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Friday, June 22, 2012

Thinking Out Loud About Attachment

Two nights ago my introverted self went out on a limb and attended a support group for parents raising children with celiac and/or gluten-intolerance.  I didn't know anyone there when I walked through the doors.

I left knowing I'd made at least two new friends.

I  think.

(I mean, maybe they hated my snarky self.)

One of the women is a momma to two children, one biological and one adopted from Russia.  Her biological toddler has Celiac.  And her adopted five-year-old son?  Her adopted son has sensory processing disorder and RAD.  I know.  I felt like we clicked, for obvious reasons.  I think she felt the same, especially since she told me, "I've never met anyone in real life who has struggled with attachment issues before.  I mean, I know people on-line, and it helps, but it's blowing my mind to meet someone in real life who has gone through what we are now going through."

She asked me how the Tongginator was doing, seven years later.
And I told her, "the Tongginator is mostly healed."

And she is... mostly healed.

We talked about a few things that both the Tongginator and her son continue to struggle with, namely the arguing, the controlling behaviors, the social issues.  Of course the Tongginator is much better now as opposed to even two years ago.  But it lingers.  And yes, we are still actively involved in therapy, albeit not as often.  It helps, but the issues haven't completely disappeared.  And truthfully, it's hard to know what is attachment, what is sensory, what is giftedness and what is just plain her.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I am just bowled over whenever I think of the Tongginator's finding place.  Because - although I won't share specifics with y'all because she deserves privacy - I will say that the Tongginator was found in... well... it definitely shows that someone with gumption and a strong will chose the location.

I told my hopefully-new-friend that she needed to cut herself some slack.  Because - like most mommas parenting traumatized children - she's given it her complete all for almost four years now.  She's exhausted.  She's frustrated.  She's... lonely.  I told her that when you've truly given it your all (and, listening to all they've done and dealt with, she definitely has), sometimes then you need to step back and tell yourself, "this child's needs are too much for any one person (or two people) to handle.  I will get him as much help as I possibly can.  I will be the best parent I can be.  And the rest of it?  The rest of it is up to him."

This is my attitude with the Tongginator.

And I promise it's not a cop out.

Our struggles have been mountainous... lengthy... and they are not over.  I will continue to be the best mom that I can be.  I will provide her with as much help as I can possibly provide.  But the rest is up to her.  For example, I cannot make other children be friends with her.  I just can't.  At eight, she is now responsible for much of her own little self.  She makes choices; she deals with the consequences.

And those consequences are not solely coming from me.

In a way, this has helped our relationship even more.  I think before she was able to place me in the "bad cop" role, but now she is slowly learning that Most People don't like it when you act in a controlling and/or argumentative manner.  I pray for the Tongginator often, asking God to send her a few special, compassionate friends.  I pray that God guides her in her choices.  And I pray that He holds her little heart in His hands when she experiences deep social hurts and embarrassments.  But I do not pray for God to take those hurts away.

Because my Tongginator?

She learns the hard way.

She always has; perhaps she always will.

There's a discussion on Rumor Queen right now about the difference between a teaching style of parenting and a disciplinary style of parenting.  I so wanted to respond.  My message would be short and sweet.  I would say "some children require more humility than others.  If you are patting yourself on the back right now, be grateful your children do not require too much humility."  Snarky, perhaps, but oh-so-true.

Some children are more difficult to parent than others.

Let me repeat: some children are more difficult to parent than others.

Especially if they have attachment issues.

As parents, we must - MUST - do our best to guide them through the healing process.  But we also need to remember that they have responsibilities as well.  They have to reach a point where they are willing to heal.  We cannot force them to do so, all we can do is continue to love them without end.

That is all.


Corey said...

Please be sure to connect her to the ETAAM network.. we have 124 women attending this year, and while we are at capacity for the 2013 retreat, it would be easy to put her on the wait list. I also have 4 moms in your area who are parenting attachment disordered kids. She does not have to be alone. (and you don't either!) We are here. http://www.etaam2013.blogspot.com

My name is Andy. said...

"I will be the best parent I can be" Such profound words that I think more parents need to realize and embrace.

Aus said...

Morning my snarky and introverted friend! ;)

First and perhaps most importantly - you DO have two new friends - have a little faith in yourself - you really are loveable and that's a good thing!

And snarky is fun - it really is!

As for the rest and root of your post - bullseye! Attachment issues are "mostly healed" but there will be those occasions when something happens and it triggers an attachment issue response. With our older adopted that response is physical right now - it's all about the abdominal pain.

And you post clarified in my mind what's going on with her - and you'll never know how much I want to thank you for that - because I now have a 'theory' that I KNOW will work with her 'pain'. Oh you are so cool!!

Because - you see - after 8 or 9 a lot of it IS up to the children, but at least in my daughter's case the intellect is there (as it is in T's too). Oh I have a plan....

And finally - yeah - being the best parent frequently means allowing them to experience the results of their behavior. The hovering parent that is so busy preventing their children from experiencing the consequences of their actions are a big problem with today's youth!

thanks TM - you were really great for us today!

hugs - aus and co.

Mel said...

I think only a really great parent can recognize that she or he must be a different parent to each different child. And it really takes a special, strong person to know that their kid learns the hard way and to allow her to do it her way.

LucisMomma said...

ETAAM sounds great. I am going to try to learn more about the group. I would love to go to a meeting about attachment, PTSD, OCD, (and other things that refer to my DD) but my goodness, separation from me is death to her. How do some of you all do that? DD can't make it through the night without me near her (she does okay for trips during the day, traveling with Daddy--but must have mommy at night). I *still* have to tell her when I'm going to the bathroom, or she gets panicky when I'm not where she thought I was.

My prayer is that my body lasts in good health as long as she needs me.

And you are so right--some kids are easier to parent. Our bio boy #1, easy-peasy. Bio boy #2, not so much. DD from China, wowzer--she is sweet, but oh-so-afraid and requires lots of things our boys don't.

Casa Bicicleta said...

This post brings me to tears because it is so so so true. I need to remember this. I try so hard to tell my DD when she is...um...not so nice to me, that she might feel like she can treat me this way and I will always love her because I am her Mamma, but if she treats other people this way she will not have very many friends. I "think" I can see the wheels turning but oh so very very slowly.

TM, I am serious, either you need to move up north or I am going to have to move down there. We need to be coffee buddies. I am serious.

PS We have top notch hospitals up here. I'm just sayin.

Mei Mei Journal said...

I love your comment about humility. It took our wonderful fifth daughter to humble me (and keep me that way on a daily basis).
I am better, more compassionate and understanding person thanks to her.
I am also more isolated.

Tricia said...

Wow! Well-said! Even at 17, my M still has difficulty in some areas. I have recently understood that she always will. But she is so very much better. Hang in there and know that God can do the impossible for our children.

Stefanie said...

This - some children are more difficult to parent than others - is soooo true. To parent some children is as easy as breathing. And to parent others can be the hardest challenge we ever face.

So wonderful to hear how your precious Tongginator is finding her way.. her own way :)

Well said, my friend!

jeanette said...

very well said.
wish I was eloquent enough to write such a post. :)

thank you for sharing

Dana@DeathbyGreatWall said...

I was lucky in that my first child, my biological son, was difficult to parent. I remember a friend, as he was criticizing our parenting in reference to our son, saying, "Your girls are fine, he's the only one who is a discipline problem."

He was hard to parent -- but it taught me early on that all kids are different and that we need to approach them that way.

Fast forward a bunch of years and we adopted a 7 1/2 year old boy from China. Having experience parenting a "difficult child" made me much more sensitive to my newly adopted son's challenges.

Today both boys are doing well -- most of the time

Diva Maman said...

"Some children are more difficult to parent than others". Amen, TM.

As I watch my DD find her way, I realize that she HAS to test limits...and that she's smart enough to KNOW where those limits are. But man alive, it's hard to have her crash into the walls of the limits and get clobbered.

You've also made me think- again- about my parenting style. Sometimes, with our "difficult" children, one needs to use both teaching and discipline - and it depends on the situation, the moment, the day, and which way the wind is blowing!

Bicicleta Mamma - TM doesn't need to move north. You and I need to split the difference. Just saying'.

Paige said...

thank you for this post!! I so need it today as we have had some rough days lately, oh the isolation! I have said it myself that some children are easier to parent than others. Some days are harder than others as well, thank heavens for the good ones!!!

Jamey... said...

I'm assuming you know, but you can always send her my way too! A friend and I are contemplating a local meet up for us mamas in the trenches!

BSC said...

Simple yet so profound. A psychiatrist in our community that mainly treats kids in the foster care system gave a talk recently where she said that our kids need "good enough parents". We don't need to be great, outstanding, amazing parents. We just need to be "good enough". If I could only take her words and your thoughts to heart, it would be so freeing. Thanks for sharing.

Kohana said...

I have been working on understanding this lately as my son is 7 years old. On one hand I want to make everything right for him, and wave a magic want that heals his hurts and struggles. When he crashes, and sometimes he crashes really hard, I am trying to accept that I can try to guide him, and help him, and model for him, but he is making choices himself, and I cannot impose myself on his process. It is hard when things go poorly, and exciting when they go well. I imagine stepping back is hard for all parents, but when your child has been through hard things, it seems even harder. I am also trying to remember that I am not the only one who carries him. His father, our community, his siblings, we all play a role in supporting him. His success in life does not start and end with me and my ability to do things perfectly, even though I feel that weight so intensely.

Alyson and Ford said...

Thank you again for a really insightful post; information we can all use and understand. I still do not know, as you said, what is sensory, giftedness, attachment and what is plain AA. I really want to seek help for her, my Hubby says she is fine. I know she can be better. She is a wonderful child but the sadness, shyness, clinging, so reserved, etc all have an impact on her now. Thanks again.

Alyzabeth's Mommy

Alyson and Ford said...

Also, I linked your "Love and Adoption" post (2010) to my Facebook page; it is a very important read. You have written so many great posts, helpful to all of us.

Alyzabeth's Mommy

Carla said...

You are so totally right! 100% agree that some kids are just harder to parent than others. I'm thinking I do NOT need to go to Rumor Queen and read those posts because I would not be able to resist. Nope.

anymommy said...

So eloquently said. I nodded as I read this entire post. We have found healing (although it's an ongoing process) through one difficult attachment struggle and - well I know you know our other story.

And recent experience would make me add this: We are not taking enough care of the parents as they parent traumatized children. Parenting through trauma can be traumatizing *to the caregiver* and I don't know how we do it with our messed up health care system, but I know beyond a doubt that parents in this position need more support, a trusted therapist *for them not the child* and better understanding from their communities. End vent. ;-)

The Byrd's Nest said...

I am just in tears. This is my Lottie. I knew about the attachment and SPD with the Tongginator but not the social thing. I have four children and our older daughter still struggles socially, now that I know about SPD, I can see it in her but.....24 years ago, I knew nothing about it. I prayed for SO many years for her to have a good friend who understood her and loved her the way she was and that didn't happen until she got married:) He is perfect for her!

Anyway, I get what this woman is saying....how wonderful to have someone who "gets" your kid in real life...face to face. I don't even make excuses for Lottie anymore, making her a missionary kid was probably the worst thing because of all the changes and lack of therapy. But...we must move forward. I just don't know what "kind" of help to get her?

Some kids are just harder...I can tell you my socially awkward, strong willed 24 year old is happily married, has a degree in psychology and works with adults who have disabilities and has a huge heart of mercy for others. This is what happens, when people don't understand you.....you end up seeing others the same way God sees them....precious pearls.

scooping it up said...

wow. wow. yeas ma'am. i really love this. because one of my kiddos isn't RAD. but he has a lot of pain. and because of this parenting him is painful sometimes. i forsee a future of "doing my best" and loving my best and letting the chips fall. letting prayer cover it. yeah, your average parenting discussions seem so silly to people who've parented special needs (for any reason) kids, huh?

1001tears said...

Thank you! I have a very difficult child to parent. I love her to pieces, but it isn't easy. Thank you for the wonderful post!