At a meeting at school last week the headteacher asked if we’d seen any progress with Big. I said that I found it so hard to see it because we seem to bounce from summer holidays to start of term to October holidays to Christmas term to Christmas to new term etc etc. We seem to be constantly dealing with the fallout from these things and also dealing with the everyday trauma.
The psychologist said that she felt we had made masses of progress as a family but then she said to the headteacher, ‘But you have to remember for that to have happened, Mum has had to give everything. Big relies on her mum for everything. Physically and emotionally, her mum is doing everything for her.’
And I realised why I feel like I do. Like the world is tipping slightly and I can’t right it.
For over two years I have absorbed my child’s anger. I have absorbed her aggression, her violence. I have absorbed her total rejection of me. I have poured everything into her that I can. My bucket is empty and even with constant topping up, so is hers.
I do realise that it is totally acceptable for Big to feel angry. If I had been given a new family at 3 and 2 months with no explanation, I’d be pretty angry. And I know her anger is hiding her grief. I accept that she doesn’t have to give anything back to me. She did not choose this. I did. I’m not sure I accept that it’s okay for her to physically hurt me, I can’t quite accept that.
But while I accept her anger , I’m not sure how to keep living with it. How to be the parent who picks up a child from school who won’t look at her. How to keep having one sided conversations. How to keep narrating feelings while being kicked in the head. I am full of her trauma. It is overwhelming me and I don’t know how to manage it anymore. I can’t be the parent that she needs me to be.
Big has never mentioned what went before. She has never asked questions about her birth family. She doesn’t talk about her foster carer. When she was placed in foster care, she apparently never asked about her birth family, never questioned why she had had to move. I talk about them. Not all the time but at appropriate moments. I have many one sided conversations with myself about the loss she must be feeling but I feel I don’t know how to help her at all.
For six months, once a fortnight, Big and I have been seeing the psychologist. The sessions are a mixture of play and talking. Big has not answered a single question. She has not said anything other than occasionally talking about the playmobil characters. (She gets the same toys every week and does the same things with them.) The sessions follow the format of I email the psychologist the night before and she uses this as a basis for the session. Occasionally after a very hard fortnight, she puts all the toys away and says ‘Today we are going to talk.’ During these sessions I cry for the whole hour, Big does everything she can to avoid eye contact and doesn’t say anything. I’m impressed with her staying power. I spend six minutes with someone at the moment and I try and offload as much as I can. I don’t know if talking is what Big needs to do. It feels like that might help her, it feels like she is holding everything in and that if she could release a little of it, it might help, but I don’t know.
I am at a loss as to how to help my eldest. Adoption was decided for her as she wasn’t safe but I worry so much that she is still living in isolation. I worry that she doesn’t feel safe here, that she doesn’t feel loved, that she doesn’t feel part of something. I worry about Little and the environment that she is growing up in. I worry that Little’s trauma gets so overlooked in the face of her older sister’s. Some days I worry that I will still be feeling like this in ten years time. I worry that our house is not a happy house, that, because play leads so quickly to dysregulation, I don’t do enough of it. I worry that I will never find a way to help Big fill up her bucket, and that she will constantly feel as she does now.
What I do know is that worrying isn’t helping. I’m just not sure what else to do just now.
The best bits
Every Friday we have homemade pizza and ice cream sundaes for tea. I’ve tried hard this term to make the weekends a bit more special with little treats and nice things. The girls usually watch a bit of telly before tea and this gets paused while we make the pizzas. This week, instead of showing crossness at the telly going off, Big shouted ‘yay’ and ran to make her pizza.
I went on a bear hunt with Little on Friday. Her nursery organised a trip to the woods and she was SO excited. The two lovely bits for me were, seeing how much the staff loved her, they’ve really taken the time to tune into what she needs and on the way back her saying ‘Mummy, I don’t need you to sit next to me, I’m going to sit next to my friend.’ I was so pleased that she wanted to do that.