Travel to Attachment

When my foster brothers–who suffered with attachment disorder– were in some of the worst periods of their sickness, a therapist suggested that we travel.  It throws children in to one of their most dependent states. They don’t know anyone else, they don’t know where they are, they are not surrounded by the familiar items of their home. Often even their food and sleeping patterns change and flex according to the travel schedule. This, the therapist said, would make it an ideal situation for bonding, because you (as the parent) were the only constant, stable thing in their life.

I am about to go on a road trip with my (almost) 17 month old son. And not a small or short road trip either, we are going to Texas. We are driving from northern MN to Texas and then we will be spending 10 days there, not in the same place– we have to do some traveling in Texas as well– and then road tripping back. His schedule will be thrown off, his food will be different, he will have to spend hours confined to his car seat, he will have to visit people he doesn’t know (very well) and will have to wear disposable diapers. These are all very unsettling things in a small child’s life. I have found myself becoming increasingly nervous. Until I remembered what the therapist had said. Now my son, by no means, has an attachment disorder but I thought about what she had said and applied it to our upcoming situation and it has begun to turn my feelings of trepidation in to ones of excitement.

We are going to have a blast! We are going to get out of normal routine. We are going to spend all kinds of time together doing new and different things. We are going to experience things together in a whole new way. The “old” places to me are not going to feel “old” or routine this time because I am going to experience them through the eyes and emotions of my child. What an invigorating experience!

Through this trip we are going to continue to forge our attachment and on the other side of the thousand miles of road we will travel we are going to come out, still and again, a very bonded pair.

That being said, anyone want to leave some tips on how to keep this busy little man occupied and happy (as possible) during this long trip? (i.e. snack, games, toys, etc.)

Healthy Fear and Careful Responses

We have arrived home again. I can’t believe the difference it has made. Allow me to give a little background information.

My son has traveled for 8 of the 15 months of his life. We have just recently come back from a 3 week trip. My community travels very often, the trips anywhere from several days to several months in length. We are a performing arts team, a work crew and an extended family (which includes family +).

My son is constantly surrounded by close people that he knows and trusts. He is not a particularly social child. Even though he is chatting and usually fairly smiley, the smile and conversation are not an invitation to play!

Our most recent trip, the one we just returned to home base from, was to Kansas and then a couple of weeks in Sioux Falls SD for a music festival. My boy is very busy and kept me chasing him all day, every day, with the exception of nap time! Thank goodness for my community at these times as people are happy to give me short breaks when necessary; it sometimes saves my sanity. We had many people in and out of our camp during these couple of weeks, old and new friends. Of course who can resist the crazy smile, dirty hands and face, tousled blond hair and the hearty laugh of a toddler?

When my son is approached by someone he does not know he is shy and hides behind whoever is close to him that he knows well. If the subject is pushed he starts to cry. Sometimes hysterically. I was told many times this week by, I am sure, well-meaning people that he “needs to get over it” or “needs to get out more” (which is an amusing statement considering how we live). I, on the other hand, am not concerned. I am actually happy under our unique circumstances that my son does not go to complete strangers. I do not have to worry that he will be overly friendly or that I will have to warn him about people he does not know. On the other hand I do not want him to be afraid of people, especially friends, I have to calmly reassure him without pressuring him to “get to know” someone. To him it is instinctual to steer clear of people he does not know. It is a healthy fear.

Now, on the other hand I have no idea what happened in the self preservation section of my son’s brain because “healthy fear” did not seem to come installed there. While on this last trip we spent a good amount of time on concrete which those of us who have small children know is not an ideal situation for a toddler. There were also a pair of concrete stairs leading down to our camp, a completely fascinating item for my little guy. The most common response from my son to these falls? “Ops.” That’s it. Now in this area I have had to carefully contain myself. I have to measure my response to these events and wait on how my child is responding to the event before I do. If it is as “ops” situation I have to swallow my initial run and cuddle response and allow him to continue his play, lending him a reassuring smile. I have to put my own reactions and emotions to the situation aside and learn from my son how he needs me to respond.

Sometimes it is necessary for me to take action, then it is comfort and cuddle time and I am rewarded for the newly acquired stress-moment grey hairs  by chubby little arms around my neck and his newest response, sopping wet baby lip kisses that he reserves, just for mom.

All in all I am happy to be off the concrete and we are both happy to be surrounded by those we know and love. We are happy to be home.