The Nicest Thing he Ever Said.

love you

 

“I love you mum”

“I love you too”

“I love you mum”

“I love you too”

“I love you mum”

Ah that’s lovely, thank you”

Sometimes I like to mix it up a bit. The monotony of replying to that statement can get to you slightly, ok a lot. Actually it’s not a statement, it’s a question. It says,

“Hi I’m here, can you see me?”

Or it’s a need, a requirement,

“Please fill me up with assurance because all my positive self belief keeps draining away”

Sometimes I have to change the reply because I wouldn’t believe my own voice, dripping with tedium and through clenched teeth,

“YEEEESSSSS FOR THE HUNDRETH TIME TODAY, I LOVE YOU TOO”

Sometimes I think,

“You know what? Right now I’m not sure how I feel, if I try and fake it, will you be able to tell? Will you notice that at this very moment I don’t actually want to answer? Will that then make you feel even worse about yourself? Will a smile and a hair ruffle suffice?

When he first said it, and the thousand times afterwards, I was really touched. Then it dawned on me, it wasn’t what he was saying to me, it was what he expected in reply that was important.  Giving to receive, is all part of his survival strategies.

It’s like that ever so considerate question I get EVERY morning,

“Did you sleep well mum?”

How sweet I thought at first. Then, how clever, he’s worked out that when I’m tired I’m not so lovely therapeutic mummy. Survival first.

Or the giant hug I receive on pick up from Cubs, school or sports club. I know what follows, a responsible adult tentatively asking “I’m so sorry but, can I have a word?” Soften her up before the deadly blow is delivered. Survival is always on his mind.

Some Saturdays ago, after a really successful family day, Stig and I lay chatting on his bottom bunk.  He loves this, sharing and snuggling at bedtime. We talked this, that and something else, to be honest I really don’t remember. I was feeling contented, he could have been talking me through the building of some major creation in Minecraft and I would have agreed in an accommodating manner and ooohhed and arrgghhed with delight, in all the right places. I’m good like that sometimes.

As we lay there he stopped talking, I noticed that, and then sighed deeply. The type of exhalation of air, deep from the belly, that indicates the height of relaxation. As he cosied his lithe body up against mine, he said without thinking.

“I rrrreeeaaalllyyy like you mummy”

I could feel the smile across his face in the words he spoke. He had delivered the words from his heart.

We hugged, long and hard and then said our goodnights.

Downstairs I sat on the sofa and cried.

“What’s wrong Mr H asked?”

“Stig has just said the nicest thing he’s ever said to me” I replied.

Story of a Small Boy – Chapter 4

smallboyWhen I first started writing my blog, some of my first adoption related blog posts were about my youngest son, Tink (chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3,). We were going through him being assessed for ASD, and the posts were very much about my concerns for how accurate the diagnosis was, considering the many similar behaviour traits Autism and Developmental Trauma share (see this matrix). A year and a half on I am constantly being reminded of the progress he is making and how far from static his behavioural development is.  Showing again, as I polish my “best mummy badge”, how well we often know our children, above and beyond some of the supposed experts.

I don’t mean for this to sound smug or cocky, it’s just that in the last year I’ve really doubted my judgment at times, especially in the face of some of the professional advice we’ve received. Looking back at how Tink is progressing and how I was right to be sceptical about his diagnosis is just helping me to regain my parenting confidence. Anyway less about me, let me tell you more about Tink.

Tink jumped his bottom on to the edge of the kitchen table, in an attempt to remove his feet from the kitchen floor. A tiny brown mouse was scuttling anxiously from one corner to another with an amused fluffy, white cat and a determined little boy in tow. Stig was trying really hard to catch the mouse, in his cupped palms, to heroically save it from the jaws of Holly the cat. I looked on, calling out instructions “head it off at the cooker”, whilst performing jittery skips and yelping occasionally. I glanced at Tink wiggling his legs to and fro from the table top; his face a little unreadable, he had a twinkle of glee about him but a modicum of worry was also evident. Moments later, the mouse disappeared behind something, never to be seen again, we retreated from the kitchen and Tink said “That was funny but I didn’t like that mouse”.

Later I thought about this, as us mothers do, and realised how different Tink had behaved compared to other mouse incidents we’d had in our home. No, we are not infested, just live in the countryside and the cats bring them in to toy with them in the warmth. And I’m not really scared of the little creatures, but when they scurry about, it does evoke a bit of pathetic woman in me, not unlike the mistress from Tom and Jerry, and I become a bit screechy and a lot jumpy.  Stig is always the brave boy who steps in to save me and the mouse, and Tink usually stand on and watches, unsure of his role. But on that day he had taken a role, displayed a reaction and allowed what he was feeling to just be. I think it was a little mixture of vulnerability, excitement and coping mummy, but the point is he didn’t stand there like a startled rabbit in the head light, he acted on his emotions and then passed commented on how it had all been for him.

These changes are so subtle to the untrained eye, but for a very vigilant mum, I spot them all and our days can sometimes be full of them. There are little expressions of emotion, small glimpses of his worries, a tiny peek at his vulnerability and handful of hopeful responses.

The smallest of statements can mean so much,

“My tummy hurts”

“I don’t like this pasta”

“I won’t go to the dentist, I don’t like it”

“I don’t like it when you say that”

“I don’t like it when you go out”

“Yes mummy, I took Stig’s sweets”

Lets be clear they are statements and not tantrums, they are words, an opinion that often lead to discussion, not a closed door of dug in heals and unregulated emotion. All these declarations mean he is bravely expressing himself, giving himself a voice in the world and trusting that this is a good thing for him to do.

I can’t articulate what a huge step this tiny collection of phrases is, and how they delight me every time I hear them. I must be the only mum I know who felt happiness in her heart to the announcement of “I won’t go to the dentist, I don’t like it”. I mean, how many times must we have been to the dentist? Twice a year, or there about, for seven years. Not once has he complained. With this little phrase he wedged ajar a door to his world, let me in a little, so I could delicately sympathise, probe, and placate his worries.

The grandest, and most often heard, of statements is how much he dislikes school. I know it’s because he finds it really hard to deal with all the social interaction, having to conform to so many rules and instructions and confront his fragile self belief with every piece of work.  However, I believe that it is his ever growing attachment to home and me that is making it all increasingly hard. Home is where he now feels safe, relaxed, welcome and understood and school, in his eyes, holds none of these attributes for him. It doesn’t solve the problem of school, but the fact that he says it, it is still progress.

Of course by expressing his likes and, mostly, dislikes for things, life does become a little bit harder. I have to listen and show that I have heard and value the statement he’s made. So, on the recent trip to the dentist I said that he didn’t need to open his mouth for the dentist, or get on the chair, if he didn’t want to, but he had to come with us. He did actually open it slightly, as he stood in the doorway, ready to walk at any second if he should so choose.

And the school statements are the hardest because, as helpful, understanding and supportive as school is, he would just much rather be at home and with me. I think it’s worth persevering though, because his struggles are not preventing him from learning. In fact despite his feelings, he’s already reached his reading target for the whole school year and has moved to the top group for maths. I know his social skills are still, at times, clunky and inappropriate but as long as those around him can understand why this occurs, then he’s in the best place to develop and improve.

So as I said at the beginning, so much progress is being made and it really doesn’t feel like he’s about to plateau and stop just yet. I’m not dismissing the whole ASD diagnosis, as I’ve also said before, that would be foolish. However, whilst we’re on the up, we shall keep looking forward; right now, there is no stand still in this family.

One Family up a Hill

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One Family Up a Hill

There is a place we can go
When our feelings are low,
Where the wild winds blow,
The cobwebs of trauma away.
A place that Stig and daddy enjoy,
Cathartic for him and the boy,
A walking and talking foray.
Sometimes we too,
Mummy and Tink, accompany you,
And as a family we make the ascent.
To the top of a hill,
Where the view there will fill,
Your heart with the greatest content.
The grandest of landscapes,
Can be seen all around,
And the largest of worries are no longer found.
For the briefest of times
Anxiety declines
And bodies held together by pain,
Relax and revive,
We feel glad to be alive,
And together as a family up a hill.

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If you recognise the places we visit please do not mention them in your comments, as we would like to keep our location private.

I’ve linked this post to #CountryKids
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A Year On

A Year OnTo reflect on the last year, with all its grit and grime, is an extremely hard ask for me. I’ve taken a look back at the blog, one year ago, and discovered it’s a year since my boiler broke and we endured three days without heat or hot water. A painful experience that I don’t really want to contemplate again and that’s just it, most of last year I don’t want to have to contemplate again. I honestly feel that 2013 was the hardest year I’ve lived in all my 41 years on this planet. I’ve never been overly superstitious but I am eternally grateful that I won’t live to endure another year with the number 13 in it. And yet, strangely, I personally, did achieve some amazing things in that year.

I ran the London Marathon and raised a large sum of money for the charity TACT.

I started The Weekly Adoption Shout Out with Vicki from The Boys Behaviour.

I started the website The Adoption Social with Vicki, providing support for adopters, adoptees and others working in or touched by adoption.

I produced a youth play for my local amateur dramatics group.

I became a trustee for The Open Nest Charity.

I made some incredible new friends from the land of Adoption and even got to meet some of them when The Adoption Social and The Open Nest exhibited at The Adoption UK Annual Conference.

Yet I measure my year by none of these achievements, I instead reflect on the emotional rollercoaster that the year was for my family. Allowing my mind to even wander near the edge of those deepest and darkest of downward facing times frightens me. My muscles tighten, my throat constricts, and a sickness is rising from within, from the depths of my core a wave of tears is swelling. So, now I’m taking a deep breath……….I’ve found composure and I have stepped away from the precipice. I’m going to stick with my resolution, to live in the here and now and allow only hope for the future.

What I can say, is that to have survived the year can only have made each of us stronger. We are now taking tiny steps towards firmer and more certain ground and I’m sure amongst these pastures of increasing confidence and blossoming optimism, our growth will become more evident. The children are already showing signs of progress, relinquishing 2013 seem to have made a huge difference for them.

Stig has been managing and regulating his anger in a far more positive way. A contentedness, which he lacked for much of that fated year, has returned and glows softly within him. He is growing up, and I think he is coming to terms with it. Maturity can be a difficult attribute to steer at first but he is taking control and beginning to benefit from, even enjoy, the fruits that it brings.

Tink remains a boy of two extremes. Beyond his cool, astute and steely stare is a soft and squidgy little bundle, which requires the tender nurturing of an infant. The softness at his centre is well protected and few are privileged enough to benefit from its tenderness. I however am being allowed increased access to his vulnerability, as he allows me to assist him, asks for my help and even voices his concerns and fears. As always it is all very much on his terms, or so he believes, I’ve also become increasingly clever at letting him think he’s in charge.

My relationship with Mr H has near enough weathered what has been some exceptionally treacherous storms. We cling to our life together by our fingernails alone, but sheer determination that we will not be beaten by a bad stretch, keeps us holding on. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I know we can get through, but damage has been done and healing may take time. We know however that it is worth the endeavour, as at our core the embers of the love we have for each other still radiate warmth.

For me the last year seemed an endless battle with my old adversary, depression. I struggle to recall any long periods when lightness was in my step and cheer was in my heart. I feel much of my time I was weighted by worries and anxieties for those around me and strained by the intensity of living with those filled with worries and anxieties. I have started taking steps to lift myself from beneath the heaviness and I am learning new ways of keeping my old friend at a distance.

So today I prefer to look at the year ahead and hold hope in my heart for the future. In this vein I will say that a year on we are now on an upper ward turn and I am optimistic we are leaving the darkness behind.

Sharing a Story

StorytellingIt’s National Storytelling Week, did you know? I came across this fact as I perused a magazine at the weekend, and thought to myself “now there is a cause I can get behind”.  I’ve always loved reading with the boys and with my mum, granny, working in library services there has always been an abundance of books on borrow or new recommended reads, littering our home.

Little Tink took to words like a duck to water. I still remember the day when he requested a turn at reading the 20 or so word cards I had stuck on the back of the kitchen door for his struggling older brother. Smiling sweetly, I played along and allowed him to step forward, my smile was soon agog in a gapping jaw drop, as he rattled them off with little effort.

“Oh you can read then” was all I could muster and popped the obligatory reward sweet into his grinning mouth.

Anyway from there on in his reading has been what only can be described as ferocious, completing all the Harry Potters at aged six. So when a child is so eager and happy to lose themselves in a book, it is easy to forget the joy and importance of reading to them.

However, struggling with bedtime and sleeping has brought back a more structured night time ritual for my now nine year old and that has included me reading to him again. I recently chose “The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas” for us to share. I had already read and thoroughly enjoyed it, and was sure that Tink would too.

He is a complicated little soul when it comes to choosing a suitable read. A lot of the books for his age don’t challenge him sufficiently, but moving into books for older children, teen books, can sometimes bring questionable content for a nine year old. However he has a very intelligent understanding of the world for a boy of his age and can recognise and understand subtleties on the page, which he finds very hard to handle in his own emotions.

The subject matter of The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas, The Holocaust, is a huge subject matter to grasp, but he had previously read “The Diary of Anne Frank”, so I knew he already had some understanding. However, as this story is told through the eyes of a nine year old son of a Nazi Commandant, it also requires the ability to translate his skewed perception on the events.  At times we’ve stopped to discuss what is being referred to, or what is in reality happening, and at each point he has known precisely.

We have been reading the book a chapter at a time and at the end of each one Tink is eagerly anticipating what will happen in the next. We are nearing the end and the story is now becoming very tense. Last night as we read, his little body leaning against mine, I could feel him tightening as the intensity of the situation on the page grew, he was truly gripped. Obviously reading stories also gives me another outlet for my dramatic talents, as I offer up varying tones and accents to the characters and intersperse the odd pause for theatrical effect.  Already knowing how it all ends, I am not looking forward to but, will be very interested to see how he responds to the outcome.

So the littlest thing of storytelling has recently offered a wonderful shared experience for me and my youngest boy.

I’ve linked this post with Mummy Never Sleeps.

All the Small Things - MummyNeverSleeps