9 months ago our two little girls came to live with us. Big and Little. (I would use their initials but they’re A&E and I have a feeling we’ll end up spending a long time in actual A&Es over the course of the years and don’t want to confuse things!) Big is now nearly 4 and Little has just gone 2.
I thought I went into this with eyes that were relatively wide open. I thought that I understood how to work with children who have suffered trauma. I have worked in challenging schools and have seen and heard many things that I thought gave me an insight into what was coming.
I was wrong. Suddenly, after 5 weeks of combined adoption leave and holidays, Mr L went back to work and I was left with two children, one of whom was displaying extremely challenging behaviours. Our ‘preparation’ course did not mention therapeutic parenting. It did not mention that our children were not going to understand about consequences. It also gave no mention to what you do with Little when Big is so far into a rage that none of us are safe.
Because that’s the thing. I currently cannot guarantee the safety of Little. So far this week, in the brief moments that I have nipped to the loo or got the washing out of the machine, Little has been pushed so hard that I’m surprised she didn’t bounce back up, had her head put in the door frame and the door slammed on her, pulled along the floor by her hair, had her teddies stolen in the night and hidden, pushed into a glass door, ‘trangled’ and had everything taken off her that she wanted to play with.
Now, I know that ALL children will do this. I have two brothers, I dropped a toy tractor on my little brother’s head from the top bunk just to see what would happen so I know children hurt each other. But after dropping the tractor I vividly remember the feelings of both shock because I’d hurt him and panic because I was going to get into trouble. Big does not respond like this. She has no empathy and while my adult brain understands why this is, when it’s actually happening I find it hard to cope with. I cannot cope when she hurts people and laughs. I cannot cope when she steals things and laughs.
I know that she’s doing this because Little reminds her of previous trauma, because, as Little begins to come to us rather than Big, Big is losing her sense of place in the world, because her need for control is to ensure that she is safe. But in the mean time, how do I keep Little safe?
We only have a two bedroomed house. We’re looking at converting the garage but I’m not sure playing the lottery is actually a viable financial plan.
We were given no real indication of the violence and aggression that Big is able to display. Their FC last words were ‘she’s not the nice little girl everyone seems to think she is’ which we’re now presuming was her way of telling us that actually she is capable of pushing down furniture and digging her nails into you so hard that you will have an imprint for a week after but because none of this was mentioned before, we’re left feeling that it’s us that are somehow not doing it right.
I’ll hold my hands up and say that we were three months behind with therapeutic parenting. But, if you’ve never been told about something it’s hard to know about it. (Though once I actually started reading, not that hard so I do take on some of the responsibility.)
We adopted siblings because we wanted to keep them together, because we always wanted more than one child. I’ve since read that when adopting you should forget about what would be your perfect family and think about what would be perfect for the child. I understand why the more difficult parts of adoption are perhaps not as widely talked about. But we could have prepared better for this journey if we’d known what to pack. Both children could have had a better beginning with us.
Do I think our two should have been placed together, probably. Do I think Big would have benefitted from being the only child in a family. Definitely.
In other news, Little decided this morning that a nappy is apparently no longer for her. Slightly earlier than we were planning for a nappy to be no longer for her!