“I feel like I’m stuck in a rut. Are there stages of attachment parenting, like there are stages of grief?” This was a question posed in a large on-line forum.
The poster hit the nail in the head so much closer than he/she realized. Feeling stuck in a rut in your attachment process to your attachment challenged child is an indicator that something is out of whack with you. Now that’s not a judgement or pointing a finger. Bear with me. With attachment challenged children, or mentally ill children, kids with conduct disorder, etc. we are asked to go against nature, instinct that has kept humans alive for thousands of years. We are asked to love even though we are being abused, we are asked to forgive when no forgiveness is asked, we are asked to give when we are constantly being taken from. As a matter of human survival, we instinctively recoil from abusive relationships. We have bad feelings towards that person, we get angry, bitter, feel used. We don’t have happy happy joy joy thoughts about that person! If these situations were in a spousal relationship, you’d tell your friend to leave the abusive bastard (assuming your friend is a she)! But when it’s our child, whether adopted, step, or bio, we’re supposed to just go, oh, ok, that’s ok, beat me some more, call me some more names, wreck my house some more, that’s ok because you’re my kid, I have no bad feelings about it? Not possible!
We have to be super human, in a sense, and go against nature to help in the healing of our kids. We have to respond therapeutically when we want to rage and scream right back. And the only way I’ve seen to do that is to have your own emotional tank filled to the top, so that you have all this extra to give a child that never gives back. Every day things in life take from us emotionally, even spiritually, and drain our tanks to a certain level. Our spouse will drain it some. Our “normal happy children” will drain it even on the best of days, especially when they’re teens. But a kid with attachment issues, trauma backgrounds, will suck the tank dry in seconds. And if you’ve got a low tank to begin with, they’re going to feel like they’re sucking the life out of you. Which in a way, they are.
This is the one time in life when it is critical that moms – parents – put themselves first. #1 priority is themselves, their relationship first. That may mean Precious doesn’t get to go to Disney every year because mom and dad need a week away from the kids. That’s ok, because in the long run, you are doing your kids a lot more good than Mickey Mouse. It may mean Mr. Charming doesn’t get to shop at Hollister because mom and dad are taking a cruise so that everybody waits on them hand and foot. Again, Hollister won’t notice, Mr. Charming will throw fits anyway, and you will get a lot more mileage out of that cruise than the worn-twice sweatshirt that ends up in the back of the closet.
So – no guilt. Do what you need to do to take care of YOU – in healthy ways! Take time away, eat right, exercise, join a gym, date your spouse, hazard pay the babysitter, whatever it takes – do it. In the long run that’s the best thing you can do for your kids, both the troubled and the rest, because you’ll have more to give to all of them.
Hang in there.