Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Need some serious help, Moms. Attachment parenting confusion and dilemna.
I need some advice from the adoptive parenting community:
Charlie cries whenever I set her down for a second. This is not good for our lifestyle, although I can manage it for awhile longer, but not forever.
Let me describe the behavior a bit more. For example, I will have just changed her and fed her, so I know she is physically comfortable. I get up from where I was sitting (10 inches from her highchair while feeding her) to get a paper towel, and she starts wailing.
Or, we are lying in bed and I have to get up to switch off the light which is 5 steps away. She starts wailing.
Etc. This behavior seems to be getting worse over time, not better. There are a few improvements, like she will let my mother and father hold her while I'm in the room (but swivels her head to see where I am all the time) for a little while, but soon reaches out her arms for me to take her. If I leave the room, she wails.
This behavior at first seemed to be completely attachment related. Recently I'm starting to notice that it seems she has learned that crying will get her what she wants. For example, I tell her "no" very gently and remove her hand from the table cloth which she was pulling off the table... she starts crying. I had been then trying to distract her with a toy or something else, but I really want her to learn to accept "no" in her life. It's an important lesson. I certainly don't want a child who cannot tolerate being told "no" or having limits set.
Here's where the confusion sets in. Since she is adopted, and has had three large losses in her life (birth mother after 15 days, nanny after 9 months, and the Ethiopian culture she lived in for 9 months), should I give in to her?? Should I pick her up, distract her, each and every time she starts crying when I stand up for a second? So far I have been and the behavior seems to be getting worse.
My parents are of the mindset that I'm going to "spoil" her (I hate that expression! She's not a piece of fruit!) by picking her up whenever she cries. This morning, she cried non-stop when I went to take a shower and my parents decided to see what would happen if they ignored her (while sitting very close to keep an eye on her). They thought she would stop crying. Well, she didn't. She cried the whole time I was gone, and by the time I got back, it was a full on shriek-fest. She was drenched in sweat. I picked her up and she stopped immediately. I felt really guilty. My poor baby!
My dad mentioned that "she won" by getting me to pick her up. He fully recognizes and thinks the bonding and cuddling are necessary, esp. for newly adopted babies, but thinks it is better done when the babies are being sweet and happy, rather than in response to tantrums (if that's what they are).
I don't see this as a game or contest to be won or lost, but I do understand that I basically reinforced in her mind that 20 minutes of crying gets her what she wants.
Everything I've read about adoption though, says to pick them up whenever they want you, at least for the first month or two, and then once they are firmly attached you can start setting boundaries. My parents think that will be too late, or much more difficult to change behaviors then, and I tend to agree with that notion (that a habit is harder to break once it's been firmly reinforced). So I'm very confused. Also, I have tried to let her cry but after about 5 minutes I start thinking I'm a terrible person, she's so little and vulnerable, she's already been abandoned twice, etc, etc, etc... and I go pick her up to stop those thoughts and reassure her (and myself) that I'm there for her and will never leave her.
One last bit of information to help you give advice: She seems attached to me ever since the first day. I've been with her 9 days today. The attachment seems more "desperate" to me than a secure attachment (like any of my nieces or nephews had. They could all tolerate their mothers leaving the area for a minute, knowing she would be back.)
Ok, parents, here's the question.... How would you handle this behavior? I getting worried that I'm doing the wrong thing, causing the behavior to get worse instead of better, and damaging her somehow.