Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I read a lot of adoption/attachment blogs. And what I'm about to share is a topic that I haven't encountered too often out there in the blogosphere.

I know I haven't written much on it myself.

We all know how much this parenting journey can wear a person down.

It's important to remember that marriages are susceptible to the stress as well.

Tonight, I am writing all this down because I am scared and pretty much a wreck. We're falling victim to the stress here. My marriage is fractured, and tonight, I can see the situation we're in. I understand the enormous pressure of the parameters that we have parent to within; yet, I don't know how to fix anything.

The past year has been my most challenging parenting year ever. It's also been the most humbling.

Throughout this attachment-disorder parenting experience, I have realized that I know nothing. And that what I thought I knew--the parenting patterns and behaviors I initially employed-- were not helping.

We have spent countless hours and (nearly) countless dollars at therapy. I take the boys, sometimes the Mister tags along, sometimes the Mister goes alone, sometimes the Mister and I go just the two of us.

I have learned a lot, and, like I said in my last post, feel hopeful for our son's future.

But for our marriage, I am afraid that these fractures are becoming deeper.

As a married couple, when we go to therapy and learn, we usually walk away with our thoughts and parenting strategies in sync.

Yet when challenges arise in daily living, and those "heat of the moment" moments crop up, it's very easy to revert back into old patterns. I myself have been guilty of this many times. I acknowledge my mistakes and try to be a better parent each time. I see how it's working, which builds momentum, which makes me even more gung-ho about the methods of attachment parenting that we are using (our primary focus is to create the bond.)

The Mister also reverts back to old parenting patterns. But how he feels about this when he does this, and how I feel about it when I do it, are opposite reactions.

Lately, I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The Rock: My husband wants to handle situations as he deems appropriate, which is not in agreement with the therapeutic plans we create. Doing it "his" way makes him feel like he is a parent who is proactively parenting and as he puts it, this way if the child ends up in jail at the age of 18, he knows that he did everything he could, because he is doing it the way his parents did it (and he turned out okay), and he's doing it the way he's done it with our older bio kids (and they are great.)

The Hard Place: The Mister's parenting fractures my attachment with Miles. Because even though that form of parenting worked out great for the Mister and our bio kids, the key is that
Miles is not an attached, emotionally healthy kid. While Miles may cognitively know right from wrong, and while he may emotionally be able to act appropriately much of the time, there are times (lots of times) when he just does not have it emotionally together.

At those moments, Miles needs my help to regulate, not consequences or punishments. Every time something goes wrong for Miles-- whether his teacher didn't give him enough attention, or the other kid got the red vitamins, or his Dad is really angry at him-- in his mind, it is Mom's fault and he ends up angry at Mom because his inner person tells him Mom cannot be trusted. So I have to work REALLY hard at building that trust, at changing his inner dialogue. This isn't to say that the kid can do whatever he wants without consequence; but it is saying that we work on emotional attachment/regulation first and foremost. For a variety of reasons (namely, trauma) and none of which are logical (because trauma isn't), this is just how it is, like it or not.

My husband feels that this is not parenting for him. That it's b.s. If he moves forward and continues with his "set expectation with the understanding that if child does not meet expectation, they will be punished / the child then subsequently does not meet expectation/ parent must follow through and punish child," then he is parenting, albeit at the cost of my attachment with Miles.

If I stop this old pattern, my husband says, "I give up. I'm done parenting. You win, Sarah." If I stop the pattern, it's the same as declaring myself Sole Parent.

This is not a contest. I have never meant for it to be one. The only "way" of doing things that I care about is the way that creates healing for this little boy. I don't care whose way it is, and I will be first to say that it certainly isn't my old patterns. My old ways certainly didn't work, and now I'm doing it this counseling way. And thank God, it's working.

When I reinforce this new way, my husband feels like I am emasculating him and taking away his parenthood. That I am undermining him and taking away his rights as a parent. That I am bent on fighting and winning and having it "my" way.

Right now, the Mister has completely withdrawn from our home life. I guess that's one of the perks you have when you work outside the house. You can get angry and escape and not have the added stress of keeping your kids' lives as steady and stable as you can; of managing the trying behaviors; of minimizing the worries of your anxiety-inclined child.

He is angry and stressed and exhausted and has had it.

I feel scared and sick about this entire thing.

* * * * *

When I am very quiet, and very still, I know what I have to do. I'm trying to focus on help find some strength.

My job is to be emotionally strong and healthy for all of my children. My job with Miles, because he is a very little boy of just 6 (albeit a little boy with some very BIG behaviors, but he isn't his behaviors), I hold myself to a very high level of responsibility in the attachment arena. He is not responsible for his attachment at this time. I am. I hold myself accountable, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I have the responsibility to find the way to parent Miles that will create the healthiest attachment and greatest emotional development. I have the responsibility even if it is hard, or against what I have known all along.

My job is to love my husband. I adore my husband. I love him. I truly do. I don't want my husband to feel emasculated or like he isn't a parent. And I don't think of it as a my way or the highway thing. But I also don't want to keep up with these negative old cycles that we know simply do not work and are not healthy.

I want to be married to him and I will fight for my marriage. But right now, he does not feel that, and he is very angry and very disconnected.

I hope it won't stay this way forever. My own abandonment and rejection issues wreak havoc on my mind at times like these. I hope and pray that somehow, these two jobs can become healthy complements of one another.

The husband and I have been through far worse than this, and we have made it through. I'd like to think for the better. I'd like to think that we can do the same again.

Right now, we're exhausted. I've been sick for a freakin' month and the Mister has had to pick up a lot of slack around here and that is not an easy thing. He has the burden of supporting all of us solo, and that is not an easy thing. We've been busy and exhausted. I'm hoping that this is just the 'release valve' on the accumulation of the past two months.

But the thing is, I'm exhausted and worn down. I feel upset and abandoned. I vascillate between feeling fearful and panicky (and boy, talk about increasing my empathy and understanding of how my little guys must feel), and calm and trusting.

My husband is a type of person who can get angry and stay angry and he has no problem with that. Some people are just like that.

I, however, am the type where it makes me literally sick to be have to go to bed alone, with one of us angry. I like to try and come to some resolution, even if it's just a, let's agree to disagree because at the end of the day, each other are what matters. I'm not good at staying angry, or finding peace when someone I love is angry with me.

This journey is not easy. And right now, I'm on a really scary part. I'm not sharing this so that others know they are not alone (although it's great if it does help someone.) This is probably the most personal and touchiest post I've ever written, and if I'm completely honest, I'm sharing it so that I don't feel so alone. Because it's bedtime and I'm alone and feeling absolutely miserable. Hugs and prayers are greatly appreciated and needed.


bbbunch said...

As usual, your honesty is refreshing. I love you are never alone. I am so sorry that you are feeling scared right now.

I am always here if there is anything I can do, please let me know.

(((((((HUGS))))))) and love to you both.


ania said...

First - I really will keep your entire family in my prayers, especially you and your husband. I really like you both (I mean, as much as you can like people through a blog window) and have so much respect for the way that you both try to handle things and the people that you continually work to be.

Wow, this specific parenting style dilemma (which you explained very effectively) is one that would be extremely challenging and difficult for most people.

I can understand how you feel, and I can understand how your husband feels. I can understand why you both feel as you do. In the end, you both know that you are responsible for doing the best that you can for your children, and want to be able to say that you handled that responsibility to the best of your ability. And, it's scary - not being able to know the outcome of every decision.

I will pray and pray - because I can' do anything more or better. I hope that each of you puts effort in dwelling on the fact that you are a family, you are husband and wife, and neither of you wants to do things to spite the other.

This is a tough one - and there isn't really blame to lay. It sounds like you are really trying to be even in you thoughts about things.

I really do hope that you each are able to see reminders of why this is worthwhile, and are able to find a workable style.

Oh - Could a consequence be to send Miles to Mommy attachment something or other? Will that cut it with your husband? Or does he feel that that would be lacking the disciplinary aspect? Really, discipline is in the eye of the beholder. Discipline is training, not just punishment (I think you guys probably know that well). I guess that comes back to what your husband believes to be true, and what you do - as far as what's really going on in Miles head, how to interpret it, and how to best handle it so that Miles can choose to diminish and eventually shut down his maladaptive systems.

Ugh, rambled here. I'll be thinking of you all today. And praying for an abundance of respect and love and patience.

Joy said...

The fragility of marriage has been evident in some of the close friendships I have been part of for the past few years. And, on the flip side, the resiliency of marriage is a beautiful thing to see as well. Thoughts & prayers that resiliency will prevail. Thanks for sharing, as I believe so much in connection with the broader adoption community through our struggles, and the wisdom that can impact others and prepare them for their own experiences.

Tracy said...


I COMPLETELY understand what you're going through. I was too chicken to write much about it on my blog We have been through some VERY VERY rocky times and it's all been since the adoption. We have known each other for 19 years, been married for 12, and this was our WORST year. Although our daughter doesn't have the issues your son does, we were having issues attaching to her. I would criticize him for not hugging her enough, he would criticize me for making her the sole focus of our lives when deep down I didn't feel attached to Avery at all. She doesn't speak well and he would get frustrated that he can't understand her, I would yell at my sons for provoking bad behavior in her...the list goes on and on. It has been a very difficult 9 months.

We had some drag out arguments to the point where I felt like the decision to adopt had ruined our marriage. We thought about counseling, we thought about living together but ignoring each other and doing our own thing, etc. We would make up and the cycle would repeat itself the next month. I think we literally repeated the same aruguments 6 times over again month after month after month.

Now we are 100% back on track. I don't know how or why. I prayed, I cried as I am sure my husband did too. We have learned a lot over the past 6 months or so. We learned that our kids had taken up 100% of our time and there was zero time for us. We just got back from a night away and it was sooo great to be away and just be us again. We tried to talk about the good old days and not focus on our kids for that 24 hour period of time.

I will pray for you and your family and you will get through this and it will make your relationship that much stronger.

Kelly said...

oh honey. I hsvr been (and still am) in the same lonely, scary space you are in right now. hugs and prayers to you

Brandi said...

Sarah, I will pray for you. I will pray for your husband and kids. Trust that God has a plan for you. Keep staying strong, although it can sometimes seem impossible. Keep talking with your husband. At least try. Remind him that you are going to counseling TOGETHER. Trust in the therapist. Remind him of that. remind him of the reasonings behind changing your parenting style. It's to help you little guy! Maybe he just needs time to sort that out.

I'm sorry the journey is hard right now. I don't know you. You don't know me. But I am giving you a hug and a sign of the cross. I will continue praying for all of you.

Brandi said...

I will add you and your family to my prayer list. (Not sure if you got my last post or not, so I wanted to be sure at least this was posted.)

Brandi said...

Stranger Brandi here again. When I was struggling with our marriage, this is a song that I turned to often! And I wanted to send it to you. Not sure if you are Christian or not, but Casting Crowns is a musical group whose songs are so powerful. Listen to the words, and lift your hands to God.

Sawatzky family said...

Oh Sarah...You have just been so honest and brave and sincere and my heart is broken for you right now. You are so loved and so lifted up right now. I keep writing and deleting because it seems cheesy and cliche to write what I would want to say to you in person. You are not alone :)I will be in prayer for you and cliff and the kids.

geralyn said...

My dearest Sarah, you are not struggling alone right now. Maybe the moon is in some weird retrograde, but we our whole household is topsy-turvy right now. We seem stuck in a pattern of calamaties and when mama and papa are at odds, the entire household falls apart.

I of course will say a prayer for you, your happiness and that you and Cliff are back working as a team any moment. This kind of parenting is HARD stuff and it's even hardier on our marriages. I want you to know i am only a phone call away.

Take care of yourself and perhaps some 'medicinal' bourbon is in order. My love to you and a big squishy hug too!!

Sarah said...

@ Becky-- thanks, dear. I love you more than you can ever imagine and truly don't know what I'd do without you. I will call soon.

@ Ania--thank you. I always appreciate your kind thoughts and wisdom. I am really grateful.

@ Joy--thank you for the prayers and comment. Your words mean a lot.

@ Tracy-- thank you for sharing. I am so glad that you guys have worked through things and come out ahead. I am praying that is the case for us as well. We have our 10-year anniversary this Monday, and it's hard to believe that after everything else, this is where we are. But I guess that's part of the journey.

@ Brandi-- I am a Christian and I will check out that song :) Thank you so much for your prayers and words of encouragement.

@ Shelly-- Good Lord woman how I love you and wish you were here! Knowing that you are praying for us is huge. I love you.

@ Geralyn-- I'm sorry things are rough there too. Man, this is tough! As soon as I get off these antibiotics, I will indeed check out that 'other' medicine :) I will call soon--for now, I just need to keep on keeping on with the kids (I'm afraid if I pick up the phone during homeschool, I'll never get off and Atticus will be at the table 3 hours later, waiting for me to check his math.)

Love you all.

ManyBlessings said...

I will commit to praying for you guys as a couple, every day for the next year. Every night as you fall into bed, know that today you have been prayed over.