Valentines Day. A tricky day in our house. You see, although the girls have been with us for over six years, we are reminded that Love Is Not Enough for my girls; it is often reported and written about that it is not enough for those children who have suffered trauma, loss, neglect and the rest.
In these six years we have come a long way and put in an incredible amount of therapeutic hard work to repair the damage done in the early years. However, my biggey was five and half when she came to us; she had already spent more than three years in the birth family and (just exactly what she had experienced and witnessed in those three years would fill a book) needless to say it had a profound effect on her.
So, this year as with every year on Valentines day I bought my girls a card and a little present as yet another small sign that I love them. However my biggey find its really hard to hear good things about herself so my messages and actions of thoughfulness, kindness and love were met with disbelief and rejection.
There were signs there that she was struggling generally with the basics of the day. She didn’t seem to be able to function properly when getting dressed; messy eating at breakfast along with moody face and sulky language. In the typical theapeutic parenting way with a dash of Dr Dan Hughes curiousity I tried to wonder aloud what was going on. “Nothing!”
My littley was delighted with her card and token gift and went off to school quite happily. My biggey is of course still not in school so I had more time to be curious and explore. However, every attempt I made to interact was met with sulky rejection and pushing away. In the back of my mind I did wonder if it was about Valentines Day, yet if I ask then I am at risk of putting words in her mouth; she will then latch on to them and say and ‘yes that’s it’ and we never really sort the issue out. So, I didn’t say what I was thinking.
The next hour was tense and difficult because everything I asked her to do was a silent battle. Hers to maintain defiance and sulkiness and for me to maintain smiles, outward calm and nonchalance at her responses. Within the hour she was shouting at me.
“Just leeeaavvvve meee alone”!
I can’t remember what about now but I quickly made sure the front door was locked since I didn’t want it risk another running off session! I was ironing, and as best I could, I continued so that it reduced the confrontation that was occurring. She is often better when I reduce eye contact, it is less intimidating for her. None of this helped today. I was really close to just shouting in an old fashioned parenting way so I told her I was going upstairs to get some hangers for the ironing. I thought this would put space between us for even a moment and, in any case, I needed a moment to just take a breath!
When I got downstairs she wasn’t there! She was escaping thought the garage! Bugger! I didn’t remove the key for there. I ran into the street to see her running off in her socks. More bugger, swearing and dismay. I quickly ran in and got the car keys and went after her. I really wasn’t in the mood (and didn’t have time) to be letting her get out of my sight otherwise I may well end up with another police incident. Fortunately I managed to catch up with her in the next street and blocked her way. I had to man-handle her into the car. I was in a mode of just do what I have to do, yet in the back of my mind I do wonder what this looks like, I brushed that aside and carried on with the necessity of keeping her safe.
When I get her back home we sit outside the house, she in the back, me in the front. No eye contact, no confrontation. “Please let me help you darling” I say. “I can see that you really do have big feelings and that running must have been a big need too. I know it seems mean when I ask you about your feelings but I do it because I love you”.
What I got was a verbal attack which ended with “you don’t love me”. More exploring and I also got “I don’t belong” and then, as we really get to the bottom of the matter she said “I wasn’t loved. They didn’t love me and they were horrible and mean to me and they hurt me and this just reminds me that I wasn’t loved and that I was hurt”.
What can I say? She is right. Is she right? It’s a fair point. She is entitled to her opinion and her feelings. She had to live through that and I wasn’t there, so I cannot possibly contradict. How awful for her and its so sad. So, I say “I’m so sorry darling”. I’m always saying sorry to her. I say sorry when I don’t need to, when I don’t feel sorry, when I have nothing to apologise for. I say it because it helps her. It helps her to feel better, to feel somebody cares; I do care, more than she will know.
When I get her in the house, we have soothing words, drinks, biscuits, hugs and I get her calmed down – for now. By tea time, all this comes back up and we end the day in a similar way to which it started. Shouts, strops, moods, ranting, hating, soothing, hugs and a very very early bedtime. I am thankful that these big strops leave her exhausted. At least I get the evening quietly to myself, to recover.
I wonder if her birth parents gave her a thought?