What do you mean you don’t do formal learning?

I don’t understand why, as adults, it is so hard for people to get their heads around us not sitting down to scheduled formal learning. Our children are not at school for a reason. Well, many actually. But the pressure of expectations is definitely one of them. Formal learning scenarios imply an expectation. An expectation where the response could be of failure, or approval. Both of which can be difficult for someone with attachment issues. I can write a couple of posts at another time about why both can be so bad for children with attachment issues; I write extensively on this topic and can easily amount to 2000 or more words. Whilst it is related, it’s definitely not the focus so I’ll just say: the consequences of both can be devastating. Actually in ways that parents of children who aren’t adopted, don’t have regulations issues or something similar, or haven’t experienced trauma may not be able to always comprehend.

Now, back to topic.

No, we don’t schedule, and sit down to, formal learning, worksheets most definitely happen, they have access to them year round (even if we are on holiday, even if it is Christmas Day). We don’t need to. We aren’t (yet) bound by law to follow a set curriculum. However, I most definitely do teach my children things daily. They have specific, age and ability appropriate chores. They have access to a curriculum program on an app (which just feels like a game to them). They have a Mum who’s a bit of a book hoarder and lover, so access to so many books (moving house is hard work with our collection I tell you) and reading solo, with someone and read to every day. The have a whole cupboard dedicated to craft supplies which is replenished and topped up regularly. They have pen pals. They make presents at Christmas and each card, for each celebration, is made by hand. They have their own bank accounts and now bank cards, so from the very beginning of living with us they have been learning about saving, budgeting and spending. They have hamsters so they are learning the values based around responsibility, compassion and commitment. They learn math and storytelling along our daily adventures.The list goes on and on.

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However, that’s not the stuff that’s important to us. First and foremost, they are being taught they are cared for, loved, worthy. They are being taught how to regulate emotions; how to ask for help; how to seek comfort; how to recognise that they are tired, need the toilet, are hungry, hot, thirsty; how to trust adults; how to attach and separate from someone healthily; how to socialise. Things that other children their age are likely to take for granted. Things that they weren’t given the opportunity to learn. They can’t be ‘like’ other children, until they have experienced and learned what other children have had.

So no. I won’t sit them down and demand they do work. I will build them up until they are at a point where they are open to that challenge. And in the interim, I will nurture them, encourage their creativity, provide an outlet for their emotions over the events of their life, provide a safe space for them to push boundaries and learn what is acceptable or not. And most of all I will be their parent, and will not bend because I am told by onlookers that, from the small window of our life they have seen through, I am not doing right by the children. Our curriculum is tailor made, by an amazing woman who sacrifices and fights more than you know to make their life a better one. Me. And I am the only person who sees everything. I am the only person with them 24/7. I know them. I love them. And I will do what is right by them. Not what is right by the majority.

 

A Mother’s Day out…

I know it’s over with, but as I say, I am trying to catch up with what we’ve been up to.

So this year, I felt that I should mention Mother’s Day. In previous year mentioning it would have been only to moan about how much I do and how it’s just one day out of the year where some kind of expectation of appreciation is placed upon them. Not necessarily worried about a gift, but just not being expected to do everything I usually do in a day.

Well this year was different. The children were very vocal to Bruce about what they wanted to buy etc. So I did actually get gifts this year. Logan wanted to get me a cute sheep doorstop. And Caitlin wanted to wander around Poundland getting me an array of presents in the most glittery bag she could find. Bruce told me she wandered around the store like she own the place, casually picking bits up and sticking them in the basket. She kindly bought me some wonderful things like scouring pads (she loves cleaning, so she thought it was amazing).

And on the big day, there was no housework… we had a day out. We went into Worcester where we had a spot of breakfast at Cafe Rouge – no review for that, it’s a high street brand.

Afterwards we visited Greyfriars House, the Tudor House Museum and The Commandery.

Greyfriars was very good. Tours are given in the morning and you can wander freely in the afternoon. I’d recommend a tour to get the most out of it, as the tour provides the bulk of the information regarding the history that make things more interesting (things you may not even notice unless on the tour). It’s not very big, but it packs quite a bit of history in. There is a small entry free, but as National Trust members it’s a free entry site. It’s just a house in the city centre, with a small courtyard garden. You get information on its uses, extension works and changes over the history of a few key families, and see some original furnishings, wall coverings etc.

The Tudor House Museum was free, I can see why in all honesty, it was not very extensive and was done and dusted fairly quickly. It’s worth a wander around as you’re not paying for it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit. It’s only a few houses down from Greyfriars, and just up the road from The Commandery, so would be worth doing if doing the other two. A few artifacts and some information about the building’s previous usage history.

The Commandery, very interactive, and of the 3 I would say had the most information, and interested the children the most. It explains the history of the civil war, and exhibits a lot of information through different media, some of which is very interactive – pushing buttons, trying on costumes and the like. The children thought it was amazing. There was a small entry fee (costing around £5.95/adult, children free) and it was most definitely worth that.

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Royal Caitlin

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Rolling their eyes at Politicians Bruce and Ariella pretending to debate in parliament

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Soldier Logan

Making Babies: not what you think

There have been many discussions about how babies are made, but this was not one of those situations.

This was a situation where the children were feeling a bit upset by the fact they don’t really know anything about them as babies – which is completely understandable. We have got some information about the date and time they were born, and the length and weight at birth, but that’s almost as far as it goes in all honesty. Their “red books” have barely any info in them.

Well, talks about babies due and babies already born, life changes and development and thinking about their life led to lots of frustration directed at me because I didn’t know. I felt something had to be done. Something they could relate to. Something they could experience. You experience photos with your eyes – but I couldn’t give them something visual in that way.

So I thought… I know the length they were. I know the weight they were. I cut some string to show how long they are now, and then some string to show how little they were. This was quite exciting for them. But the most exciting part came next. Weighing out flour to see how heavy they were when they were born, sticking in it an bag, wrapping it up, and wearing it like a baby in a sling. This felt real. This was experienced. This gave satisfaction. They may not have been able to see what they were like, but they experienced a bit of how they felt. And that was magic.IMG_20180301_164019.jpg

The Bank Holiday Hangover

This phrase has a slightly different meaning to me than it did before. Before it had obvious roots in alcohol and late nights. But nowadays, here, it has to refer to the post-change-in-routine behaviours that are so abundant the day after.

Unlike the change in routine that occurs around going on holiday, the Bank Holiday weekend sees us staying at home and avoiding the crowds that seem to amass everywhere. It’s like, being Bank Holiday weekend means people have to act like it’s a stay-cation and they become tourists in their own area or just a little further afield. Which is great, people bringing money into the local economy can only ever lead to positive growth for the local economy, and with growth comes security and development right?

There are some negatives come with it… things like litter but I’m teaching the children the right way to deal with that (dropping litter is only acceptable in Mumma’s car, if Mumma is driving and you can’t safely reach the car bin – everywhere else is unacceptable). Or traffic/noise pollution, but hey, without better public transport you’re not gonna change traffic, and with fun often comes noise but it’s not permanent or long lasting so…

But the biggest negative for us comes with the children. Busy places, loud places, public alcohol consumption and boisterous groups. All of these things anxiety triggers for the children. And whilst anxieties like this will need to be worked with in the future, right now they can be avoided and the children have so much they are working on, so we will avoid them, or only have them in small and controlled doses.

But the hangover. After 3 days of “hiding” we get the repercussions of our choices. The built up tension of being stuck in a confined area with one another for more extended periods than usual. Perhaps it’s the release of anticipation of something bad happening (and not coming to fruition) mixed in a bit too. As well as the overwhelming surge of emotion that comes with a sudden realisation of freedom.

Either way, the Bank Holiday Hangover involves no alcohol for me (I couldn’t handle a traditional hangover on top). But is just as physically draining. And I know we are not alone, I hear the same things from other adoptive parents and parents of children with additional needs.

DO NOT GIVE UP!

So, the day started with the best intentions of actually chilling. We are only a short few weeks into having purchased our new house and it’s been a bit of a mission. Aside from the general moving into a house-ness, the children being challenging etc. The garden is a mess. Brambles, bindweed, broken concrete path. I have really pushed to try and make things get done as quickly as possible, but it hasn’t been much fun for the children; though they have enjoyed helping their normal routine, toys etc. not really available.

So after taking a quick trip to the recycle centre (to get rid of some of the concrete path and some brambles) we sat down to a treat from the bakery and prepared to chill. I opened up my laptop and it pinged immediately.

The therapist, who I was about to email with our updated address… was at our old house for our pre-agreed therapy session… 30 minutes drive away!

DARN!

So I raced there.

Started an hour late, so instead of having Logan’s session, Caitlin’s session and then an adult session. We scrapped the adult session. Just as the therapists were about to leave, Logan ran, quite literally, into the corner of the playhouse. Gashed his cheek and eye. 2 hour wait in a Minor Injuries Unit and he may have concussion. So low physical and mental activity and keep an eye on him for 48 hours.

Then I went back to the old house to mow the rather large lawn… and I am finally home, at the new house, with my bottom firmly parked wondering what on earth has just happened. But then. This is just a normal day in our household. Things are this intense daily.

And so I look at what has been achieved today. Rubble and garden waste removal started, therapy done, proved that I will be there when he’s hurt/needs me, put everything to one side to make sure he feels like he’s been safely cared for, mowed a lawn, picked up loads more from the old house. And all safely in our new house to end another day together.

Even though the day seemed set against it, we’ve survived and achieved as a family.

Our pleasant chaos.

Who’s fault is it anyway?

I often get asked why the children aren’t “over it” yet. By “it” they mean the trauma of their past, by “over it” they mean, why haven’t they opened their eyes to see how lucky they are?

Well, you see, tonight a perfect example of how differently their brains are wired just got thrown at me in a kaboom kind of way…

We were having a discussion about “how rubbish the day has been” in his mind or rather how it isn’t as “ruined” as he thinks. And then contentment returns, sleep may be possible (note the “may”). But just before he goes to bed a thought pops up in his head “when I lived with my foster family, all of the other kids got taken to school first. I was always last”. The tone in his voice suggesting that it was because he was liked the least. We had a chat. Caitlin’s nursery was the closest, and she could start the earliest. The other 2 children in the foster home were taken to schools in order of the distance from home. He was still in the primary school he’d been attending when he lived with birth family. 40 minutes from the foster home.

But for a child that’s been neglected, abused and scapegoated, the only logical conclusion that anything can have happened the way it did is because they are a bad person. So, because he’s a “bad person” and no one could possibly like, let alone love him, it must be true that everything they do is a representation of that. After all it’s all they deserve.

He went to school last because people hate him. He has the last birthday in the year in our family because we hate him.

This is his true belief. How do you even go about reprogramming those patterns in someone’s brain?

Raw, unfiltered, unedited: Sleep deprivation and manipulation.

Another night of no sleep with a child refusing to, in order to manipulate and control. A fear response. They aren’t in control, they are not safe, an adult cannot provide safety.

So manipulate adults in to getting what you want (note, the want and not need there). What they need is sleep… not this strained and stressful rubbish night after night. What they need is a sense of security in the knowledge that it’s safe to hand over control to an adult, not maintaining control and manipulation. What they need is understanding, compassion and time.

How as a human being can you be expected to provide a constant source of nurture and attention, patience and tolerance, empathy and understanding when you are so utterly and completely burnt out?

I don’t know the answer, I search for it daily. I wish I knew it. I want to be that person. But I feel you have to almost be a robot to not get weighed down by the exhaustion of the lack of sleep. The mental exhaustion of having to untangle these levels of trauma daily. The physical exhaustion that comes from the mental exhaustion of the day. Then the exhaustion that comes from other people and lack of understanding or compassion (or even will to understand the situation, or accept your words at face value). You can’t provide that nurture as a robot though. So in short, you can’t provide it. So you are setup to fail surely?

There is a term “good enough parenting” the name of the person it belongs to escapes me, I’m tired and I have no energy to search… This is an “in the moment” post. Raw, unplanned and developing with my thoughts, but the name Winnicott comes to my mind. Effectively you don’t need to be perfect, you can be flawed, be human, and not provide more than they need. But I do question it in our example. I mean, I’m confident that you don’t have to be a perfect parent to be the best type of parent… But it appears that even if we are perfect 99% of the time, the level of trauma our child has experienced means they ignore (or can’t retain) what you HAVE done, just what you haven’t. And it gets stored up and we’re held to ransom over it.

Would have helped if we’d had early intervention with therapy. But the Adoption Support Fund application wasn’t forthcoming, or rather the application process was not only not forthcoming but convoluted and shrouded in politics that it took ages to get approval once we finally did get it underway. I can see how therapy may help. But, it’s quite late in the day to start. I for one need to go in fresh and motivated. I’m barely motivated to poop when I need to, cause “effort”, let alone attend 3-4 hour intensive and exhausting therapy sessions. But hey, that’s the state of Adoption & Mental Health Services these days right?

And self care could help with the motivation I’m told… Well, if so many professionals hadn’t messed up consequently leading my child to see, even though they can’t trust me wholly, I’m definitely the person that understands them the most, so keep them feeling the least vulnerable and the most safe. Perhaps I’d be in a position to separate and go fill my cup up. But, alas, here we are.

In the meantime I’m left like a tyre with a slow puncture, after almost 3 years of deflating I’m more flat than inflated. But I get a little bit of air added now and again, not enough to fill me back up, but enough to just keep rolling a little bit longer, sometimes depleting that top up and a little more before the next lot. Rolling onward, focussed on the destination and ignoring the miles still to go. (Cause I would just explode if I had to think about it).

Anyhow. This is how it is to think and feel when living these moments. My raw, uncut thoughts and feelings. In my exhaustion. Just here trying to provide a little insight (not complain) over what it means to parent a child of complex needs and such trauma.

Labels and things

So.

Caitlin was given a wheelchair just before Christmas, which was a massive relief because, frankly, I just can’t keep lugging her around in a toddler carrier – she’s not heavy as such, but she’s getting long and so it is very awkward. And, in all honesty, it’s kinda sad for her, she’s very independent and so being stuck to me is not the greatest feeling – at least in her chair she can have some independence.

But I was verbally attacked about it by several “people who care”. When I say “care” I obviously mean that they are nosey and like to have an opinion on things, or feel they have a right to express judgement because they are family members etc. As far as they see it, I am trying to get as many labels as I can associated to the children so that I can get money and have an “easy life”… not even joking, someone outrightly told me that I live a life of luxury because I travel a lot with the children. And that they felt “sorry for the kids” because I clearly just try to “label them up” with various conditions/disorders.

What’s the most crazy is, before motherhood, these people knew me as very anti-label. But I guess now that I am a mother they are viewing me more as this stereotype, stay at home, grab as much of the tax payer’s money as I can, sit around watching Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women. Now, if they said Shadow Hunters, Game of Thrones or something along the lines of The 100 or Elementary they may be closer to the truth but… I’m lucky if I even get the time for that in the evening!

Simple fact is that I get so little time to myself (the children need me to be there) that even when I went for a gastroposcy I went for throat spray instead of a sedative in order to get back to them as quickly as possible (and to be fully present mentally, instead of me needing supervision for the next 12 hours). And that’s after putting my health issues to one side for over a year as the children just weren’t in a position to be that separate from me for a while, and then having to wait a further year on a waiting list.

For now I guess all I can do is just get on with my life and do the best for my children whilst accepting that their judgement is based in ignorance. That they have been so blessed in life that they can’t see the bigger picture for what it is because it is so alien to them.

Can I not just divide myself into several persons?

NB, This was also written before my laptop broke so posting retrospectively

Breakthroughs, transitions, ups and downs… busy chaos. Pleasant and shifting. Time consuming and exhausting. But sometimes, glimmers of the things that could be closer to the “normal” we dream of, and hope for.

Our life goes like this at times, we just have no contact with the outside world as home life spirals into a chaos-at-home rather than a generally scheduled-up-so-extremely chaotic. In fact, I only wrote the words above before I had to stop. Apparently, caterpillar shaped balloons can produce more hyperactivity than Skittles (or Rowntrees Randoms – they are a good example actually, these two are not allowed those… ever again!!). Anyhow, it means they are currently running around my bedroom whacking each other with the balloons, ultimately leading to a trip up and fall… and a knee being rammed into the wood of my bed.

And… then I stopped again for a full 24 hours. We played several games with the balloons and laughed til we fell off the bed (not even exaggerating – me and both children, several times). Then suddenly we realised it was just before “home time” for Bruce, and I am not sure how it got started, but the kids love hiding from him just before he returns home… but there is a catch – the three of us must hide together and giggle whilst he is looking; in the last week alone we have hidden in the shed, on the high sleeper, under the piano and in my wardrobe.

We try to find our fun in the moments we have, and that is sometimes the reason for my absence here. Not just for all the madness and stress. But to actually take some time to enjoy the good. I get stuck trying to overcompensate for the negativity that can sometimes erupt here. But it is exhausting, especially when so much falls to one person. To me. I sometimes sit here wondering when/if it will be possible to split myself into different pieces, with each piece spawning into a full sized version of me, controlled by my mind (the place that will remain whole, and undivided); to divide and be able to conquer the sometimes overwhelmingly impossible task of parenting the trauma my children have endured. And then I remember, if I divide myself for the menial and troublesome, I also divide myself for the positive… and those moments I want for myself.

Ugh! Renting was supposed to be helpful!!!

We chose to rent as opposed to mortgage, prior to adoption, as we weren’t sure what the children’s needs were going to be and whether we would need to move etc. But also because, although it would add financial pressure… it would take the stress out of problems “it’s someone else’s responsibility”. Not to disrespect the house, but you know… if the boiler breaks, I call someone, I don’t need to concern myself with who’s the best person to fix, whether it’s a good enough price etc. etc. I can just concentrate on the children. And that would be that.

Or so we thought.

We were in our previous house for 5+ years, through a family friend who just paid an insurance to get all the work done, and anything they had to do they just got on with. So we thought, when we moved, we should go through an agency as hen they would be on top of things too. But nope.

The day we got our keys we were told “oh, by the way, this isn’t working but don’t worry, we’ll get it fixed.” Well time passed, we had a to unpack, go to a wedding and such. And suddenly I realised 3 months had passed and the job hadn’t been done. Well… it’s almost 7 months to the day since we moved in and the job (which was half started just before Christmas), has finally been completed.

The agency, naturally, are trying to rid themselves of all blame of it taking so long. What they aren’t understanding is I am a reasonable person. A simple acceptance that they made mistake, an apology and assurances that they will do better in future and I would have been happy and ready to get on with my tenancy in peace. But there have been several other problems too. Not least them going back to the landlord and saying I have lied about several things I have told him.

Are they failing to grasp the concept that I am the customer, and they have told me these things and therefore I know the truth? And therefore calling me a liar is very unlikely to make us want to renew the tenancy, let alone recommend that others have their custom.

In fact, I am on the verge of speaking to the Letting Agent Redress Scheme because frankly, it’s not right and nor should they do this to other people. They basically think it’s acceptable to wind the landlord up to the point of him coming to our door (unannounced) all confrontational. Pretty sure that, in itself, breaks the tenancy agreement.

Anyhow, the kids were here when he turned up, and that’s why I have been absent. They heard it all. Cue self harm, anxiety, sleeplessness and meltdowns.

I have had enough of being stuck under someone else’s rules and restrictions. We aren’t allowed to even put pictures/posters up, get a pet or even add a splash of colour/put up border or anything for the children. And yet, we are allowed to be called liars, not have work done in a reasonable time frame and be talked down to at our own “home”. We will move when this tenancy is up, and by the time the lease is up on our next tenancy, I will have a mortgage underway.

When I get an idea in my head, I am one determined little beast, so watch this happen! hehe

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