April 23, 2014

{How’s it going}

So…how’s it going? A question I get asked quite frequently.

The flip side….I hear “looks like everything is going great”. And it is…for the most part.

What you don’t see in my FaceBook posts or even really see in person (unless you know what to look for) is his inability to attach to Dan & I. Really attach. Securely attach.

Sure, he LOOKS like he’s attaching. We play & laugh. Good eye contact. Enjoys being held & cuddled (for short periods of time).
And all those are good signs of attachment building.

But…what you don’t notice unless you’ve had training &/or read books by experts on the subject of attachment, are the signs that he’s NOT attaching as he should.

You see….to Caiden we are just another caregiver in a line of many. We’re just another person he’s been told to call Mama & Baba. He associates those words with temporary caregivers….not permanent family.

Caiden will walk up to any stranger and asked to be held. And you say, what’s the problem? He’s so friendly. The problem is at 2.5 he shouldn’t walk right up to a complete stranger & asked to be held. He should be hiding behind my leg. Or at the very least, smiling & being friendly, but staying close to me. The fact that he’ll walk right up to them tells us he sees them as just another caregiver & he’s hoping to get some affection or something to eat or whatever out of them.

And yes, we’re definitely seeing some of the typical 2 year old stuff. But typically, two year olds are not abandoned. Typically they are not raised in orphanages. Typically when a baby cries, a baby is held and soothed. Typically a baby does not have a rotation of 3-5 caregivers that call themselves mama. Typically a baby doesn’t have to check the pantry multiple times a day to make sure the food is still available, because they fear running out. Typically a baby does not lose everything they’ve ever known TWICE!

Let me say it again…
Typically a baby doesn’t lose everything in their life TWICE!

Taken from Rainbowkids.com – some “smoke signals” of attachment issues:
1 – Inability to differentiate between adoptive parents & any other men or women. Anybody is capable of being “mama” & “baba” in their eyes.
2 – Will let anyone hold them without complaint or discomfort, even strangers.
3 – Will not “mold” to parent when being held. Body is kept somewhat rigid and resists being pulled in closer.
4 – Will fake attention to get a desired object. For example, will climb up into the lap of a relative that she is not familiar with and act like they really want their attention, only to try to get to a piece of cake, etc.
ALL of these we see in Caiden.

So, what are we doing to help him understand this is permanent? That there will be no other rotation of mamas & babas? That we are family forever (and to teach him what a family means)?

First, we’ve implemented a few rules. Rules we were a bit lax on with Kalia as she didn’t need them. Every child is different and if we had seen a need for these rules to apply to Kalia we would have definitely enforced them. But Caiden needs them. And they will be hard for our friends/family to understand, but this is what Caiden needs. This is what will begin to help him understand family and permanence.

Rule #1: We cannot allow anyone to hold, hug or kiss Caiden. This is the toughie! I know how much I just want to hold & touch a new family member, and how hard it is to restrain. But we have to stand firm on this. He will never learn that WE are his mama & baba if we continue to let others hold & love on him. Please do play with him. Help him with puzzles, read a book, pretend play. Just please respect our wishes & do not hold, hug or kiss him. I know how hard that is….you’ll just have to trust us (or I will gladly give you numerous books for reference that reiterates the reason for all we’re doing)

Rule #2: We cannot allow anyone to feed Caiden. Again, he needs to see us as a primary (permanent) caregiver. One who will always provide the necessities of life (food, shelter, comfort, etc.) If others give in to him, he will continue to see every person as equally able to provide & care for him.

Rule #3: We cannot allow anyone to comfort Caiden. If he falls & gets hurt, please send him to us for comfort. If he gets upset with another child, please send him to us or allow us to comfort him.


Attachment takes time – lots of time. And it’s ongoing…a lot of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. We will be working on it for many months & years to come. But it will be so worth it to see that he really gets that he’s part of a real, permanent family!


  1. Well said Brandi. He'll get there. We had the same issues with Melaina that first month being home. The first 2 weeks home, we had our house sprayed for bugs & she asked the bug guy to hold her..... NOOOOO

  2. Hi, a comment in support of your plan. We have twice adopted from China. Our now 7-year old (DD1) was 16-months and had lived in an orphanage. Our now 6-year old (DD2) had lived with a very caring foster family. We implemented the same rules you have listed. DD1 had not ever been around men until we adopted her and wanted NOTHING to do with her daddy. I think DD2 blamed me for the loss of her beloved foster mom and wanted NOTHING to do with me when we adopted her. Both times around, we did not even let my stepkids (we are custodial of them--they live with us full time) provide any caring activities for either of the girls for several months after we returned home. Only my husband and I provided care for them, picked them up, fed them, bathed, diapers/bathroom, going to sleep at night. With DD1, she could only get treats from her daddy if we were both available-- I would not give her treats. With DD2 she could only get treats from me. It takes some time, but it happens. It is sort of like courting. Best wishes!