Advent 2018

I know that it’s super late to be talking about what we got up to over advent, but as I have said in some previous posts, we haven’t had the best of Winters… not that Winter is easy for anyone, but anxiety is especially high in our house from approximately October through to mid January here. And then we had loads of things happen like flooded house, car accident, emergency vets, a 3 am trip to A&E… on top of building works, it’s been quite a time. And this blog is primarily for me to keep a track of what’s occurred so I need to go through it all… no matter how late!

As we do every year, we arranged a calendar which gives the children a bit more focus and reduces the anxiety somewhat (well… it doesn’t reduce it, but it makes each day more manageable). The calendar is presented differently each year – sometimes in a series of envelopes, sometimes in little glass bottles. And in each one is a little message that says what today’s theme is.

There are days and activities that occur annually: Letters to Santa on Day 1, putting up the decorations on the first Sunday, Christmas Eve box .The rest generally follows this pattern (unless the above falls on one of those days:
Monday: Charity day
Tuesday: Craft/Challenge
Wednesday: Christmas food
Thursday: small gift day (basically, something we would have given for Christmas but they can’t cope with much so we spread it out).
Friday: Family movie day
Weekends – family related activities (such as visiting Santa, baking Christmas goodies etc.)

This year, as they are loving the whole West Midlands Safari Park idea, we did the Santa Safari for their annual Santa visit. We got an early slot, so that the kids could beat the busy atmosphere – we won’t usually go somewhere like this on a weekend at a “normal” time of year, let alone a busy one. We got there a little early, and they were first in to see Santa. It was definitely well thought out; they had the normal safari park stuff (no theme park during Winter) so access to the safari drive through, access to the walk around bits and sea lion show etc. but with an area setup for Santa. The kids go went through these little sections to break up the queue; a “sleigh ride” to the North Pole, a walk through a little winter Wonderland to Santa’s little lodge, where they get a photo with Santa and then through to the workshop to choose their toy. The ticket also included a visit to get one of Mrs Claus’ cookies and a hot chocolate. The kids thought it was amazing. Because we have done the safari park and the bits around, we didn’t stick around for the festivities as they really cannot handle it, so we leave on a positive note before they get too overwhelmed and have a meltdown. They loved every second of it.

This year, we added a new event to our advent setup that we think we will continue to factor into our yearly plans; we arranged a Christmas coffee afternoon. You can read more about it in our Christmas and New Year 2018 post… but this meant that one of our days was spent baking in preparation.

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.

Triggers: small and misread

Caitlin was at craft club at our Gym. She fell over, and bumped her head. They checked her over and saw she was ok, physcially, but they aren’t aware of the mental implications. Caitlin withdraws in times of anxious-ness, so instead of crying and showing she’s hurt or worried, instead of saying she needed to go to Mumma or Daddy, instead of saying she feels she needs comfort, she holds it in.

This is what happened at craft club. She held it in. She didn’t get the comfort she needed, Mumma always gives her arnica for a bumped head – this is a sign she’s being looked after and being kept safe. This is not a “normal” response for places like the gym, so naturally she didn’t get it. To her this felt like neglect. She’s only recently learned how to protect herself when falling (arms out). So when she falls, she gets super worked up inside (like someone is trying to hurt her), she needs to be comforted and talked back around from this.

Now, I am not writing this to bash the gym in the slightest; without producing a binder of “Caitlin psychology” I am not possibly going to be able to cover every action/reaction/consequence with them. Instead to highlight how easy it easy to not see what’s really going on, and what the consequence of that is.

So onward to the consequences…

By the time she got home, she was frantic. It was actually Daddy Bruce who’d taken her to the gym – Mumma had stayed at home to do some work. Daddy Bruce and Caitlin still have some patches in their relationship (due to some of the issues of Caitlin’s past) so when she’s at her most anxious it’s only Mumma that can console her and bring that anxiety back down. They had been due to stay for a play in the soft play afterwards, but that couldn’t happen, Bruce could see there was no point so he’d headed straight home.

Some arnica and some rescue remedy later and she was calm enough to have cuddles, but at this point needed to feel the nurture, care and safety she required right down to the core. I asked her what would help and threw some suggestions out there. The response was effectively to become a baby; a bottle of warm milk, some cuddles with Mumma, a blanky, a nappy and some time. She was extremely clingy for a few hours, but once she could settle her mind back into feeling safe and cared for, all was good.