Monday, June 11, 2012

Attachment needs or typical toddler behavior?

This past weekend we went up to Chris' parents house.  With all of his family.  There was a lot of us.  And due to people logistics, we couldn't sleep close together.  Moyz got the laundry room, and Kembia the space under the stairs.

When I placed Moyz in his pack n' play and walked away he went ballistic.  I mean the kind of frantic screaming I haven't heard in quite awhile.  I immediately went back in to calm him down and lay him down again and whisper nice things to him.  The minute I walked away the screaming again.  He climbed out of the pack n' play and fell onto the cement floor.  After about 5 minutes of soothing/going back in, I decided to let him scream it out.

It was kind of a big moment for me.  We have let him scream it out at home, but this was in a much more unfamiliar place with a lot of people that he knows, but doesn't necessarily see regularly.  I went upstairs and was talking with my sister in law and trying to ignore his pleading cries.

Of course all sorts of terrible attachment stuff was going through my brain- I was setting him back to when we first got home, he was going to feel abandoned, he would mentally change and start peeing/pooping on the walls because he couldn't handle family.  Basically the worst-case attachment scenarios I had read all about were running through my mind.

And then he fell asleep.

The next day, normal as ever.  No changes in behavior, nothing.  Just my sweet, crazy energy little boy.  It was a good moment for me.  He's come a long way.


  1. Jess, I have to be honest... this post made me wince.

    Please know that I don't intend to judge... but rather share information.

    I recently attended a weekend conference with Dr. Neufeld who is a very highly regarded specialist on attachment parenting. He spoke about the damage caused when parents let babies 'cry it out'. Yes, I admit - I tried it once (once only because it drove me nuts! lol) when my first born was young. I felt terrible after listening to what he had to say about it. I highly recommend checking out his videos or book at the library or video store... it's fantastic stuff! Not that you have the time - so perhaps get the video! ;)

    Here is a psychology report on 'crying it out' - which follows suit with his teaching -
    "With neuroscience, we can confirm what our ancestors took for granted---that letting babies get distressed is a practice that can damage children and their relational capacities in many ways for the long term. We know now that leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated person who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation.
    We can confirm now that forcing "independence" on a baby leads to greater dependence. Instead, giving babies what they need leads to greater independence later."

  2. Thanks for the info. and I don't take any offense. Believe me, I have read tons on it. But one thing that I have learned is that sometimes, kids are kids, and naughtiness is naughtiness, whining is whining, etc. The difficult part in adoptions is determining what is what. And we have done an awful lot of that over the past 11 months and I know will continue to do so in the future- Trying to understand if something would be considered normal in your other kids, or not. Trying to read the level they are at. Just like when my bio kids have done something or want something and things don't go their way, they may act out somehow, but we don't let them continue to do that. They have to understand what is expected of them, which of course is a process, one that is definitely slower with our adopted two. With Moyz and Kembia we have taken steps out of always assuming attachment parenting and into some rules and expectations of them. Not big ones, but steps. Moyz definitely clues us in when he really feels like something is scaring him. The most obvious is when we are in large groups of people, he clings and cries. Especially if it is a large group that is predominantly black. His behavior is very different in those situations than any other time, even much more different then his upset cry that he gave the other night.
    We also have our attachment therapist at the U of MN in their adoption clinic which is highly respected here in the US who is aware of what happens in our life and the changes that we make in parenting. She helps to correlate behavior along a continuum spectrum of children and where she believes they are currently at on the attachment line. Will we always do everything correctly? Probably not, but we do feel that it is time to change some of the ways we parent the kids. Just like trying to reason with a 1 or 2 year old doesn't work, so does adoption parenting differ for each child. I also think that there is a humongous difference in what crying it out is. 5 or 10 minutes in my opinion, is a vastly different thing than someone who lets their kid cry for a half an hour or more. Is that 5 minutes too long for some adopted kids? Probably, but with Moyz, I think what we did was just fine. Talking with several families who have adopted multiple kids, the one thing that I have definitely learned is that attachment parenting is different for every kid, even when there is a so-called set of rules by attachment specialists. We can clearly tell when Moyz has had too much/not enough of people, certain situations, etc. The other major thing that I have noticed with all of my research is that you start to see attachment problems everywhere and in everything that your kids do. It kind of reaches a whole new level of crazy. I think that as an adoption society we stress so much the attachment problems and don't focus on that a lot of the times things go wonderfully and there aren't any major issues to worry about in the transition. Of course, it is still best to be prepared for a worst-case scenario attachment. But not focus so exclusively on it. We have learned to the best of our abilities to read our kids, and we trust our instincts on that.

  3. I have had several visions of the guess work that will be involved once our little one comes home. There is certainly that confusion of is it the child's unique personality (ie. stubborn), their age, or the fact that they are adopted. I can imagine it can get out of hand... 'Why is Tommy picking his nose and eating it!?' LOL. Yikes... I can already feel my head spinning!! And your totally right - the standard, recommended rules are not going to work for every child.

    I should have clarified that Dr. Neufeld is a developmental psychologist, who speaks to all parents about attachment parenting their children, biological and otherwise. This attachment based parenting is just as much for the biological child just as the adopted. He does offer material and conferences on the transplanted child (adopted) specifically as well...

    After attending his course, I was a bit relieved... as parenting with this approach (biological and adopted) - it won't leave so much room for failure, because the model is the same for all children. Which basically reinforces my instincts as a Mother to wear, co-sleep etc... Keeping them close! ;)

    I read this article awhile back... Why African Babies Don't Cry. ;) I thought it was interesting. ;)

    I wonder what they would do in the case of triplets! ;)

  4. Very interesting article. And it really does make sense. But (isn't there always a but!), it's fairly impractical for the modern working mother, or mother like you pointed out, with more than one child. Or even a mother with other children trying to meet all of their needs. But I suppose that is what parenting is- trying to meet all of our kids' needs in the best way possible. And if they invented a wrap that could snuggle up three babes in it and not have me fall over, I would probably buy it!

    Too true about the kids' personalities, and that will definitely take time for your little one to be. It took us a long time to determine what truly was the kids and what wasn't. It also took time for their true personalities to come out once they started grasping that they were being cared for and food, etc. would always be there.

    But that's one of the best things ever, seeing your kids thrive in a cared for environment and watching them slowly discard all the fears and things that they carry from the orphanage.

  5. I'm picturing you trying to manage ascending a set of flight of stairs with 75 lbs of babies wrapped around you... Lol. Would be a good work out... certainly not practical though. Ha.