Last Friday night I was not feeling well and Husband was out for the night, so naturally the kids went doolally. They would not stop picking at each other, crying, falling out. They failed to heed the warning about an early bed if I had to sort them both out again and were eventually sent to bed before 6pm. I wasn't angry with them, I was very calm about sending them to bed, and just said that an early night would clearly do them good. Do me good too, I was thinking, a whole evening on the sofa to myself was just what I needed.
I didn't move from that sofa until I went to bed after 10pm, which was when I found the letter. Son had left a note outside the living room door. This was it:
I am so sorry mummy so sorry that I could do any think for you
and my night mares was when people were scaring me by saying if you go in the boys toilets at school you will diy and my second one was leaving this family.
Love from XXX
p.s. I want to spend more time with you.
Saturday, 14 April 2012
So, everything on here has been about our Son for a while. At home, Husband and I have been trying to make sure that it's as much about Daughter.
Because for most of our Daughter's life, things have been about her Brother.
We understand from our children's older Half-Sister, whom we have met, that Daughter was 'put in charge' of her younger Brother. She is not even one and a half years older than him. When they went into Foster Care, Daughter said everything for Son and Son didn't speak to anyone but Daughter. Can you imagine how much strain that was for a little six year old girl? The Foster Carers said that at first she didn't have much identity outside of being responsible for her Brother. Apparently, it was also remarked upon often by the staff at the contact centre (when Son and Daughter were still seeing their birth mum) that Son got all the smiles and cuddles. Daughter was mostly ignored.
I'll admit, Daughter has not always been easy to like. In truth, she's been easier to pity, but that hasn't stopped her from also being very irritating. She didn't know how to be mothered, because she never really had been, but she did know how to be in charge, how to make manipulate, and how to get in people's faces. She needed attention as much as air and fought, fought, fought for it, even when she was getting it. Trying to make herself visible was so much a part of who she was, that she didn't recognise for a long time that in this new home, attention was just given.
Then there was the wailing, lying, hoarding, stealing and fussy eating. Traumatised? Not much!
None of that was loveable, sadly. And on top of that, she wasn't letting anyone in. Not because she was frightened of being hurt, I don't think, just because she had never had a close emotional relationship and so didn't know it existed. How, therefore, could she then want it?
But we plodded on together, doing our best. And I include the kids in that. They have been trying to make this family work too, despite it all going pearshaped sometimes. Husband and I could only hope that if we gave them our time, that if we showed them love, thoughtfulness, respect, fun, happiness, routine, boundaries and our strength as parents, that they would start to come through. Just like other Adopters. We've read all the books, we've been on the courses, we know all the trauma healing parental theories, we've got the strategies. All we needed was time.
And, lo and behold, I do believe that Daughter has started to come through. She's 11 years old in the summer, and sometime after turning 9 (after being with us about a year) she started to drop a lot of her crap. and there was a lot to drop. Every now and again we would get glimpses of the girl she really was, under all of the dysfunctional rubbish that had served her well when she lived in a dysfunctional family. She got some friends, she started taking an interest in how she looked, got some taste in music, got some hobbies. She really started to flourish.
But. She was still learning about affection and love and she was trying to learn by copying her brother, rather than allowing her feeling to come through. Her Brother was used to cuddling up to Mum on a sofa and having his hair ruffled, but Daughter wasn't. She saw Son doing that and she wanted in too! There was nothing genuinely affectionate about her hugs. Sometimes she would just sit on my lap, like she had seen her brother do, but it would feel icky. Like she was just taking from me what she had seen her brother have or something. I'm not sure. Most things, to her, touch, smile, hugs and affection was about control.
Then this happened. Remember when I put Son in after-school club because I didn't want Daughter and I to be in the house alone with him for a while? And with him out of our faces she seemed able to breathe, and cry, and talk, and I got my first genuine, spontaneous hug from her?
Since then... magic!
Now we can sit and cuddle together, and it's genuinely lovely. Now when she gives me hugs it's because we've just had some nice exchange between us that feels pleasant, and she's happy, not because she wants to control me. And same from my end. I can kiss her and hold her now and it's not forced from me, it's becoming natural.
Spending time together without Son is really benefiting our relationship too. I enjoy doing the supermarket shop with her, for instance! She's generally pleasant to be around. Sometimes we pop out clothes shopping together, or for a walk down the shops or something.
She's still not a great conservationist though! Tending to still just say whatever is on top of her head or say what her eyeballs happen to be staring at at any one particular time, but hey! She's only 10!
She's a gentle soul who sometimes likes to cause mischief. A small, impish child, who likes animals, always supports 'the girl' in whatever TV show contest we happen to be watching, and has a fondness for yorkshire puddings. Kind and clever, stroppy and awkward. Fun.
She is healing. She is loved. My Daughter is great.
To paraphrase the great Aung San Suu Kyi, we've still got a long way to go, but I think we'll get there.
Friday, 13 April 2012
We are nearly a month on from the last time my Son swore at me, and nearly two months on since his last abusive episode.
This is the longest period of anger-free time we have had from our Son in the two and a half years he has been with us. There is still moodiness, and there have been minor tantrums and problems with his Sister, but all that's been manageable so far.
So what's happened?
Well, there was the worst night (detailed in previous post), where I really feel we may have bottomed out his fear of rejection. His worst nightmare happened - he finally behaved badly enough to be cast out from this family, as he always feared he would. He doesn't feel he deserves this family because he's rubbish. He also doesn't want to be part of this family because it will hurt more when he gets taken away again. But he experienced losing us, being banished from us, and found there was a way back. He'd spat at me, told Husband and I he was going to kill us, made me cruel with anger, and yet... when he apologised he was back in with us. Forgiven. Not taken away. Not sent away. Forgiven, tucked into bed, in his home and loved.
There is also the rewards system we've set up. It's taken a few tweakings here and there, but there are five behaviours which we have made clear are absolutely unacceptable. If he doesn't do any of the five, then he earns something good for the next day. If he hasn't done any of the five during a week, he earns something else as well. And if he keeps it up for four weeks, he gets a nice big fat reward. He kicked against the system at first, but after the night that was, he has fallen in line and seems to get a lot from 'earning' his rewards*.
There is also the alternative reward system, where we have given him four ways to express bad feelings, and he can earn rewards for expressing his feelings in those safe ways too.
Another thing we've noticed is how the pair of them, Son and Daughter, drag each other back into patterns of old ways of behaving. They do each other no good a fair amount of the time and so instead of spending time as a family of four we've been splitting them a lot, one of us doing something with one, the other one with the other one. Most significantly on Saturday morning Husband now does Karate with Son, which I think is just brilliant, and Daughter and I go off to do the supermarket shop together. Sundays, we often find time to do one-on-one with them too, and this is working much better with both of them.
And I have been perked up by the antidepressants and have found that little bit of extra acceptance and understanding that he really needed.
Husband and I are being kind, consistent and strong with him.
I have learnt so much over the last year, that I feel a different person. I've had to toughen up to handle the crap these children need to project out. I am finding good ways of dealing with the shame and disappointment that can be the daily lot of mothering damaged children. I'm less screwed up worrying about what I think I should be doing and am finding my way to just doing what needs to be done.
I don't know what the future holds, or how bad things might get, but I feel a solid confidence has grown inside of me, that yes. I can do this. I can be what these children need. Just wish they didn't keep asking me to prove it.
*rewards include Wii time, Bin Weevel magazines, Moshi Monster cards and pocket money!
Thursday, 5 April 2012
I don't want to write this post, but I am going to.
I don't want to write it because I am ashamed of what happened.
I am going to write it because this is the sort of thing that happens in families, adopted families, and not many talk about it.
I think we should talk about it when things go spectacularly horrible.
This is the one night it went spectacularly horrible for us.
So, things had been pretty unrelenting. There was no end to Son's paranoia. He was turning moody/violent/abusive every hour or so, on every excuse, sometimes no excuse. He was horrible to live with. He ruined everything. But we all tried with him. Husband and I tried to see his hurt and love him, give him boundaries, be consistent, be kind. Daughter forgave him every single incident. We all lived as best we could within the family Son was twisting so badly out of shape.
I was trying to get us help. From the GP. From the School. From Mental Health charities. From Post Adoption Support. From Adoption UK. From various adoption charities. From various other charities. From fucking anyone and anyone I could find. I phoned, I e-mailed, I waited in for return calls, I talked and talked and talked and talked. And nothing.
One night, Husband and I were handling him well despite his nastiness. Try and talk and it, rather than try and hurt us, we were saying, we're here if you want to talk. We offered cuddles, and quiet time, and yet, didn't fuss over him, gave him space, carried on as matter-of-factly as we could.
It was not long before bedtime when he told me and Husband that he was going to kill us. I finally lost it. Told him to go to bed, then shouted at him to get to bed, that I didn't want to be around him saying things like that to us, that it was totally unacceptable.
That's when it kicked off. He hated us, he raged. He hit me, then spat at me. He was going to kill us, he was screaming.
Husband, who is more than twice the size of Son, told him to go ahead. Try and kill him then, see how far he got. And Son ran at him, but was of course overpowered every single time.
Reader, I have to tell you that at this time, I truly hated my Son. Watching him going at my Husband, I hated him. I was sick of giving him love and kindness and being spat at and hurt. I was sick of the pain he caused my Husband and Daughter, and grandparents, and the shit he was piling down into all our lives.
So I told him that he apologised right now, or he could get the hell out of this house and this family. He wanted to spit at us? He hated us? He wanted to kill us? Apologise right now, or get the hell out.
He chose to leave.
He walked right out the front door with no shoes on, no coat, out into a chilly dark night.
And I let him go. I told him not to come back until he was ready to apologise and I shut the front door on him. I hated him so much right then. Yet I felt suddenly calm. The idea of never seeing him again flooded me with a sense of relief.
Luckily, Husband was sane that night. He went straight out after our Son, who was hanging around on the front drive. He told Son to apologise and come back in. But he wouldn't.
So I told him that he was not coming back inside this house until he apologised, and Husband said he was going to stay outside with him all night, if that's what it took.
I went back inside. Sat on the sofa. I felt in shock, not just at what I had done, but at how much I never wanted him back in my house again. I hadn't realised that things had got that bad. I texted a couple of good trusted friends, not knowing quite what else to do, and they texted me back, grounded me, brought me back to myself a little.
It took a while, but eventually there was a knock on the door. Son stood there, shivering, teary, sorry. He told me he was sorry and we hugged. He went up to bed with Husband.
I couldn't rest. What had just happened? What sort of person was I now? How could Son carry on living here when I would have been happy to lose him that night? Was this the end?
I was shaking and cold, and yet also feeling oddly emotionally detached. For a moment back then, going to jail for sending him out of the house seemed preferable to living with him. I liked the idea of being in jail where he couldn't get at me anymore.
Even in my dissociative state, I knew that was bad.
This is the sort of traumatic horror-filled fucking incidents that adoptive families have because WE HAVE NO SUPPORT. We have to go grubbing around in the dark, trying to find something, anything, to help. We know our children are deeply traumatised, brain damaged, hurt little beings, and we take their abuse and anger and pain into our lives AND NO ONE HELPS US. What did CAMHS give us when our Son went through a period of wanting to kill himself? It took them a year to tell us they weren't going to give him any therapy. I've now found an adoption therapy package that's absolutely right for us as a family, but we'd have to travel half way across the country to attend the sessions, to the kids home town, during the week too, so kids out of school, husband taking unpaid days off, me letting my business clients down, and all that travelling, all that extra cost with petrol and overnight stays. GP wants to help, but can't find funding. Funding, funding, funding.
That's it. Nothing. No help. You have a nine year old boy who wants to die and take his family with him? Well you're on your own with that one, adoptive mum and dad!
On your own.
You've just chucked your nine year old Son out into the night for hitting and spitting at you and threatening to kill you. Now he's upstairs in bed.
You're on your own.
Now get the hell up those stairs and REPAIR. For God's sake repair or this whole family is going to burn.
I went up the stairs. I asked Son if we were friends. He said we were. I crawled into bed with him and we hugged, and did our silly little 'trust' games. And he talked about his birth dad. Some of it was manipulative bullshit (trying to get me to agree to buy him stuff), some of it was probably made up, but it was the first time that he had said anything bad about where he had come from and all this pain came out of him.
I said as little as I could, and tried to say the right thing when I spoke. About what had happened, I said to him that he had sworn at us, spat at us, hit and kicked us, told us he was going to kill us, and yet, he was still here. I told him he'd probably tried hard enough now to get kicked out, and maybe that was enough.
Since that night, nothing as bad has happened. In over five weeks since that incident, he has only sworn at me once, but he accepted the consequence well, even though he really didn't like it. He is letting me mother him again. He hasn't been screaming. He's dropped the verbal abuse. He hasn't trashed his room or broken anything. We've just come back from a few days holiday and he didn't try and sabotage it. It was a lovely holiday, for us all. Genuinely.
Perhaps it's fear. He's been frightened into dropping the abuse. Which is not good. Or perhaps he's faced his worst fear, being chucked out, and it wasn't so bad, and only now can he relax. I don't know.
Since that night I have gone to the GP for help for myself this time, and am really in a much better place. Not 'talking' help, I'm sick of talking, but chemicals. Pills. They're working. I like 'em! And only now can I see how low I had been brought. I thought I was coping. I wasn't. And I never went to get that bad again.