Our 4 year old, Olivia, has been fighting pneumonia for about a week and a half now. I won’t bore you with blow by blow details of a trip to the ER, two rounds of antibiotics, etc… but I do want to take a moment to describe one of the side effects of her illness.
As you can imagine, Olivia has spent a great deal of this last week and a half laying around like a limp dishrag. My husband was able to take a couple of days off work, making a long weekend at home. This thrills Olivia. She and her daddy are completely enthralled with each other and there is nothing that Olivia loves more than days when her daddy and big brother are home from work or school.
Furthermore, Olivia’s daddy tends to dote on her–even under normal circumstances (as most all of us do!). When she is puny and sick, you can imagine the head stroking, drink fetching, eye gazing, story telling, Spongebob watching, rocking, holding, carrying, sleeping in our bed again and the like that goes on here. Just to be clear–I’m not making fun of him–it’s actually a beautiful thing to behold and I tend to be the same way, especially when she is sick.
Anyway, all of this careful caregiving and extra time spent doing it has resulted in the side effect of Olivia becoming even more dependent and attached to her Daddy. I do most of my work from home and am her primary caregiver. Usually if she’s sick or hurt or upset, I am her first choice for comfort. My husband and I joke about “the Mommy aura” that both kids are drawn to like little magnets, but it’s not really about the title of Mommy. It’s because I am actively caregiving during the majority of her waking hours–what we here at Heart of the Matter Seminars refer to as the primary caregiver.
With all the extra time and extra care Olivia has been receiving from her daddy, she has become even more of a daddy’s girl and apparently he’s developed his own magnetic field. She wants daddy to hold her, to get her a drink or a snack, to carry her upstairs, to help her with this or that and on and on. At the same time, her behavior makes Eric even more attentive and responsive. It’s basic Bonding Behavior 101 and truly a wonderful part of being a parent.
We are not the only family to experience this phenomenon. Many families newly formed by adoption have seen strides in attachment occur as a child recovers from an illness, is forced to depend on the parent as they learn English or for other reasons that lead to more intensive caregiving. My advice to any parent, but especially those of us actively working on building attachment is to take advantage of these times! Don’t be afraid to respond and “dote” on them. Responsive parenting within parental boundaries will not spoil a child!
Are there downsides? Sure. Olivia had been sleeping in her own bed fairly well before she got sick. When she is better we will have to go through more of that transitioning into her own bed again. (ugh) Has she tried to take advantage of her minions at times during this? Sure. She leans toward the dramatic anyway and during one of her up times she very pitifully asked me to carry her to the bathroom. Knowing that she didn’t really need to be carried at that particular time, we just laughed and told her to get up the stairs and go to the bathroom. Not a big deal. Did we carry her when her fever went back up? Yes.
So although these naturally needy times can be exhausting and trying, try to take advantage of them. Not only use them as opportunities to turn their cycle of need, but find and enjoy the extraordinary parts of the ordinary work of caring for your child.
PS After I wrote this post and saved it drafts we went into the hospital for a follow up x-ray. The three of us were walking along with myself in the middle when Olivia let go of my hand and wordlessly walked to her daddy who scooped her up to carry her because she was tired. Their conversation after that went something like this:
Olivia: How did you know that I wanted you to hold me?
Daddy: Daddies who love their little girls just pay attention and know these things.
Olivia: It’s like you read my mind!
I swear I didn’t make this up! What a great example of attunement and how cool is it that they both KNOW what attunement is, even if they don’t know what it is… and how cool is it that the more intense caregiving allows both parent and child to be more attuned to one another????
Tags: adoption, Adoptive Parenting, attachment, attunement, bond, bonding, caregiving, close proximity parenting, general parenting, international adoption, new adoptive parents, parenting, positive parenting, primary caregiver, primary caregiving, pull close parenting