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.