Wednesday, June 4

Adoption Training - Take 2

Last week I tired to blog about the PRIDE training class and well, it didn't work so well and I scrapped that post and wrote another.  That's not a bad thing, writing without posting still means I did some thinking and I liked the post I ended up with.  But let's try again...

We were given a binder for the course.  I kid you not, the paper in it is bigger than the width of my hand.  It's a whole lot of information being thrown at us.  Fortunately, we're not expected to sit there and read the whole thing, we aren't turning page by page during the course.  It's more for reference (and has "homework" sheets), but it really highlights how much territory there is to cover.  Some of it is technical or legislative in nature (did you know that what became the first Children's Aid Society was actually a branch from the Humane Society?  The Humane Society mandate was initially for children and animals), some of it is focused on the child's perspective of what they experience and how that changes their needs.  Guess which part is more interesting?

I read a few blogs about adoption - particularly Stellar Parenting and The Accidental Mommy.  They don't post all that often at the moment, they are busy moms and it's hard to write about this stuff.  Both do a great job of balancing their need for family privacy, but letting you know it's not all sunshine and rainbows.  I'm left with a positive perspective of adoption, they fight hard for their kids, there are rewards for that.  Through the PRIDE training, I found myself relating a lot of what they were saying to things those women experienced - be it the kids life prior to adoption or their behaviour or how the parents dealt with the behaviour.  Honestly, I found myself nodding a LOT in class because of their openness.

The session on attachment was naturally interesting.  Attachment is the trust that makes the parent-child bond strong.  Ideally, children know that their parents will provide for them - be it food, clothing, attention, love, they know it will be there.  As infants, they learn about the world through experience - I was hungry, I cried, someone fed me, isn't the universe great?  If there is inconsistency, the baby doesn't know that you're busy, or asleep (or drunk or high, or absent as the case may be), they just know that the world doesn't always provide, and they don't learn to trust that you're going to be there for them.  Makes sense when you think about it like that.

I initially thought of attachment as a binary system - you are or you aren't attached to an individual.  But it's actually a spectrum.  Sure there are strong attachments, but I think lots of us have insecure attachments for very normal reasons.  How can a mom of multiple kids be there every time a baby cries?  That doesn't make her a bad parent.  Some parents were advised to let their babies cry to make them independent.  That can also make the child less likely to ask for help and more likely to feel unsure that others are going to say yes.  I can see that in myself.  I LOVE helping others, but I have to feel really secure to ask people for help.

When I was a little girl, I capitol-L-loved Strawberry Shortcake.  For my birthday, maybe around Grade 3 or even 5 (I doubt Grade 4 because I had chicken pox), I was given Strawberry Shortcake talc that smelled (naturally) like strawberries.  I was thrilled and next time I went to the bathroom, I took it with me and dusted away.  My mom's best friend (I called her aunt kind of friend) asked me if I used the talc and said no.  I really don't know why.  It was an obvious lie, I would have reeked of strawberries and probably had white talc somewhere on my hands or clothing.  And doesn't it show appreciation for a gift to rush off and use it?  I remember this moment so well, where we were standing, how I felt...  My answer wasn't driven by logic, it was a fear she'd take it away from me.  Totally irrational, I have no idea why I felt so compelled to lie.  The risk of losing that talc was more than I could deal with.

When I look back on that now, what I find interesting is that lie came from such an emotional place for such a foolish thing.  The training course and (even more so) the home study are intended to make you look at yourself.  Learn what kind of attachment you have, what kind of parenting lessons you learned from your parents.  I wonder where that moment came from.  Why couldn't I trust that someone wouldn't take it away from me?  Why did I feel so strongly about protecting my beloved strawberry scented talc?  Is that how lying feels when you don't trust the universe to provide?  Is this at all related to how challenging I find it to ask for help?

Don't take this as an admission I have a poor attachment to my parents or they did anything wrong at all.  All I'm saying is all of our relationships are complicated.  Why would it be any simpler between parents and children?  I find the prospect of looking back with this lens interesting.

Out of the first half of the class, Mr. Lina in particular felt very positive.  A lot of the tricks to creating attachment with children are things he does instinctively with children who are hesitant.  Like letting kids set the rules to a game or imaginative play, or making them talk to you by explaining an activity.  As an example, Minecraft.  It's a computer game that seems to be taking off based on the references I see around me.  Mr. Lina plays it from time to time, but it scales down to children by changing the settings so there are more resources readily available and fewer ways to kill your character (at least as I understand it).  The game came up as an interest of a friends daughter and Mr. Lina had her explain it to him as if he didn't know much about it at all.  Which is true.  He knows how to play from a technical stand point, but an 8 year old girl has different objectives and strategy than a grown man so they don't play the same way.  You can see how an insecure child would get wrapped up talking about the game and forget she was feeling insecure.  Dialogue starts and it gets easier from there to build rapport.  Or how about Mr. Frog-a-Lina?  He wasn't setting the rules for play, he was following the cues from the kids and letting them drive where it went.

I've always had more confidence in his ability to parent than he has in himself.  But I'm his wife, like your Mom, I'm suppose to be supporting him.  To hear a social worker say X, Y, and Z are good things to do and realize that at some level, he does it, that has more impact.

And we're only half way.  We'll see what this weekend brings.