Failed attachment? Long but need help!! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 02-05-2012, 08:05 PM - Thread Starter
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I keep trying to figure out where to put this but can't come up with the right spot... DS is 3.5 so this seems like the best location.


Has anyone ever felt that they have failed to attach to their child (not necessarily vice versa)? I never noticed anything odd about my relationship with DS before my DD was born (1 year) although he was always closer with DH than me. That never really bothered me though. But since having DD in my life, I guess I've realized what attachment looks/feels like. My DD is like, my world. I love everything about her .. her laughs, smiles, the way she nurses, the way she sleeps, the way she talks and plays and I can never stop gushing about the amazing things that she's doing. Even though she often drives me crazy, I can't stand to be away from her for more than 3 hours or so at a time. She thinks the sun shines from me. She thinks I'm some kind of magical cure-all. I feel like when it comes down to it, if my DD had nothing at all, she'd be happy as long as she had me.

All of that is what has made me examine my relationship so closely with DS. He has been SO, SO, SO, SO clingy and needy with me since DD was born, and understandably so. I have upped our one-on-one dates, his cuddling time, his hugs and kisses, and time being carried even though he's like a million pounds. From that side of things, I think he has become a lot more attached to me than he ever was. He is now a lot more confident in his family role, I think, as my son and DD's brother and knows that he is loved and safe. After lots of interrupted sleep, night terrors, and anxiety-like behavior, he now seems to be doing well all around. He is sleeping, he is happy, he is toilet trained, he is seeming more and more like the other toddlers I know all the time. He  constantly says he just wants to sit with Mom, just loves his Mommy, wants to cook with me, etc. 


What seems off is the way I feel about him. Don't get me wrong - I love my DS and I do my best to do right by him.. I make sure he eats right, dresses warmly, is taken care of and loved, has free space to play, etc. It's just not like I feel about my DD - he sometimes spends weekends with Grandma (my MIL) and I don't miss him (DH misses him terribly). He drives me up a wall to the point that I don't feel motherly instincts winning out, and I put him down for a nap rather than try to find a nice way to deal with him. When tanthe gets all whiny and tantrum like, I often ask DH to take care of him, and I settle down with DD. I honestly don't even like playing with him, really, because he always tells me I am playing wrong and wants me to sit just here and do just this thing, etc. Which is annoying..... but even while I'm saying how annoying it is, I know I would think it's funny if DD did the same thing. 



On paper the relationships started totally opposite - DS was unplanned, I was working, he only BF til 4 months, he didn't co sleep at all, DH has been his comfort person. 


DD was very planned, I am a SAHM, she is still nursing, and co sleeping, I have always been her number one.


Now, having grown up and changed quite a bit since my unplanned pregnancy with DS, I have done my best to make up for all the poorly chosen things I did for him as a baby (not cruel, just not exactly what I would have chosen if I'd known better) but for some reason I just can't seem to jump the gap that makes me feel that pull toward him like I do DD. Whenever I hear them fussing, I assume DS is hurting DD and rush to her defense before I even know what I happened. I sometimes get short tempered with him, which I've never done with DD. It makes me feel so guilty to feel so different towards my children. I am grateful that DS has DH to make up for all of the empathy I seem to lack. Does it seem like failed attachment? Is there a way to reverse it/make it better?

sleepytime.gifjog.gifSleepy, running, wife to superhero.gif DH 08/09 -  Mama to jog.gif DS 8/08 & love.gif DD 1/11

"Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. " - Japanese Proverb


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#2 of 7 Old 02-06-2012, 09:13 AM
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From my initial read of your post, you seem to have a really good handle on the many factors that play into your unique relationships with each of your children.  I wouldn't reduce it all down to 'failed attachment'.  It sounds fairly complicated and your son does sound attached.  Doe he express a wide range of appropriate affect/emotion?  Is he comfortable with touch and closeness?  It sounds like it.  I think to really fail in attachment, there is a void of reflecting/mirroring/connection for children early on and they are unable to connect with others appropriately.  


Are you able to invest in some counseling?  I'm a therapist so that is my bias - I strongly believe we can all use good therapy at different times in our lives.  And raising children brings up so much for us as mothers.  Did you experience postpartum depression after your son was born?  I think it often goes unnoticed and untreated and it can dramatically affect us and our perceptions of ourselves and our children.  It sounds like really good stuff to sort through and I'm sure will bring you some really important insights and perspectives into yourself an dour ds.  I think it's wise to take a good look because favoritism (if it's this pronounced) could become a bigger problem down the line if you don't understand where it's coming from.  


In some ways, it sounds developmental.  You planned your dd and she is a sweet little baby who can do no wrong.  Your ds was not planned and there was probably considerable stress in the early months with him.  And now he's at an age where he is supposed to push your buttons and express his free will.  These behaviors are challenging and in your case perhaps have an historical undercurrent that fuels it further.


In a nutshell, from your description, it sounds like unresolved issues/emotions on your part about how your family began, where you were emotionally when you had your ds compared to where you are now.  I would spend some time sifting through it.  I think our job as parents is to forge relationships with our children - that will look very different from between your children.  But for them to know that what they have with you is unique and special (and not less than the other) is what is important.


I think it's wonderful that you put it out there.  I'm sure there are many more moms out there who can relate.

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#3 of 7 Old 02-07-2012, 03:03 AM
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I don't have any advice per se but I recommend Dr Laura Markam (on these forums). Go to 'ask the experts' and post your issue there. She offers some really good advice and usually responds promptly.

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#4 of 7 Old 02-07-2012, 06:42 AM
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OP I can relate to some of what you've written.  My kids are 3 years apart.  From the time ds was born I suddenly started expecting way more (way too much) of dd.  Everything she did annoyed me.  She was 3, and that can be a tough age, but it was also that I had this new baby that all my hormones were telling me to protect and care for.  In my mind this (suddenly seeming) much older child should be able to pretty much take care of herself (hah), and just leave me alone to nurse the baby.  Like you every time I heard fussing from the kids I'd instantly assume that dd was doing something to ds (honestly it's only in about the past year that I've stopped doing that and they're now 7 and 4).


I feel pretty darn crappy about all of that.  I feel like my dd's been short-changed by me not working harder on that stuff.  I do think (from the sounds of your post) that you have been doing an awesome (better than me!) job of spending time with your older dc, of reassuring him, of giving him valuable mommy time and attention.


So anyway, now my kids are older, and things have turned around a lot.  I feel much more connected to my dd than I did during ds's first couple of years.  I have become much more self-aware of my thoughts and actions regarding them.  I see the patterns of behaviour that I've fallen into (instantly assigning all the blame to dd for any strife being one of them), and I've worked hard to change them (with success most of the time!).


I think part of this is normal.  I know a lot of mamas who have had that kind of experience when their 2nd was born.  In fact my doula warned me about it when I was pg with ds.  The key is to keep working on it.  Stay conscious of what's going on with your behaviour and actions.  Keep carving out time with ds, even if that's not what you'd necessary first choose to do with that time. 


One other thought that I have about what you wrote is that I think some of it can be put down to the ages that your kids are.  No matter what the back story it's actually pretty normal to find some behaviours cute if they come from a 1yo, but annoying if they come from an older child.  My best friend's dd (who I'm very close with) just turned 2.  When she "bosses" me around in her adorable baby voice I get a kick out of it.  If my 7yo or even 4yo did the same thing I'd be annoyed.  I expect certain (good) behaviours from the bigger kids than I don't from a little toddler, yk?  And little toddlers are just plain cute for the most part so it's hard to be annoyed even if technically the stuff they're doing/saying is annoying.  ;)

Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010

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#5 of 7 Old 02-08-2012, 12:21 PM
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I have a 3.5 yr old and a baby.... some days I seem to bounce constantly between thoughts of 'i'm neglecting the baby to play with older DC' and 'argh, older DC, you are so annoying - and baby DC is so easy/lovely/nice!'  What you're talking about is different, but I think we all experience some of theses thoughts


I'd recommend reading Siblings Without Rivalry.  I remember it having useful thoughts on how to love your children differently, and how to cultivate a loving relationship with a child you feel you have less in common with.  But as PP said, it may be mostly age related.

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#6 of 7 Old 02-08-2012, 12:55 PM
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I can relate, too.  When my daughters were little I felt guilty for feeling more attached to DD2 than DD1 (2 yrs apart).  I was always conscious of trying to treat them equally and never played favorites, but I hated how I felt.  I was very surprised (and somewhat glad) when a playgroup friend snarked that DD1 was obviously my favorite.  I didn't think I was overcompensating- but I was pleased my real bias didn't show.


They're older now, and it's all just a memory now.  They're very different people, so my relationship with each is different.  I figure we connect better with some people than others, it makes sense that our own children are no different.  As long as you are conscious of treating them both as equally as possible, I wouldn't stress about it too much.


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#7 of 7 Old 02-08-2012, 08:33 PM
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I remember having these feelings about my first ds and his baby sister....the new baby was so cute and sweet, and ds was in the middle of the terrible threes and was just driving me up the wall most of the time.  Then the situation reversed itself when dd became more mobile, getting into everything, throwing tantrums.  Suddenly ds seemed like the sweet easy kid.  For me, as the kids get older and their personalities develop more, I feel like I have a more balanced view of them.  There are unique things that I love and find challenging about each child, and our relationship is always changing.  And it's never too late to work on being closer/more attached to your kids.

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