Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dual Adoption, Regression, and Attachment

     Our last few weeks have been full of end of year parties, graduations, baby showers, and welcome home and birthday parties.  We’ve had a great – but exhausting time.  

     During all the excitement, I noticed some eating issues with one of our new children and should have known something wasn’t quite right.  (spending LONG periods of time eating – still at the table after cleanup, eating so sloppily that food is all over her face, super large portions on 2nd and 3rd helpings, etc.)  At one party, she parked herself by the dip and literally ate the entire bowl!  (ok – I’ve done this – but it was out of character for her!)  Grandma was shocked when she licked the serving spoon and put it back in the dish.  Things that she knows aren’t right.

     I also noticed that this same child has an affinity for adults (including strangers). While the other kids were off playing with children at the various parties, she went from adult to adult making manic conversation EXACTLY the way she behaved during our travel in country.  This child is with me all day, so attention is not the issue – it is an attachment related behavior – and surprising to me that it would become evident after over a year home.  Several times this week I received the “limp hug,” with arms drooped to the side on her part.  This is a huge step backwards.

     I’m not sure what set it off – finally feeling secure, not feeling secure, too much activity or all of the above.  But old habits die hard, and after only 15 months in a new home, (after nearly 11 years off dysfunctional, abusive living) there’s still more history and hurt to work through and overcome.   But our new girls have adjusted so well that I forget those things sometimes - they feel (and look) “like they’ve been here forever.”

     The final straw was bullying.  I don’t monitor playtime as much (now that one child has learned that hitting and kicking is not a method of resolving arguments.)  I figured my meeker “home girl” could handle herself better when the two new girls banded together.  So while I chatted with friends one evening, some real bullying was taking place.  Thankfully, I caught sight of it – but not before it had gotten out of control.  Oddly enough, both new children have visible special needs that caused them to be bullied continuously at school (and play) in their home country.  It saddens me to think that someone who’s experienced such hurt could do the same to another, but too much freedom – without correction and instruction by monitoring adults – was probably a bad idea.

     So we are once again keeping them close.   I don’t understand the sudden food thing – would love some insight from others.   I’ve made it clear that there is a zero tolerance for hitting or bullying in our home.  They seemed to understand.  But regardless, I’ll make sure there’s no opportunity in the future since they will be with me all the time until I feel comfortable again.  We have switched up rooms to make sure a “home girl” is with each new child.  The more physical child is with my oldest.

     If you’ve made it through all of the above, you can see that both children struggle with different issues.  Dual adoption is easier at first because they are support for each other, but separating the different issues and working through individual problems can be difficult when there are two with completely different backgrounds.  One is struggling with attachment and a history of physical abuse, the other with bullying and no boundaries, but neither are role models for the other and separation is best but impossible.  We are reconsidering our schooling plans for next year and trying to figure out what will be best for each child.

     We don’t feel ill prepared, but are somewhat surprised by this step backwards.  We have experienced attachment disorder (and healing) and read all the books, and know that when children start to feel close to a parent it can scare them.  The last pic before the bullying episode shows Jenny with the first sincere smile since she’s arrived.  Her 4th grade graduation, surrounded by loving friends and family was so exciting for her.

     Her joy was evident, and I should have recognized the fear it could be causing in her hurting heart.  But I didn't.  I just lumped her in with all the other kids having a good time and left her to enjoy herself while I was distracted.  She and her sister still need constant guidance - especially in large social situations, and I will be much more attentive in the future.  I'm sorry it took me so long to see where they were struggling.

     We adore these girls and they are so brave.  It’s easy to forget where they’ve come from when they’re doing so well - sometimes it's hard to remember how much they've missed.  For the most part, they are doing incredibly well, and I thank God that he brought them into our home and gave us an opportunity to show them the love and security that they deserve.  We’re praying for wisdom to help them resolve their pasts and move forward in the future without fear. 



  1. I'm so glad you posted this, Kim... Know that you are not alone! I, too, am dealing with issues that seem to have come out of "nowhere" with a child home almost 20 months... (sigh) My natural inclination is to be irritated. I thought we were so past this!!! But then the Spirit reminds me that she came to us with a very broken heart and 20 months doesn't heal all the hurts from 7 years of abuse and neglect. God has entrusted us with so much... I want to please Him in this, my most important offering... The rewards are matchless- We can do this, sweet friend!!!

    Lori McCary

  2. Thanks, Lori! As always, you have a timely word. :) Love you!

  3. Thanks for sharing this Kim, and Lori. I have no words of wisdom, but I do understand where you are coming from. We are going through some very similar things. We've been dealing with behaviors we thought we were way past as well. We had quite an eye opening experience at church last week with one of our boys paying too much attention to, and giving hugs to kind, but inappropriate people. It's my fault. I was feeling too comfortable with our attatchment and I failed to keep them as close as I normally do. I too feel like I was well prepared. BUT... It seems to me much of this is on the job training. Just like you said they are looking great on the outside, but I guess I'm just now really getting an idea of how long it is going to take to work through the emotional hurts. I'll be praying for you. Blessings ~Tina

  4. Thank you for sharing your heart! KayLi did great her first year but the last two have been more of an on and off struggle. She just recently seems to be truly on the mend but I am cautious to get my hopes up too high. Now that Sam is home I fear her issues will surface again. So far so good though!

  5. Tina - thanks for the injection of humor into all of this - "on the job training" made me laugh - so true! I was feeling a little guilty as well - but reading your comment made me see that it's easy to miss the signs of attachment issues when all else seems ok. Thank you for sharing - it's so encouraging. I'll be praying for all as well!