Silence means I am overwhelmed by so many thoughts that I don’t know where to start.
Silence means I fear you may not understand my words nor my meaning.
Silence means I am worried about rejection or accusation.
Silence means I have said it all before and still it goes on….and on….and on….
“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
― Elbert Hubbard
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.
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?
I don’t know
Slowly but surely I feel my girls’ school are beginning to understand them. Things are going pretty well this year!
Though it is such an individual thing, I have thought about the top 5 things that have made a difference to us as a family.
1.The number one for me has to be an excellent Senco (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) that respects me as a knowledgeable parent, listens to me and works with me. If I make a suggestion she trusts that I’m doing it for the best of reasons. She welcomes me into the school to support the girls for trips or activities they may find too challenging. And agrees that we are all on a journey to learn how to help the girls and we need to do this together.
2. All school staff also had training in developmental trauma and attachment from an outside provider last year and I feel this has made a huge difference for obvious reasons.
3. Communication scores highly for me. Each day I drop each child with their own key worker and each afternoon I collect them from the same people. This way we can communicate about what has happened at home or during the school day. That regular open sharing of information is so important. Once again because I know the school support me as a parent I can discuss our home life without being blamed for the girls’ difficult behaviour and I have the same blame-free approach to the teachers. On days when I can’t do the school run there is a home school communication book so we are all on the same page.
4. Personalised approaches to the girls’ needs are critical. My youngest is overt in her need for support. She has her box of sensory items in the classroom and she has free access to them. She uses the LSA for emotional support, whether it’s holding her hand, sitting next to her or on her knee. And if she doesn’t feel able to do something she feels safe enough to say so. Unfortunately my oldest girl is still not able to express any of her needs yet. This makes supporting her very difficult. However her teachers try their best by ensuring she is sitting near them and with her back to the wall and they try to stick to a firm schedule of activities so things are predictable. They are working hard to raise her poor self esteem with a caring patient and positive approach. However she needs to know they are firmly in charge if she is to feel safe – it’s a difficult balancing act!
5. Neither of my girls are subject to the school behaviour system. Put simply, traffic lights, smiley/sad faces or sunshine/clouds are never going to help my girls modify their behaviour, so they are not used. I know many schools are resistant to accepting this so I’m pretty relieved this is one battle I’ve never had to have at this school.
Things still go wrong sometimes.Both children have had changes to their routines sprung on them this year and of course the tremendous fall out is always saved for home. The difference is now I feel I am believed when I explain what has happened and staff try to learn from it. My eldest girl often comes out of school dysregulated and it is virtually impossible to help her calm down once she has got to that point. This is something I know I need to discuss further with school but I don’t think there is an easy solution with my tricky big girl.
I guess the thing that strikes me is that the most important things for us don’t cost money; trust, knowledge, communication, flexibility, care, support, empathy….they’re all free!
- 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 😦