Many children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder present “younger” in some skill sets developmentally compared to peers of the same physical age. This can be awkward when you are out somewhere and your 15 year old is acting like an eight year old and people are staring – because outwardly she “looks typical” but her disability isn’t visible so people don’t understand. This can also be wonderful because I get to experience and treasure her unconditional love a little longer. The irony of FASD.
The photo above 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, Timothy Goes to School or Little Bear – 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 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.
I was told my daughter experienced extreme neglect. I saw this inability to connect as I watched her “goodbye” visit with her maternal mom. Mom did not know how to connect with her.
The first six months or so my daughter was 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 – she was eight. But she was forming an attachment to this new mom. Her fourth!
It had been a very long time since she had lay with me on the couch, but a few weeks ago, she climbed over to get behind me and stayed there for awhile. It wasn’t as comfortable because of course she wasn’t as small any more. 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.