The Attachment Yardstick

by:  Melissa Sadin

Gold Star Tool Yardstick
Gold Star Tool Yardstick

Typically, our children’s lives are measured by events such as birthdays, grades in school, graduation, etc. Recently, however, it occurred to me that there are other events by which I measure my son’s growth. Oh sure, I’m proud of him when he does well in sports, gets a good grade in school, or finds (and keeps) a job, but those things do not make it on the internal yardstick I keep as his mother to measure his growth.

I have been blessed with a bio son and a son who was brought home from a Bulgarian Orphanage when he was three years old. The yardstick for my bio son is notched by birthdays. On his birthday, I am reminded of our deep bond and how much he has grown since the day we met face to face. My Bulgarian son’s birthdays are not markers of our deep bond because we did not meet on his birthday. Although I will always remember the day and date of the moment I first laid eyes on him, it’s not a day that marks his growth for me. I recently discovered that notches in his yardstick are marked by his achievements in attachment.

We were sitting on the therapist’s couch the other day discussing my frustration with my son’s refusal to set an alarm to wake himself up for school. (We spend a lot of time on that couch discussing my frustrations…) He had me in a bind and he knew it. If I don’t wake him up, the natural consequences for him are that he does not go to school. Then he does not graduate. Then he does not go to college or become a fully employed member of adult society…..and so on. Basically, if he does not get to school, he lives on my couch until I throw him out. Not a future I hope to see. Somehow either I have communicated to him that his education is my job, or he has deftly manipulated the situation so that I have come to believe it is my job. I want him to develop the responsibility for him getting himself up and he wants me to remain responsible for this task. Stalemate.

Then it hits me. (Not Divine intervention, but excellent therapy. There is no mountain too high to climb for a true and talented attachment therapist.) He wants me to wake him up in the morning because he needs me to connect with him. He needs me!!! When it was suggested to my son that maybe he needs that connection before he goes off to school, he was able to acknowledge that was the case! Not only was I able to see that he needed me to mother him in this way, but HE was able to see it and be okay with it!!!

So this month when we are all sending our kids back to school, another notch will be added to my yardstick. It won’t be his starting his junior year in high school, it will be forever remembered as the year he allowed himself to need me. As for the stalemate, a compromise was reached. He wakes himself up and I get up after he has showered and dressed and chat with him for a while before his bus comes to take him to school.

One more notch on the attachment yardstick.

**For a list of attachment therapists, go to

Dr. Sadin is a nationally recognized expert in creating trauma-sensitive schools and author of several books on the trauma-informed education movement. A life-long educator, Dr. Sadin has served as a teacher, administrator and school board member. She is also the parent of two, including one impacted by trauma due to his early adversities before being adopted.