Attachment Simplified: You just need one

Ok, so that isn’t ALL you need to know about attachment, but if you are reading this and you are new to the attachment world this is a good place to start. What “You just need one” basically means is that each child, each person really, needs (at a minimum) 1 adult in their lives that makes them feel loved unconditionally, and basically keep the attachment seed watered.

What this means is if there is a child who has experienced abuse and trauma that child needs at least 1 safe adult that makes them feel worthy and loved in their life to keep their attachment ability available, and to attempt to prevent attachment disorders and other attachment issues. This person can be a teacher, someone at church, a foster parent, a grandparent, a therapist, really anyone the child sees on a regular basis.

As a prospective foster parent, my goal in this endeavor is to open my heart and my home to the children placed in my care and above all, but their one. I want them to feel loved unconditionally and that they are worthy. I know as foster care providers we may never see the outcomes of our efforts. While that may be frustrating for us at times, I must remember one of the “ones” in my life and how he was unable to see the outcome of his love and support.

As a child, I was blessed with a unique family. My family was support and present though out my early childhood, but there were also times of struggle. Times when my parents were not as available as necessary and when I was struggle with the beginnings of a mental health diagnosis which we now know is OCD but at the time was untreated and unrecognized. Please do not take any of this a blame, my parents did the best they could with what they had but due to what was going on with me and my needs as a child I needed more. As a result I was a pretty behavioral child. I lied, manipulated, behaved badly (keying my mom’s car one time), ran away, ect. Looking back it was all trying to get what I thought I needed and what I now know I needed to keep my attachment seed watered.

I will forever be grateful for the people in my life that were there for me, watering my attachment seed during those times of struggle. The two main people were my mother’s parents, my grandma (who would be upset to see that I wrote grandma and not Sittee, so I will refer to her as Sittee for the rest of the post) and my grandpa. We would go there after school, all day on summers, spend nights and weekends there. There were the my two. However, my Grandpa continued to go above and beyond to help the troubled young girl he saw in front of him. He spoke to me about my parents’ divorce in kid friendly terms that helped my understand that it had nothing to do with me. He joked around with me and made me feel that I was worth the time he spent with me. He (and definitely Sittee) helped me to understand the effects of my behavior and in their house and at school I began to show respect to others. Grandpa was the type of parental figure that when you did something wrong you didn’t want to tell them, not because you were afraid, but because they would be disappointed and would clearly let you know that you had the ability to do better. I continuously strove to live up the abilities that Grandpa knew that I had.

Grandpa displayed something different so I watched and watched closely, and I saw so many things that this world says are not necessary and out-dated. I saw him treat everyone the same way, and wait until he heard all sides of the story to make a judgement. I heard stories of him standing up to people even after they shot up his house (he was a city prosecutor). I saw him and Sittee lovingly treat my uncle with a severe handicap when others bluntly told them to put him in an institution. I saw him speak plainly and openly to myself and his other grandkids about what was actually going on in “grown-up land” to help them understand the situations that are hard for kids (people dying, divorce, ect). I saw him again and again hold expectations for others as to their ability and when they didn’t meet it (in my experience) I saw him lovingly help them as they tried again. I saw him work hard to truly get to know each person in his life, so much so that when it came time for Christmas, he would never ask what we wanted but always surprised us all with exactly what we wanted. I saw him discipline with love and respect, to teach a lesson, not out of anger. I saw how he treated Sittee, and how Sittee treated him in return. It was my first example of a health marriage. I saw how Sittee loved and cared for her grandchildren and her handicapped son when all her friends were retiring and taking vacations.

In all of this I watched and learned, from both Sittee and Grandpa. This is where the story gets hard to tell, but important for the point. When I was a freshman in high school my grandpa suddenly died. It was a traumatized event in my life and the life of my family. One of my “ones” was gone. I didn’t know how I would go on with the love and support of Grandpa who consistently was there to talk me through decisions and support me and above all make me feel loved and worthy. Just days before he died, he picked me up from school and I was complaining about a test where I had the right answer but then doubted myself and changed it and got it wrong. He told me that I was smart and to trust my gut. I have to admit, as much as teachers say double check your tests, I never have and I made it through my school career with some very good grades.

I tell you that hard truth to tell you this. Grandpa never saw the outcome of his love and support. I can tell you that he was never doing any of that for any outcome, that was just what was the right thing to do. My greatest wish is that I could show him who I have become, that daily I work on behalf of neglected and abused children and try to help families understand that they need to be a fraction of what he was (in other words of course) for the benefit of their kids. That all I want is to follow God’s call and help those who cannot help themselves. That I am setting boundaries with people that are not healthy for me and standing up for myself.

You see Grandpa was my one. He and Sittee were there when I most desperately needed someone. I am continuously thankful that Sittee is able to see the person I have become. Grandpa however was not able to see the effect his actions had on my in this life.

You see, sometimes you just do the right thing and through circumstances beyond your control you don’t get to see how the story ends. The only one that knows the ending is God anyway. I just have to do the most good I can when my story merges with my foster kids’ stories.

Whose one can you be?

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