Here's an idea I'm kicking around:
I've been thinking a lot about attachment lately - my perspective on attachment has been changing since our babies came home, and has changed even since I wrote this. I want to write about some of the recent attachment issues we've been thinking about, but I'm not finding it easy. It's not all easy stuff, and in some ways I don't really like thinking about it. My kids were three months old when we adopted them, they must be totally fine, right? I don't need to think about it. We are just an ordinary family. They'll be fine.
And then things happen that let me know that actually, I do need to think about it. As my children have hit new developmental milestones, new attachment issues have popped up. A few weeks ago, I tentatively mentioned on an Ethiopian adoption forum that I didn't think we had 100% secure attachment going on in our house. I then said that I no longer saw that as a huge admission of parenting failure, and wondered whether actually it might not be fairly normal. I had hoped that others would say 'yeah, me too' but all I got was crickets. Of course, then I started to panic. Maybe everyone else really has made it. (And I bet they're all doing Ethiopia-themed craft during naptime, too, bah!) And then I remembered: Attachment theory wasn't developed to describe adopted kids, it was developed to describe relationships between members of ordinary bio families. (I know that classical attachment theory isn't the last word in how to talk about relationships between parents and children. Personally, I like Patty Cogan's term 'connections', partly because of the way it implies something that grows, rather than a place you get to and then stop. But when I find myself talking about this stuff, I end up using the word 'attachment', and all the other words that go along with that. Feel free to butt in and suggest better words and definitions if you have them!) It's more complicated with adopted kids, but not all bio kids are securely connected to their parents - it would be a bit freaky if all the adopted Ethiopian kids were magically doing A-OK.
So why is it so hard to talk about it? I think that the China adoptive community is better at talking about attachment than the Ethiopian adoptive community. This might be because there are just so many more complete adoptions from China - it makes sense that there is more dialogue about pretty much everything. It might also be because the program has been going for much longer - a lot of the adorable babies / toddlers are now at school, and behaviour that can be dismissed in a tiny kid suddenly pulls into sharp focus and parents are forced to start thinking hard. It might be because babies from China are often older than many of the infants adopted from Ethiopia, and attachment problems really are more widespread. But it might also be because there is a persistent view in Ethiopian adoptive circles that says attachment isn't as much of an issue for our families. When we were thinking about where to adopt from, we got lots of positive information about just how well Ethiopian kids attach. Ethiopian people love children! They are so well cared for! and so on. And this may well be true - the people who worked in the children's home where my babies lived were extremely kind. But they were also utterly overworked, and it was work to them - they weren't mothers to these children. My children spent three months flat on their backs on a mattress staring at a ceiling, and I'm not sure how much difference it made that the mattress where this took place was in a country where children are loved and valued.
And of course I'm not saying that nobody is talking about it. The other people on this forum may not be avoiding the issue - they may well have been busy making dinner, or washing, or you know, actually DOING attachment stuff with their kids rather than talking about it. Some people do blog about it. But if race is the elephant in the room in our adoptions, then I think that attachment is the horse. Or at least the medium-sized dog.
Many of us don't have any other kids. My adopted kids are our first try at parenting, and so how would I know what 'normal' attachment behaviour is like, outside of a book? How do we deal with having no clue about whether what is going on in our house is normal? (Or is that just me?) So. Who wants to talk about it? The idea I'm kicking around is that I
beg you suggest that people (anyone who wants to) writes something on their blog about their experiences of attachment in their family and I'll link to all of them here*. Not just Ethiopia families - anyone.
You could write about the hardest thing you've faced with attachment. You could write about something you thought would be hard, but that turned out to be really easy. It can be happy or sad, long or short, whatever is happening or has happened in your house. Here are some starter suggestions:
How are you planning to decide who gets to hold the baby (or teenager!) when you get home (and how are you going to tell the people who don't make the list?) Have you read a book that really shaped the way you think about attachment? If you have kids already, how does this affect your plans to work on attachment and connection with your new child? Do you think 'attachment' is just a big hoo-ha [again with the technical terms] over nothing?
How has attachment with your adopted child been different to what you expected? How has it been exactly the same? Has it been a really big deal in your house, or not at all? What have you found easier - personally bonding to your kid, or helping your kid to bond to you? If you have an other half, does your child have a favourite parent? If it's not you, what do you do about it? How have siblings affected your family attachment dynamics?
Or, of course, something TOTALLY DIFFERENT.
Post anytime between now and Monday 7 March. I'll sort out a Mr Linky before that date, and I'm going to write something so it won't be completely empty. So, who's in?
*If your mother reads your blog and you would rather not use this opportunity for her to find out that you're not going to let her hold her new grandchild, (or you have some other reason for wanting to write, but not on your own blog) just let me know and I'll post what you write anonymously here. Or you can leave it as a comment if you'd rather!