By My Van Loc
Hello again everyone.
My situation is a little unique in that I’m not an adoptive parent, but an kin-in-care caregiver to my 17-year old brother; I also grew up in care like my siblings, and fostered my sister as well, who is now attending University. Mind you, I’m 23 and they are not too far behind : ) you can imagine the struggle I had with our dynamic. I wrote something last year around February and would like to elaborate a little on what attachment was like for me as a teen in foster care, and how I see it now as a parent.
My relationship with my younger brother has always been a little strained. It’s much easier than it used to be, because I think I have shown over and over again that I’m here to stay (I had have my moments, however, and almost gave up many, many times; I think many adoptive parents go through the same).
Out of the three of us, he moved homes the most due to various situations; when it came time for him to live with me, I was heartbroken to encounter time and time again that he wasn’t attached to me. Maybe you can relate to the expectations I had when I first took on my siblings; I had set up my home, spent money, time, and effort and love into making everything perfect (for me). I grew to realize that everyone needs something different, and I was doing what I needed, but maybe not seeing the bigger picture (This took me a long time to see.)
All this may be contradictory because when I was 15, I wanted nothing to do with anyone, and like heck I was going to allow myself to get close to people who I knew were going to leave me at one point or other (most kids at 15 are thinking of life after 18, if you haven’t already experienced that :) It was only after I grew up a bit, and those moments when you don’t have someone emergency situations is pretty tough. But I would call my foster mom at the time, if something bad happened to me, and that was my form of attachment, but that was all I needed from her then. We didn’t get closer conventionally, but we sure did care about each other, and that was all I needed. So what did my brother need?
It was pretty disheartening, that he would never spend time with us in the living room, that he preferred to be alone, and that he would never share anything remotely intimate with us. Even now as he gets older and discovers his place in the community, he doesn’t seem to show much interest in my existence in his life. (Hmm… kind of familiar…)
My sister was easy, she wanted to spend time with me. But my brother was different. After a few break-downs, I discovered that what he needed wasn’t the things I bought for him, or a nice home, or family outings. What he needed was a nice meal, a “good morning”, me coming out to see him perform with his dance team, and simply, for me to be “around” more often at home than I was.
It doesn’t work to force your vision of a happy family on a child, we all know this in theory. This piece may only relate to teens, but I think it takes some trial and error and work-shopping to figure out the attachment piece; not every child needs the same thing.