The irony of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is that a child acts younger developmentally than they are physically. This can be awkward when you are out somewhere and your 15 year is acting like an eight year old and people are staring – because outwardly she “looks normal” but her brain isn’t on the outside of her body so people don’t know. This can also be wonderful because I get to experience and treasure her unconditional love a little longer.
The above photo appeared on my Facebook feed and it immediately touched my soul. Although it is a little boy and his mom – it is so my daughter and I. It took me back to the first few years after adoption, when at night we would lay on the couch to watch Maggie and the Ferocious Beast and Timothy Goes to School – her bedtime cartoons. She would snuggle up behind me and squeeze in the tiny space between me and the couch.
Those first few years she was trying to attach. She had been diagnosed with an Ambivalent Attachment Disorder – psych alive.org describes it this way:
Some adults are inconsistently attuned to their children. At times their responses are appropriate and nurturing but at other times they are intrusive and insensitive. Children with this kind of parenting are confused and insecure, not knowing what type of treatment to expect. They often feel suspicious and distrustful of their parent but at the same time they act clingy and desperate. These children have an ambivalent/anxious attachment with their unpredictable parent.
My daughter’s birth parents were extremely neglectful among other things. I watched my daughter’s last visit with her birth mom and the mom really did not know how to connect with her.
The first six months or so my daughter was literally on me almost 24/7. I sat on the couch, she wanted to sit on me. Not beside me, but on me. She would always be watching me. She would smell me. Things babies do – but she was eight. But she was forming an attachment to this new mom. Her fourth!
She hadn’t lay with me on the couch for a very long time, but a few weeks ago, she climbed over to get behind me and lay there for awhile. It wasn’t as comfortable because of course she wasn’t 4 feet and 40 lbs any more…. But she goes through phases where she needs to be close. She will lay down and put her head on my lap and want a cuddle. If I’m in bed watching t.v. she will come in and lay across my back/side and we’ll chat for a bit or just watch t.v. I am grateful for those moments.
I cannot remember being this way with my mom. I certainly wasn’t that way with her when I was 15.
So I am mindful of each time my daughter wants to be close and I am grateful she still wants to be close in that moment. It is parenting in the moment. It is being mindful of the connection between me and my daughter. It carries me when I need comfort.
I hope the memories of these times will carry her as she grows.