December 2, 2014
by: Gari Lister
In 2007, I thought I knew all about attachment. We had adopted an eleven year old from a Russian orphanage in 2002, and I had read everything I could get my hands on, so I was well versed in building attachment in older children. What I didn’t understand, though, was absolutely fundamental. I missed so much in my Katya’s behavior — her panic about new places, her fear when I went to get my hair cut, her need to hide under the bed.
It wasn’t until we adopted a three year old in 2005 (much easier than an eleven year old, right?) that I finally “got” it. That little girl showed me in no uncertain terms that it’s not JUST about attachment. My Anna screamed for HOURS. She hit me. She didn’t sleep. She didn’t talk. And she didn’t sleep or talk AT ALL. I tried – I worked on attachment, I held her, I cuddled, but I just didn’t understand why she was so very very hard.
And then I went to an ATN conference in Missouri and for the first time I heard about trauma. I didn’t talk to anyone; I didn’t make any friends. I was too worn out from a year of trying with my little one. But I listened and I came to understand so much more about my girls . . . and even though I was too shy to talk to people, finally after listening to other moms talk for two days I stood up in Lark Patterson’s seminar and asked “How would you treat a little girl who doesn’t talk?”
And because of that weekend, and because of that seminar, we found our way to good therapy – real therapy – and now that little girl who wouldn’t talk has grown into an amazing little person who ice skates, and laughs, and talks to me about all her fears and her worries.
And because of everything I have learned about trauma and its impact from ATN — and because of ATN — I am a better mom to Anna, and to my now 23 year old (the 11 year old we adopted way back in 2002), and to my 13 year old, and to the little girls we host from orphanages abroad.