Attachment: Follow up

Kate made mention of a “rule of thumb” that many PAPs hear about.

I?ve heard that attachment takes as long to happen as the child?s age at adoption. I don?t know if there is any data to back that up, but that?s the rule of thumb I was given.

In some instances this may be true.? The event that I mentioned in my last post happened right around the time that the boy had been home as long as his age at time of adoption.? The boy was just over 22 months when we took him out of the orphanage.? He turned 23 months the day he became a citizen.? July 5th was 22 months since he has been a member of our family.

While I feel comfortable with his level of attachment I know he is not 100% attached.? And he may never fully be.? Only time will give us that answer.

Another thing that PAPs or new parents hear is, “you’ll see a change in the child at about 6 months.”? I heard this from so many parents when we first got home.? At our 6 month mark I was so disappointed that there was no drastic change.? I suppose I expected to wake up one morning and things would be different.? They were not.? The boy still screamed at me (he still does) and continued to throw food at me (he only occasionally does that now) and he still rocked (he most certainly does that to this day).

It was at 9 months for us that things started to change.? At 8 months we finally took him to see an IA doctor.? It could be that Dr. Kertez calmed my fears or that she finally figured out that he had intestinal parasites and they were treated*.? I don’t know.? It also could be that it was a change in me.? At that point I had been a week into acupuncture and finally getting my body under control.? What I do know is that you can’t put specific dates on things.

When we go through the adoption process we try to define it.? I see it time and time again.? “I NEED to get a referral by my birthday,” “I MUST have my court date by Christmas.”? When those dates pass and what we want doesn’t happen it screws with our emotions and expectations.? My advice to those in the process is to not put those definitions on yourselves.? Same when you get your child home.

Your child will move at his or her own pace and there is nothing you can do to force the issue otherwise.? Sure, you can do things to aid the attachment process and I encourage that, but you have to remember that you are dealing with a whole host of issues that you don’t understand.? You have no clue what your child’s life was truly like prior to coming to live with you.? Often times orphanage workers “put on a show.”? You see what they want you to see.? The photos you get from that disposable camera you leave are little glimpses of the life your child lead, but you don’t know how long he sat on the potty.? You don’t know if that photo of her dancing was staged or not.? You can only assume.

In our case we went with the flow.? I never put definitions on our adoption process and when I did once we got home I was disappointed and beaten down for it.? Relax and enjoy your child.

9 Comment

  1. DebiP says: Reply

    I am enjoying these enlightening post Elle…you should head back to the forums…IAA and AT

  2. Jenni says: Reply

    I completely agree that any timeline you are told before/during your adoption should be taken with a grain of salt. They’re more like guidelines, really. Your child’s temperament, his/her life experience prior to the adoption, and how you react to any conflicts along the way are all factors in how attachment develops and grows. If a PAP sets themselves up with unrealistic expectations, it could lead to post-adoption depression or other feelings of failure and helplessness (which we all probably experience to some degree anyway).

  3. Tricia says: Reply

    What I am struggling with now …

    Is my daughter attached? How do/will I know this?

    Also, why don’t you think he is 100% attached?
    (Ignore me if this is too personal)

  4. If that rule of thumb is true, just shoot me now.

    Attachment is such a tricky thing. In many ways, Slugger is VERY attached to me. But he’s still very indiscriminate about going to different people for things instead of coming to me first. And he still doesn’t trust that what we have is permanent and real. It’s going to take a long time for that to happen.

    (But, like I said, if it doesn’t happen until he’s 20, well, just shoot me now.)

  5. Very good advice. I wish I always remembered to take it. I still get frustrated sometimes because I don’t feel as attached to Zeeb as I do to my other kids. (He seems very attached to us, as much as anyone can gauge what another person is thinking/feeling). I feel like I am wasting time somehow, by not enjoying every minute with him like I think I should. I just hope that as time goes by, the bonding will seem like it was there all along, even in my memories.

  6. Great post. I love to hear you talk about adoption bc you seem so well informed and well – I’m soaking up as much as possible. I hear ya on the not putting timelines to things. I know you’re right. I also know I will not listen one bit. Sad, but true. We want our little one home by Christmas next year. Will it happen? Who knows?! But for now that is the goal! Afterwards, when we’re home, I dont’ see myself putting timelines on the attachment. I think, like you said, that is a lifelong process and one we will never have a guarantee about.

    ps – I would LOVE to hear more adoption posts, or about the Boy’s attachment….

  7. I don’t buy the attached in the length of time they were old in our case simply because she was 7 months old. I think to assume that we can stop worrying about it so soon after she came home would do a disservice to her and to us. I think it is more complex than that. But I understand that we as adoptive parents want a target to shoot for and that one sounds reasonable. I imagine I will never stop thinking about attachment in the back of my mind. I think she is pretty fully attached but I don’t kid myself that issues can’t crop up as she gets older and is more aware of the fact that she is adopted. I just hope we are able to handle them well and she always feels as loved and treasured as she is. I don’t think my rambling has made much sense but I’m on pain killers so I’ll offer up that excuse.

  8. We have been a family for 20 months now. And I feel we have a very strong attachment with the girls but I STILL keep a check on certain people/behaviour etc. It is a constant evolving relationship. For the most part I don’t worry anymore, their attachment is strong, they love us and express it and we have come a long way in terms of our family.

    Adoption attachment is soo free flowing and you never know how it is going to go.

    nice to see adoption stuff back, I can’t remember that last time you spoke of it!-J

  9. Ann says: Reply

    We didn’t see true attachment until Jabari was home for 3 yrs 4 months! It was like a switch was flipped, we had sent him to Preschool & he hated it, cried & pitched a FIT everyday that was a school day.(he went 3x a week) after a month of him behaving like this & things getting worse we pulled him out. The day I told him he doesn’t have to go back he improved & it’s been better & better since. It was like he finally felt we were truly listening to him. It was a LONNNGGGG 3 yrs but the hell we all went go through is so worth it!

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