This afternoon, Big threw a bowl at me. (Little’s sick bowl, which fortunately, was empty.) It caught me on the foot and really hurt. And I got cross. Because I’d been hurt, because I was scared and because neither of us felt particularly in control at that moment.
I got Little out, Big followed, she was still clearly very upset so I didn’t say anything, I just kept relatively close to both of them and tried to let her calm a bit. When she was a bit calmer, I tried to repair.
But the thing is, Big doesn’t let me repair. Every time something happens I try to talk about it, I’ve drawn pictures, I’ve used feelings cards, I’ve tried many things but she can’t reflect on it at all. It’s like it’s never happened. Often she screams in my face until I stop talking or the violence starts again as she desperately tries to regain control of the situation. Recently she’s been a cat at this point. Rubbing her body against mine, licking me and purring. She is not part of the moment at all.
My brain understands why she can’t do this. To think about something that has just happened and talk about it might lead to thinking about things that have happened before and that’s too scary. She is locked up so tight because she’s terrified. She’s lived with us for 19 months and she’s just as scared as she was the day she moved in. My brain understands this but my heart is still looking to make it slightly better for her. How can I help her not have to do this on her own anymore?
I’m Big’s fifth mother figure. She was 3 and 2 months when she came to us. So at 3 years old, she’d already trusted 4 other people to look after her. I understand why she can’t trust me enough to share. I’ll leave her too. Everyone else has ‘left her’, so I will too.
In fact, Big had closed down before she came to us. When we got the girls’ paperwork through, I read a sentence that says ‘There is some concern that neither of the girls, but especially Big, have not made any mention of their family’. (Little was 11 months when she moved to their foster carer, Big was nearly 3.) My oldest child was moved to another family by people that she didn’t know, late at night and when she woke up in the morning, she didn’t ask where her family were, why she was there, when would she be going home. She has put it all in a box labelled ‘do not think about’ and she can’t think about it.
And then I come along and gently try to make her think about it, to try and ever so slowly take the lid of that box and for her, it’s a reason to keep me at arms length, to not engage me.
I know now how crucial that sentence is. I know that if a nearly 3 year old isn’t asking where her mummy and daddy are, that that means an awful lot. But 19 months ago, I didn’t understand the significance of it. (I know I should have done but I didn’t.) There would have been so many questions that I would have asked but I didn’t. My husband raised it in the mediation meeting we had and the girls’ social worker said ‘Oh, I didn’t write that bit.’ Not, ‘Oh yes, I can see how that would be very worrying and I wish I’d picked up on it at the time.’
I’m not really sure where this post is going. But the lack of repair is keeping me awake at night. We seem to bounce from explosion to explosion with nothing in the middle. I’m not sure what else I need to be doing to help her. Or if she’s ready for me to help her. Or if it needs to be somebody else that helps her because she doesn’t trust me enough for it to be me. Or if for that vey reason, it does need to be me, so that trust can be developed.
So once again, I don’t know. The wondering if I’m doing anything at all ‘right’ or helpful never goes away. I do know that my daughter is in a lot of pain and she’s dealing with it by herself. And she’s 4. I know that this cannot be a good thing. But I don’t know how to change it.
The best bits
It was Little’s birthday last week. She actually ended up with a tummy bug, wee toot but in the morning, she came skipping into our room and asked, ‘Is it my birthday now?’ She said thank you for every present she got and was so happy. There was no control, there was no anxiety, she was just happy.
We had three days off nursery last week for mid term holiday. I took the girls to the beach, we went to the park and we baked. And I didn’t dread it. I was quite anxious but I didn’t dread it. Progress I think!