Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Third Anniversary Lists II: Attachment Disorders

[I apologize, again, for weird formatting - it seems to be stemming from my blogger template and I cannot seem to fix it without causing more problems...:( ]

During the bus portion  of the second leg of our mainland China adoption journey – from Nanchang Airport to Nanchang City – our guide, whom we called “Rose,” stood up in the front of our bus and announced “Girls from Jiangxi province are known for being beautiful. Oh – and your daughters are going to be VERY SPICY!”

Now, I don’t know so much about how little Ashley, Brooke and Jade turned out…And from what little I know they seemed to be coming along quite mildly…But I can assure you that Z [whose original Chinese name we kept] is most decidedly “spicy.”

The other day, she asked me, “Mama, why am I still so angry from being in an orphanage when that was so long ago?”

“I think part of it is that you are a really smart kid, who had a lot of feelings even at a very young age,” I told her, “and I think part of it is that you naturally have a strong temper!”

As with autism, if you’ve met one kid with an attachment disorder, you’ve met one kid with an attachment disorder. My Z would probably have been “spicy” no matter how she grew up. Still, some things tend to be shared by people who have attachment disorders, such as certain types of behavioral issues that may be otherwise uncommon. Attachment disorders in children often necessitate therapeutic parenting, which looks very different from “normal” parenting -- and was, for the Full Spectrums, a MAJOR revelation.  I’ve written every year on this specific topic to share our experiences and what we’ve learned. Here are the past two posts on this subject:

Here are some details on the three main strategies for attachment disorders that I have tried over the past year, restoring omniscience, channeling and venting:


To demonstrate the importance of this strategy, I offer this anecdote:

Full Spectrum Mama, having found Z in possession of something of questionable origin (i.e. not from known source and never seen before by FSM): “Where’d you get that?”

Full Spectrum daughter, Z: “In my room.”

FSM: “Well, I’ve never seen it before. So I am asking you where it came from.”

Z: [Blank.]

It’s that moment when your kid realizes you Don’t Know Everything. That moment gets more loaded when your child has an attachment disorder and the typical attachment disordered tendency to…appropriate things. LOTS of things.

The worst part of the blank non-reponse is, as several loved ones noted: Why not a better story? Something along the lines of “Someone gave it to me,” or, “I won it at school.”

Why not? Because I don’t even merit that! Anyway, she’s known for some time that if she gets too specific, her story may be refuted (see, most recently, new rhinestone hair-doodad collection, courtesy of “Ayi Fern”…”No! Full Spectrum Grandmother!”...”No…”).

Hence; “In my room.”

Back in the day when I could be convincing in my omniscience I was able to coax the truth out of Z. Then we could make things right by returning things whence they came and making amends. I would say, “In five minutes, I will give you a chance to tell the truth about that,” and, in five minutes, she would. Then we would figure out a solution.

We are entering a new realm now.

I have only one hope for a way out without getting professional help: RESTORE OMNISCIENCE. Just today, Z asked me, “Mama, can you fry stewed meat?”

“Why on earth would you ask me that? You know I am vegetarian…Oh, wait…because I…know everything?”

The response was something between an eye roll and a nod.

Sigh. I’ll be…in my room.

So let’s say OMNISCIENCE isn’t happening right now. What are some alternatives?

This may be a bit trial-and-error, but I have found that CHANNELLING disordered behaviors, especially compulsive ones, can be very effective. The idea with channeling is to replace a disordered activity with something more healthy and pro-social. You may have to try a bunch of alternatives before you hit upon one that works, or you may just get lucky! I wrote about one major 2014 success in WADS. 

Not long ago, Z was on an extended tear of “zesty” behavior: constantly testing, pushing, on edge…Having some experience with these cycles, I was able to keep her adequately on point, but only barely – and it was exhausting. As I have written in previous posts on this subject, boundaries are key; as I learned from our therapist, who specializes in attachment disorders, even small boundaries must be held in order to keep attachment disordered fears in check. So basically I have to be holding my ground on every little thing as she, typically, gets increasingly relentless…It’s not the most pleasant scenario.

Anyway, after a few weeks where I could sense Z was struggling quite a bit with something, she got angry (I don’t even remember what about) and stomped her foot and had the most comical expression on her face that I laughed when I looked at her. She became furious and stomped up to her room where she began to rage and throw and break things and scream ceaselessly for some time. After which she emerged, apologized, and has remained pleasant ever since.

I am not trying to advise you to send your child around the bend by teasing – which I did NOT mean to do! – just advocating for the occasional recognition of a tantrum as, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, a potential healing tool. The occasional VENTING session can be extraordinarily cathartic.

Next in the Anniversary Lists Series: Choosing Your Battles!!!

Full Spectrum Mama

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