Effects of Attaching and the Slow Motion Moments of Parenting

Recently, I attended an annual father daughter dance. My daughter and I have participated in this tradition for several years, and it’s an event we both look forward to each year. In fact, this is the sole event in my life where I have regularly and happily purchased a new tie or other required clothing prior to attending each year—it’s that important. The dance allows me to fully embrace my role as “Dad” for my daughter, and I love it.

Part of my role as “Dad” is to stand on the edge of the dance floor and watch when my daughter laughs, and dances and plays with her friends. It would be silly and selfish of me to expect my daughter to stay with me the entire time at these social events. However, this year I found myself doing a lot more standing, watching and pursuing of my 10 year old daughter in hopes of her spending some time with me. After finishing “The Macarena”, I reached for my daughter’s hand as she began to run off yet again with her friends. It was one of those slow motion moments in life where I felt her hand slip out of mine, and I was hit with an unexpected wave of emotions. I was sad, frightened, desperate and rejected. While I fully understand the developmental stage my daughter is in and that she had no intention of hurting me, the reality of the gesture was still painful.

Childhood attachment gets a considerable amount of attention, especially in the fields of foster care and adoptions. As professionals, we want to encourage and nurture healthy bonds between children in care and the parental figures set to care for them. These bonds are important because as research and experience tell us, healthy relationships and attachment in a child’s life are key factors in their current and future success. And while much is talked about in regards to the child attaching, an area we have a tendency to overlook, is that the loving adults the child is attaching to are also attaching to the child. You can’t have healthy attachments without both child and adult actively doing the attaching.

An attached adult is vulnerable and emotional.  As caregivers to our children–foster, adoptive or biological—we struggle when we are unable to control situations our children are in or guide them in healthy directions. It is those slow motion moments; when we see the child we love and are forever bonded to slipping away emotionally or sometimes literally. We know that we can’t stop it and that their actions shouldn’t be taken personally. But this knowing doesn’t make it hurt any less.

The person who loves the most in a relationship is the most vulnerable person in the relationship. Being a parent is a very vulnerable position because we often love the most. Being a foster or adoptive parent can be an even more vulnerable. Instead of choosing to attach to just our biological children, foster parents knowingly enter into countless attaching relationships; continually choosing to be loving and vulnerable over and over again with every new child. Fostering is a revolving door of emotional investment; and I know countless parents who take this plunge repeatedly without hesitation. What an overwhelming yet inspirational thought.

So, I will keep attending the father daughter dance. Even though it hurts sometimes.

Written By Family Care Network
Daniel Carlisle, FCNI Adoptive Parent and Social Worker

Effects of Attaching and the Slow Motion Moments of Parenting was originally published @ Blog and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by adrianvfloyd


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