Adoption and Attachment Parenting
During the Carnival this month there were many posts about parents simply falling into natural parenting as a result of listening to their own instinct and trusting themselves. Our family was a bit of the opposite, having seen my sister in law parent her two (now 3!) using an Attachment Parenting approach and as a result having lots of conversations and doing much reading on the topic while we were trying to conceive. Which didn’t happen until after we became parents to our older two, who joined our family at ages 6 and 2. Ever since, I’ve wondered how to translate the Attachment Parenting principles to newly parenting older children.
You see, God created something amazing in the cycle of pregnancy, infancy, toddlerhood, and so forth. Each stage allows us the opportunity to both build a foundation and learn key lessons for the next. And when you suddenly start parenting a 6 year old, that cycle gets thrown off. A lot. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t happen, or that God didn’t intend for us to parent these older children, but it does seem that His design is not at all accidental in terms of the stages both children and parents move through.
It’s made things confusing. The Attachment Parenting literature kind of ends somewhere during the toddler/preschool years. By the time they’re 6, the parent is supposed to be the expert. So what happens when you’re not? Navigating our new roles and relationships, MrH and I have second-guessed ourselves, picked up bad habits, built communication patterns that we are incredibly frustrated with, and generally made a mess of things. We’ve also done some things well, after much trial and error, and I like having this blog to write about those times.
We’ve learned (and continue to learn) how to respond to a child who is convinced that she’ll be sent away if she’s “bad.” And seems to constantly try to determine exactly how bad she needs to be in order for that to happen. I pray that she starts to believe in our constancy before the teen years, with their increased potential for getting into trouble.
We regularly try to help our kids through the confusing world of birth parents and everyday parents. Who is who? Why can’t I have my birthmom here? I don’t want a babysitter, I want my birthmom! Navigating those conversations, giving them language, normalizing the situation while acknowledging the very big (and frequently mixed) feelings that are going on for them. It takes time, lots of it.
We’ve learned to impose structure and predictability as much as is possible. Bedtime is adhered to with very few exceptions. Rest hour happens, in some way shape or form. Getting ready in the morning is the same every day, and after school we have a snack before starting in on homework. Routine reigns the day, and when the plan isn’t clearly spelled out there is a loss of security.
When it comes down to it, our two non-biological kids, who are full siblings, definitely choose one another over us. Their loyalty to one another is astounding, in a “you’re all I’ve really got” kind of way. I don’t know whether families who are not touched by adoption experience that in the same way, but to me it’s striking how strong their feelings toward each other are.
I’ve only recently started to view our family as on that is “touched by adoption.” That label didn’t seem to fit before, because there has been so much uncertainty surrounding the plan. But now that we appear to only be two signatures away from it actually happening, the recesses of my mind are opening up on this topic. We’ll finally be in a place of permanence, where true healing can take place. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll truly be experts on all three of our kids.