Visits

This week has been full of visits. Too many visits. Some lovely visits, some tricky visits, some hard visits. Visits to new classes, visits to places, visits from people, visits by me to school to watch assemblies. It’s been a very difficult week on top of a difficult few months.

But I won’t tell you about that. Instead I’ll tell you about another visit that got planned in intricate detail this week.

Little: Mummy, can we go and visit the Queen one day?

Me: Um, well, the Queen stays in London and it’s really busy there. So busy that daddy won’t go.

Little: That’s okay, daddy can stay and have a little snooze while you take me.

Me; Okay…

Little: We’ll go in the car. What’s the big house called again where she lives?

Me: Buckingham Palace.

Little: That’s it. You can drive us there. What does she look like?

Me: Sort of like she does in Minions but with grey hair.

Little: Grey like elephants?

Me: Erm…

Little: Oh! Mummy! You’ll need a gown to go and visit the Queen. You don’t have one. Cept your wedding dress. Can you wear your wedding dress? No, we’ll have to go and buy you a gown.

Me: Okay…

Little: And a hat. You’ll need a hat too. Does she have a prince?

Me: Prince Philip

Little: Do the Queen and Prince Philip have a phone?

Me: Yep

Little: Right, I’ll phone them to let them know we’re going to visit them.

So there you go. Little and I are going to visit the Queen. Wearing gowns and hats.

The best bits

On Monday I got ‘nice ice lollies’ to have for after school. When Big asked me why we had them I said that I thought the day might have been tricky for her (it was her assembly). ‘Huh. Well. You thinked right.’ We didn’t get any further than that but I hope that she knew that I’d ‘thinked’ about her, and that it helped her a bit.

We went to the beach this week instead of sports day. We had a lovely time. Little spent ages making a pool in the river by building the sand up. She then discovered that when it broke it made a wee slide for her to go down so we then had to build many more! It was lovely to see her so engaged and to see her persevere with things.

 

 

 

 

Yesterday and Today

Since January our house has been filled with rage, control, aggression and anger. It never feels to leave. We never seem to quite get to a point where there is calm before we’re off again.

It feels like we’re walking on eggshells, that we’re never sure what might start something, that we’re on tenterhooks all the time.

It feels like we’re constantly having to tweak routines in a way that doesn’t seem like we’re tweaking them. That we’re on hyper alert at all times. That we’re constantly watching.

And then yesterday Big went on a trip. It was a trip designed for children with additional needs. For the whole day, there was no pressure on her. There were no questions asked of her, no work to be completed, no 34 other children to manage constantly. And we had the first calm evening we’ve had for ages. I have NEVER seen her as animated as she was when she came back. I didn’t have to ask her anything, she volunteered it all. She smiled, a lot. She was calm. She was relaxed.

Today, Little had a ‘playday’ (as she likes to call it. I’m not sure when it stopped being ‘having someone over to play.) For an hour and forty minutes she just got to play and have fun. She wasn’t controlled, she wasn’t having to constantly placate the other person she was playing with, she could just play.

Yesterday and today mean such a lot in our house. Yesterday and today will keep us going.

The best bits

At gymnastics this week, Big walked across the high beam totally unaided. She did it forwards and sideways. She had a wee smile at the end.

Little could have a million best bits this week. When she went to sleep tonight, she moved her head so that I could lay down with our foreheads touching and she fell asleep like that. When we nipped to get Father’s Day stuff and she told the man at the till that ‘my daddy will smell nice when it’s daddy day. He will smell like oranges and blue.’ When she patiently helped me weed a flower bed. When she jumped up and down when her friend arrived today.

I love it when…

I love it when I hear Little sing.

I love it when I look in the rearview mirror and see Big dancing to the music.

I love it when Little looks at me out of the corner of her eye before she makes a joke.

I love it when Big looks at me.

I love it when we put the fairy lights on and Little jumps a little bit with happiness.

I love it when Big lets me help her.

I love it when I get to see Little waking up.

I love it when Big feels proud of herself.

I love it when Little makes us do ‘balances’ after tea.

I love it when Big sits next to me.

I love it when Little writes shopping lists.

I love it when they’re on their bikes.

I love it when they’re in the pool.

I love it when we’re in the woods.

I love it when we’re at the beach.

It’s hard just now. But there’s lots to love.

The best bits

Yesterday at teatime, I leaned into my husband to give him a hug. He was sat down and I was stood up. Big said, ‘If I was a grown up, I would take a photo of that.’ My husband asked her why and she said, ‘Love.’

In the pool this week, Little jumped to the bottom to pick up a weighted toy. She was fit to burst when she came back up.

I was planting in the garden with Little. She was helping by watering in the new plants. She then watered a bit of soil with nothing in it. When she’d finished she said, ‘There you go mummy, one might grow there now too.’

 

Consulting Detective

‘It’s very quiet in the car today.’ means ‘Please can we have the music on?’

‘It says spaghetti bolognese on the picture.’ means ‘Is it spaghetti or is it twirly pasta?’

‘I’m a bit hot.’ means ‘Please could I have a drink?’

‘It’s nice and warm in the garden today.’ means ‘Please can we have an ice lolly.’

‘This sandwich is still big.’ means ‘Please can you cut it up for me?’

‘It says we’re going swimming on the picture.’ means ‘Are we going to the big pool or the little pool?’

‘It’s Friday today.’ means ‘Are we having Friday sweets?’

‘I like the park.’ means ‘Can we go to the park?’

‘It’s Tuesday today.’ means ‘I am wearing trousers for school?’

‘We played in the paddling pool yesterday.’ means ‘Can we play in the paddling pool today?’

‘Little’s not in the bedroom.’ means ‘Where’s Little?’

‘This story looks nice.’ means ‘Please can we read this tonight/just now?’

‘It’s hot in the car.’ means ‘Can I put the window down?’

Big never asks a question. Everything that she needs is asked for by making statements. I understand it. It’s scary to ask a question because the answer might be no. It’s scary to ask a question because that sometimes leads to people asking you things back. It’s scary to ask a question because the answer could mean that you’re no longer in control. It’s scary to ask a question because it might reveal something about you and you’re not ready for that yet. It’s scary to ask a question because it involves trusting that the person will be able to do the things you’re asking for.

Most of the time I’m tuned into this and I can interpret what she needs. Most of the time I preempt things and try to have whatever she needs waiting to try to reassure that they will be here. Lots of times I can be found with my head in the cup cupboard muttering ‘just ask for a drink, how hard can it be to just ask for a drink’, and very occasionally I can be heard shouting, ‘Just ask! I have no idea what it is you need/want, you’re going to have to ask.’

Because I wish she could ask. I wish she could, like Little, just go and get what she needs (Little often checks after the event if she’s actually allowed to get what she’s got but that’s a different story.) I wish she could trust that I will do the things she needs me to do. I wish that I didn’t have to play detective quite so often. I wish she could ask.

The best bits

Both the girls did a sponsored bike ride at school today. This meant different clothes, taking their bikes to school, riding their bikes at school, seeing each other at school. They did really well. I did mention that the girls are more sprinters than peloton riders and it seemed they were put in positions that meant they didn’t have to ride with the group!

Little and I have been in the garden a lot this week. She is wonderful company. ‘I like helping you mummy. Is this one a weed?’ ‘I’ll go and get my wheelbarrow to move all this mess mummy. Wait there!’

You’ll get there

Whenever I try to talk to people about things that we find tricky, the standard response seems to be, ‘oh, you’ll get there.’

It seems to be the response when people find themselves so far away from their own experiences that they offer this as a sort of encouragement. Sometimes it is said by people who genuinely know how things are and they are wanting to reassure us that it will get better. And sometimes it is said because the fact that we’re not ‘there’ yet is really quite annoying and could we hurry up and get there because it is impacting on their plans.

The thing is, I’m not sure where ‘there’ is. Is it that we will be able to do what most families are able to do? Is it that we’ll be able to do a bit more than we can do now? Is it that one day I won’t moan so much when things are hard because they’re not that hard and we’ll be fine?

And if we don’t get ‘there’, have we failed? Have we failed as a family? Have we failed Big? Have we failed Little? If we’re never able to do the things that people want us to do, what then? Will they keep insisting that ‘we’ll get there?’ Oh will they be willing to accept what our ‘there’ is and accommodate us accordingly?

Because our ‘there’ might look very different to how people expect it to. Our ‘there’ might be going away for the day and nobody being hurt on the way home. It might be being able to spend the day at home without anything organised. It might be trying new food. It might be expressing our feelings through words rather than actions. It might be being able to empathise with someone else.

Our ‘there’ is just that, it’s ours. It’s not to be compared with anybody else’s. We’re not to feel that we have to constantly strive to do the things that people think we should be doing. We have to continue to hope. And we have to continue to add to our tools to help our children manage more but we have look at where we are. And, if and when we get ‘there’, it’ll be our ‘there’, not theirs.

The best bits

We went to the woods for a walk today. There is a fallen tree that the girls like to walk along. Today, Big climbed onto it like she would the beam at gymnastics, and, totally unaided walked along. This is the first time she’s done this. ‘I need to tell gymnastics!’ she said as she jumped off.

When we went swimming on Friday, Little jumped into the pool and tried to sit on the bottom. When she came up, she announced, ‘I KNEW I could do this!’

Yesterday I went to see my niece. We had a lovely day at the local show. We watched sheep dancing, ferrets racing and horses jumping. And my brother’s dog won ‘waggiest tail’. Fab day.

Enough

Tonight we had sausage sandwiches (Big’s favourite), a bit of pasta (made without mayonnaise because Big doesn’t like it), chopped up pepper and cucumber (Big likes them) and fresh pineapple for pudding (one of Big’s favourite.)

Tonight I have been punched in the breast, nipped, growled at, been told that she hates me (many times), been told to ‘shut my mouth’ and had swear words whispered under her breath at me. Not major things. But really not very nice things.

I realised afterwards that I didn’t really factor anyone else into tea. I didn’t make anything with Little in mind, or me, or my husband. It was all for Big.

We plan everything knowing what Big can manage. We see people Big can manage seeing, we go places we know she can manage going. If Little asks to do something we have to say that we can’t go, knowing that Big won’t be able to manage it.

For nearly 3 years we’ve done everything with her in mind. I’ve spent the whole time trying to fill her up, trying to help her feel happy, trying to help her feel less scared.

But trauma and early neglect and abuse make for a very leaky bucket. I cannot fill it up quick enough before it is empty again. 5 minutes of cuddles in the morning are gone the second they finish. A special snack with a heart post it lasts for about five seconds. Favourite colouring sheets, favourite foods, favourite DVDs, favourite places barely cover the bottom of the bucket before they are gone. Closeness, special activities, one to one, all leak out before I have time to pour anymore in.

One of the hardest things I find is that I find myself borrowing from Little’s bucket. I take time from Little and give it to Big. I reason that Little’s empathy is huge so she’ll be able to understand why she can’t sit on my knee because Big needs it. I reason that Little will understand why we can’t go to the park on the way home from school, because Big can’t manage it. And that’s not okay. Little needs me too.

Sometimes it feels that I will pour every bit of all of us into Big’s bucket and she will still need more. And what then? What happens when we all reach the very bottom? When we’ve all been hurt too many times? When we’ve given her every drop we have and it’s not enough?

I know that the way to fix some of the leaks is to keep pouring. To keep cuddling, to keep knowing what she likes, to keep being there. But just now, it’s very hard.

Fortunately, last week, at a meeting, somebody listened when I said I wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t able to do enough for Big. They started talking about respite but I mentioned that paying for my husband to be off one day a week would surely be better just now. It will allow both the girls to have some more one to one time and for Little to maybe go to some of the places that she can manage but Big can’t.

It’s a hard thing to do, state in front of five professionals that you’re not enough for your child, that you aren’t able to provide her with what she needs to feel safe and happy. But I’m glad I was able to do it. And I’m very glad somebody listened.

The best bits

On Sunday, Big swam a length in the pool. Over the Easter holidays, she swam a width for the first time and she was so determined that she would do a length. It was lovely to see her smile when she touched the side at the end.

Also yesterday, Little decided that she was going to do some jumps. I was with Big on the other side of the pool. She shouted over to me, ‘Mummy, daddy doesn’t need to catch me anymore because I am VERY brave now.’ All the adults in the pool had a wee smile to themselves. And she was right, she didn’t need him to catch her.

We went to see the bluebells today. In the wood there are lots of brilliant trees to climb. The girls ran to the trees, climbing up with no help and exploring new ways to get down. It was good to see them so confident.

 

Scared

This weekend my husband has been away for three bedtimes. On paper it sounds so simple, look after my two children for the weekend. The reality was that by 8pm on Friday, I was probably the most scared I have ever been.

Big was so dysregulated and hurting me and Little so much that I ended up putting Little into my bed and sitting by the door to stop Big coming in. Fortunately, (somehow) Little went to sleep quite quickly. I then sat in the hall for an hour listening to Big scream that she hates me, that I stink, to her listing all the things she was going to do to hurt me next time.

It was totally the wrong thing to do, I left Big isolated and alone but I didn’t know what to do.

This weekend I realised that I am scared of my nearly six year old. I am scared of how violent she is. I am scared that I cannot predict when this will happen. I am scared because I am not always hurt in the middle of a meltdown, I can be hurt sitting next to her on the sofa watching telly, I can be hurt as I pass her a book.

I am scared that one day I will not be able to manage this anymore. This Friday is the closest I’ve come to saying ‘I cannot do this.’ (I am very grateful to a Twitter friend who supported me through that moment.) As I said to someone today, I am giving her as much as I have, but she needs so much more. I am scared that I will never have or be enough for her.

I am scared that I cannot keep Little safe. I am with them constantly. But they have to share a room, Little has no safe space of her own and she wants one. She keeps asking me for one. We’ve separated bedtime. We try to give them as much one to one time as possible. But she is still being hurt.

I am scared that I am nowhere near to getting this right for Big. That she has lived with me for nearly 3 years and she is still terrified. She does not feel safe here. She does not feel loved. She doesn’t trust me, she cannot talk to me, she cannot come to me for comfort.

It’s a hard feeling to admit to. I don’t like it. But I feel I need to say it. I hope that this will change. That we can find a way to help Big to manage these huge feelings that she is trying to manage all by herself. That we can move towards everyone feeling safe.

The best bits

I didn’t know whether to put the best bits in today but it’s probably good to mention those too.

We swam on both days this weekend. The amount of confidence the girls have gained recently still astonishes me. It is one of my favourite things to watch them doing. On Sunday Little swam. Not just a tiny bit but nearly 5m. Then she flipped onto her back and casually started swimming on her back! Happy tears.

Big is choosing to wear her ear defenders a lot more. At school she is actively seeking them out when she needs them, which is a very positive thing to hear.