Just Plain Tough

I doubt those supporting vulnerable children, in schools, up and down the country, know what feeling truly isolated in life feels like. To have a sense that no one wants to stick their neck out and actually give you a little support. It must feel so warming to go along in your life, knowing you’ve done your job for the day, looked after “those difficult children” but thank goodness, that you can now return to a normal life with a normal family.

The safe structure of your school rules, inflexible and heartless, giving you the backbone to stand by your every judgement and ruling. Happy to take the supporting, whole, not just a hand, of a parent who only wishes to have her children understood, seen with compassionate eyes and given the break that they dearly need. But when you turn your back and announce school rules for the meaning, there is no need to think about them once again. No you don’t have to consider the way your actions may ripple through the family’s emotional wellbeing. You don’t have to worry about the doctors appointments required to increase medication, mood moderators, tablets to support you through those endlessly sleepless nights.  The cancellation of activities that aim to offer a level of freedom to some who are chained to their family, through love, dedication, necessity.

It’s ok that the chain extends as far as the school, that way this parent can always be there as and when you need, when you can’t do your job, can’t support these children.  You assure me you are trained and experienced in dealing with attachment, where is the attachment focus in the sentence? “We don’t have time to get to know your son” .

That’s when you enjoy pointing your gnarly little finger and poke at the already vulnerable people, that you know can’t retaliate.

“You are the parents, this is your fault, we of course did nothing wrong”.

Oh don’t worry, you are not the first, I’ve seen that finger repeatedly over the years, when you don’t really know what to do or say, it’s easy to see why you would point the finger, yes because it’s easy for you to do.

You load the isolation onto that family, keep on going; they are not quite broken yet. You could always reel them in again, pretend to care and then stick your middle finger in their direction, just when you think they might finally be trusting of you, again. That should do the job, if not this time, the next or the next or the next. Who said adoptive parents are some of the most resilient folk around? No school is, stronger, harder, we will break you.

Yes my children will be well educated by you; they will receive the education you so dreadfully feel they need, that I’m not providing. They will learn that the system is always punitive, you will comply or be punished. “I’m really sorry I choose to not recognise your needs.”

In life adults have the right to critise you, but you can never say anything in your defense, that is considered rude and is not tolerated, please tell your parents this rule applies to them too.

Finally, don’t ever expect empathy from this system. This is not tough love, no this is just being tough, the word love does not get used in this system of education.

“Your son is a nightmare” you tell me.

“Why should we move him into a different science lesson when he can’t even behave for the teacher he already has?” you question.

Your son, who has high anxiety around school, he’s not allowed to be late for school or we will give him a detention and you will be in trouble with the LA.  No, all the psychological reports attached to his EHC are not sufficient evidence, but if he colour codes his timetable, red, amber, green, got the idea, that will explain why he doesn’t like school. Ofstead will approve. Oh, and can you do this for us because we don’t have time to spend with your son, getting to know him and helping him to trust us.

Is it fun to see a parent contort themself around your mixed messages and lack of understanding?

Your language and actions speaks volumes about the culture of your school.  A culture where it’s ok to label a vulnerable child, “the worst kind of child” and smile smugly in your arrogance of being right, whilst you do it.

Meeting the Head Master

It was odd to see such a young and innocent face fix a more deathly than Paddington stare on his new headmaster. The man walking towards me had his arm outstretched, and as we connected, I tried to match his firm but not over assertive hand grip. He seemed friendly, yet commanding, his smile said fair but his eyes said “I have no doubt in myself”. As my boy’s eyes bore deep bloody wells into his very being, part of me wanted to commend my young man for his bravery,  the other side of me was inwardly pleading “whoa there youngster, back down a bit, I want this meeting to go well”.

As we were politely ushered into a large but plain office, the feeling of anxiety grew within me. It were as if a ping pong ball were floating up my lungs, into my windpipe and then becoming firmly lodged in the root of my throat. My breath felt shallow and uncertain.

The question asked was “where would you like to sit Tink?”

My boy responded with an under breath muttering, which was clearly audible to me, “as far away from you as possible”.

Others heard it too, and trying to keep it light the headmaster responded “well then it depends where I sit” as he rounded the table end, to sit on the far side.

Tink’s stare is fixed hard and fast from beneath his floppy, sand coloured fringe and he selects a seat on the opposite side of the conference table and I obediently take the seat next to him.

Of course his face is also flushed, the baby-faced boy, with the hint of sun kissed skin, has cheeks the colour of a rosy apple, reminding me of the face of a teething tot.  It is obvious, to me anyway, that he is extremely nervous about the encounter we are about to have.

Tink had created quite a commotion two days previous when he refused point blankly to “reflect” on another, previous incident, declaring “I don’t want to talk about it”.

Insistent that some kind of conversation would take place, the support worker in question steamed ahead with the proposed talk. Now “steamed” may be a little unfair, I’m sure a great amount of delicacy was placed on these proceedings but in Tink’s eyes, he was being approached by a steam roller which aimed to flatten him.

My sound advice to the responsible adult in question is, don’t start something like this with Tink, in a room full of other students, if you are not prepared to clear the room of said other students when the boy digs his heels in. All students were removed from the room.

The eleven year old took firm control over the situation, spinning round and around on his chair, muttering and occasionally directing comments, which could be construed as rude, to those offering him the support.

The support, from his account was a succession of increasingly important people asking him to “stop and come to my office”.

“I mean an office, as if I’m going to go there with them, that’s way to formal, and she kept using that word consequence…. consequence, consequence, consequence, I didn’t hear her say anything else.”

The final straw was the headmaster. He came, he talked, he gave five to ten minutes for Tink to think about it, and the answer was still “no”.

The exclusion which follows is for disrupting the room full of pupils and wasting people’s time, it is made clear to me that Tink having wasted a good half an hour of the head teacher’s time is massively unacceptable. As is Tink completely having control over the situation, a power struggle between a small boy and the head honcho, the line needs to be drawn, clearly, so he realises this is not acceptable.

So for this reason we sit across the table from the head, me and the boy on one side of the table, him and the support worker on the other side. Tink stays five minutes listens to the speech about making right choices, is asked a couple of questions which he refuses to answer, and so I hurriedly answer on his behalf and he leaves, fixing me now with a stare.

I think this stare says “don’t make me go”. I feel a sharp pain in my heart as he is released from the meeting which I spend another hour in.

So we met the headmaster, he was okay, I say okay because I’ve been too quick to say “he/she was great” on meeting new possible allies. So we’ll start with okay because I didn’t leave weeping or with a sense of doom. Nor was there skipping down corridors with a fist punch to the air as, finally, early life trauma is triumphant and school punitive disciplinary rules fall to their knees in surrender. No, the small victory is that this time, the time away from school will not go on his record. However the same process of exclusion will apply the next time and we all know there will be a next time. So, the relationship with the school is improving, we understand each other a little more, there is confidence in long term commitment, we can even share a smile but it’s still a very long, long way from I love you.

The Golden Child

golden childHe didn’t want to go again this morning. He didn’t want to get out of bed, or get dressed, or come downstairs. He just didn’t want to do it today. His chin dropped low, his brow furrowed and he looked up at me from beneath his beautiful long lashes. Those brilliant blue eyes, like deep pools of salty tears, pleaded with me not to send him.

After a little coercing and tiny bit of deal making,  I pulled the front door behind us both. Instead of propelling forward, towards the car, he sunk down and sat on the doorstep.

“Please” he said, “I don’t want to today.”

Some gentle persuasion and a couple of promises later we got to the car, we got in the car and we drove to school. There was no conversation. I racked my weary brain to find that elusive nugget of conversation which would stop him thinking about how much he didn’t want to go.

We parked, got out of the car and walked to the gate. He hid behind the wall instead of going through the gate. His teaching assistant happened to be there, on hand.

“Are you coming in?”

“NO”

Through gentle guidance and some bribery we arrived in the main reception of the school.

Those eyes now glistened, as the pools threatened to overflow.

“Probably best if you go now “I was advised.

“Bet I’ll be back again soon” I thought, as I reluctantly turned away.

Twenty past three and I was late for school pick up. I was running, sort of, when I noticed the text on my phone from school.

“Your son has achieved a gold award today”

As I rounded the corner he was there waiting, beaming from ear to ear. He clapped his hands together and bounced up and down, as I was informed of his achievements. He’d been invited back into the school reward scheme, previously too hard for him to deal with.  Traffic lights and golden awards, certificates and special treats. He can opt out again if it’s all too much.

I am a VERY PROUD mum and more importantly he is super, amazingly impressed with himself.

“I turned it around” he thrills, those eyes now gleaming with joy.

I’m sure many of you will realise that there is a hesitation, a cause to be cautious, a moment of let’s just wait and see, as I suppress the thought “this could all go horribly wrong”.

But for now he is basking in the glow of just how golden he is and I must admit I can feel the warmth too. I’m also quietly crossing everything, saying a little prayer, preparing to sell something, anything, in hope of a gold rush.

Down Day

downdayWe’re having a down day, a day at home for Tink. No tuting at the back please about  me sat behind my laptop when I’m supposed to be with my son, I’m allowed to write this short post because after watching Frozen together under a duvet on  the sofa, my son is now getting over excited about buying a portal box on Club Penguin. Bit of screen time together, we are sat side by side as I tap and I’m also getting a running commentary on everything he’s doing.

Tink, has on the whole, been doing much better in school. He’s being supported on a one to one base by a lovely lady who seems to value his emotional well being as the most important part of his school day and is also not fazed by the rude tone and words he sometimes uses. Due to this he has been achieving more work and doing well most days.

This week however it has not been the case, Monday was a downward spiral from the off, something, who knows what, triggered a catalogue of non conforming, rudeness and lashing out. For the first time school decided that a severe consequence was needed and an internal exclusion (day in isolation within school) was dealt for the following day. It’s hard to explain how you can see their perspective but, the truth is the boy is hurting, hating and punishing himself enough without having a full day reminder.

Getting him into school the next day was not easy and as I left him in reception with the Head and his TA my heart was as heavy as lead. His arms folded solid around him, building the wall of protection and his eyes glistened with held in tears, as he peaked at me from behind his fringe.

“I’m not doing it” he repeated.  “I’m just NOT”.

To all others in that room I’m sure they saw defiance, me, I could feel my heart breaking as the fragility and vulnerability of my little boy stared me square in the eye.

I left sobbing and a familiar feeling swam over me. I again felt like the only one in his corner. My complex little boy who everyone else doesn’t quite get.

He did well that day and through the caring support oh his TA, he managed it. He was exhausted though, for the first time in a while he was asleep shortly after eight having not quite made it beneath his duvet. I tucked him in later, kissed him and whispered my nightly sweet nothings into his ear.

“Mummy loves you and thinks you are very special”

The next morning he stopped at the gate.

“I’m not going in”

I could see in that moment all the trust earned draining away, school was no longer considered a safe place, again. Back to square one.

Twenty minutes later myself and his TA were in the same spot trying every known trick in the book to cajole, entice, bribe, encourage, strike some kind of, any kind of deal that would get him through the door.

We managed it but another twenty minutes later I left school again in tears, with the sound of his little voice behind me screaming “let me out” as he kicked at the door.

I tweeted for support and got lots, thank you, and even had a kind phone call from a close twitter friend. She too has had school problems (haven’t we all) and she helped very much to reassure me and support me.

I could see now what was needed and I would be telling, ok asking but being quite firm in what I wanted. A down day for my son. A day that says “I hear you”. “ I get it”

So here we are tapping away together, he’s now stuffing Tomato ketchup flavoured crisps into his mouth and making his Puffle do tricks. I’m happy.

I’m reminded constantly at the moment of my boy by a song that’s on the radio a lot. I love it and will dance around the kitchen excitedly to it. But the words hit home for me,
they say it all, especially the line,

“And when you feel like nobody’s on your side
Please believe I’m never too far”
Here it is…..

#MemoryBox 22/07/13

awardLast Week was a good week for the boy Stig. He brought home a glowing school report which detailed the incredibly journey of learning and also emotional growth he’s had through the year. We also went on Thursday to watch him receive a school prize at the Prize Giving Ceremony. You’re not told which subject your child is being commended in before the evening so, with anticipation, we thumbed the programme on arrival. Stig’s ability in one particular subject was not being celebrated, no, he was to receive the “Teachers Special Award”. My heart pounded with pride knowing that his teacher also recognised the amazing progress he’s made this year and wished to commend him for it.

To top it all off he’s also had a birthday this week and he’s managed that well too. All the excitement and anticipation has not boiled over into a melt down, he’s enjoyed it, taken guidance and made the most of it.

However, none of this is what most impressed me about my boy. Thursday at Prize Giving we sat packed into a very warm stuffy school hall. The children receiving prizes were asked to sit in a far corner, furthest away from any cool breeze, along school benches. Stig was asked to shuffle into the middle of a tightly packed bench right at the back. I gasped slightly at the thought of him, skin against skin with those other children, feeling their warm limbs against his and in his space. He was to be one of the last children to come up on stage and so in total sat for about forty five minutes cooped up. This would at one point in his life have caused him extreme agitation and unbearable anxiety and yet on that evening he did it. That to me is the true indication of just how far he’s come.

 

I’ve linked this post to Te Adoption Social #MemoryBox

Memory Box