Friday, December 08, 2006

Marcie's Attachment

Sorry for the delay in posting-- I have been slammed this week, between studying for finals and napping (because I have a bad head cold), I just haven't had the time or energy (or anything interesting to write about-- unless you want to know something about filing for injunctions or declaratory relief or you're curious about how to structure project financing in an international business transaction). Anyway, I'm out of final exams, and now I just have a paper due on the 19th (which I've already written and am just revising). And I'm back at work.

So, here's an update on how Marcie is doing during her transition to Grandma's care. She is pretty clingy lately. This is not surprising on oh-so-many levels. I don't know if I should attribute her sudden anxiety around others when I'm out of eye-shot to her age (Casey did this right around the same age), or if it's an attachment thing (like, hey-- you just got me used to being with you and now you're gone!), or if it's something else. I'm sure she's fine with Grandma once I'm gone, but there have been some glitches. On Saturday she freaked out when she couldn't see me because I'd gone into the kitchen to clean her spoon. She was inconsolable until she fell asleep. Then, yesterday when I dropped of Casey at school, she had another mini-meltdown.

On the way to school, Casey spilled his bottle of water down the front of his shirt and onto his pants, so when we got to school, he had to change. I had Marcie in her stroller parked sort of near the door of the classroom, but facing the room so that she had a clear view of me no matter where I went. Then I stepped into the bathroom with Casey to help him change his pants. All of a sudden, Casey and I heard wailing (now, to be fair, there was a little girl who was crying when we entered the bathroom, so it took us a couple minutes to hear the second set of wails). Casey and I both recognized the crying as Marcie, and I immediately rushed out the bathroom door to get her. Her eyes were pouring out tears, and I took her out of her stroller. After getting Casey settled, I carrried Marcie back out to the car, where we sat while I rocked her for a good 5-10 minutes. I couldn't stay in the parking lot all day, though, so I strapped her into her carseat, and she started crying again. Fortunately, I was able to calm her by singing on the way to Grandma's.

I handed Marcie off rather abruptly (kind of like tearing off the band-aid quickly rather than peeling it back little by little), thinking it would make things easier for her. This was around 9:45am. But I didn't mention to my mother in law that she was experiencing extra separation anxiety, and my mother in law took her to the gym for a 10:30am class. Now, knowing Marcie as I do, and having been with her twice in the last month when she's had these miniature melt-downs, I know that the rest of the day following one is pretty much shot-- not only can you not go anywhere where there are strangers, but you really can't put her down because she is inconsolable unless she's being held. Anyway, apparently Marcie bawled the entire time she was at the gym, and they had to go get my mother-in-law out of her yoga class to take her home. She fell asleep in the car ride home (exhaustion from all the tears, in my opinion-- given that she'd already napped for 40 minutes in the morning), and she was fine for the rest of the day.

So I don't know what to make of all this. If she weren't adopted at age 9 months, ripped away from the only home she'd really known, I'd think, Well, she just needs to tough it out. But the thing is that she is from an orphanage, and she has only been with us for a little over 3 months. And even though she is clearly attached to me, that's not all that attachment is about. Attachment is also about feeling comfortable and safe and secure. Knowing that your mom and dad (and grandmother) will always come back. And for a child who has twice had her caretaker not come back, who knows what is going on in her little head. Now I'm not suggesting my mother in law skip the gym by any means. And I don't think the solution is for me to hold Marcie non-stop and to quit my job and drop out of school, either. But I know that I need to be cognizant of the fact that three and a half months just isn't that long to adjust to a new place, new sounds, new smells, and new people. This child, who slept like a log in China, wakes up two or three times a night now (and pretty much always puts herself back to sleep). This child-- my Marcie-- who is full of kisses and smiles and people-pleasing strategies must, on some subconscious level, still worry that maybe one of these times when we drop her off with someone we won't come back. And part of our job is to show her that we always come back. So I don't really know what to do about her new super-glue attitude. On the one hand, we can't just stop living our lives. On the other hand, the most important thing in the world is for Marcie to feel safe and secure. And the balance there is a bit tricky.

I have no solutions to this dilemma-- I'm not even sure it is a dilemma. So although I feel conflicted about the whole thing, that's where I have to leave it for now-- in this state of mild turmoil. Because it is what it is. I guess I just have to trust my gut-- look forward to the week of Christmas when we'll be together as a family full-time, and know that because Marcie is so loved and so well-cared-for while I'm away, I really couldn't hope for a better situation. I mean, there are only so many things we have control over in life, and we are just lucky she's with family. . .


Danielle said...

Hang in there. I think your instincts are dead on. And I also think this is one of those things that only time can heal. Just keep being consistent, and eventually she will come to realize that you are ALWAYS going to come back for her. She's your little girl, and I think it's just one of those things that you just have to continue affirming that to her and love-her-through it until she comes to understand it for herself. Hang in there.

Julie said...

How blessed you are that your MIL is watching her. I don't have any words of wisdom just letting you know I am feeling your pain. Sometimes I wish kids came with instructions!

randy & cara said...

Hang in there, Attachment is a huge issue to work through, and it is gonna take some time(the top books on it speculate that it takes around the same amount of time to catch up developmentally with attachment as the amount of time she is in the orphanage. Of course it depends on each child, as well as how securely she passes through the phases of attachment. Keep at it, all the eye contact, hugs, love and appropriate amount of stimulation will pay off!