Slipping

slipping

Things are slipping; I can feel the earth beneath my feet crumbling and as a vile taste of nausea has become lodged in the back of my throat, my balance is being rocked. A heady dizziness stifles my thoughts and I’m not entirely sure what to do or how to behave. I’ve lost my footing and my clouded judgement has left me wavering on the edge.  It has crept upon us again, this difficult patch, stealth like, different aspects of our life have been gently pushing us toward the edge of the slippery slope.

 As Mr H and I put more distance between our recent NHS sessions of CBT therapy, the void of no one to speak to, to guide us, has seen us tripping back into old habits. Try as we may, the weight of negativity is pushing down on those fledgling strategies that can manipulate our minds. I’d say we both needed more time, someone there made a big difference to us, but the NHS say we’ve had our lot. For now anyway.

The resentment is on both sides. I for his work, the ability to turn off and re-focus, even walk away to a business event, a night away in other people’s company. For him, his need for support in the work place and emotional arena is met with an unwavering priority for the children. The reality is a man down on his knees with the financial responsibility of this family and a mother unsure how much more she can take.  We need each other but constantly repel each other.

The children have reached new phases of difficulty, not separately but at the same time. Tink has finally decided that school is not for him and ramped up the challenging behaviour whilst there. Stig is moody and defiant again; a child who seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders but is unprepared/ able to share. Both are spoiling for a fight with everyone and anyone, making it hard for me to look people in the eye during the school run. Real or not I imagine parents staring and thinking/saying there’s the mother who can’t control, doesn’t discipline her unruly children, and worse.

I feel the need to remove myself from society and real life, as I immerse myself into the world where I know I’m understood, twitter friends, fellow adopters. It’s my own take on things, I know it’s not the reality, but my children’s trauma has created a trauma in me. Like them I have a skewed perception of reality and have created my own coping strategies. I’m removing the vulnerable factors in my life.

Sleep comes in short bursts which satisfies extreme fatigue, but what then follows is restless tossing and turning of a body tense to the core. Awake I’m going over and over the conversations, what I should have done what I shouldn’t have done, on a relentless loop. Eventually there is sobbing in the dark.  The tiredness obviously acts as a catalyst to the ill considered parenting approach and does not aid therapeutic mum.

But wait a moment, there is a light. As I teeter on that edge, strength at my core pulls me upright again. It’s unfortunately not endless yoga and palates creating this strength, but a chemical numbing of the depressive state. Breathless anxiety has been replaced by a desensitisation that only anti-depressants can deliver. Thank god. I can take a breath, think logically.

Logically, it’s only a couple of weeks ago when things were going well, we can reclaim that.

I feel the gently tap of friendship on my shoulder, the reminder that there are those who can help.

My mum, my shining beacon of none wavering, being there.

Friends that offer escape and kindness, not knowing the full extent of what goes on is often a bonus when escapism is needed.

Each other, we’ve come through rocky times before, we will move through this patch too.

The warm embraces that my children bring to me, arms stretched wide, they seek my love. For that I am eternally grateful and it still deepens my love for them, daily.

I know that we just have to get through this week. Mr H and I have allocated some time to regroup next week. He has to deliver this final event for some time and I just need to keep my head down on the front line of parenting. Survival is the game for now but not the long term plan. Tomorrow, next week things will improve again.

The Sofa – #TheThingsWeDo

The SofaSo there is a new weekly link up on The Adoption Social, it’s called The Things We Do. It’s an opportunity for us to share those small or big things that we’ve found help support and make life within our adoptive families easier. When I sat to think of some of the things we do in our family, I found my mind drawing a blank at first. I know there are lots of things we’ve done in the past, and still do today, but because many of them are now sewn into the fabric of our family life, it’s hard to identify them as special or even different to what everyone does.

I thought a lot about this whilst out on my run the other morning, and I’ve now mentally made a note of a few to share over the weeks. I thought I’d start however with something that we did for the first time just the other day. We’ve only done it once, and so I actually have no idea yet if it will work so well next time, but instinct tells me that it was a good move and we should try it again.

We’ve been receiving some support from something our local authority call a Multi Agency Team. I won’t go into the ins and outs of what they have (or haven’t) done for us, but the lady who’s been our support worker kindly offered to take the children for a half day outing, just before Christmas. The event came and went and until the beginning of this week I had received no comment or feedback on how it had gone. The children had just said they’d had a good time. So it was with some dismay I discovered that, in our workers opinion, the children had behaved very poorly. Fighting, not listening and answering back is what she told me, “welcome to my world” is what I felt like replying. Anyway it is to be discussed at a meeting next week and that will be another blog post entirely.

I relayed this information to my husband and we decided to have a talk with the children about it. Now often a family conversation will happen around our circular kitchen table but, for whatever reason, we invited the children to come to the lounge to talk. They sat on the sofa and Mr H and I sat on a banquet stool we have in front of it. This meant we were all at a similar level and there was openness between us. We shared with the children, what we had been told and asked them to talk to us about how they felt they had behaved. Now I know that our children find this difficult to do, but from behind cushions we got a confirmation that there had been some fighting and yes they had been told off.

With cushions still clutched to their faces, I reached across and reassuringly rubbed their feet, and thanked them for their honesty. As we talked a little more, the cushions gradually came down and then to finish off we all had hugs. Everyone then returned to whatever it was they were doing before and no heaviness or anxiety seemed to hang in the air.

What I realised, on reflection, was that this less formal and physically more open arena for family discussion, no table between us, had allowed our conversation to be less stressful for all involved. Mr H and I had taken a less authoritarian and disciplinary approach, as the setting had induced a more relaxed style in both of us. The removal of the barrier of the table between us, had allowed the children to see the open posture we both adopted and they therefore more willingly accepted the discussion and what we were saying. The lack of barrier also made it easier for us to physically reassure them throughout and encouraged the hugs we had at the end.

It ‘s a reminder for me that when addressing our children, a physical openness in our stance and being physically at the same level, so as to not appear domineering, is really important. Very often, with small children and toddlers, we kneel or come down to them to communicate but, it’s easy to forget, as they get older to do the same.

So the things we do for us this week is a fresh approach to family talks, instead of the table we shall try the sofa.

As I said this is a post written for a new link up on The Adoption Social called The Things We Do, click on the badge to find out more and read more post.

The Things We Do

The Future

future

Can I be honest, no really honest…do you mind? Here goes then, sometimes my life truly scares me. Not the living the moment bit, the here and now, although that can be quit intense at times. No, it’s the future, what will become of us all? That bit.

In the past couple of years thoughts of the future have become a grotesque and unstomachable monster that lies in wait beneath my bed. In the dead of night this monster plagues me, rolls me twitching and squirming in my sheets and leaves me feeling broken, sobbing and afraid.  I’ve said it before, I think, if not I’ve definitely thought it many times, I have become very disillusioned with parenting my adopted kids.

Mr H and I have reached the lowest of points this year, possibly when we were warming our backs with the Portuguese sunshine; there we were, on our knees, scrambling fervently in the dirt desperate to find the answers. The paradox of being on holiday in the most beautiful sunshine bathed surroundings, whilst suffering the greatest crisis of confidence in our ability to parent, has definitely created unique holiday memories,  it’s not one we’ll ever forget. The questions for which we require answers are many but just for starters, how to stop the spitting, biting, kicking, swearing, destructive and defiant  and increasingly challenging behaviour that has been sewn into the fabric of our family.

Yes we were told that it would be tough and at times heartbreaking, and yes we assured everyone that we could definitely do this but, seven years in I had foolishly hoped things would be getting easier, not harder. That’s not to say that it was ever easy, but the angry outburst of a three year old is much easier to contain and far less offensive and frightening than that of a ten year old. And fatigue has also set in, it’s exhausting managing the emotional stability of two children living with early life trauma and I had reached a place where I couldn’t find the energy to get up and do it all again.

In this tired and disheartened state of mind it is little wonder that the future has posed such a threat. How would it be possible to carry on doing this? How would we ever manage this behaviour as the boys grew? What was waiting around the corner, stealing, drugs, running away from home, all became very realistic fears for me.  I recently sported a painful and colourful bruise on my forearm; I had slipped awkwardly as I rushed to remove valuable possessions from the pathway of an aggressive boy with destruction in mind. I’ve also had to inform school when my son had marks on his face; my nails caught him as I tried to remove his glasses, before he damaged them or smashed them into his face whilst head butting the wall.  Post these events my mind swirls manically, like a tornado. Where is this going? What will happen next? Who will be hurt and how will we ever manage to repair such painful experiences?

So down on our knees no further lower to go, we have asked for help.  I’m not going to detail it all now but the help is coming in a number of guises. I think the most important aspect of the help is the help I’m getting for myself. Worries and anxieties about our lives and the future has drawn the heavy blanket of depression over me again and realistically I’ve been living under this blanket all of this year. I’ve started seeing a therapist and gradually the building blocks of my mental health are being restacked. I am learning to take better care of myself and to be kinder to myself, sounds simple but actually I’ve been pretty useless at self preservation recently.

With a little support in place, the dark cloud have started to part, I can now see what needs to be done. I now realise that I cannot foresee and predict the future, I can’t possibly know what will happen to us all. However, what I can do is help shape the future by what I do in the here and now, and ensuring my own well being will give me the strength to be there when my family needs me. I haven’t found the answer to all our difficult questions, but I feel assured that I will have the energy to keep looking and I have hope that our search will be fruitful.

So as chinks of light appear in our lives, the future is starting to look brighter and that monster beneath my bed is looking for a new home.

I’ve linked this post to #WASO

 

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

#MemoryBox – Cola Daze

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Over months and years we have come to realise that Coca-Cola is not for Stig. It’s never been a big part of our lives, it’s rarely in our fridge, but on a meal out or a special occasion the questions is always “Am I allowed a coke?”

Last Christmas I sat next to Stig at the large family dinner table of my in-laws and watched him place a can of coke to his lips, tilt it upside down vertically and empty the whole contents of the can into his mouth, in one go. The meal was excruciating for me as he fidgeted, flitted and babbled through the whole meal, unable to even concentrate on eating his food because he was just too distracted, buzzing.

So the rule is in place, for Stig there is to be no Coca-Cola, caffeine and him plus a good smattering of sugar are just not a good combination. I realise for him this is hard, it’s the king of drinks as far as kids are concerned. We’ve talked about the sensation it creates in his body and if he likes that uncontrollable rush it gives him, he does. However, we’ve talked about the different situations that have resulted from him being a little wired. Usually we get plenty of back chat and attitude, as if his brain can’t fully engage with his mouth to stop what he’s saying before it tumbles out, something he struggles with at the best of times.  On reflection he has agreed that it’s probably for the best.

This week has seen Stig return to Cubs, he’ll only be there a term before he moves up to Scouts, hopefully. He had really enjoyed being a Beaver and moved onto Cubs two years ago. The late start time and even later finish had worried us, as Stig needs his sleep. Our concerns were well founded as Stig, one morning after Cubs the night before, turned to his Year Three teacher and said ” I’m not doing that work, I was at Cubs last night and I’m shattered”. So that was the end of that.

Two years on and Stig’s need for constant stimulation and his love of being active and occupied and  we’ve decided to give it another go. So off he went this week, knowing full well that there would be no second or third chance, we had been lucky to get him the place as he’d already had a go, so the outcome needed to be good.

I have to admit I was nervous, he has come so far since Year Three, but still, a highly charged testosterone brimming atmosphere is just the sort to provoke Stig, bit like the playground at times. So I sighed a great big body slumping sigh of relief when he returned with a big thumbs up.

“And you know what mummy, they had coke because it was a bit of a leaving party for some cubs and I said no, I’m not allowed it.”

“Wow well done, I’m really proud of you for that, what did you have instead”

” A glass of water”

Yes there it is the proud moment, the sign of maturity, the steps that build our trust and belief. It would have been quite easy for him to have had the coke and I most likely would never have known. Or in the past he would have just done it and lived with the consequences but here he made a choice to follow the rule we set, without me standing over him reminding him it existed. Very proud mummy. Oh and because I know that the forbidden fruits are the ones that offer the greatest temptation I went out and bought a couple of the mini mixer cans of coke for him to have as a treat at home, but only if he sips it.

 

Give and Take

056I’m sat on the sofa, laptop on knee and directly above me I can hear the scraping and scratching of toys on wood floor. The boy Stig is ensconced in his bedroom giving me a little of what I want so that he can have a little of what he wants. He’s tidying under his bed, removing all the tiny bits of lego, odd socks and broken toys in a last ditch attempt to secure canoeing tomorrow. It’s one of those deals, those deals that seem to shape and structure my parenting, especially of Stig. “If you do this for me, then you can have the things you want.” Or, as is more often the case “If you don’t do this, then you don’t get that” So am I a parent or have I just become a very keen negotiator?

The word “deal” featured early in our relationships with the boys, in fact Tink took to it in the early stages of conversation forming, “I watch television, deal?” But really it all started with a star chart. Now I know for some adopted children the star chart doesn’t work and in fact Tink has always struggled with the whole concept. Stig, aged 3, however, took to it like a duck to water. His intense desire for attention soon taught him that by brushing his teeth, star, eating breakfast, star, saying please and thank you, star,  got him some very positive attention and balanced with a good heap of ignoring and time out for undesirable behaviour, he soon learnt what the deal was. Again time out is not for all and Tink again never took to it but Stig seemed to understand and grasp that he got a bit of what he wanted if mummy got a little of what she wanted.

So the concept stuck and has grown, each good day in school means computer time in the evening, hurt another child and you will not only be without computers but maybe television too. Eat your dinner you get dessert, do well in your spellings you can have sweets, tidy your room and you can have your pocket money. All these rewards and consequences are really rather normal but I wonder sometimes if it is all too much, not for the children but for me.

I’m getting tired and probably a lot stressed at the constant concern I have about whether these goals are going to be achieved and the possible fallout of having to administer the consequence if they’re not. Don’t get me wrong I know that Stig has learnt well from these firm rules and an understanding of reward versus penalty but I catch myself often doing the “if you don’t behave for Granny then you will be without computers tomorrow”. In other words I’m always expecting the worst of him and indicating that to him too. I know I could flip it on its head and say “if you are good for Granny then we can eat ice-cream tomorrow” but actually I’d just love to walk out the door and say “Have a lovely time”.

The fear is always there that if I don’t remind him to behave that he won’t and his get out clause later will be, that I hadn’t instructed him on what was and wasn’t acceptable. So I continue to stop and giving instructions before leaving them with others, entering restaurants, friend’s homes, shops and always underline the possible consequence for none compliance. Then the game begins, is he doing as I’ve asked or not? Do I phone to make sure they’re behaving or not? You watch or wait in a state of anxiety for it all to go wrong. So if I’m feeling anxious I wonder what it’s doing to him?

I brokered some new deals with him recently. After a few months of terrible anger outbursts, I stopped to thing what this was all about for him. I concluded “control” a word synonymous with the behaviour of those struggling with attachment. He didn’t like the level of control that was being exercised over his life, others making choices for him, his outburst seemed to centre on having choices being denied or changed. So I negotiated some new choices, some freedom and a little more control for him of his own life.

A new clock radio and bedside lamp (had to remove his last lamp after he used it to burn a hole in his mattress) and he is now allowed to chose his own lights out time as long as it’s by eight and he is allowed to get up in the morning and have breakfast at his own leisure as long as he is ready for school on time.

He is allowed to walk home from school on his own one day a week.

He’s allowed to the local shop to spend his pocket money on sweets.

He can walk to and from a couple of friend’s houses on his own as long as he is going in and staying there.

In return I get no arguing over bedroom tidying, it’s part of the big boy responsibility, and they are all offers that can be revoked in the face of undesirable behaviour.

And yes I’ve already had that clock radio out for a couple of nights over a bad bedtime and he’s already been grounded, no shop, no friend’s houses, for rudeness and lying.

But on the other side, the anger outbursts have lessened and when the consequences of further rudeness is given as no walking home from school; it on the whole has the desired effect.

Last night I uttered the immortal words “answer me back one more time and you won’t be going canoeing on Friday”  “Bothered” came the reply. So this morning I offered the one last life line for canoeing, clear and tidy under your bed properly for me and I’ll consider letting you go. It’s a massive job and he’s been at it nearly three hours, I did give him a biscuit and drink break at 10.30 and we’ll stop for lunch soon.  I want him to go canoeing I really do, I found it and booked it for him knowing he’d love it, but the other thing is, he knows and I know, that I’m not afraid to cancel if I don’t get the desired behaviour. So he’s upstairs beavering away and doing a great job of it. “Look how much I’ve done mummy” he said, last time I checked. So as I sit here still listening to the scrapping around of the tidying upstairs, anxiously hoping that the boy can achieve the rather large task that I’ve set, I do wonder is this the way to do it, to teach these lessons of give and take or is there something else I don’t know about?