Attachment School, lent and trust

Lots of thoughts bouncing round my brain as I contemplate the approach of Lent and the two wild boys rocketing around me on this rainy Sunday afternoon.  Forgive the rambling: I need to try to sort out the threads in my head on this blustery day.

It seems that my approach to raising these kids, all my kids, has become more and more a focus on attachment and connecting.  It is a much more holistic approach, in a way, than we used to do….although that seems like an odd thing to say. It’s not that I raised my first sons differently, or less, or with less love or “all in” approach (heavens no, I couldn’t possibly love them more or have done more than I did with what I had at the time)….but rather, that I knew less, was less confident in the worth and reach of the boundless love we had for them.  I/we felt we had to make sure that we filled them with….oh, as much as we could of everything. Every fact, experience, tidbit of knowing, doing, etc…it was rushing past us and could we possibly capture it all?

Now, it seems that the bigger, harder, more intensive thing to do is to fill them, any and all of our kids, with as much as we can of…us. By which I mean, connection.  Our time, our presence, our mindfulness, our ‘no matter whatness” of our love for them…at the same time as we gently nudge ahead and hold boundaries.  We encourage and console.  We trust and hope.  But maybe we don’t have to be doing the DOING of filling that kid-jar of self…rather we need to let them unfold a bit more.

And I think this whole-ness of approach to the parenting, now, is an older, fuller, more relaxed and  more encompassing way, in a way.  Even as it’s a looser, relaxed and trusting way.  And, school, for now, for these little boys, must also run these rails.  Because I believe that it is what will launch them best. It is actually a way of schooling that I can only call Attachment Homeschool.  Attachschool?  A blend of unschool, homeschool, living life, attachment parenting.  Loving no matter what, all in.   If they are allowed to relax into the who of themselves, and secure their attachment to the us of our family, then they have the most powerful launchpad that there is. They will have the toolbox to become who they will and are made to be.

There is a price to it. It is the dear cost of hope and trust.  It means spending effort to beat back the demons of fear and worry and fretting. Mine, of course. It means trusting in these kids, who they are all meant to become.  It means cracking open my rusty crusty soul and trusting in God himself who made them and brought them here, to us.

And so as we approach the desert of Lent, one of my most difficult Lenten exercises will be to trust in the learning of these boys.  To let them relax into themselves and me/us.  To LIVE our family life as fully and mindfully as I can.  To live this liturgical season as fully as I can, with the family and all the kids.  Not easy.  Sounds so.  But, so not.

Because for me to step out into the desert in faith and trust…well, it’s a desert for me for sure.  That’s where all my demons screech and thrash.  But, lent approaches.  I’m girding up.  I’ve got the crowbar out to break open the iron doors of my trust and control and let them step out of that musty box and into the fresher air of faithful hope.  This lent is a time to be still and listen and pray and watch the blooms that are found, even in the desert.  Some of those are the most beautiful; even so for the struggle of it all.


Three days.  I wish you a deeply blessed spare and rich Lent.   I’ll pray for you, if you would, please pray for me.

Foundation Work

So, as you all know, I brought Little Man home to do school here, with me.  To help him learn to learn and at the same time really work on the attachment stuff that has been pinging on my radar.  Well, this is week three.  By last week even, it became clear that this move was so important.  For now.  Critical even.

It seems that the attachment work best begins at the foundation.

I don’t know why this surprises me.  But, it did.  Does.  A little. And then, not at all.  Because if you’re gonna work on something, you’d best start where it begins, right? Right. And it seems that by  bringing him home we have unsuspectingly opened the doors and provided the time and space and focus to let some of those issues surface.

I know, I’m being obtuse. Not on purpose. Or I  might seem to be rambling.   But, it’s this kind of unexpected strangeness.  A change.  Rather than just helping him get on a better academic route, for his learning style, I feel, very much, like we are working on repairing cracks in the foundation here.  Anytime there is a tough start, {an adoption in this case} then there are cracks that need to be healed/repaired.  There is old hurt and it can and will surface.  Trust issues and issues of self worth can surface.  And it’s oh so easy to sweep them aside in the crazy chaos of our busy lives.  It’s all TOO easy to do it.  But just covering them with the routine, ordered or hectic, won’t actually heal those tears.  It will only cover them.  I want to mend them.  And, now, I have the gift of time and space and place to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, we are learning.  He is learning.  School is happening.  He is so smart that his mind makes connections that make me grin with pleasure.  He grasps concepts and ideas so quickly.  He reads well,  though he much prefers to be read to than to read by himself.  And so, I read to him quite a bit.  Because that is part of the bigger picture, here, now.  Yes, I want to work on his behaviors and quirks and help him learn better and more and well.  But I also, oh so much more, need to work on the repair of that bubbling need to connect, to heal those cracks in that first foundation.

Some of you might say, “But he came home as a baby! I saw  you with him, you two TOTALLY bonded.”  Um. Yes.  Yup.  Did.  And also, “But you have other kids who were adopted, hard starts, what about them?”  Yes.  I do.  I’ve home-schooled a number of them.  This work, school and attachment, foundation work, it all is done on an individual basis – even as it’s done within the larger critical family framework.  And the needs of each shift and change, different needs, ages, stages.  This boy, this year, he’s the one who needs this, in this mode, now.  As he matures, and especially as he grows into a strong boy with BIG feelings and impulses….those tracks are best revisited and reinforced.  Eight years old is a critical era/stage.  Those feelings of value tend to really hammer home right about now, I think.  They are absolutely and critically influenced by their school experiences.  Those feelings of worth and tangled hurt and value, they’d best be sorted through and that value (not a pandering or coddling, a deep core assessment) had best be cemented.  I think, I know, that THIS is the work we are meant to be doing.  Right now.  This is why my radar was pinging and he needed to come home, now.

It’s the most important school. The first school. The deepest most true education of a person.  That they have value and matter, no matter what.  No matter the start.  No matter if they can keep papers organized or get bored quickly.  This boy, he matters.  He is good.

It’s hard work. I didn’t realize so much of it was going to be on the job list, frankly.   It’s exhausting; more so than just learning math concepts or parts of speech. Because when  you patch a heart foundation…it takes work.  The eyes to see and the ears to hear and the timing…well, you don’t get to pick.  But it’s worth the work.  Because, even so, that foundation repair: you might still see the lines of the original splits or dings and tears…but you can make it strong again.  Strong enough to support whatever needs to be built upon it.  Even better, strong enough to support a big adventure, healthy growing life, filled with learning and the ability to love.

Marking the good: Play-dirt

Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Child fame, has a few common phrases she uses a lot.  These are fun and, even better, they stick in your/my head after you’ve listened to her for a few days at a conference.  One of those key terms is “pay-dirt.”   You all know this term, and use it too, I bet.  I say, “score,” some of you might say “all-right!” some of you might say “booyah!”  I don’t know, but you get the idea.

So, I have to mark the good, again…this time with Little Man.  As you know, we have brought him home to school here, with me.  We need to work on laying deeper tracks of connection; these should help his learning fly.  That’s the theory and I’m pretty sure it’s a good one.  That said, it’s a little bit of a steep learning curve on how to work well together.  We are working on finding the right rhythm to our days as well as the right stuff to work on.  We are making good progress I think, too.  But I’d be lying if I said it was without fits and starts (literally) and without some meltdown and temper.  Recovering from those breaks in connection can be challenging.  For both of us.

One of the great things about the timing of this conference I attended a few weeks ago {and there are many}, is that the importance of that connection was reinforced, many times over.  Tools to find that connection were laid out, and tailored to some of the challenges that can push it back.  Attachment can be hard work, and happily for so many of you, you don’t need to fully “get” the concept or do that work.  But we do, in our house.  We do for so many, I dare say all, of our kids.  Because our family is non-traditional and most of my kids have come to me from a tough start.  And that, without fail, means attachment work is paramount, ever.  WIthout attachment, the train stops (another Purvis’-ism‘).  And my goal, for all my kids, but especially this Little Man…is for that train to be cruising at it’s full speed.  And I think that speed is, someday, going to be supersonic.

So, what I have found is that the best of homeschool for him is the DOING with ME.  Not that I’m all that; but for some reason….he seems to crave that connection with me, go figure.  And I’m feeling just the same way toward him. But, of course! However, as it does on any and/or every day…our train stops.  It breaks down.  His mood can change on a dime.  A flash.  And then, he’s gone.  Disconnected.  Angry.  Unreachable.  Pushing back and away.

While he was IN school, regular school, my mode had to be “the enforcer”…much of the time.  “This is the deal, get it done, gotta do this, due tomorrow, c’mon buddy, enough, ok?” Basically sitting on his head to make the list get done. His list, my list, the family list. He didn’t like me much, much of the time.  Heck, I didn’t like me much, much of the time!  Now, in homeschool, we still have stuff to get done.  But we are a team with it. That’s how we’ve structured it, so far.  He is doing some stuff independently, because he can.  A lot, we do together.  We read every day on the sofa together: history and good fiction.  And he snuggles in and we talk about the connections that leap from his freaky smart fast brain.  If I need to reel him back in even closer, we will pop some popcorn and munch as we read, chilling…together.  Pay-dirt.

But, there is still a need for me to set myself aside.  For this boy.  To find that pay-dirt.  And now, a few times, it has been a need that I have to step myself through, with hard focus and intention.  Stupidly.  But still.  Like this: last week he had a big ol meltdown one day.  Big.  Angry.  Loud.  I found myself getting loud back and very frustrated.  All that Purvis stuff was GONE.  Not in MY brain, or mouth, or head.  Finally, I thought to just sit near him.  Let him be angry but if I was quiet and stopped pushing, his mind could reset from lockdown and open up again. I hoped.  But I was tired, so I wasn’t sure.  After a bit, he pulled out his lego’s with questioning eyes, “Can I?”  I nodded, still going for quiet.  So he started piecing them together, constructing his fantastic imagination in front of us.  I watched.  Tired.  Discouraged.  A fair bit blue about how to offset these meltdowns.

After a few minutes he looked up at me and said, “Mom, will you play with me?” And I looked into his sweet face, now wide open and seeing me again.  I looked at him.  He looked at me.  Both of us, tired but open to each other, again.  Now, did I WANT to play? Um, sadly, no.  I wanted to go to my own space, read, potter around, decompress, mix a martini maybe (kidding!….mostly)  But, I also WANTED and NEEDED to reconnect more than even those more grown up options.  So, I said, “You bet.

So I snapped legos together and helped him look for one he needed.  No big deal, right? Ha! I say.  A big deal.  More: Pay dirt.  No, Play dirt.  His level.  Connected.

Play dirt.  The best kind.  And so we begin again.  And it’s good.

Restart, with the Fundamentals

We are in the midst of a sea change here in the coffeehouse.  We have made the difficult decision to have Little Man come on  home to do school here, with  me.  Now, we have been homeschoolers from years ago.  School decisions are a per kid, per year, per circumstance decision.  Things shift and change all the time, especially with kids…especially with educating kids.  What might work well one year, doesn’t the next.  What might work badly one year, might be brilliant the next.  Thus, we leave the option of change wide open.  But, we don’t change without tremendous consideration, prayer, study and evaluation….mostly because I stew about things.  But hey, at least it’s not impulsive.

Anyhow, all that is to say that we are back to homeschool, for one: my Anthony and third grade.  The other kids are all doing great, so they are still at school.  He was not.  He is a kid with some issues and layers and this year at regular school (and we love our little school)….the new year has not been good. It’s been eroding connections around here and that, well, it’s unacceptable.  So last week we made the final decision to bring  him home, bring him close.  He’s super smart this kid.  The academics are not the issue.  The attachment is the issue.  We think that if he is supported in working through and building attachment and connection (and this conference last weekend totally hammered this home) then he will both  mature and be able to fly higher with his school.  I’m not willing to accept his frustration escalating and thus his skills and attachment eroding…I”m shooting for gain, for take off. So, for now, he is home.

Monday was the start.  And, what better first task, than to start with the most basic of…everything:  Bread.  Yup.  Anthony made his first loaf of bread, ever.  We read my recipe together, he measured, he stirred, kneaded, waited, watched, shaped, and baked.  It was science and math and cooking…but it was bonding.  He did it. He was thrilled.  So was I.  It was yummy goodness.  And in that first day, we had more CONNECTION than in the past month, altogether. But, it was serious, true eye to eye, intentional focused connection.  (We did other stuff too, not only cook…don’t get all judgmental….)

Anthony, first bread ever and it was delicious!

Now, can you say “Honeymoon?” I can!  Because yesterday, day two, was really tough.  So, we had a one day honeymoon.  But, while it’s tempting to be discouraged, I’m gonna chalk this whole week up to the choppy waters of changing seas.  We, I pray, will find our sea legs.  And we will figure out what works and what doesn’t, the timings, the flow.  If  you have a thought, toss a prayer for us our way.  This is important stuff.  Sure, the school stuff, the academics, it’s super important, vital.  But the connection and heart of this boy? Critical.  It’s everything.

Day two, messier in every sense of the word….but…it’s a work in progress, right?

Conscious Parenting….

So, I’ve been stewing about a constellation of things lately…possible sea changes around here, fine tuning, redirecting, and so on.  And, happily, this Friday and Saturday I will be here at the terrific Empowered To Connect Conference.  I went last year and it was amazing.  So good. I’m due for a refresher on it all…and I’m excited to go this weekend!

Today, I saw this video.  Not the same source at all, but another fantastic source for thoughts on connection and attachment and adhd and intentional parenting, of smalls and teens and everyone in between.  Gabor Mate has written a few of my favorite parenting resource books: Scattered (about ADHD) and Hold Onto Your Kids.  He is a thoughtful, credentialed, excellent researcher, therapist and source for information.

If you’re interested in intentional parenting, check this out, below.  It’s a great advance prep to get my brain in gear for the conference this weekend too.  It’s worth your time and attention.  It’s all about Conscious Parenting.  Look….


h/t to Hattie Heaton