When Sammy was born the concept of attachment was not part of our world, other than in the context of a document that has been attached to an email. In terms of relationships it was something we had never really thought about, in fact we took it for granted.
We instantly loved Sammy and he loved us. He knew that we would always be there for him, that we would always meet his needs, pick him up when he falls and love him unconditionally. And he still does. As he has moved into the teenage years this has inevitably become more of a case of taking us for granted and the falling over is generally metaphorical (excluding the odd skateboarding incident). It manifests itself through phone calls such as; “Mum I’ve left my phone on the train” or “Mum I’ve left my wallet on the bus with all my money and cards in it, what am I going to do?” But he is secure in the knowledge that we will sort it out for him.
With Winnie it has been a completely different story. Since she hurtled in to our family attachment has been a concept that has dominated every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment of our lives. It is part of our daily vocabulary. We live and breathe it. We no longer take it for granted. Five and a half years in and she still doesn’t believe we will always be there for her, that we will never knowingly let her down and will always love her. She continually tests us, thinking of new ways to push the boundaries to the limit and turning on the charm for strangers, just in case they might be the next people to take her home. It is heart-breaking and exhausting.
Despite everything we have done, she still doesn’t trust us. And we have never, ever, been so reliable and consistent in our lives. Not carrying through is no longer an option. But fundamentally it has made no difference. Winnie just doesn’t believe a word we say, to the extent that if we say something is ‘white’ she will literally tell us we are wrong and that it is ‘black’. And if we pick her up, she is convinced that we will drop her. But we won’t give up.
Then along came bubbly, bouncy Baby Billy. Little does he know that we are ‘attachment aware’ and scrutinising his every move looking for signs of ‘insecure attachment’. But, I will say this quietly and touch wood while I am saying it, so far so good. There seems to be no doubt in his mind that we will be there for him. He has attached and bonded with us in the same way Sammy did. This was demonstrated recently when he took a flying leap off the back of the sofa, in no doubt that I would drop what I was doing, lunge across the room and catch him before he hit the floor. I know it is early days and he doesn’t understand what it means to be adopted, but it is clear that he trusts us implicitly. He was much younger than Winnie was when he became part of our family and hasn’t experienced the trauma that has shaped his big sister’s life. Surely this all bodes well for his future?
But if there is one thing we have learnt over the last five and a half years, you really cannot take anything for granted. However you can appreciate and enjoy what you have. I know I have said it before and I’m sure I will say it again, when you live with a child with attachment disorder life is all about relishing the moment and celebrating the good. So that is what we are doing.