This will mostly be a random post of adoption-related links, but if you are an adoptive parent of a child who is dealing with attachment stuff, I would love your feedback on the last paragraph. But first:
Several people pointed me to this article that Lisa Qualls wrote, and I really appreciated it. These points were especially poignant for me:
In my first 20 years of being a mother, before adopting, I was never so stumped or so completely empty of wisdom as I have been at times in trying to be a good parent to the children we have welcomed into our lives through adoption. I never read so many books, poured over so many websites, or called so many experts in search of help. I never took my child to a therapist or felt that I might need one myself. I never called my husband home from work because a child was so distressed or out-of-control that I couldn’t keep everyone safe—and not just once, but many times. And as someone who was a passionate homeschooler, I never had to seek out alternatives to homeschooling because it wasn’t working. I never thought about acronyms such as IEP, RAD, or PTSD. I never sent an email to my friends telling them I couldn’t manage the summer on my own, and asking if they would be willing to help. Based on my years of experience as a successful parent, I thought I had it all figured out, only to find out that as we began the adoption journey I was, in many ways, completely starting over.
But I quickly learned that there were many other things I did not know from my previous years as a mother. I didn’t know the indescribable joy of watching a child fall in love with me. I didn’t know the beauty of holding a child in my arms and fiercely loving her even though I had only met her weeks before. I didn’t know the agony of waiting for a child who was 8,000 miles away, or seeing her turn her face to me for the first time and come into my arms. I didn’t know the hope I would feel when I saw sad and tender tears on my child’s face for the first time, after months of anger and frustration. I didn’t know how incredible it would feel to hear my child say, “I love you, Mommy. You are the best Mom!” when I knew this was truly a revelation to her.
If this resonates with you, go read the rest.
I was interviewed by OC Family Magazine last month. It was a few days after the flood, and I spoke with the author by phone in the hallway of our hotel one exhausted night. My husband picked up a copy of this magazine at his office today and was surprised to find an article about his family – which I apparently forgot about, and failed to mention to him. I appreciated how the author questions the difficulty connecting children who need families with families who want to adopt.
If you live in the Southern California area, PACT is having a picnic for transracial families on September 19th in Yorba Linda.
I’m also planning to attend the Together for Adoption Conference the first weekend of October in Austin, Texas. This is a conference that reaches far beyond just adoption/adoptive parents, and really seeks to mobilize the church to care for orphaned or abandoned children in a variety of ways. The day before the conference, Karen Purvis will be doing a seminar for families who have already adopted.
PBS is airing four documentaries on adoption this month. If you missed the first two, you can watch them online. If you are waiting for a placement, I would really recommend Wo Ai Ni, which follows a young girl from China as she joins her new family in the US. I found myself cringing during a good portion of it, and the film could almost serve as a “what not to do” handbook (not because the parents are awful people, but because they are failing to see life through their daughter’s eyes). I’ve seen some people who come away from this movie inspired by how this girl blossoms, while others come away appalled at what was asked of her in terms of rapid-fire assimilation. It was definitely a reminder of the importance of cultural sensitivity and empathy in adoption, and that as adults and parents, the burden is on US to make the transition easier for our children. If you are an adoptive parent, I would really recommend First Person Plural. the story of a woman who is reunited with her birth parents in Korea (taking her adoptive parents to meet them as well). I’m looking forward to watching the next few movies – they air on Tuesday nights on PBS this month.
Okay, and now for the question.
So many of you seemed to relate to my post about Kembe’s push/pull attachment behaviors and the power struggles that ensue. If you are struggling with it in your home, I’m wondering how you deal with it? Specifically, I’m curious how you discipline the inappropriate attempts at control. I seem to see two theories in the adoption literature, more or less. Some suggest that parents need to establish a full and hierarchical control, placing the adult in the decision-making role until the child is more securely attached. I think the theory here is that children need boundaries and structure, and will learn to relax and attach when they recognize that they don’t need to be running the show. I’ve even seen it suggested that kids with attachment issues should learn to ask for everything they want (obviously this being an extreme tactic). On the other hand, other experts seem to suggest trying to allow the child more choices and even sometimes giving in on the drama, because giving them control makes the child feel safer. So . . . it’s all a bit confusing. Does being in control make the child feel secure, or does having a parent in control lead to the security? Or is it just sort of like ripping off a bandaid, where ripping it off might be more efficient, but also more painful? Is it simply a “pay now or pay later” situation? Anyways, I would love to hear your thoughts and also hear about what resources, books, or adoption experts shaped your views on this one, because we are going back and forth, and I’m pretty sure that NO ONE is recommending that technique.