On October 23, 2016, I will head south to Fort Worth Texas for a week long learning experience about how children from hard places learn to attach to adults when they have had no permanent attachment figures in their lives. I see this training as a next step to not only helping the children in my home, but also the children I serve in the classrooms at the early childhood centers I own. Beyond all that, I want to help other families who are struggling with the same things I did when several of my children came home.
The trauma my children suffered prior to coming me ripped us apart at the seams for a LONG time. Joe and I suffered. The relationship I had with my other children suffered. Worst of all, I doubted there would ever be any kind of end to it. I was sure that this was the way we would now live forever. I was certain we would always live in chaos and uncertainty.
There is no magical cure for trauma in a child, and it is SO often misdiagnosed as other disorders and the root cause of the problem goes unaddressed. I often see children struggle with defiant behaviors in an attempt to control what feels so out of control to them. This earns them the label of Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Sometimes that is a legit diagnosis. Other times, the defiance is merely a symptom of a larger problem.
I am no expert. I can only speak to what helped us. Part of our journey of helping my children involved helping myself. I am human. I have triggers. I screwed up, flew off the handle, and did (and still do) things eight shades of WRONG. When examining how I could do better, part of the answer involved getting my own self to therapy. I have been doing that for over a year now, partly to address the toxic relationships I needed to let go of in my own life, and partly to work through the stress of helping my kids navigate the other side of the hell from which they came.
When I began working with the team at Texas Christian University to do their Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) training for professionals, I knew that a portion of the coursework would involve doing an Adult Attachment Interview. This felt like a psych exam, and it would involve sharing the history of what I had spent a year in therapy learning to let go of. Yuck. This interview would last anywhere from one to two hours and would be SCORED. I would get a SCORE for my own childhood attachment, y’all. I couldn’t really think of anything worse.
There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to help my kids though. If this would help them, if it would make me a better mom, then I was all in. So, armed with coffee and planted firmly on my walk-in closet floor, I secured Joe to help me keep the two littlest Chinese entertained while I did this. I was SURE I knew what the results would be.
I thought I was dismissive. I have to work SO hard to show my older kids affection. I’m a ‘suck it up, buttercup’ kind of mom once you reach a certain age. I hate that about myself and I fight against it with everything I have.
The interviewer reminded me that were I truly a dismissive parent that would mean that I wouldn’t even recognize that trait in myself. I wouldn’t know to fight against it. So, not dismissive.
That was surprising.
I have always beat myself up about not being affectionate enough. I lie in bed at night and wonder if my own semi-cold and distant demeanor is sending the message to my kids that I don’t really care about them. Are we connected ENOUGH to overcome the past? Do they know my love is unconditional? Do they know that no matter what behaviors they throw at me, what life choices they make, where they end up, that I will ALWAYS be a presence in their lives? Do they know that? DO THEY?!?
Turns out, that is hampering me. Did y’all know that you can worry about your kids TOO MUCH?
I do. I fall into the “preoccupied/anxious” category.
I need to work on genuine connection, in the moment, instead of worrying about the next interaction, and the future. I am also so entangled in my interactions, so afraid as coming off dismissive, that I can be viewed as borderline intrusive. I am working on that, because that was so insightful for me. When the interviewer said it, it made total sense to me.
I’m preoccupied by the past, which was not at all surprising. I walk through life with a lot of baggage in my own relationships with my family of birth. I am secure in my attachments to them though. That wasn’t surprising either. I have good parents. I knew they would always be there if I was hurt or sick. I know that about them now even though our relationship has been forever changed by the number of children I have chosen to parent.
See? There I go again.
TCU gave recommendations on how to help me with living in the moment. This includes a whole lot of mindfulness. Not surprising, I have given my children a whole load of tools for practicing mindfulness and I have picked up none of them for myself.
That’s changing now too.
–FullPlateMom, who is focusing more on herself in order to be the very best mom she can be.