Monday, March 7, 2011

Attachment, How Disordered Is It Really?

What do I have to say about attachment?  I am not an adoptee.  Nor am I an adoptive parent.  Me? I’m just a former foster child and the daughter of a former foster child/adoptee.  I think I may have a thing or two to say about attachment.

I have been told that I had intestinal issues when I was a baby and that nobody wanted to change my diapers and that they avoided being around me, that apparently I took that personally and because of that they said I never properly bonded to my mother. That all sounded like a bunch of baby doo–doo to me at the time (I was still a kid), and it still does now. (Although just now writing this I recall one of my mother’s go to phrases about how I “walked around as if my shit didn’t stink” so, maybe not total psyco- dookie after all.) The way I see it my mother never fully attached to ME and even as a little kid I knew it.

When I was around six my mom (who reads my blog, just an FYI) decided that she deserved more in life. She moved out, we got nannies and they filed for divorce. She was “looking out for #1.” her phrase, not mine (and one that still makes me physically cringe to hear to this day) I heard it a LOT. And my oldest sibling was sent away to boarding school.

We went through something like 13 nannies over the next 3 years. Which only speaks to two things – my father was not so good at picking the women he expected to take care of his kids and my brother and I were pretty good at showing our dislike of our circumstances. We were just kids who wanted our life back and weren’t going to get it.

Some nannies we liked some we loved and some we just wanted to disappear.

After a few years we (nanny included) ended up living with our mother. It was a nasty divorce. They fought and went to court about everything all of the time and every penny was a point of contention. Some of those pennies were the ones that paid for the nanny. When she left, (the one nanny that we loved) She was never replaced, and my mother was stuck with two kids and no nanny. Daddy’s new wife wasn’t having any of it, which left us at ten and eleven completely unsupervised and unattended to.

My mother and father started the little game of dropping their children off on each other’s doorsteps and driving away at all hours. We stopped going to school. My mother dropped us off and left us at runaway shelters and other places, she even had me removed from my own house as a runaway, and I was like eleven years old.

By the time we had ended up in court over my truancy, I was a mess and had had enough. On the advice of my social worker I asked the judge to be placed in foster care. My SS worker said it was clear that I was not going to be cared for at home and that nothing would change.

I know a little about attachment, but I know a hell of a lot more about detachment.

I have heard foster and adoptive parents say “people just don’t know what it is like to have to deal with ‘Attachment’”

And what I want to say today is:

And they don’t know what it is like when your whole life depends on the benevolence and the whims of (detached) adults.

And they don’t know what is like to watch helplessly while the very adults who are supposed to protect you rip your life to shreds because they think they deserve better.

And they don’t know what it is like to be in a good place just to be torn away and have to start all over again.

And they don’t know what it is like to have lived with parents who aren’t all that attached to you.

And they don’t know what it is like to be wrapped in blankets and sat on by adults to ‘recreate’ your birthing experience that happened eleven years prior, in some attempt to inspire some magical attachment.

And they don’t know what it is like to be small held down against your will by people three times your size as a form of “therapy”.

And they don’t know what it is like to live under the microscope, with your every, thought, word and action being analyzed, scrutinized and pathologized.

And they don’t know what it is like to be a kid, wanting to do normal kid things but you can’t without them being attributed to some bizarre deeper mental malady.

And they don’t know what it is like to know that normal kid stuff is only dismissed when normal kids do it, and that you have been labeled so kid normal kid stuff is not ok for you.

And they don’t know what it is like to realize that even your OWN parents will throw you away.

And they don’t know what it feels like to lose everything you love and hold dear, even if it was really crappy in the first place.

It makes it a tad bit difficult to get comfortable in new surroundings, to trust new people easily and completely. I do not have an attachment disorder I am very attachment ordered. I had the misfortune of learning at an early age that people are indeed fallible. That my parents weren’t heroes and that life can change on a dime. Things most children do not discover until they are in adolescence, is it any wonder that the ‘symptoms’ of attachment ‘issues’ resemble adolescence?

So maybe I moved around so much that I jump in to new situations with both feet, and put my feet on the couch. Maybe I like to keep my relationships with new people superficial for a while, until I see what they are really about. Maybe I realize that people are capable of some pretty terrible inhumanity and maybe that makes me a little leery. Maybe I still have some trouble with anxiety, but how bad is that? How disordered is that, really? It seems to me that it just makes plain good sense. I would be truly worried about a child who went through that kind of trauma and was unscathed. That my friends, I would find highly troublesome.

Sometimes kids like some people better than others. That is their right. Sometimes kids do kid stuff because they are kids. Sometimes kids miss and wish they were back where ever they came from, even if it may be horrifying to others, it was their home. That is their right, and it is not personal. Being ‘attached’ doesn’t mean obedient, compliant or “fun to be around.” It is impossible to demand or force anyone to love us, trying to hard only makes them push further away (For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember THAT girl in elementary school who wanted to be your bestest friend ever and stalked you…do you remember how that work for her?), we have to be careful and patient.

And please if you are a foster or adoptive parent who thinks they may need to seek professional help for your child with attachment issues I beg you to do A LOT of research and avoid anyone who has ever used controversial techniques like “holding” or other coercive/dangerous “therapeutic” methods.

The truth is, that in the end as parents are here to love and care for our children because that is our job, whether they ever appreciate it or love us back is completely irrelevant.



(That I wrote this post in response to Claudia at My Fascinating Life’s call for posts by AP and PAP’s about attachment, I thank her for welcoming my perspective into the mix.)

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