Saturday, February 25, 2012
ATTACHMENT THEORY - AND PRAXiS
Today in a room with 30 other people the little man lay on my chest. For at least 20 minutes. Just like that. Hands on my arms. Legs wrapped around me.
This will not seem worth a mention to you. But considering that he has never done this before (when he was not ill) this was a great first time for me.
From the very beginning he wasn't a very cuddly person. Of course there were times when he fell asleep while nursing or afterwards, when I tried to get him to burp. But the livelier he got, the more he could see of the world the less he wanted to be close to me for longer than a wink. It was fine that he was excited and interested in the world. But it was also hard at times that I simply couldn't lie down and cuddle with my baby as I've always pictured it.
When he was grumpy or unhappy I couldn't just pick him up and hold him and the world was fine. If something bothered him it had to be looked at, talked through, changed. Mama couldn't just come and play "Happy world". On one side this was a good thing. It made me learn what exactly bothered him when, it made me really care for his needs and not just distract him. But sometimes it was hard and frustrating when I just wanted to hug him to help him get over a frustrating situation but he would shake me off.
In the creche he was not one of those children who would run towards me the minute he saw me. He would rather take my hand and lead me towards the door as if saying "Ok then, let's not waste any time, let's go!" or he would continue playing what he just played. Things need to be finished in his world. Whatever finished means for him.
I always hoped that one day he would be the person that would come towards me and hug me. Just like that.
As with I think every parent the moment came when I started thinking about our attachment. Throughout my online course to become a family counsellor I recently read a lot about the attachment theory and the attachment patterns that have been identified. Obviously that got me thinking if everything was "alright" with us. So for a while when I went to the creche to pick up the little man I carefully watched his reaction: He saw me, continued to play, looked at me again and still continued playing. All alarm buttons went off, I got nervous. "little or no visible response to return. Ignoring or turning away with no effort to maintain contact if picked up" (Mary Ainsworth) ---> therefore avoidant attachment pattern!
A door fell into its lock! I felt trapped. How could that be? I thought and thought and squeezed my brain. What could have gone wrong? And where? I went through the last 20months of the little man's life. Could the surgery have shaken our attachment? Did I not carry him enough? Am I a bad mother?
Until I figured - those attachment patterns are categories. Based on some studies that in my opinion are quite vage. Is it really that easy? And what exactly does it mean, if you are A, B or C? Am I really trying to say what type of relationship my son is going to live with other people in his life based on how I see he reacts when I pick him up from the creche? So I finished the part of the course about attachment and put aside the readings. I stopped thinking about the whole theory. And listened to my heart again.
And you know what? When I went to the creche the last couple of weeks the little man would come towards me right away (unless he was eating, which he ALWAYS finishes up). He would come close, rest in my arms, tell me the names of the other kids or show me some toys or materials he likes.
What I see now is that a lot of this big and heavy stuff about attachment is in your head. It is so intense and important that it scares the hell out of new parents. And stresses them. So I think do theories that apparently help you build a stronger attachment by carrying your child, nursing intense and for long, co-sleeping etc. If parents really feel like doing these things and are happy and relaxed with it I think that's great. But I also think that there are other ways to achieve a strong attachment with your child.
This was also what Emmi Pikler and Magda Gerber were aiming at: By respecting your child's needs, allowing free movement and play and accompanying him on his way in the world rather than leading and directing him you can build a very fine relationship of love, trust and respect that will be a strong foundation for the child to grow on.
And therefore I think: listen to yourself. To your inner feeling. And listen to your child. Enjoy your relationship together and treat it with love and respect exactly the way you would want to be treated in a loving relationship.
So today, in a room full of 30 adults the little man has seen before and that are going to be his future neighbours he felt the need to be close to me, to lie on my chest and rest. And I loved it, every second of it, his tiny hands on my arms, his legs wrapped around me. I stroked his head and knew: we are attached. And we don't need a cupboard with 4 drawers to tell us how well.