Things have been up and down with the girls’ school this year; some great moments and frankly some dire ones. One thing that has been consistently wonderful this year is the support from the Learning Support Assistant (LSA) in Small’s class this year. Without her Small would not have got through the year. This lady met Small every morning and patiently chatted to us until Small was ready to leave me and go in, whether that took 5 minutes or 20. And then end of the day she always took time to let me know how Small had been during the day. She understood Small’s needs better than anyone ever has in school and could tell how she was feeling just by how hard Small bounced against her in the morning! She tried to be there for my girl as much as she could (though we could have done with her all the time!) and gave her vital emotional support as well as sensory breaks which she introduced herself after reading up at home 🙂
At the end of the year I sent her some flowers and wrote her a card. What I wrote isn’t amazingly poetic or beautiful, because that’s not who I am, but it was heartfelt.
To Mrs X
If I say you’re one in a million you will think it is a cliché but I actually mean it. We both know Small would not have survived this year without you.
Thank you for giving my little girl what she needed when I wasn’t there to do it. Thank you for listening to her, squeezing her, dancing with her and bouncing her. Thank you for gently reminding her of the boundaries without shaming her and thank you most of all for instinctively knowing what she needs and making sure she gets it. You have made it possible for Small to come to school this year.
We will miss your kind and intuitive support for her.
I blogged about acceptance before, in fact you can read my blog here. That was 2 years ago now. And I think acceptance for me is changing.
Recently I had a break from social media for a few weeks to give myself time and space to think. I wanted to be sure that I am able to manage the girls long term. And I am. I know I am. My lovely GP has been helpful in talking through these issues and making me realise that I am doing a good job and I should stop putting pressure on myself or allowing others to do so.
Parenting Small can be draining. The older she gets the more pronounced her difficulties seem. She is clingy with an insatiable need to be near me or on me. Her sensory issues, inflexibility, need for control and obsessions all seem to be getting steadily worse. I am accepting that this is just the way she is, and it’s ok for me to find it a little claustrophobic sometimes. I know how to prioritise my girls’ needs and do what is best for them. But I need to do the same for myself too.
But perhaps the biggest part of acceptance for me has to be learning to accept the status quo with my eldest. Many kind adopters have messaged me saying that it is fear that stops Eldest from showing love to me, that it will come in time if I persist with therapeutic parenting, that parenting children with trauma is a long game and if I keep it up eventually there will be a breakthrough. All those things are true for many adopters and many children. All those messages are sent with love, care and a desire to give me hope.
But what if it isn’t true for my family? What if Eldest does not have the ability to develop love or empathy for anyone? What if, in her eyes, people are like are objects or possessions, and she just isn’t able to develop beyond that? And what if she is unable to modify her negative behaviours in any significant way? Then all I am doing is putting pressure on her with my expectations. And pressure on myself too. I believe that is the case for us. There are a few who know us well who think I may be right.
I am still parenting therapeutically. I know we can have happy times, and I can make positive memories for us as a family. But I am no longer waiting for that elusive magical breakthrough with Eldest. I am trying to accept her limitations and love her for who she is and accepting that this is who she will always be.
I’m not there yet on this journey to acceptance but I’m getting there. I feel generally at peace and that can only be a good thing.
My mum is amazing. I aspire to be like her. I have always wanted to be as successful and respected as she is. As good and honest a person as she is. To be as good a mum to my children as she was and is to me and my siblings.
Since I have adopted my mum has blown me away with her capacity to understand and show empathy both for my girls and for me. She has read up on attachment and has an admirable understanding of the impact of the girls’ past. She has shamelessly button-holed professionals she comes across in her voluntary work to quiz them on the intricacies of developmental trauma. She has driven miles not only to attend meetings with me but also to make valuable contributions in those meetings.
I know I can ring my mum and talk things through with her. She never gets tired of me repeating the same fears and worries, never offers unsolicited advice, she backs me up when I need it. Especially as a single mum it is amazing to know I can offload on someone who won’t judge me. She constantly expresses her belief that I am a good mum to my girls. She never makes me feel like a failure.
I have a very strong memory from my childhood of sitting on my mum’s knee and being comforted by the feel of her hug and by her distinct smell. It was a feeling of safety and security; being enveloped in her love. There’s nothing quite like that memory for me. My mum still has the ability to do that for me now even at my age. Just thinking about her makes me feel better!
Everybody should have somebody like my mum in their lives but I am convinced that she is one in a hundred million. My mum is definitely my hero!
I fight hard for my eldest daughter. I battle with professionals to get her what she needs. I take her out on day trips with her younger sister and we all have fun and make good memories. I go up to her room at bedtime to chat to her about the good things from our day and then tell her I love her and kiss her goodnight.
I use PACE a lot. I’m pretty good at wondering with her about what is going on under the surface; what’s driving her behaviour. I plan activities, structure our home lives etc. I try to parent her in the very best way possible.
At the moment I’m doing an attachment parenting course. Last week the psychologist running the course asked me if I thought the emotional connection was there for me. It was asked in a supportive way. Not in any way to criticise. And I answered truthfully.
How does a parent remain emotionally engaged after 4 years of rejection?
I’m sure there are parents who do. I try. I try very hard. But I guess if I’m honest then the answer is probably no.
I’ve thought about this all week. I do know that the fact she isn’t able to love me still makes me cry. So there must be something there.
I hope and pray she doesn’t know how much I struggle with this. I’m guessing the professionals would say that she must know.
What does this make me? Human? A failure? Unworthy?
Bought a swimming pass for the summer today and they gave me an extra week free. Their cleaner said she’d bring a cuppa to poolside for me when I come on my own.
Spent a few hours with my friend and her funny toddlers while the girls were at school; stress free and a chance for a good chat.
DD1 managed to tell her new LSA she doesn’t like being tickled. Wow!
Took the girls out for tea tonight and they were in great moods. When we left not only did we get vouchers for a local attraction but they also gave me the girls’ meals for free.
In the restaurant DD2 said “I’m full. Can I leave some ice cream?” Wow again!
And the other stuff…
In DD1’s memory book of Year 2 they’d staged a photo of her sitting on her class ‘pupil of the week’ chair. DD1 said “that’ll always remind me that my teacher never thought I was good enough to really sit there”. Grrrr
This morning I was greeted by the sight of a decapitated wild rabbit in the living room. Guilty cat nearby. Lucky me getting to pick up a bunny head and bunny body before breakfast.
DD1 ate a huge amount without chewing, even when I pointed out she was full. Came home, spent an hour kicking off in her room and is throwing up every 10 minutes 😦
Before I adopted I had a successful career. I would like to think I was well respected and pretty good at what I did. That involved dealing with many other senior professionals in different fields. That was easy, even enjoyable, for me.
So how is it that now I am unable to successfully advocate for my children? How is it that I find parenting them so hard?
Is it me? Am I lacking in resilience? If the girls were with someone else would they have got the help they need by now? Or even worse – if they were with someone else would they not need any help or support?
Is it all my fault?
I’m managing to deal with the girls’ school – that’s exhausting in itself; trying to ensure they consider the girls’ needs when they plan lessons/activities without alienating staff. Not easy when eldest’s teacher rolls his eyes every time I mention that she is struggling. And now trying to gently lead them to a decent plan for transition into the next school year; trying not to tread on toes whilst achieving the best outcome for the girls.
I’m managing to speak to the GP to get a couple of physical issues dealt with for my youngest. He is at least listening and has made referrals for her.
But for the rest – I’ve walked away for now. I’m relieved to have CAMHS out of our lives. I feel sick when I get a letter or email from the placing authority. How ridiculous is that?! I feel weak. I feel ashamed of how weak I am.
Once I was someone different. But this is who I have become…
I do wonder if when people look at me they think why on earth did she adopt? If I take a step back and read my blog and tweets I think they may appear negative, as though I take little pleasure in my life with Bunny and Kitten. I may seem self absorbed, more concerned with their impact on me rather than the children’s difficulties. Do I even deserve them? I can understand that. I dread to think what prospective adopters must think. I wonder if they think I don’t deserve my children.
I know why I adopted. As someone who will be single for the rest of my life, I really wanted a family, to be a mum, but I knew having birth children wasn’t an option. I work with children and young people from all kinds of backgrounds but I have spent much of my career supporting children who are in care. Sadly repeatedly I see children’s FC placements break down as they hit puberty and they either move to a children’s home or have to move area to access more specialist FC. And I have seen the spiral into chaos this can cause for those children. So I hoped that for at least one or two children I could change that outcome. And religiously, I believed it was something I was called to do; to be mum to a child or children who otherwise would have been in long term FC.
So that is why I adopted Bunny and Kitten. But perhaps the question isn’t why I adopted but should I have adopted? I thought I should. But perhaps I was wrong and many days I honestly don’t know the answer. I thought I was prepared. I read loads on attachment and developmental trauma, I had met up with adopters, I read the AUK boards regularly. I moved house – and town – and built a new support circle there. I saved money. I didn’t rush into it. I thought I was ready. I knew it was going to be tough. I thought I was well prepared before I even rang an agency.
But I have to reflect on where we are now and wonder if I was wrong. I put a lot of time and effort into trying to parent the girls in the way they need. Almost everything I do, I do with the girls’ needs in mind. Almost every waking moment is devoted to Bunny and Kitten. I never shout and rarely even raise my voice. And yet still everyday life is so hard for all 3 of us. Is that because the girls have ‘complex needs’ – or actually is it that I’m not doing a very good job? Because let’s be honest no-one thought they had complex needs before placement.
Would they have been better off elsewhere? Perhaps with two parents? Or perhaps someone else would parent them in a different and better way? Kitten finds it impossible to bond with me never mind attach to me. Is that because I am failing her in some way rather than because of her prior experiences. And the most honest thing I can say is that I find it almost impossible to bond with Kitten too. Her daily resentment, revulsion and rejection wear away my emotional connection with her until I can’t seem to find it anymore. Bunny seems to cope with things less as time goes on. And her relationship with me is hit and miss at best. Yesterday I told Bunny I loved her and she said ‘So?’ and spat in my face. Aren’t I supposed to be making things better not worse? How did we get here? I don’t know. And don’t they deserve so much more?
So I couldn’t blame people for looking at me and wondering if I should have adopted. Or for thinking I am negative or whining. I take responsibility for that. But please remember that whilst it might seem like I am whinging or moaning, I am also trying my best every day without fail.