In my math teacher role, I often remind my students that they get lost in the details, they aren’t trying to see the bigger picture. This is one of the things that makes mathematics hard for so many people, they just can’t see the whole picture. Similar to a puzzle that they don’t have the box for. They put together pieces and chunks but never know what the final picture looks like. To them it is a series of smaller puzzles instead of one whole and I keep trying to redirect them to try and fit those pieces together.
I was reflecting on the goodbye ritual that M2 and I share while I drove to work this morning. It made me smile warmly as I remember the care she puts into giving me a “kissing hand” and a “kissing back.” The “kissing back” started at one point this past summer when I hurt my back so badly, I was incapacitated for a couple weeks. Even though my back is better, we continue the ritual. The “kissing hand” comes from a book titled “The Kissing Hand” where a little raccoon is having trouble going to school for the first time and his mother puts a special kiss in his hand for him to take with him to school to think of her and how he is loved during the day. We bought the book when daycare drop off was becoming increasingly difficult a transition for M2. She took a kissing hand a few times and it was comforting to her, but then the tradition became her refusing a kissing hand and making sure I had one from her. Today, however, I was putting together the puzzle about this interaction and realized what M2 was communicating to me. Her refusal of the kissing hand while simultaneously needing to give me one is basically saying, “I won’t forget you but don’t forget about me.” I could have told you before today that M2 has a insecure attachment to me, this is not the news. Children communicate through their actions, not their words. Now that these actions are speaking to me loud and clear, I can help her work through some of these feelings.
To say that M2 is clingy with me is an understatement. And this is not normal preschooler clinginess, either. When she was an infant that she was never satisfied by a normal cuddle or snuggle. It seemed as though she was never close enough to my body, she would writhe and re-position until she was pressed so hard against my chest. I used to tell people that if she could unzip my skin and crawl inside by body, she would. Still today, when she sits on my lap she does a similar thing. In fact it actually is painful for me because her little butt bones just dig and prod into my thighs.
She is the sibling of a child with a relatively severe disability. I often wonder how that feels, especially because she is too young to really understand that he needs extra help. Instead she sees me prioritizing his needs over hers. I have long been conscious of this and try to spend extra time with her as I can. But it isn’t enough to heal some of the early trauma that has made our attachment a bit tenuous. She feels forgotten, as she must have mourning the loss of her first mom in her first foster home, mourning the loss of her first foster mom when she moved to our home and through all those social services mandated parent visits where I had to drop her off and shut the door, leaving her distressed and begging for my return. In the early days, I had to hand her over to strangers who transported her to visits, they would report back to me that she screamed the whole 2 hour drive unable to be soothed. Attachment is a delicate thing. How can she be sure that I will come back? She has been “left” before. She’s had far too many broken attachments in her short life. I think that figuring some of this puzzle out helps me guide my interactions with M2. For now, I want to think about a way that helps her remember during the day that I am thinking about her too. Every day. All the time.