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The above is very true. And the most of the time, I acknowledge and respond in the right way. I recognise that my child is hurting and that I need to recognise how she is asking for help.

What it doesn’t say is that even when you respond in a loving way (nearly every time), they will keep asking in unloving ways.

Even when you spend all your time thinking about how you can help them, how you can make things slightly easier, how you can change things/move things/do different things to make even a single part of their time even a little bit easier, they will respond in unloving ways.

That when you’re responding to their unloving ways in a loving way, you also have to minimise the impact of everything on their sibling. While trying to manage the impact on you.

That you can sleep on the floor on the living room, to ensure that they have their own space, and they will still spend most nights up until ten o clock hurting you.

That when you’re trying desperately to respond in a loving way, they’re throwing all the love back. (Sometimes literally by selecting the heaviest things to throw at you so they can hurt you the most.)

That when you’re trying desperately to respond in loving ways, that love is emptying out faster than you can pour it in. And as much as you try to fill it back up, it will empty before you have time to catch a breath.

That they will always need more, even when you’re so empty you have no energy for anything, they will always need more.

That responding in a loving way to a child who is unable to be loving, is quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Every night this week I’ve gone to bed thinking that I have nothing more to give. And everyday I’ve had to find more. And I’m sure tomorrow I will too. But just now, it’s really hard.

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A Little bit of the good

It would be fair to say that things are ‘not good’ here. So far away from good in fact that I feel like we’re just about clinging on. I keep trying to write about it but it’s too hard just now.

So I’ll tell you about my Little one for a bit. I’ll tell you that last week when we took our bed down and moved her bed in so it looked like she had a bit more of a ‘proper’ bedroom, she walked in and whispered, ‘Wow, thank you so much mummy and daddy.’

I’ll tell you that her face lights up when I go and pick her up from school.

I’ll tell you that that after nearly 5 weeks, she seems to have made a wee friend at school and is a wee bit happier to go.

That when I got home from work yesterday I was invited to a tea party and that it was a ‘VERY special tea party and that there was tea or coffee or pizza.’

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That when she’s going to sleep she whispers things about her day and holds my hand tight.

That when I blow her a kiss, she tells me, ‘Thank you mummy, I’ll keep it in my heart.’

That she likes to check that the invisible string between us still works by standing in the bedroom and shouting, ‘Can you feel it?’

That she asks me what ‘those boys and girls at your school were learning about today?’ when I get home from work.

That if a bird lands on the feeders she says, ‘SHUSH, move slowly everybody!’

That her favourite thing is to swing as high as she can. Wherever she is.

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That she’s been through an awful lot in the last five weeks. And she’s able to come to us when she needs help. And that hopefully we’re helping her even a wee bit.

The best bits

After being at school for nearly five weeks, Big was able to wave at Little in the lunch hall today. She told me about it.

Little has discovered ‘writing’ this week. She is so excited to be able to communicate things and has asked for a special writing book.

Three years ago I was the nursery teacher at school. In my current role I’m seeing some of them again which is lovely. One of them has now got a diagnosis of ASD. During his IEP meeting his dad said that he was really pleased his son had me as a teacher again as I had gone to huge efforts to ‘really get him’ when he was in nursery.

A (nother) meeting

Last week something happened that I felt the need to phone post adoption support about. The response to this was, ‘No, we don’t think that this has happened but we’re all in agreement that the girls are to be kept apart or supervised at all times.’ It might be me but I feel the translation of that is, ‘We do think that this happened but we’re not prepared at this time to do anything about it.’

Today our post adoption support worker and a senior social worker came out to have a ‘chat’ with me. In the first five minutes of them being here I was asked:

‘Do you want Big here? Do you love her? Do you treat them the same? Are you making her feel secure? Are you telling her that this is her family? You know that Big will be feeling more insecure because she can see how settled Little is here?’

I was told: ‘It’s very unusual after three years for a child to feel so unsettled. Usually by this point there’s not as many problems as this. Usually by now, they’re not talking about wanting to go and live somewhere else.’

I was told by the post adoption support worker that she had observed them playing and she had seen Little being quite excluding towards Big. This was during the summer holidays, I tried to explain that Little is generally the most forgiving child in the world but had probably had enough of having every aspect of her life controlled by Big and was having an off day. Apparently that was me showing ‘constant favouritism’ towards Little.

I asked if we could possibly get some money to put towards a fold out bed as we’re currently sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor as social work have said that the girls need to have their own room. ‘No. But this isn’t sustainable, you can’t sleep here forever.’

Before the ‘chat’, I felt anxious and incredibly worried because I already knew that the ‘chat’ wouldn’t be about support, it would be a list of my failings as a parent.

And I have failed Big. I know that. There are many things that I wish I could change, that I wish I could have a second chance of. But nobody told me how hard it is to love a child who is unable to love you. And sometimes I find it really hard and sometimes I do pull away because I’m protecting myself. And I know I shouldn’t, I know it’s the worst thing I can do. But I cannot be perfect all the time.

But hearing a list of my failings from people that should be supporting us as a family is not supportive or helpful. Nothing that happened in the ‘chat’ allowed us to move forward. There were no suggestions. There was no, ‘Have you tried..?’ It was simply a chance for them to say, ‘You need to do better. You need to make Big feel secure here. Clearly, you’re doing everything wrong because nobody else is having these issues.’

So I do not feel too great tonight. Once again, I tried to get some support for us a family and once again, it resulted in me being told that I’m doing a bad job. It’s hard to keep asking when it results in feeling this way. But I will keep asking.

The best bits

Big managed to do a running jump onto the springboard tonight at gymnastics. She’s never done it before and she really went for it. I was very proud.

Little is having a time of it at the moment. There’s a whole heap of things going on for her. This morning I said to her, ‘Oh my goodness, is this tummy saying it’s hungry? Is this tummy saying it’s thirsty? Is this tummy saying it needs the toilet?’ ‘No mummy, it’s saying it needs a mama cuddle!’

Two very different days

On Friday I took Little to the hospital to have grommets put in and adenoids taken out. Almost two years ago exactly, I took Big for the same thing.

In the car on the way, Little chatted the whole way. Topics ranged from ‘Can we see Australia’s clouds?’ ‘Is it going to be Spring in Australia next?’ to ‘What’s that button for?’ When I took Big she wasn’t able to ask anything. I chatted away and she couldn’t manage anything other than yes or no.

Little wanted to know everything about what was going to happen to her. Big asked nothing. (I told her what I thought she might want to know but I’m not sure if I told her what she was wondering about.)

Little expressed many feelings while we were waiting. ‘I’m scared.’ ‘I’m bored.’ ‘I’m hungry.’ ‘I’ve answered all these questions already!’ Big was silent.

Little checked I was a with her the whole way to theatre. Big couldn’t make eye contact at all.

Little kept her eyes on me the whole time they were putting her cannula in. Big looked at the nurse.

When I went to get Little after her operation, I could hear her shouting for me as soon as I got out of the lift. Big hadn’t asked for me at all.

When we got back to the ward, Little cuddled in for two hours. Big needed to be up as soon as we got back.

On the way home in the car, Little fell asleep. Despite having had only had six hours sleep in the hospital, Big stayed awake the whole way and couldn’t nap at home.

Hearing my child screaming for me was one of the hardest things I’ve had to hear. But seeing my child not be able to scream for me was harder. Little screamed because she knew I’d come. Big’s still not sure. I am not a safe place for Big. She has never napped here, never fallen asleep in our arms, never asked for something special, never just been still with us. I cannot imagine how she must have felt waking up in a bright, noisy room, full of strangers, in pain and not being able to ask for someone to come.

I really hope that one day we can become a safe place for Big. That one day I will hear her screaming for me to come because she trusts that I will.

The best bits

Big went to a girls rugby session at school last week. She made the choice to go all by herself, none of the other girls in her class went and she still went. Her class teacher followed at a distance and said she tried really hard.

After her operation Little was saying her tummy hurt. The nurse explained it could be air from having the breathing tube in and that she might need to trump. A bit later I asked her if she’d done a trump. ‘NO, that smells like a BOYS trump to me!’ My husband was the only boy in the room at that point and she looked at him very pointedly!

 

Change

Big is going into P2, change.

Little is starting P1, change.

I’m going back to work, change.

Grannie and Grandad are moving here, change.

Grannie and Grandad are going to be taking them to school, change.

Grannie and Grandad will be picking them up from school, change.

I won’t be there at the end of school, change.

PE will be on a different day, change.

Little will be in the playground, change.

And so many more.

For Big, everything is changing. Again. Her whole life has been so full of changes. These changes are big ones. They’re all happening at once. Change is ‘not good’ in our house. Change is scary, change means everything is changing. Change is to be fought. And fought and then fought again. It is less scary to be angry about it than be sad about it. Than to talk about how change makes them feel.

So she’s fighting. And she’s fighting me. I’m the reason for these changes. I’m making the world an even scarier place. So she fights. There have been brief moments where we’ve talked about the fear. But it’s mainly hidden behind the fight and I suspect there’s more fight to come. Change is coming to a very wobbly, very insecure base. I hope I’ve got enough to keep the base propped up.

The best bits

Big swam 2 consecutive lengths of the pool yesterday. She worked so hard to do it.

For the first time in 3 years, Little fell asleep without me being next to her. She said she felt okay and that I could go. I sat outside the door, when I peeked in, she was fast asleep.

 

 

This week…

This week I have been kicked, punched, bitten, had boxes thrown at me, had books thrown at me when I was driving and had my hair pulled.

This week I have watched other children run back to their parents because Big’s meltdown was so terrifying.

This week we have bought school shoes.

This week we had a picnic on the other side of the loch.

This week my husband nearly crashed the van on the way back from the loch due to how Big was feeling.

This week I have been told that I am a rubbish mummy, a ‘not real’ mummy, a stupid mummy, a ‘poohead mummy’, and many other forms of this.

This week I have slept on the living room floor as Little didn’t feel safe being in with Big and she was in our bedroom.

This week I had a conversation with the PASW that involved the comments, ‘Oh, there’s nothing we can do to help with that.’ and ‘Oh, gosh, that’s not really sustainable is it?’

This week we’ve had nowhere near enough sleep.

This week Big and I decorated each other’s handprints.

This week has been trying to get ready for returning to work.

This week I have ordered more books on how to be a better parent to my traumatised children.

This week I have been a not very good parent to my traumatised children.

This week has had me thinking about the future.

This week has left me feeling scared.

This week has been a week.

Bubbles

At the moment it feels that everything is a bubble. There are so many bubbles.

Going back to work is a bubble.

Little starting P1 is a bubble.

Big going into P2 is a bubble.

Wondering if Little is going to be able to wear any of the clothes we’ve got her for school is a bubble.

My relationship with Big.

My relationship with Little.

The girls’ relationships with each other.

How much time I spend with Big compared to how much time I spend with Little.

Trying to get people to understand our needs.

Birth mum currently living in our small town.

Little needing her own safe space.

Working out where we’re all going to sleep to allow this to happen.

Trying to get somebody in social work to speak to us.

Trying to work out different ways that we can help Big.

Trying to remember if I’ve told Little’s teachers everything that I needed to.

Little telling me she doesn’t feel safe.

Trying to find time that I can give them each some quality time.

Reading something new and realising how wrong I’ve been getting it.

Getting the food shopping.

Trying to get through the day and hope the girls are having wee bits of fun.

Still not knowing what I’m actually going to be doing when I go back to work.

Finding ways for them to be in the same space without Little getting hurt.

Trying to lower expectations.

Realising that even when I think we’re doing vaguely okay, we’re not.

Slowly realising that not even everything will ever be enough.

Keeping on being loving and kind and open when it’s constantly met with aggression, rudeness and unkind words.

Working out arrangements for what the girls are going to do when I go back to work.

Trying to help everybody get enough sleep.

Being a voice for the girls.

Working out and resourcing fine motor games to help Big.

Trying to help Little with her sensory needs each day.

Reflecting on the day and wondering where it could be different/better/easier.

All of these things are bubbles. Some are huge bubbles, some are small bubbles. And there are many more bubbles. But it feels as though that I can’t have anymore bubbles. One more big one and everything will explode everywhere and we won’t manage. I feel at the moment that I’m not doing enough for either of the girls and they’re really struggling. The next few months are going to be tricky. And there’s just too many bubbles.

The best bits

We went out on a stand up paddle board last week. The girls were awesome. Big lay on the front and was quite still and Little had amazing balance. We had a fab visit from a lovely Twitter friend and her girls (and her!) were amazing on it too.

We’ve had a very busy, quite sad weekend. Little was able to take herself to their bedroom and give herself the time she needed. She was able to voice that she didn’t want a kiss goodbye. I was very proud of her.