OK. I got a few things out of it. Mainly the same message that I'm getting from everywhere else, which is that therapy will not 'fix' a child, and that essentially the parents are the last people standing between the child and its dysfunctions. No pressure then.
But I did have a light bulb moment during the course, which has since continued shining a light on one of my problem areas, namely 'play'. I find it really hard to 'play' with the kids. I always have. Husband can pick up a ball and play catch, sing ditties with them, get down on his knees and fix up a lego castle with them in a flash. Me? Any excuse under the sky not to play.
This has always really puzzled me. I mean, I'm not an 8 year old and so it's not that surprising that I don't leap at the chance of playing Ker Plunk. But the odd thing is, it's not the playing Ker Plunk that's the problem - once I'm playing it, I'm fine - it's the idea of playing Ker Plunk. It's the thought of leaving whatever grown-up thing it is that I am doing and having to go and play that's the issue.
It's been almost like it requires a gear change from top gear back down to first gear, and my engine won't let me do it because it's spinning too fast. That's what it's felt like.
Turns out, according to one of the course speakers, Louise Sydney (psychotherapist and specialist adoption consultant), that that is not too far off what is happening. It's all about the left and right side of the brain. When we play, apparently, we engage the right side of our brain. The right side of our brain is a bit dreamy, so I learn, and imaginative and creative. The right side of our brain allows us to experience 'being'. The left side of our brain, in contrast, is much more logical, sequential and task orientated. The left side allows us to 'do'.
Well, guess which side of the brain I use all day? My days are spent tackling tasks and errands, and I have to keep organised and plan ahead. Even when parenting the children I constantly have to be logical, thinking ahead and assessing the best technique to defuse the constant, little 'situations' that come up. I'd say all of that was left sided. I use the left side of my brain all day to get everything done that I need to get done.
Then, it's an hour or two before the kids' bedtime and suddenly I'm expected to switch brain sides from 'doing' to 'being'. Play, you see, has no real aim, does it? Not like housework, or a phone call, or going to put petrol in the car. All of those things have an achievable aim that once completed can be crossed off a list. But play? To my dominant left sided brain, play is a pointless, time consuming thing that's gets in the way of getting stuff done.
But not to Louis Sydney, it's not! Louis Sydney would have one a big argument with the left side of my brain if ever he met it! Louis expounds that play is essential to brain development, the healing of trauma, and parental attachment and Louis made me see that I don't play enough with my children. I facilitate their playing, in lots of different contexts, but I am mean with giving myself over to play. I spend a lot of time with them, having almost no life outside of them, but I am mean with giving myself over to play. I do a lot for them, my job being to take care of this family, but I am mean with giving myself over to play.
I always thought that was OK because their dad plays with them a lot, they play with each other, they play with their friends. If I played a board game with them or Top Trumps, did some painting or crafty stuff a few times a week, then I considered I had fulfilled my quota.
But it's sad though, isn't it? When did my life stop having some fun it it? Since when did I have to be dragged from doing the washing-up to go play catch? Or since when did I become the type of person who chose to do the ironing over playing a computer game?
So since last week I've been playing with them more. Noticeably more. I'm just letting myself be with them, trying to enjoy the moment, not watching the clock. I'm allowing myself to enter their world a little. And I can already see how this brings you closer to your kids in a way that nothing else can. Closer than helping them take baths, or feeding them food or taking them on day trips.
And I've been watching all the stuff my brain throws at me to try and stop me. I don't want to feel silly. I don't want to lose my authority. I don't want to get behind with all the 'stuff' I have to do. I've been watching and disregarding. I know why this doesn't feel natural to me, I know it's my own 'attachment history' (something I used to call 'my childhood'). My parents didn't play with me. Maybe my dad would play a bit of tennis or cricket with me and my brothers, and we'd all play cards as a family, but that was only ever on holiday! The only other time my parents used to play with us was on Christmas Day when they'd get a board game out! The rest of the time they were busy being grown-ups.
So, I'm trying to be different. Flexing an unused muscle. The kids love it. Mostly. We had major tears last night as daughter regressed to her 'default position' of making herself the outsider, the victim, because she finds it hard to play too. But if I'm challenging my past for the good of this family, then she jolly well can to.