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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Attachment Journey: Part 4- Little, Nagging Behaviours

It's now my rule that if something Jonas is doing doesn't sit well with me (from an attachment point of view) I will go with my gut. Especially where attachment is concerned. I've found it can be easy to dismiss some behaviours because they seem "little". I have to be honest and say that in all my reading about attachment before Jonas came home I focused on the more wild and overt behaviours (maybe that's naturally just the kind of stuff that really sticks with you as a PAP.) and didn't really spend time thinking about how attachment issues could play out in the "small" stuff. Since coming home, though, there have been many times I'd sense a warning flag pop up over things that seemed inconsequential at first. (Especially in the early days) These "little" behaviours nagged me though. They were things which wouldn't ordinarily be of much concern, but, (and this is a BIG but) all together the "little" things add up to more. Especially in adoption. These behaviours have to be addressed or attachment will not happen.

I'll give you examples of "little" behaviours that seemed easy to explain away, but first I just want take a second to tell you one thing. In order to keep the flow of this series in some sort of logical order I've stuck on topic so far. While I have been writing much lately about difficult things, things which might tempt others to view life with Jonas as being strictly what you read here I want you to know that it's not the case. I've chosen this topical format for easier consumption of the concepts I've been learning. Life, as we all know, isn't so linear. Needless to say I realize that this series is a little top heavy. So far, my posts have centered around stuff that doesn't always send waves of warm fuzzies up a persons' spine. I just wanted to take a moment to say there's so much more to the story and I can't wait to tell you. Just know I'm saving the best for last :-)

Okay, back to task. Those "little" behaviours:

Scan down the Infant Attachment Checklist and Additional Behaviours first. I'm just going to give quick examples of what these look like for us. I will be linking the behaviours to their coordinating description so you can gain more information. (So, you'll want to check those links out :-)

From the first we picked Jonas up in Addis Ababa he had a habit of batting at our faces. Not all the time and not necessarily when he was crying or fussy. Just random hard wacks. We thought maybe he just had poor muscle control. Even still, it didn't sit right with us. Looking back I can see that his batting at our faces was stress related and an attempt to create some distance between us. I am glad we chose to listen to our instincts and begin working on that right away. Haven't had trouble with that lately.

When my friend (who is an experienced adoptive mother) came over she noticed that Jonas never rested on me. He clung to me, hung from me, stood up on me, rolled over, flipped and then began the rotation all over again. She called it "wallerin" (Well, I'm originally from Chicago and I'll be honest and tell you I have not a clue what that means.) I called it baby style WWF wrestling. It was constant. He never sat still. At first I didn't think anything of it. I told myself it must just be 'boy behaviour' and that's why it was new to me. I sure didn't mind if he enjoyed being close to me. But my friend's notice of it made me take a closer look. It was a little of this and a little of this mixed together with a desire for physical contact.

I've kept it no secret that we've had issues with eating. Jonas has never met a bottle he couldn't polish off. No matter how much solid food he's horked down beforehand. He was obviously overeating. Bottle feeding was beginning to feel more like a barrier rather than an aid to our attachment. We wondered, would it help our hurt our cause if we took the bottle away? Would Jonas to rely on us for comfort in the bottle's absence? We risked him viewing us as unable or unwilling to meet his needs. It was a really tough call. I figured I'd test him out by deleting his usual pre-nap bottle. For two days he went down without a hint of resistance. This built my confidence up enough to attempt to put him down for the night without bottle feeding him first. I really thought I had it all figured out :-)

Do you want to know how well that worked? Well, I already told you in Part 2. That was the night he really let me have it. It was as if he was saying, "Hey lady! If you didn't get it before let me spell it out for you.... I'm. not. attaching. to. you. (yet.)

We've reinstated his bedtime bottle only. Just 4 ounces. Enough to fill up the tank but not enough for him to fall asleep while nursing. It's helpful because Jonas is still learning to be rocked to sleep in my arms. Jonas had a particular position he liked to be held in. He preferred to be sitting on my lap with his head on my chest but facing out. That was one of those "little" things that could be blown off without being educated about attachment disorders. It's a common posture for kids with attachment issues. He was controlling how things went down between us. If I tried to turn his head so that it was facing in towards my chest or switch him to the cradle hold he freaked. He displayed his dislike by swatting at me.

Each day both Dustin and I hold him in the cradle position, playing games and making him giggle, singing songs or just quietly stroking his face if he'll let us. A lot of times we are met with much resistance. It takes persistence to wait Jonas out until he's calm. It's hard but important work. Each day he shows some sign of improvement...... there's always something to encourage us. (No matter how small it may be.)

Also,( something I didn't notice until recently. Okay, well, it only occurred to me last night, truth be told) Jonas repetitively chatters when he's agitated and crying. Often times he'll do it when we are working on holding him in the cradle hold. It feels a lot like he's trying to create "white noise" to distract himself from what's happening.

Well, that's all I've got for now (Trust me, it feels like enough! Don't you think? haha). Does your child have any habits that raise a warning flag for you? What have you done about them? Have you seen progress? Any advice you like to share with me? If so, Please leave a comment.


P.S.- This post is personal but I am choosing to post anyway because I believe I benefited greatly from watching my friends observe their children, spot the issues and deal with them. I had to be taught how to think about attachment. I've said before that I am certainly no expert but I think I've been blessed to be able to come to certain honest conclusions about Jonas quickly because my friends taught me well. It takes a lot to send this kind of info out in the world in such a public way. I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel the Lord would use it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jen, for this series you're doing and all the helpful links to read more about it! We're finally taking a good look at these kinds of things now that we're getting closer to traveling, and I really appreciate the practical advice from someone who has gone before us!

E said...


Another great post! I agree, the little things really are meaningful and we need to have the confidence to follow our instincts! Once I began doing that, things really began to click so much faster! It's really remarkable!

Secondly, Abel exhibited the same smacking behaviors. I do believe they were attachment/relationship related. I also saw him do this to his nanny repeatedly in Ethiopia. I saw other children do it, too. At the time I thought it was just accepted naughty behavior. Now I believe that's true, but that there's more to it. I think it's a coping mechanism and it's no wonder some parents might see a lot of it upon returning these little ones are doing a lot of coping!

Thank you again for these insightful, heartfelt posts!!!