragement :)

Lisa said...

And so worth all the struggles...I know you would sign up for 'em in a heartbeat if it brought you to this place...a place of joy!

So happy for you all!

Lisa

Colin and Jill Canada said...

I just shed a few tears for ya'll!

I know it must have ben hard for you (all) those first few years, but now you can revel in this very moment. And that's what makes the 'journey' beautiful.

Hugs, Jill

AwesomeCloud and family said...

Hooray for milestones, even ones years in the making!

Wanda said...

THANK YOU. I love your transparency. You've really encourage me today - a particularly challenging one.
:)

Briana's Mom said...

I am so happy for you! :)

autumnesf said...

Some days I think we have finally arrived...and then...

At least it is much more normal than it has ever been..and I'll take that.

Stonefox said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. We are 20 months into this, and yeah, I'm thinking I can go another 24 or so if the arrival finally comes!

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

That is so great!!! I am glad you have finally arrived:)

Cristina said...

Awesome post. as another mum who struggled to attach to her attachment-resistant baby, I am so cheered by your words. We have only been home two years and the issues continue (to a lesser degree, thankfully), but your story gives me hope!

Annie said...

Very cool, TM and thank you:) I think I know how much that means!!

Suzie said...

Woo Hoo! You are an amazing Mom and I am learning so much from you!!!

Kristi said...

Thanks for being so open in your attachment journey! It gives hope to those of us still trying to figure out that last piece of the puzzle...
Keeping it real, keeping it real!

Chris said...

How wonderful!!!!

This attachment thing is definitely a process.

Shea was very clingy to me ALL.THE.TIME!!! And we had HUGE sleep issues... and bathroom issues! I think she was afraid we were not going to be there when she woke up every morning. And, I am sure the bathroom thing was a way for her to have some control in her life.

As you can imagine, this trip to China was very difficult for her.

She finally has accepted my husband as her father. She is becoming quite the 'daddy's little girl'. My husband left China early to be with Shea. I believe they had a fantastic week together.

I agree with your statement "that some children just struggle more. It's not always a matter of how much or how little their parents 'do,' it just IS."

Avery seems (at this point) to be attaching so differently than how Shea did. She seems to be a little more care-free and more trusting or something...I can't quite put my finger on it...(???)...yet! Shea was (is) so much more intense...she doesn't just immediately accept things at face value...she needs to ask a ton of questions then she evaluates...then she decides.
Avery just seems to take things in stride...she is very open...she is very accepting. Shea grieved for years...every night....she started asking some tough questions at around 3 1/2 years old...however, I must say she loves fully and strongly...once she is committed.
Avery grieved intensely on the first day and night we met. She has grieved/panicked twice since we have been home...briefly. Everything this time, seems so different.

Kids are different. They process things differently. They just plain roll through life differently.

My older kids...same thing. They were raised with the same parents, same kind of household, same values, etc. All three have processed things differently,they love differently, attached differently, look at life differently....

Guess I am rambling here...

Bottom line, I am so very happy for you and your husband and your amazing daughter. Becoming a family certainly doesn't happen over night....our kids have been through so much in such a short time. They are the bravest people I know! They are strong, they are resilient...they are walking miracles!!! And, I feel honored that I can be part of their life...part of their journey to who God intends them to be!!!

Thanks for sharing...
I am definitely 'addicted' to your blog!!!

Patty O. said...

Wow, this post brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy for all of you. And you know what? I really admire your honesty in sharing these issues with all of us out here in the blogisphere. It is so helpful sometimes to hear about others' struggles and their successes after having struggle. It makes people feel less alone. Thanks for being willing to share.

Michelle said...

What a great post. Not only educational about what issues people may face, but also one with a wonderful ending. Thanks for sharing your personal story with others and letting us rejoice with you!!

The Byrd's Nest said...

Oh yes...I could have written this post. Emma has been with us for three years and is still not attached to me.She likes me....but it is obvious she doesn't understand...yet. Some days it takes all the energy I have....and all my patience. Since we moved to Costa Rica....all of her issues just tripled....but God is with us and I trust in Him.

Your story is so beautiful and how wonderful that she just....wants....you:)

thegypsymama said...

I love me a good Cinderella story!

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

I needed to read this today. For real.

Also, I should tell you that I fantasize some day you and I being able to sit down for a long coffee and discuss the process of parenting a sensory-seeking child as a sensory-avoidant adult. So, you know, just saying . . . if you are ever in the greater OC Metro area, it's on me. :)

Flamingo Mama said...

why do i not remember reading that? i'm huge on talking to people NOW that are thinking about adopting about the whole bonding thing. i frantically googled it when we came home and could not find ANYTHING regarding it. everything was attachment problems because your kiddo was RAD or something extreme. nope, my daughter was just cute and somewhat close to "normal". but i had a really hard time attaching. i'm still not there in fact. it is hard to know that i still feel dfferent about her than my other kids. but i know it will come in time. love is a choice...and i don't always choose it when i should because it's hard ya know. and parenting is hard. i guess we all know that:)

Cavatica said...

That's awesome. BB's attachment has been very easy, but I still notice these things. It's so special to earn their love and need. Probably more so when it is a difficult trip. Congrats to all of you.

Lauren's Nana said...

Yay!! I am so happy for you and for miss T. I just love a happy story!!:).

aunt LoLo said...

Oh, I am grinning mama! Congratulations.

Wenjonggal said...

That is so wonderful. Congratulations. I know that although my son has always been a sweet kid (adopted from China at 22 mos, and now 4 yrs old), I could only get him to slow down long enough to cuddle him right when he woke up from naps. Now I am so totally thrilled that he says "I wanna cuddle mommy. A BIG cuddle". I just suck it in. It means so much. So, congrats.