Sunday, March 6, 2011


I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and write a few thoughts about attachment. Now that we've been together for almost two years, I think we're pretty well attached. I can't point to any specific things we did that have made us connect. In fact, I can look to several things that we did that probably would make the attachment experts shudder. I think Turo's personality played a big role in how we moved from strangers to family.
Days after we came back from Africa, we packed up our house in Dallas for a move to Michigan. We lived in our empty rental house for a week (at least Turo wasn’t overstimulated). We stayed with Jose’s parents for a few days along with their middle son, his wife and two kids visiting from Minnesota (nothing like six extra set of eyes watching you bumbled through the first weeks of parenthood). We went out to goodbye dinners with friends. I think I took Turo to Target almost everyday (just to have something to do – remember all our stuff was in a moving van heading north and it was summer in Texas). Other people held him, played with him. He slept in a pack-n-play next to our bed. I flew back to Michigan ten days before Jose, and my mom stayed with us for a week. The kid must have been thinking the Amharic version of WTF. Yet he seemed to go with flow. No big outward demonstrations that he was freaking out. He began to prefer me over others pretty quickly. I told myself that if he gave us clues that he was scared or uncomfortable that I'd adjust, scale back our activities. Now looking a photos from those first couple of months, I can see the uncertainty in his eyes. Of course, being strangers and all, that was a subtle clue I didn't pick up on.

Despite our chaotic beginning, we found ways to build attachment. I carried Turo a lot. We rocked him while giving him milk in a bottle at naptime and bedtime for months. We sat by him while he fell asleep at night. We hung out at home for most of the summer (with a few playdates and visits to Grandma's mixed in). We soaked in the sunshine. We developed a routine. I enrolled us in a toddler group and Kindermusik, which I think supported our bonding through music and play. The changes in our relationship were subtle and are still happening. It wasn't like one day we were "attached." The signs popped up in day to day stuff. Like when Turo stopped crying when Jose took him to bathtime. Or when he started to seek out my lap. Or when he wanted to snuggle in our bed at night. Or when he began giving us spontaneous kisses and hugs. Or in the way he likes to play "baby." And even recently when he has been telling me to make him feel better when he is crying.

The only major bump so far (at least that I can point to - sometimes I worry that I'm missing clues that he is struggling) was last October. He regressed back to some early behaviors of crying whenever I'd leave. It was surprising because we hadn't seen this behavior for nine or ten months. Even at my mom's, where he usually is pushing us out the door so they can play, he sobbed and begged me not to leave. Then it dawned on me, October is the month he lost everything. I have no doubt that somewhere deep down he was remembering this and it was scary for him.

Sometimes when I hold him, I wonder if he will remember this three year old boy love. His connection to us at 13, 18 and 25 will be very different from what it is now. Turo somehow managed to make it through that first nutty month with us, but there are many more attachment milestones to navigate. As much as I hope that we are doing all the “right” things to help Turo feel supported, loved and attached throughout his life, I know there will be frustrations and set-backs. And I have to accept that no matter how much love I give to my sweet boy, it will never replace all he lost.


  1. So beautifully written. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Lovely Sara. You guys make a beautiful family. Do you know Melese sometimes shouts out "Butturo!" in a deep Jose-like voice?
    I firmly believe that these anniversaries of loss are real and permanent. You guys are great parents.

  3. Lovely post. I wonder exactly the same thing with my babies - will they remember, when they are older, just how happy they are to be part of our family right now?

    I just cannot imagine how hard it must have been to have all those people around during your first days together! You have my utter respect for holding it together - I do NOT think I could have handled that without some serious mama-tantrums.

  4. I was thinking the same as Claudia, I cannot imagine the pressure of those eyes on your as you are plunged into parenting.

    This was a gorgeous post. Thank you for sharing your so-far attachment story.