Tag Archives: Attachment Issues

Thoughts on our Attachment Journey

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about attachment. I’ve read a lot. I’ve listened to a lot of experts—including adoptees, the ultimate experts. I’ve talked to our family therapist, AbsurdlyHotTherapist, and my personal therapist about attachment too.

There have been big questions and little questions. I’ve fretted about those moments when our conflict was especially hard whether I had damaged us, whether I had fractured the glue I was working so hard to make us stick together. More recently, I’ve worried about my and Hope’s attachment status and journey as she is away at school. I find myself wondering if I did the right thing by her with the school thing even though I left the decision to go away to her; every evening I come home to just Yappy, I wonder if she’s ok and if we’re ok. After 4 years together, is this distance thing ok?

I’ve felt times of distinct struggle in parenting Hope. Single parenting is hard. Single parenting a teen is hard. Single parenting a teen from a hard place is hard. This isn’t a complaint; it’s just my truth. I’ve shed a lot of tears. I’ve worried a lot about the present and the future. I’ve worked hard to be a good advocate for Hope, but I also know that I’ve worked hard to push her, and probably not always in the best or most healthy ways. Parenting in general is hard, and “knowing what you’re doing” is a myth even in the best of circumstances.

And yet, I have sat in on adoptive parenting support groups and heard my peers also shed tears for the kids they love going through far more challenging events than I have experienced with Hope. I’ve left some of those group meetings feeling like even though these people are my people and we have some shared experiences, that my experience in parenting Hope is less challenging than I may have thought. I don’t take credit for that; I think we’re lucky and Hope has a well of resilience that I still don’t quite fully appreciate the way I should.

The last few years, I’ve really tried to give Hope the quality time, love, care, and security she’s needed. She did go to band camp for a week or so for a couple of years. I saw that she loved that experience, maybe because she loves band more than anything. In pushing her to go to an academic program this summer, I wanted her to have a different kind of experience. I wanted her to have a different opportunity. I didn’t think it would turn into anything because surely, she needed to be home. We still needed to work on attachment. She still needed my security close by.

The changes we have experienced these last 5 months or so have been dramatic. I didn’t expect that we would be here, or rather that she would be there, much less that she would choose to be there. I also would not have anticipated how it affected our relationship. It has really given me a lot of peacefulness around how I think about our attachment journey.

During a recent visit home, I noticed how relaxed Hope seemed. I asked her how she was doing, she said she was good. I asked about the depression and anxiety that riddled her academic experience. Sure, she said, school was stressful, but she didn’t feel bad about it or about herself, she felt better than before. I asked her if she felt like she made the right decision going to this school. She looked at me like I’d grown goat horns; yeah, she said yeah, shrugged, put in her headphones signaling that this was the endpoint in this discussion.

Um, ok, so, yeah.

Here’s what our relationship looks like now. We text…a lot. We send pictures, jokes. She sends me funny videos; she sends me political videos, which I especially enjoy. Sometimes we just text to say we love each other. Her goodnight texts warm my heart almost as much as when she would come into my room to say good night at home when we would invariably chat about silly things and maybe watch some silly animal videos on YouTube. When things get rough, Hope calls me—which as any parent of an adolescent kid knows is huge. Hope went through some roommate challenges recently, she texted me first and then called me. My heart both broke and soared because she was sad, and because she called me. She didn’t want me to fix anything, she just wanted mom’s comfort. She just wanted me to comfort her, that’s it. Of course, I did make some moves to lessen her pain points, but she just wanted mom’s comfort. There was a time when she would not have sought that out, much less my intervention.

I’ve learned that Hope trusts me, and that feels…amazing. I’m learning to trust Hope more on this part of our journey too.

We also delight in the time we get to spend together. The moment we see one another it’s just joy (and a huge stack of laundry). She indulges me as I take dozens of pictures of her in her ROTC uniforms and then texts them to our extended family. She can’t wait to tell me about what she’s reading or how drama club is going. We have these great conversations, and we bicker about the college applications that need to be done. Before you know it, the visits are over, and we hug it out, and she skips off back to her dorm. I don’t know what happens for her after that. I wish I could be a fly on the wall. As for me, I leave campus, pull over and cry every time. I cry because I miss her. I cry because I’m grateful for the time we’ve had together during the visit. I’m grateful that I gave her a choice on the school thing and that she seems to be doing well there. I’m grateful that we seem rock solid as a family. I’m grateful that I have a date on the calendar for the next visit.

I’ve learned that we’re ok during this chapter of our journey. I’ve learned that I’ll always wonder if we’re solid, if our attachment is strong enough or sustainable. I’ll always wonder if I’ll screw it up. I’ll always wonder about it all. But I do know that it feels like we’re ok right now. I’m holding on to that and to Hope.

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Prioritizing Attachment

School sucks.

I was briefly so excited about the start of school.  School keeps us regulated. It provides Hope with some social engagement. It makes us (me) feel productive.

But the reality is that it all just sucks.

School is hard for Hope. Like really hard. Like really, really hard.

She’s smart, but she’s got some limitations and despite wishing really, really hard, she’s not going to be a valedictorian. She’s an average kid.

I don’t do average. My issue, not hers.

I’m an overachiever. My sisters and I pride ourselves in doing and being better than 100%.

This overachiever/perfectionist thing is a problem, but that’s a whole other issue.

So, realizing that getting Hope on honor is like me scaling Mt. Rushmore has been hard to accept for me. Heck getting her to do reasonably well in each of her classes consistently is like me roller blading in spandex pants with just a bra top on the beach. I mean, it can happen, but it won’t be pretty and I’d probably end up with a couple of broken bones.

I’ve hired tutors and sent Hope to a commercial learning center.  I regularly visit the school counselors. I check in with her teachers. I schedule visits with her docs to make sure that medications are managed. I pay for private testing so that we don’t have to wait months and months for data that will inform educational decisions. I have nagged, I have begged and pleaded to get homework done. Hell, I’ve even written a 9th grade essay just to get us across a finish line (this is particularly painful as I was my university’s honor code chair in undergrad. Look what parenting does to you!!!) #hangsheadinshame

I have done everything I can think of, and I’m exhausted. And so is Hope.

And you know what?

Hope’s grades haven’t budged upward.

Not at all, not even a little.

If anything, things are harder than ever.

And I’ve fallen into a really negative rut as I try to pull her through assignment to assignment, quarter to quarter, semester to semester.

About two weeks ago, I found myself pondering what must she feel like in the midst of all my interventions.

I see and feel the resistance and the resentment.

I wonder if Hope thinks she’s disappointed me. I wonder if all this effort to ‘help’ her has hurt her. I wonder if I’ve undermined my efforts to build her up. I wonder if I’m just another parent in a long line of parents who have tried to ‘fix” her.

I then starting running over the last few months and really evaluating the state of our mother daughter bond.

It’s ok; I mean, there’s always room for improvement.

Thank I wondered how all my academic efforts might have hindered our attachment. I mean, if I was Hope I might pull back from all the criticism and all the effort to make me perform something that is so hard for me for any number of reasons.

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve made a decision.

After the next holiday break; I’m stopping the tutoring and learning centers. I’m going to still touch base with the counselors and teachers. I’m going to encourage her to breathe and know that she’s not defined by this academic thing. If she needs more time, then she’ll get more time. If she needs more coaching then she will absolutely have it.

I’m going back to prioritizing our relationship over her academic performance. It’s simply more important. She can take more time academically; but we can’t get this time back.

It’s just more important.

I love her, and while I want the best for her and I want her to benefit from all of the things I can give her, I think she really needs love, attention and encouragement.

We’ll come back to the schooling thing in time, but for now, she needs to know I love her just as she is.

She’s perfect.


Anxiety and Extroversion

I am an extrovert. I get lots of energy from being around people and stuff. I have some sensory issues that seem to be getting a bit worse as I get older, but I still love being in lively environments that give me the energy I need to remain vibrant myself.

I fretted last year that perhaps I was losing some bit of extroversion because I was increasingly desirous of just being alone. I had a new Meyers-Briggs assessment and found that I was even more extroverted than I used to be. I’m just really tired and that’s why I want to be alone…so I can go to sleep.

My darling Hope seems to be an introvert. She likes to be around people, but really seems to get more energy in super small groups, or alone with her own selected stimuli.

Here’s the thing though: because she struggles with anxiety, she presents as an extrovert.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but I get it now.

Between the anxiety and her ADHD, she can chatter on for hours and hours. She bounces around. She can be boisterous and her voice really carries. Her conversations wind themselves like backwoods roads that have lots of little roads off of them: one left turn and she’s tripped down a long road to nowhere for a 15 minute drive.

Now these behaviors aren’t really associated with extroversion, but if you don’t know much about intro/extroversion, you might easily run up on Hope and think that she’s a little lively ball of people loving fun. Um, no. She’s just spastic and riddled with anxiety.

So, I’ve really, really, I mean really been on my “time-in,” attachment parenting tip these last couple of weeks. Movies, board games, cooking, rice krispy treats, dance parties. I’ve limited our screen time on devices unless we were watching something together. I’ve done her hair. I’ve cleaned her room and not freaked out about all the food wrappers. I have listened with interest as she talks through her social issues, her crush issues, her skin issues, her hair issues, her body issues, her issues’ issues. She has been delighted to just have all this time with me.

And I. Am. Exhausted.

The only time Hope is not chattering on or bouncing around is if we go somewhere. Her brain is so busy and so tired that it literally shuts down and she falls immediately asleep. Sometimes we can’t even get out of the parking lot of our condo property before she is asleep.

It makes me feel like those infant parents who take the kid on a drive in hopes that the kid will stop crying and fall asleep.

My brain and body have quite a bit more stamina and resilience than Hope’s so I’m able to hold it together until night fall, but the constant stimuli is just too damn much for me. I’m exhausted.

Sometimes while she’s talking I am literally wishing she would just be quiet. She never does though.

I take Yappy to the dog park nearly every day just to get a little quiet time, but then I low key chat with the other dog owners.

It just never ends and even extroverts need a break to recharge that small bit of ourselves that is introverted. I don’t even remember going to bed most nights, just mildly cursing when the alarm goes off in the morning because I know the interactions will start again within an hour.

How do introverts even kind of manage this level of interaction and engagement????

I’m hitting it hard right now because school is out and most of our evenings are free. I have an opportunity to make some headway on our relationship before the school year starts again.  I see the fruits of these labors, I do, but OMG this is just crazy.

How do folks manage the need to just go into your quiet closet to recharge a bit each day?


Downhill

For the last couple of months I’ve really been focusing on attachment parenting. I managed to get through the “get off me, get off me, get off me” phase and get to the genuinely enjoying time with Hope phase. Things have been far more emotionally stable in the house, and that’s definitely a good thing.

But I’ve still been fighting my own demons.

During the recent snow storm that left Hope out of school for a week, I worked hard to get 30 minutes of exercise a day. I meditated. I relaxed. I spent quality time with my kid.

It was all great, really. I felt good.

And then we tried to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A week of disregulation was tougher on me than on Hope. Work, lately, has been like drinking from a firehose and I’m exhausted and there’s never enough time. The sidewalks are still covered with snow (it’s quickly melting this week thank to a mini “heatwave”) so Yappy and I haven’t been able to take our long walks. It’s been dreary. I got the new car and lost the Chili Pepper, which, really, seriously, has affected me so deeply that I have no attachment to the new car (Ironic, no?).

With each day I was quietly coming a little undone.

And then last night Hope’s bug phobia reemerged after a stink bug in search of a dry place to hang out got into the house.

Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to muster the appropriate response to this particular issue of Hope’s.

She awoke me from a deep sleep to ask me to kill a bug in the kitchen. I honestly didn’t have the capacity or coordination to do it. I got her water for her and went back to bed. Fear of the bug persisted through the morning routine and, let’s just say, that I didn’t react well. Add to my list of poor reactions I flipped out because, as usual, Hope dragged arse getting ready for school. In her defense, this morning was probably more about avoiding the bug situation than her usual obliviousness about time.

I messed up. It is what it is.

After she went to school, I killed the bug and I realized that her morning arse dragging annoys me because I want to have breakfast with her without rushing. I want the kind of morning routine I had with my family growing up; I want to check in, to pray, to watch the news, to just share time and space.

That stuff is also important to Hope, but I know that she doesn’t get it that it’s tied to the morning routine for me. I wasn’t even able to articulate that myself before today. I guess that makes part of my meltdown worth it.

I wrote Hope a note trying to explain.

I’m trying to deal with the bug phobia, I am, but it’s a trigger for me too.

I know I’m on a tipping point that could send me careening, so tonight is about self care: fuzzy socks and PJs, cuddles with Yappy and curling up with a good book.

Tomorrow is another day, and I will try again to do a bit better.


Frustrating Attachments

I’m a a bit grumpy this week.  I’m trying not to be. I’m tired and feeling…fluffy (one of my polite words for chubby). Work has been uber busy, and Hope…well, Hope is being 14.

I’d like to say I understood this behavior because I indulged in some of it during my teen years, but the reality is that momma and daddy ABM did not tolerate some of this foolery. I wouldn’t dream of being so snarky or thinking that to-do lists created by my parents were optional.

But alas, I’m still reprogramming Hope, so a lot of this mess rolls strong at Casa d’ABM.

I’ve really focused on attachment parenting over the last 6 weeks which means that Hope and have spent A LOT of time together focusing on building our relationship through fun activities. It’s largely been good, and I’ll even admit that there have been more moments than not where I felt like I was seeing the type of mother/daughter relationship I’d dreamt of when I started the adoption process.

But it hasn’t been easy.

I’m tired.

Even as an extrovert, a major extrovert, I’m desperate for alone time.  I want to be left alone.

Being pleasant is exhausting.

I’m annoyed by how much I’ve had to yield.

I’m constantly working to make sure my tone is soothing, even when offering correction or criticism.

I’m using “I feel” statements when communicating.

I’m doing most of the chores.

And I’m resentful that I feel like I’m doing all the work.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know it’s my job to do the work, but I wish that things were different. I wish Hope had more capacity than she does, but, well, she doesn’t.

Fostering a healthy attachment is wearing me out.

My frustration is just below the surface and I’m constantly trying to deal with it or push it out of the way.

How is it that I’m jealous of my daughter? I feel like her life is so much easier, but it is supposed to be in some ways. I also acknowledge that she doesn’t have it easier—she’s still unpacking 12 years of drama and dealing with the drama of being 14. It’s not easy.

It’s not easy for either of us; it’s just different.

As of today we’ve got a four day weekend ahead of us, thanks to snowstorm Jonas. I’m hoping that I can stay lighter than a feather during this time, and that Hope and I will continue to grow closer and that we’ll get more glimpses of what our relationship can become as a result of our continued hard work.


The Dx

Today has been a crappy day.

Family meeting with the social worker that was awful.  Therapy with the Absurdly Gorgeous Therapist (AGT), who I’ve now decided is only Really Handsome—this is a  disappointing, step down.  I am currently withstanding the Ice Maiden silent treatment from Hope after all this chatter about treatment and feelings today.   Like Hope, I’m raw from all this feelings talk too.

Since it’s been a schnitty day, and I’m anticipating World War 14 when dinner is served, I’ve taken a different tact for this post.

The Dx

There once was a girl named Hope

Who recently claimed “end of rope.”

Then the care team said, “RAD,”

And ABM was so sad.

Now they both need help learning to cope.

Sigh….


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