I’ve been off the radar for a little bit, partly because life gets oh-so- hectic at this time of year but also, and I think I have alluded to this in a couple of posts, all is not great in the older generation of my family.
I’ve become quite concerned about my mum, I thought she would struggle after the death of her mother earlier in the year- and if you didn’t know her you would think she was fine, but her hoarding has increased drastically and the anxiety that goes hand in hand with this is really impacting on her and those around her.
The aspects of her life that she tries so hard to keep under wraps, seem perilously close to the surface and it’s frankly, really sad. I feel at a loss as to how to support her. Despite working in a relevant field and to an extent ‘understanding’ the origins of her distress, being connected to someone seems to make it that much harder to be objective.
I have always had a bit of an inverted relationship with my mum- she has lived her whole life with physical and psychological challenges (real and imagined) and I never felt that there was much room for my, or anyone else’s ‘stuff’- but that was ok, I had good friends, something she isolated herself from.
In more recent years I began to understand that I had felt responsible for her wellbeing, that she was the child and needed those around her to hold her in mind, to listen to and reflect her experiences, to show an interest in and care about her.
And then I got to thinking about attachment.
Attachment is the buzzword of this generation, it’s always topical (especially this week with the new NICE guidelines coming out…) and the theory can be a really useful shorthand to understanding some of the hows and whys we develop in the ways that we do. From babies to adults we can find attachment questionnaires and measures and can plot ourselves into an attachment style(s).
Attachment ‘difficulties’- it seems to me, are often considered as something that resides solely within our most vulnerable children- phrases and concepts such as ‘attachment resistance’ and ‘attachment disorder’ situates the problem very firmly with the child.
We are asking a lot of children to attach to people they don’t know.
We are asking a lot of children to communicate in a clear and sophisticated way about the things that the adult world has done to them.
A lot is asked of adoptive parents in terms of therapeutic parenting capacity and a willingness to educate themselves and engage with the dominant discourse of attachment.
I am very much of the belief that behaviours which may be associated with attachment difficulties, are a communication of distress, of confusion and of fear- they are survival strategies that children have developed and may take with them throughout their lives. And/or…they become part of a reparative process with people who can offer them something that their birth families couldn’t. Well, at least on paper..
I can see how my mum didn’t have her needs accurately met by her own parents and to an extent I can empathise, but sometimes it’s hard to know that the person who wanted children so badly was not accurately assessed as being capable- that her own attachment issues were never (and as far as I know) have never, even been documented.
I’m very much ambivalent, although I find that at different points in my life the way that I relate to others oscillates, so I’m probably a little bit avoidant too…and disorganised- heck, I think we are all on a continuum between the different axis of attachment.
But is my attachment style dictated by my adoption status? I’m sure being given away has impacted on my sense of trust in the world, I definitely don’t feel that I had a ‘secure base’ from which to explore life. From my perspective I experienced trauma before and after the adoption order was signed- the fact that I was placed with people who were unable to meet my emotional needs seems to me, more likely to be at the root of any ‘attachment difficulties’ I may have experienced.
And now I’m a parent too- so I think about my own ways of relating to and parenting my children- how will my experiences impact (or not) on them? I am far from perfect, but I do hope to continuously reflect on my own experiences of being parented and try and do it differently.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I think attachment isn’t really the child’s problem- it is the responsibility of adults to build up positive experiences and connections where there might not have been any. Our own attachment patterns and styles have a huge impact further down the line and these are equally important to consider.