From the first moment of meeting the girls, I could see that touch was something they found tricky. Big hid her discomfort by pretending she was fine about it, Little hid hers by keeping busy and not letting anyone get too close.
Over the last two and a half years, as she has felt safer here, Little has changed completely in this regard. She actively seeks out cuddles, she comes to us to feel safe, in a morning she leaps out of bed into my arms and presses her face against mine. She goes to sleep cuddled in close and when watching telly or reading a story she is always as close as she can get.
Part of this is about her being so good at recognising her sensory needs. She likes tight cuddles, and laying along the length of me. She likes deep pressure massages and close contact. She is able to come to us to feel safe and loved.
This has been an important part of helping Little feel safe in our family, being able to accept a hug and a kiss, being able to be close has helped her so much.
Things are still so different with Big. It is so hard for her to come to us for a cuddle or to sit close to us on the sofa, or to let us be close to her as she goes to sleep. For ages I used to be really conscious of this. Whenever Little came for a hug, or whenever I gave Little a hug, I would seek out a cuddle from Big, I would make sure that they were both getting the same.
I’ve noticed recently that I’m letting Big dictate the amount of touch she gets. I’m reading her body language and not getting close. When she wakes up in the morning and I go through, she stays lying down in bed and I’m not reaching in to give her a hug. When I drop her off in the morning at school, she stands ramrod straight with her back to me and I end up kissing the top of her head. When I collect her from school, she stands in front of me, hands me her things and starts walking.
I’m aware that this is about me protecting myself. That the fear of being rejected is making me stop going to her. The last week I’ve gone to bed telling myself that I need to hug her in the morning, but her body language has been so shut down and she’s been so angry that I haven’t. And I know that I need to stop this. I need to get back to giving wee touches throughout the day. To hug when there is no hug back. To wrap a blanket round both of us for a short while.
Big’s sensory needs are very different to Little’s. Big feels every touch in a big way. She is unable to tolerate much and this has also played a part in being able to allow her to feel that she can be close to us. It feels at the moment that Big is actively trying to create distance from me. To build her protective wall further. Today I tried really hard to create opportunities for contact. When I said goodbye to her, I gave her a tight squeeze as she was facing away from me. When I picked her up, I did her coat up and gave her hands a little rub as I did it. When I got her out of the bath, I pressed my cheek to hers.
I’m learning (everyday) that with Big, it’s a long journey. We might never get to the point where she comes running to me, but we might get to the point where she presses her cheek back.
The best bits
Big did a wee gymnastics performance tonight. My husband was able to finish work early to come and watch and she had a wee smile on her face when she saw him. She has found it really hard during all the practices they have done and we’ve had a lot of fall out from it but tonight she did so well. She said it made her feel green (worried) but she tried so hard during the performance. I cried some happy tears.
I asked Little if she would like a piece of cake a few days ago. This is how the conversation went…
Me: Would you like a wee piece of cake after lunch?
Little: No thank you.
Me: Oh, are you sure?
Little: Yes. I’d like a big piece.
And she got a big piece. Because it makes me so happy that she asks. That she is confident that we will deliver.
I’ve been going to a fun netball session for a few months. It is great, we basically play for an hour and half, swapping positions and generally laughing a lot. This week they asked me if I’d like to go to the other training session which is when the team train because they think I’m a good defender. I was very chuffed to be asked and I’m going to give it a try. My fitness is appalling at the moment but as one of them said, ‘If you keep coming, it can only get better.’