Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

Please, please go away!

J and  have both shared the same experience during the adoption of our children.  In his case it was with our son, in mine it has been with our daughter.  

As we prepared to adopt our first child much of the focus both during the preparation courses we attended and in the books we read, was around attachment.  Attachment in this sense is the instinctive relationship built between a child and their parents.  

Attachment is what makes a child turn around and check their parent is still within reach.  It's what makes them cry when that distance becomes to great and takes them outside their instinctive safety or comfort zone.

Buliding attachment is essential and indeed when our son first came to live with us it took some time for those bonds to be formed.  

The sense of relief and elation we felt when, visiting a local play park, our son turned around and checked back to see where we were as he ran ahead of us for the first time.  This was some eight months after he had become part of our family.

 

The texts, the seminars, the training courses do not prepare you for your adoptive child's need to be physically close to you.

This isn't directly linked to attachment, well at least for us it didn't appear to be.  It's about, initially, the child being in a strange environment, with you being the only person who looks vaguely familiar.

Of course, that's entirely understandable.

In the case of both of our children they were uprooted from homes in which they had become settled and secure to move to our family with only a week's transition.  That sounds harsh.  With hindsight however I think it was the best thing we could all do.  Clearly that's why transition happens in the way, and with the timescale that it does.

The children had long enough to realise that we were kind and loving.  They had long enough to reassure themselves that we were going to look after their basic needs.  They were reassured the environment to which they were moving was safe and secure. 

 

Yet in those early days of both children living with us their distress and confusion showed itself in similar ways.

Our son wanted us to play in his room much of the time.  He craved physical closeness, sitting on the sofa snuggled under a blanket when watching tv or reading a book.  Walking around the house he would want to hold your hand.

Our daughter, similarly, wanted to be physically close.  Sitting on you whenever she could, particularly at meal times.  She was much younger so was less able to settle and read or watch tv, but again she would want her hand held constantly when moving around the house.

Both children were hyper-active.  Like butterflies they flit from one activity to another, never spending more than a few minutes at a time one anything.  Running about as if always in a rush.

We realised quite quickly that this was a sign of distress.  The level of intensity of their hyper activity increasing at moments of stress.  Trying to calm them in the normal ways of asking them to calm down, distracting them with other toys or interests rarely worked on those days.

Finding a physical activity that forced them to stop and think about their actions was essential.  One of these was to ask them to 'listen with the ears'.  A strategy we witnessed successfully used by a good friend we tried it to revolutionary effect.

Asking the child to 'listen with the ears,' while standing still and holding our ears, encouraging them to mimic us, made them stop, concentrate and listen.  It worked perfectly, despite the rather odd looks we received from people in the street or the supermarket when we used the strategy there.

The length of time each of the children would settle to a task or play activity slowly lengthened as the days and weeks went by.  As their routine became familiar and they settled into their new home, each exhibited more normal, age appropriate behaviour within a couple of months of their arrival.

 

J was the primary carer for our son through the first year of his living with us.  I have carried out the same task for our daughter for the two years she has now been part of our family.  As our careers took different paths it worked out that was the most sensible way to divide our time.

We both shared the same experience of our children wanting to be constantly physically close to us, enjoying it mostly but sometimes needing relief from it, if only momentarily at the end of the day.

J's experience was shorter lived as our son was much older when he joined our family.  Our daughter, being younger, has required support and attention over a longer period.

 

That desire to be with you throughout the day has one drawback.  The need, just occasionally, but regularly, for some personal time is a challenge.  

J clearly remembers with clarity and no small amount of relief, the day, about a month into our son living with us, when he was able to distract our little boy with the tv so that he could go to the loo alone.

There is nothing quite so off-putting when trying to complete your ablutions, a toddler is standing in front of you and staring at you.  Better still, with a toddler chatting away and asking what you're doing, and why.  The best you can hope for is to hold that conversation through a closed door.  

My equivalent experience with our daughter has gone on for sometime longer.  Initially distressed even if there were a closed door between us, I would change my routine so that the only bathroom scrutiny I had was while washing and shaving.

Latterly she has been happy to wait outside the bathroom door.  As long as she knows you are aware of her presence by way of chatting with her, she's happy.  

After two years the days of her needing to know where you are for her own sense of security are long gone.  Indeed, our daughter attached to us both very quickly indeed.

Now, her toilet attentiveness is for the purpose of pure devilment.  

Wherever she is in the house she will, owl like, detect the closure of the bathroom door.  Within seconds she is outside.  "Dadddyyy, are you in there," our little girl says in a sing song voice.  

"Can I come iiiinnn?" she sings.

My answer is always the same, "No, I'm on the toilet!"

This conversation goes on for a little while, with various excuses given for the need to access the bathroom, speak to me, watch what I am doing.  

"What are you doing?  What's happening now?  What was that noise?"  Our daughter's questions are fired staccato through the door.

Eventually I resort to pleading.

"Please, please go away, just for five minutes, darling."

Our daughter skips off, cackling in the mad manner only she can, revelling once again in her triumph.