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Connection Down

Connection Down - Kelly Sikkema E8 H76N Y1V6 Q Unsplash

This spring, our eldest boy will have been living with us for longer than he was at his birth parent’s. I was just thinking about it as I lay in bed listening to the rest of the family get up this morning. He came in for a cuddle and asked me when our next adoption celebration day would be. Clearly he’d also thinking about us and how long we had been together.

At times like this, which are not so very rare, I rejoice that this boy and I, who come from such different places, have somehow formed a telepathic connection. He laughed and said, ‘I read your mind!’ to which I replied, ‘Again.’

But I don’t have that connection with my younger son. The reason I was lying in bed listening to everyone else get up was that I’d had 24 hours of a nasty stomach bug and wasn’t well enough for work. But did the younger one come in to say hi? I didn’t even see him.

I wasn’t surprised by this. Although he can be very affectionate, he doesn’t seem to have room for much on his radar. He is very single minded. It often feels as though he doesn’t know or really care who is with him or what day it is, as long as a specific need is being met. I guess this takes us back to his neglectful start.

I was listening to what he was doing and saying for the 40 frenetic minutes before their dad managed to get them out of the house. Dad was trying to be extra loving and patient but our son quite easily and deliberately got Dad to the point where he was impatient and annoyed. He had a need to do that. I listened to him argue about everything his dad said until the relationship snapped again.

I can write things down and come to some sort of rationale about his needs and behaviours. But I don’t feel that telepathic link, like I do with my elder son. I wonder if this is because he is actually blocking me out. I suppose that part of attachment disorder is just that – the unwillingness to connect because you don’t trust. And as a parent, that lack of trust can hurt in its rejection. When we are hurt, we defend… and so it goes on.

It must be so hard to be him, a disconnected little soul who needs to be at odds with people to feel that he has any control. His childhood has been a place of constant conflict. It’s heartbreaking to know that more than half of that time he has been in our family. We haven’t been able to fix it. We find it very, very difficult to deal with.

And where the eldest knows he is loved and can love back wholeheartedly, for our younger son that comfort isn’t there. He can’t make that connection because he can’t believe that it’s trustworthy.

He's very good at making connections with others... I think that's more to do with other connections not being so dangerous and deep...?

I suppose what I’m trying to think through is how, as a parent held at arm’s length, one can eventually connect. We do special time, but he spends that time pushing you away. We sit down and do puzzles, games, art or homework together but it’s all about him being better, me being dumb. A denial of friendship and love.

I’ve just had a few hours away from this with the kids home from school, trying to spend some quality time with the youngest and reflected that, actually, a connection with him IS there. I am aware of his feelings. Only they are hostile, broken ones. I’m not sure if the connection is faulty, or things are faulty at either end.

As usual, I just don’t know what to think, feel, do or not do. If there was an IT department for attachment, would they ask me if I’d tried turning it off and on, or have some other, similarly obvious-to-everyone-else solution?


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  • Sophie

    Wow, this is a beautifully written and insightful piece. This tricky attachment relationship stuff is so complex and subtle. So hard to pin down and understand even when you’re the one who is right in it. And I find almost impossible to talk to others about (non adoption people especially). That push/pull of needing needs met and constant attention but with it rejection, criticism, anger and being held at arms length. I’ve often felt battered by it. Nearly six years in, it is getting better. It’s only some of the time not all the time. We have periods of the year when it comes up - pretty much the whole two months before Xmas for example - but other times our relationship can feel pretty ‘normal’. When it’s an angry phase though, man it’s SO hard, so triggering for my own childhood issues I bring to the party. It can be hard to remember that this is just a phase, that we will come out the other side of it. Thanks for writing about your experience and thoughts.

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