Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Will we ever shut up about that attachment stuff?

Probably not. This is our adoption-related blog. For fluffy family fun, visit here or here.

More thoughts on attachment, in two parts.

Part One: Grossness and TMI. You've been warned. But no pictures, thank God.

A few weeks ago, when we were newly home from camp and T was struggling more with attachment, he came down with an intestinal bug.

Oh, the agony. The pain. The loss of desire to use the toilet (alas, he'd only been potty trained for about one week). The zillions upon zillions of dirty diapers. The smells (T's). The exasperation (mine). The exhaustion (everyone's).

Day after day, for almost a week, was spent entirely changing diapers, comforting him, washing diapers, and keeping him hydrated. He was really fine except for his diarrhea. But he was spent and uncomfortable. It made him cling to me big time. I felt awful for him. I was helpless to do anything to cure him, so I just did my best to keep him snuggled and clean and full of liquids. This was not an earth shattering illness. His pediatrician didn't even want me to bring him in. But T has been so healthy since we got home - I think he's had one cold in the last 15 months - so it was really his first time being "sick" with us.

The amount he had to depend on me that week really affected T. Our routine-shattering, stranger-filled vacation had strained our bond, and I was still feeling that things were still not quite on even footing when he got sick. But T was feeling crummy enough to let me baby him a lot, which is what many attachment experts recommend to help foster a stronger bond. It's often when I feel like T's connection to us isn't so hot that babying him would be the hardest thing to do, because he's actively pushing us away. By the time T's stomach was improving, so was his attachment (until the hellacious diaper rash appeared, but that's another story). Now he and I are tight again, which, ironically (but logically, if you understand how attachment works) means he's much more confident about independently exploring his world. He seems more in control of himself and more in balance again. I'm not happy he was ill, but glad to see there was a silver lining to our challenging, unhappy week. We would have gotten back to this place eventually, but I'm grateful for the nudge.

Part Two: Mom vs. Dad, or, How the Economy Affects Attachment

I was laid off last week. I knew it was coming, and I'm seeing it as an opportunity to spend all day with T, possibly on a permanent basis (at least until he's in school, if this works out). The combination of working 2nd shift and watching T in the mornings was getting brutal on the sleep front. I'm happy for this chance and especially thrilled to see my husband more than on weekends (we worked opposite shifts to avoid needing outside childcare). But this is not about me.

Since I've been home (one whole week), T has spent much much much more time with only me than previously. He used to actually have more face time (by almost 3 hours) with Kyle on an average day. Kyle, coincidentally, just started a 2nd, part time job (it, also, began last week). (Of, felicitous fate, thank you for laying me off at the precise moment we would have started to need childcare!) Due to job #2, he's gone for some of the afternoon hours he used to spend alone with T.

In one week's time, we're seeing a pretty big slide in T's attachment with Kyle. I'm assuming Kyle (lovely, overworked, and currently sleeping Kyle) will not mind my sharing this publicly, but he's now so busy that he probably won't blog again until the semester is over, and in fact, may not even have time to read this. (Um, hi babe! Shouldn't you be working or something? =) ) T is starting to resist making eye contact with him, and is pulling stunts like trying to guess which parent would take him to the toilet before he'll answer if he needs to use it (if I'll take him, he'll go; if Kyle is taking him, he'll hold it). He insists, more than usual, on me holding him instead of Kyle, me doing the bedtime routine (which has always been Kyle's thing), me cleaning him up after meals, me reading him stories, and basically, just on me in general if we're both home. Much of T's insistence is in the form of crying and tantrums, which is painful for everyone.

I feel like this could be because he's milking my being home for all it's worth, or he's worried since his Dad is gone more than he used to be (or a combination of the two). But we're working hard to get T's bond with his dad stronger. We're sticking to the dad-son bedtime routine. Kyle still gives T all his showers. Kyle's doing some eye contact games with him. We're encouraging T to go to Kyle to be held and snuggled. I think we're also going to make a point to give T time with Kyle when I'm not an option. Either the boys or I need to leave the house for a few hours of alone time on the afternoons that Kyle is around, so that they can have fun without the stress of me being there for T to run to. This sort of bums me out because it was this extra family time I was looking forward to, but we'll still have lots of time together. I'm confident T will be begging to snuggle up to his Dad again soon.

The hard part is Kyle not taking it personally. I feel terrible for Kyle when T throws a fit about sitting on his lap after Kyle has been at work and missing him all day, while I'm equally frustrated because I could use a break myself after a day of critter wrangling. Stay tuned...



rosemary said...

Sorry to hear about the job and about the attachment stress. It is interesting to see how a thing like a small illness can promote attachment and a change in work schedule can force a struggle. Hope it gets better soon!

Jessica said...

Thanks, as always, for the info. It helps prepare the rest of us. Hope all the stressors vanish soon.

Chris and Terri said...

You have a great attitude about the layoff. A friend of mine just got to spend 9 months with her little girl before landing a job but it was all stress and no play for them. Good Luck with trying to enjoy it!

We went through a similar bonding issue - yes might be a newsflash to some readers but - biological children often have issues with bonding. Matt was always closer to Chris and Mark was always closer to me but in Mark's case, he didn't really even care about anyone's existence except mine. Some days that is still the case.

It sounds like you guys are doing everything our psychologist suggested so good luck. While both my kids are bonded and attached to us both, they still have a parental preference at times. We say we don't have a favorite child but they definitely have a favorite parent. :)