I didn’t do my homework. And then I got lucky. But now, well, now it feels like I have been given a pop quiz for which I am not prepared.
During the adoption process I read… I read blogs, and adoption yahoo groups, and books, books, books about adoption and transracial parenting and race issues. And if books were recommended on these issues and my library did NOT have them, well I made sure they got them either on loan or purchased for their collection (Oh how I miss the Benton County Public Library, Corvallis Branch.)
But the subject of attachment – well I skipped that. Once again our library’s collection was a little lean. I did check out the attachment book they had THREE TIMES (I have a mental block on its name but am sure it was the most highly recommended). And each time I tried to read it, I was overwhelmed. I was paralyzed with fear. I was seeing signs of attachment problems in my daughter and every other child I knew. It was simply too much for me. (Complicating matters and adding to my neurosis, at the time we had family friends who were forced to check their fairly recently adopted child into a long-term, inpatient treatment center where he was expected to live out his teen years.)
Besides, we had requested an infant. Besides, we already practiced attachment parenting. Besides, the care centers in Ethiopia work in ways that curtail these types of problems. Besides, it just couldn’t happen to me.
And then, it didn’t.
Little Dude’s adjustment was textbook. He did NOT like me the first day he met me. By the end of the week, he did not like the care center’s nannies. He offers great eye contact and strongly prefers his father, sister and me to other people. It is true that on occasion he goes “Grandpa Shopping” and will latch on to older white men (O.W.M.).
This didn’t start until he had met both my dad and SAG’s father. Coincidentally, they are O.W.M. and they both thought Little Dude was the smartest, most wonderful human to ever walk the planet. So, really, why wouldn’t any O.W.M. be a potential great friend?
While I didn’t read anything specific to attachment in adoption, we did make specific efforts to foster attachment. I even had a chart on the refrigerator that included columns for baby-wearing, “attachment” games and other activities that I could check off daily so I could feel like I was doing something. (After all, a type A, SAHM who doesn’t cook has to do something to chart her progress and track her metrics.) And since we had moved to a town where we didn’t know a single soul within a 7-hour driving radius, well, Little Dude did not get any mixed messages about who his primary care givers are. So, with only a little effort and no studying, we seemed to be on a smooth road.
Flash forward five months, and we are now experiencing our first attachment set back. Little Dude is refusing to give me a kiss. 10-days ago he loved nothing more than giving me kisses. He’d tip his sweet chin up, get a glint in his eye, his mouth would be the perfect mix of pucker and grin and he would come in for the most delicious kiss ever. Kiss, giggle, repeat, kiss, giggle, repeat, all done while staring gleefully into my eyes. And now it is gone, replaced by a version of the flop-on-the-back-and-show-major-distress-whenever-you-need-something-or-feel-slighted. This used to be his primary form of communication. At 13-months–old, straight from the care center, this behavior seemed like an ingenious communication tool for getting his needs met. Re-emerging at 18-months-old, weeks after it had been replaced with baby sign language, pointing and a few English words, it seems much more pathetic and like another giant neon sign that we have somehow lost attachment ground.
The only thing I know we have been doing different were the handful of nights we did not co-sleep with him. But I have been back in bed with him for most of the last week. I am pretty sure I know what my next steps should be… more baby-wearing, more peek-a-boo, more hand-feeding, more, more, more. And I can do all of this. I may even make a new chart. But I don’t know if this is “normal.” And even if this is normal, well, it is not what I studied for. I am prepared for racist comments at the grocery store while on a very smooth, one way street towards ideal attachment.
I will do whatever work is necessary. I will even read that damn book if I have to. But, please, Little Dude, if you could just give me a kiss soon so I know I am on the right track… Please?