Friday, May 27, 2011

The Positives of Regression

This blog post, one of a series in the Guardian (UK) from an adoptive dad, struck a chord with me:
Neither of our adopted children are the age it says on their birth certificates. For example, DD can be anything from four months, to four, to 40 in a given day, in any given moment, and in the speed of light. Sometimes she is being the grown-up because she's learnt how to cope with experiences beyond most children her age. Sometimes she acts like a baby because she hasn't had some of the basic baby opportunities, and sometime she behaves like a ranting, raving toddler because she is one. It can be confusing, occasionally demoralising and exhausting.

"Regression" is a common theme for all children, not just adoptees. That time-warp that exists when children are involved, where the normal passage of time is slowed down or put into hyper-drive, and when things don't follow the normal order, or take far-far longer than usual, or even don't happen at all, will ring a bell with all parents. It can be the thing that makes bringing up our children such fun – seeing our DD climbing trees, or doing jigsaws – achievements we were told not to expect. To make up for some of the stages DD & DS have missed, to teach them how to trust, they need to be able to do those stages again. So, they need absolute reassurance from us that it's OK. And, after all, who wouldn't want to go back to the comfort of childhood, or even infancy? We try to give them the chance to be babies whenever we can – for example, playing peek-a-boo, letting them wear nappies or feeding them.
I quite deliberately regressed Maya;  she was 18 months old when I adopted her, was no longer on a bottle and at least partially potty-trained (they train early in China).  But I wanted to "baby" her, since that is so good for facilitating bonding.  It took a day or two to get her interested in a bottle again, but once she accepted it, I'd cuddle her and give her a nice warm bottle while we made really intense eye contact.  I'd coo to her, telling her what a good baby she was, and telling her what a good mommy I was!

I don't know if that set the pattern, or if it's more Maya's personality, but even today at 7 (and a HALF!) she is my cuddlebug.  Yesterday afternoon I was lying on the couch and Maya laid down on top of me to read her book -- that's a really common position for us!  She loves being the baby of the family, saying she never wants to grow up!  And that's OK, it'll happen whether she likes it or not, and that early regression has, in fact, been terrific for bonding for both of us.

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