My Return to Blogging.

blog1I’ve decided to try very hard to make more time to write. Specifically write here, in this space, my beloved but much neglected blog. There are many reasons for my absence from this space but I’m not going to go into them, it’s all in the past and that’s where the past can stay. As Harper Lee writes, on the opening page of To Kill a Mockingbird “When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident”. Whilst nobody has been in an accident here, yet, many events have occurred. I too often feel unable to look into the shadows of the recent past and be caught up in their horrors.  For now we are living amongst those shadows every day, they lurk just over my shoulder, close but still behind me.  No I live by the mantra of many an adopter I know, today is a new day.

So on this new day I’m returning to my blog to write. I really hope that doesn’t have you all too over excited, because I’m not completely sure where we’re going yet. I know it’s so far been a good day, a productive day and if it goes to plan, which we know it often doesn’t, it has all the possibilities of a big thumbs up day.

As part of this day, I spent some time reading blogs from #WASO, it would be called an occupational hazard IF, The Adoption Social was, what my husband calls, “a real job”. Like supporting an online adoption community is some airy fairy thing I do with my life, my Tupperware party. Believe me Mr H there is nothing, unreal, made up, amid the lines of the blogs I read on our Weekly Adoption Shout Out. Just to reassure, I am still married to the silver-tongued Mr H and I’m working on him. Who knows one day he may surprise us all, join the fold and give us all the benefit of his wisdom in his very own blog post.

Whilst we wait for this miracle, I will instead refer to some blogs which I have been able to read. One has helped me to make a decision I needed to make, and another two have caused me to reflect on recent occurrences in our family.  Okay you could say that this is looking back over my shoulder but it’s the good bits, so I’m allowed.

Firstly lovely Mama Bear held a birthday celebration for her son’s birth mum. It sounded like such a positive and natural thing to do and hand on heart, I thought yes, I could do that. Then I realised I don’t even know when our birth mum’s birthday is and seen as though both boys are at that “don’t even mention her” stage, lead balloons sprung to mind. However, it also brought back to my conscience that I’ve not written a letterbox letter for maybe four years. Cringe. So that’s it, I’ve decided I’m going to do that this week. You are all my witnesses and please hold me accountable.

Next to reflections. Mr Coates wrote a post for “sibling day” and discussed one of the many adoption conundrums, should they or should they not be kept together. I wrote a post way back in the early life of this blog shouting about how wonderful my sibling group are, stop laughing at the back. Since those times I have questioned, all be it only momentarily, if my boys should have stayed together. I absolutely felt the pain of poor Pink Diamonds, with her post, also from last week’s #WASO, about how the constantly niggling of each other and forever trying to be your favourite one, can drive you to insanity. However, two moments from the past couple of days make me know my boys belong as one.

We set out for a walk on Sunday morning, it was cold and windy and Tink was not in the mood. We walked up into the woods, where many dens have been built and the boys ran through the trees, throwing pine cones at each other. At this point it was harmless fun. The game progressed, each boy found delight in cornering the other inside one of the dens, their target now a sitting duck oh and stones became missiles. I’m sure you can imagine it was soon a full scale war.

I was a  little surprised, when only half an hour later, Tink asked me for three pounds of his own money, to spend it in the National Trust shop. He’d seen something he wanted to buy for his brother. Yes it was genuinely a gift for Stig, not something Tink wanted, pretending it  was for his brother, then a change of heart at the last minute. He handed it over and his brother beamed “thanks Tink”.

The second moment occurred during biscuit making on Monday. I usually avoid, at all costs, cooking with both boys, but this was Stig’s activity and as I’d said he was in charge and could do it all, he invited his brother to join in.  They worked very well together, dividing the tasks and Stig even kindly gave his little brother the much coveted job of cracking the egg and beating it. My older boy delighted at how brilliantly his little brother carried out his duty, stating “wow you’ve done it much better than I ever do”.

It was I, yes mother, who came along and rocked the boat, by getting a little bit touchy with Tink for being messy.  Tink took umbrage and ran off down the hallway and into the cupboard under the stairs. It was all okay though because his big brother rescued him and the situation, by encouraging him to come and add his egg. “It’s a very important job” he said.

It’s so important to savour these moments and etch them onto your mind, to recall during other moments, not unlike the one I faced this morning. I hid in the kitchen whilst Tink raged and ranted “That idiot brother of mine has gone to school in one of my shoes and one of his own; I’m going to beat him around the head when I see him.”

Enough blogging for today but I shall return soon, it’s good to be back.

Stig on the Blog

Lego

Stig has taken over in the name of this weeks #WASO theme “the work of your child”.

I like Lego because it’s so simple to use, you clip it and you have built a shape, which can put on another brick and you can build what’s in your imagination .Lego in my opinion is the best  to use and  to play with. The people are fun as you can make your own when you are board of the last one.

Lego helps me when I’m angry, sad, and giddy and have attitude, it helps me calm down. the games I play are war games, race games and labyrinth games.

 

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.

A Story of Rejection

I started writing this post for The Weekly Adoption Shout Out, #WASO, a couple of weeks ago, when the theme was “Rejection”. Unfortunately, due to many things going on at home, some probably created by the evils of rejection, I was unable to finish it in time. I’ve now had the chance to complete it, and therefore felt it was still worth sharing, so here goes…

rejection

I remember the time a friend went and asked a boy out for me, or told him I liked him at least. Casually leaning against a wall as I queued for my school dinner, my back-combed fringe flopped into my eyes and the scent of Silverkrin hairspray filled my nostrils. Chin down but eyes coyly keeping tabs on the situation, I could feel the heat in my checks and my heart pounding. Turned out he wasn’t interested, in fact he went as far as saying “No, she looks like a boy”. When told my warm cheeks flushed scarlet and fiery hot, a sickness rose in my throat and my eyes pricked with tears that I tried vehemently to suppress. There it was the bitterness of rejection.  I thought I could never feel worse in my life than I did in that moment.

This was one of the many occasions which sprung to my mind when I thought of my own experiences of rejection. There are others, many, I still feel annoyed  with the mean woman who sacked me from my Saturday job at Greggs, and I thought my life had ended when I received the letter of refusal from the degree course I so wanted to do. All terrible heart breaking stuff for an angst-riddled adolescent making their way in the world, but I was lucky, I had a safety net. That safety net was my family, each time I fell into the great big hole of shame, which rejection brings, they would be there to catch me.

I can almost feel the warm palm of my mum’s hand rubbing my back as I sob into my pillow. The reassuring sound in her voice as she tells me “I know it feels terrible now, but you will get through”.  A tight warm embrace from my mum or dad and things really did have the possibility of coming right in the world. The hurt would fade and confidence would be rekindled and onwards I would forge with my life.

When I look at my two adopted boys it really does pain me to think of their experiences of rejection. No doubt there were times in my early life when I felt rejection, but the painful ones I recall are all from a time when I’m striving forward for independence and rejection is just one of those stepping stones you take to maturity.  For my two boys rejection was a reality from the day they were born.

I’ve recently attended a number of events, where the mechanics of the brain in a child that suffers neglect has been discussed.  I know it; I’ve heard it before and read it numerous times, but, each time it’s before me, without fail my heart drops into a pit of sadness.  The fact that a neglected child feels rejection day in day out, for some it will be from hour to hour, and it starts in those early formative days of their lives, the enormity of this is hard to comprehend. These early life experiences literally prevent development within the brain.

A baby will cry when they need something, primary needs, food, water, warmth. Feed the baby, cuddle the baby, look into their eyes, show your face to them and the love in your smile, cradle them whilst they sleep and the baby feels contented.

What if, when that baby cries, no one comes, the parent rejects their needs? Maybe they cry a little more and a little more, but still no response, so what is this baby left with? Instantly I am reminded of my own scarlet cheeks, feeling of sickness and the desire to cry and a feeling of shame. Imagine what shame must feel like for a small baby? Imagine the scenario repeated daily, maybe mum feeds when she can or wants to, maybe changes the baby once in that day, maybe holds and cuddles the baby for a short while, but let’s just say that the majority of the time she doesn’t. Just imagine how many times a day that small baby feels rejected.

This is what we know as a “Disturbed Attachment Cycle” and where as in the healthy version of this cycle, trust develops between the baby, its parent and the world around them, for the neglected baby there is no trust, instead rage and shame are nurtured and grow. Neglected children often start life feeling unloved, for them there is no building of trust and no family safety net. They do not see the world as a safe place where you know that someone who loves you has got your back. These children look to themselves for cover, they rely on themselves, they only need themselves, for them no one has proved themselves capable of being there for them, and so self preservation is the only way to ensure survival. This is the default setting for the brain.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember all this as one of my boys rages, destroys and attacks in a fit of shame and hurt. Something small, a look of disapproval, a seemingly negative comment or a cross sounding voice, maybe it is from a child in the playground, a teacher or even me, asking them to wait whilst I complete a task. Sometimes you can see the trigger and understand it, other times it’s an unknown element that catapults them into a state of anger and fear. What I can be certain of is that somewhere in the cocktail of emotions that contributes to this outburst, rejection is playing its part.

It has helped to think about my own experiences of rejection, another step to understanding a small piece of the enormous puzzle which is living with, supporting and healing children with developmental trauma. It’s also the realisation that rejection is part and parcel of everyone’s life, there is no avoiding it, and I can’t protect my boys from the experience of rejection. The aim is to strengthen their belief in themselves, grow their self esteem and also the trust in those whom support them. Ultimately to ensure rejection doesn’t lead to them giving up and doubting the possibilities that life has to offer. Happily, my own life is testament to this; I ended up marrying the young man who said I looked like a boy.

To read more posts on the theme Rejection please click here.

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