“When are you sending them back to school?”

  • “You’re getting more settled into a permanent home, the kids are more confident than they have ever been, they are actually learning now and thriving in the life you have given them… when are you sending them back to school?”
  • “How are they gonna do their SATs?”
  • “Well, what are you going to do at GCSE time?”
  • “How can you be sure you aren’t going to ruin their futures by refusing to send them to school?”

Common themes of conversations now that we are in our permanent space and settling.

Well let me put it this way, I can’t actually know for certain what they will achieve in their futures, but I can say with conviction that right now it is the best (and only) option. Their therapists have put it in black and white that with their combined issues “neither child can be in a classroom at present”. Not from my pushing, but from their personal assessment, observations and findings. A school institution cannot have a positive affect on their development, health and well being right now. But guess what? Home life does.

Right now they are trees with broken roots, replanted into healthy soil, being nurtured and encouraged to grow and develop. They need time for the roots to establish themselves and grow. Then they can flourish. And who knows, at some point in the future that may involve school. But if we put them into school right at this moment, they’d be unhealthy trees, overshadowed by taller, more established trees, unable to get enough sunlight through the healthy canopy towering above them, but healthy enough to not just topple and die. Existing, but never truly flourishing.

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I have days where I find it hard, but I am never ever in doubt that this is in the best interest of the children. Bruce is the same, he has days where he doubts whether this is the best thing for me (given that I never get a break), but there’s never any doubt about the children’s best interests. School is not in the vision. But our lives, as ever changing as they are with the children’s needs, are ever changing.

Settling Developments part 2

Continuation of part 1

For Logan, things have been slightly more complicated, he was 6 by the time he came to live with us. By this time, he had been through so much with birth family, foster family, school and various professionals that he had learned that adults aren’t trustworthy. That’s how his brain has developed, these patterns are ingrained, it’s all he’s ever known and it’s all he knows to keep him safe.

For the longest time, there has been this rejection, flat out hatred at times, towards me. For Bruce, things have been slightly easier; Logan has an underlying need to please men and get a positive response from them. So, at the beginning of being placed with us, he targeted Bruce and got the reactions he needed meaning their relationship has been fairly positive. But because Bruce works midweek and was only, really, around at bed times then, it hasn’t formed into a proper secure attachment, so that can’t be transferred. And It means that Bruce hasn’t been there for the “no” conversations.

I think I have been the first woman to ever offer constant, and consistent, firm but fair boundaries. This has been a hard pill where someone is used to manipulating every situation (to his desire) is concerned. It’s like untangling a matted ball of twine where you accidentally end up with a big loop that in its own turn gets tangled as you are untangling the rest; you need the twine whole, you can’t just cut the knots out, you must unravel each one and tease it to the place it should lay. But, he is the one that needs to untangle it, and he needs to trust the guidance of adults to take him to this place of vulnerability – which is such a catch 22.

School made everything worse, things were far too complicated. His history with schooling (and him learning that school is a place where he can literally do what the hell he wants) added to the things quite major he was processing & the lack of sleep meant that the complications of separation, mixed with his confused rejection of us as parents and the pressures of the classroom was all too much to cope with. There was violence at home, trying to run away from school, meltdowns the works.

The move to home education helped, because I was in control of most of the variables he encountered. But really until we moved out of the stagnant dead water our old house had become, we couldn’t move forward. Moving into our new house, things started changing quickly. First it was just saying about how this felt like “our” home, and that in our old house Logan didn’t feel that it was his and Caitlin’s, like it was mine and Bruce’s and they just lived there.

But 8 weeks after having moved, and we’re having conversations about how he loves living in this family. How he feels like we aren’t the bad guys anymore, how in his head he can see that this is where he belongs, that he’s loved here and he’s safe. Which is amazing, I can’t even begin to say how big this is. His letting the barriers slip, the walls are crumbling, We have moments where we can actually see his vulnerability, albeit brief and fleeting. But they are there. They were not before.

Sometimes in life you must take risks. Even if the choice you make doesn’t work out for the best you have to try; if you are stuck in a rutt that isn’t improving, and there’s a risk you can take that could improve things, it’s better to try and fail, than to just stay stuck, treading water and not moving forward. For us, this time, it has paid off. It won’t always. But today, I am just thankful.

Settling developments part 1

Since being back from Santorini, my near breakdown experience of physically and mentally exhausting myself to get this new house in order has paid off greatly.
I know my children very well, and though they love going on holiday, they always know it is temporary and by the end are longing for their home comforts; knowing what that “home” looks like in a complete picture and not a broken, cluttered and incomplete image was essential to them being able to have that focus. In the end, it made our transition to home life much easier. Santorini was our cut off, everything up until then was chaos (including our travel there and back), but then in getting home, to a nicely cleaned and unpacked, well ordered place created calmness and tranquillity.

And that was essential for them to feel upon our return being able to tune straight in to restored calmness upon a return home from a stressful journey says everything our children need to know about being part of a family, having a stable home and feeling safe. Messages that are so hard to instil upon children who have suffered such things as early childhood trauma, being pushed through a foster system, losing family members, not knowing a permanently stable and safe & loving environment. Yes, even when you are several years into an adoptive placement, it is hard for the children to accept that you will be there forever. So now, several weeks after being home from Santorini, let me share with you on why I feel so much joy.

As Caitlin’s developments are both the thing that happened soonest, and the least complex, I shall share her story first.

For both children, night time has always been a period where anxiety is high; due to their past experiences, it is hard for both children to seek help, support or comfort during the night. The prospect of seeking that help is far too scary for them to imagine. Remember back when you were young and had had a nightmare, and you were too scared to do anything but lie under your blanket and hide and ignore reality, we’ve all been there at some point I’m sure (hell, I know adults who still get like this at times). For these two this is amplified by negative experiences at night time. So even just needing the toilet, or being thirsty, you know… our most simple basic needs… yep even these are equal to that nightmare that triggers your primal fight or flight response.

Unfortunately, a consequence of this is that, for those who have not been taught sufficient healthy ways to deal with emotions and how to regulate emotion, it is very hard to do something healthy as a response. For Caitlin, this meant she would completely withdraw, and start self harming. I don’t mean like headbutting something – although this has been known in lesser anxious situations, I mean literally clawing at her legs, drawing blood, and yet still continuing to do so. Until the point of us coming in to check on her and finding her in this situation, or even worse her waiting until morning to show her she’s covered in blood. On the odd occasion she’d get so desperate for the toilet, that the fear of her wetting herself overpowered her fear of calling us/getting our attention that she would cry and have a panic attack.

Then with the increase of anxiety about school, about home life, she was unable to separate from me, particularly at night time, were she would literally have to be touching me in order to get any kind of rest at all. And now, she is happy to go to bed ahead of me. Sometimes in her own room, sometimes on a metal framed camp bed next to me in my room, sometimes waiting in my place for me. But she also gets out of bed anywhere up to 10 times a night to seek comfort, go to the toilet or check that we still exist. I hear parents of birth children who’ve led sheltered lives across the globes say “wowee, it’s annoying as hell isn’t it?”… yeah it could be, I can see that. But each time I can’t help but get overwhelmed by how much of an amazing development this is. I can’t help but smile and embrace it. How can you not be happy about your child feeling safe and happy enough to be an annoying pain in the toosh?