I’m Proud of You

This is what my mum said to me the other day. What a lovely thing for any mum to say to her daughter. Yet, it didn’t sit comfortably with me; I didn’t feel any sort of good, warm, pride-like feeling inside.

Now, Mum pops round regularly to see me and the girls after school, she brings chocolate or sweets and we chat and catch up. It’s lovely.  The other day she was telling me about her time at her sewing group and there is one lady there who always asked about us and how we are getting on. The girls were there at this time so I guess mum’s answer was tailored to be appropriate to all ears, so she simply said I told her

I’m very proud of you

I just kind of smiled – maybe it was more a grimace – I’m not sure, yet it didn’t feel comfortable hearing that. Eventually I was able to say

It doesn’t feel like something to be proud of

Mum nodded, in an understanding way and at the time the conversation moved on and around to other things – because the girls were there.

Later I reflected on this. When I thought again about mum’s words and what was going on in myself. There’s an awful lot I’m not very proud of.

  • I’m not proud that the psychologist in the local CAMHS team told my daughter she is scared of me – because I was having to strong and firm and demanding to get my daughter’s needs met (It didn’t work though).
  • I’m not proud of the fact that we are on first name terms with local police, because my daughter runs away so often.
  • I’m not proud when I crawl the streets in my car, following my run-away, feeling like some sneaky stalker or a sleazy kerb-crawler.
  • I’m not proud that I have to sit on my children when they kick, bite, hit, spit, hiss in the throws of their traumatic fight flight response.
  • I’m not proud when I have to man-handle them into the car or tackle them to the floor in the middle of the street or in supermarkets just so I can half restrain half cuddle them to calm them down.
  • I’m not proud that my parenting very often feels harsh and restrictive, even though I know it’s what they need and what they can cope with.
  • I’m not proud that I swear so much
  • I’m not proud of having to be forthright and demanding of other people – like schools, teacher, social workers.

I’ve blogged before about wearing my stroppy hat and in that I said I wear it with pride, and occasionally I do, yet as with our children, there is only so many times I (and many other adopters) can continue to be knocked down without being left with the negative affect of it all.

I have to remind myself daily that there are things I am proud of – like the fact that I do keep them safe, I do advocate for them, separately and us as a family.

In my work I tell people that it’s important that we work on our own thoughts and feelings, that we are kind to ourselves and have positive self talk.  It’s very important I practice what I preach! (always easier said than done!!)  I do realise that we often spend so much time with our children’s issues we easily forget about ourselves.  Self talk is so important to us too.  So each day, with renewed vigour I will be trying to find something I have done that I am proud of.

I am proud that we are still together.   What about you?

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Dear Edward Timpson

This week all adopters received a “letter” from Children’s Minister Edward Timpson.  Well, I say letter, (for those who were not in receipt) it was a link to an website where I could download the letter!  So already, we had just another little thing to do …..

Read it here, if you didn’t get yours! Edward_Timpson_Letter_to_adopters

I read his letter with an open mind, yet my ‘coping mechanism’ of sarcasm soon made an appearance.  I was disappointed to be reading a curriculum vitae of what he has done, it was all me, me me.  So, here’s what I would have liked to be reading..

Dear Adopter

I wanted to say huge thank you for:

  • Saving the government millions of pounds by adopting these children and doing it for free!  (You’ve no idea how much they would have costs us, the government, the country, if these children had stayed in care).
  • Increasing the taxable income by consuming copious amounts of alcohol in order to sooth the day in the life of adoption.
  • Educating our educators in nurseries, schools and colleges all around the country by teaching them about attachment, trauma and loss, how it affects and how to deal and help heal.  This is saving us millions in training and development costs.
  • By holding our schools to account by personally asking them and checking on their spending of the pupil premium (because we know how much you like to have more challenging conversations!).
  • Doing it alone, mostly quietly, yet very tenaciously and saving us more money in SW support.  By adopting we don’t have to assign and pay for Social Workers so we can continue to reduce funding and reduce numbers of Social Workers needed across the country.
  • Putting your heart and soul into these kids and keeping them off the streets and so saving yet more money from police, criminal and justice systems.
  • Making your home like a prison just to keep these kids safe, helps them learn, encourage reform as it keeps our prison numbers and costs down.

In recognition of all the above that you, our wonderful adopters do, here is what we are doing:

  • Making it mandatory that all school staff, teachers, assistants, support staff are fully trained in attachment, trauma and loss within the next year.
  • Have mandatory training too for all Education Psychologists, Social Workers, Welfare Workers.
  • The Camhs task force will in place in the next 6 months and will be fully funded, trained and educated to provide the very best care, understanding and regular appointments.
  • Make it a criminal offence for anyone to be judgemental, derogatory and generally unkind to adoptive parents whenever they try to engage in any of the above services.

In addition, we are setting up FREE regular monthly deliveries of chocolate and wine or beer to every adoptive household, for the rest of your lives.

Finally, every summer holiday there will be fully funded holiday camps / cruise ships for you to engage in your regular summer holiday.  At these places all staff will be trained in dealing with behaviour and trauma so that you can relax and enjoy your holiday.  We know that providing this will still be much cheaper than paying for these children to remain in care, so

thank you, thank you, thank you!

Your Government Loves You!

Yours,

Teddy Timmo

choc and wine

I’ve linked this with The Adoption Social Weekly shout out #WASO

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Headteacher Calling!

Biggey has been doing well with her integration into the new school (her second secondary school since September!). She has been reasonably calm and composed each evening and each morning. The transition has been steady and without pressure on her (or me) to get her into school full time. I’ve been so glad that they agreed to this as it is important that this time her experience is a success.

She has been going into this small unit every day for the last couple of weeks for part of a day and in the last week she progressed to four full days and a big chunk of the fifth day! After Easter she has even signed up for an after school cookery club!

All in all I have been very pleased with how things have gone and my view of this school has not changed since my first meeting as detailed in We Have a Plan and even in later posts of So Far So Good.  However, forgive me for gushing, yet I have been (nicely) surprised and amazed yet again by this school.

On Friday lunchtime I get a call on my mobile.  It’s the Headteacher.

Oh God!  What’s happened?  What has she done?

Well that was the first though that went through my mind.  I mean, Headteachers of Secondary Schools don’t just randomly ring parents as a ‘nice to do’ on a Friday lunchtime on the last day of term.  Do they??

Well actually, yes they do!  OK I know I have been gushing about the staff in this school but still, pick me up with amazement all over again…..

He said he was ringing to say how well he though Biggey had settled in and that it was progressing much better than they had expected and he was wondering what my thoughts were and how I feel it was going.  Just a moment …. rewind … he was actually asking for my opinion and views???  I need picking up off the floor again!!

So, whilst trying to contain my delight and remain a bit like a focussed sensible adult, I managed (I think) to tell him some of things I think have been good and helpful.  I praised the two key members of staff who are having the most input to Biggey at the moment.  I was able to tell him the latest piece of information I had got from her just a couple of nights before.

She said she was with a teacher in DT working on a 1:1 basis.  The teacher asked why Biggey had moved schools.  Now in Biggey’s usual way, she didn’t really give correct information and had said it was because they didn’t help her with her dyslexia.   The teacher then apparently said “oh, so not for behaviour then?” So Biggey said

Well I don’t tell people if I don’t feel safe or if I’m struggling or if people upset me and then sometimes I take it out on other people

The teacher apparently just said “Oh thank you for telling me”.  I was, at this point listening with awe and unable to say anything for a moment.   Eventually I wondered aloud if my child had been taken away by aliens to which I was told

No. This is me when I feel safe and when I’m not feeling worried and not worried about being told off all the time. 

Isn’t that amazing!  I told the Head this and that it is indeed because she feels safe and accepted and comfortable enough to be able to do this and that I was grateful for the team they are providing around my child in addition to the effort I put in.

It was a 10 minute call, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but covers a lot of conversation.  I was positively delighted when it finished.

When I collected Biggey later that day, I took a moment to begin to mention to the two members of staff.  They said they already knew because the Head had sent them an email saying well done for the good work!  What a great way to finish for the holidays.

Noticing … And More Waiting …

So whilst Biggey has been at home since 10th January it has enabled me to spend much more 1:1 time with her. Whilst this is quite positive it has also been very enlightening. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

She never starts a conversation. Ever! She only joins in with others or responds (sometimes) when I speak to her. Now, the reason I haven’t noticed this is because Littley talks non stop. It’s only been during this time of just the two of us that it has become apparent. I can walk into the room and she doesn’t look up or speak or acknowledge anyone is there. We can walk down the street and she only chats if I start chatting.

She always plays the same things.. If I say go and play she will go and colour pictures, never anything else. If I say play on the Wii she plays the same game. Again, if Littley is around then she chooses different games and activities so Biggey must have been following her with that. I knew Biggey struggled in this area and thought her lack of imaginative play was down to early neglect but now I’m not so sure.

She never brings me things to show me what she’s done. Never, ever! She will tell me she coloured a picture (after I’ve asked her) and still doesn’t show it to me unless I ask to see it. When I think about, she never has brought me work from school or those plastic bottle models or anything else.

She strops when asked to get changed or struggles with getting dressed. Now I know some kids do this this. She will also put on the same clothes all the time. Yes, all the time! I have to remove them from her bedroom. If I say put a clean top on, she strops. It’s a little odd. Littley is like a fashion show model on contrast – she would wear all her clothes (and some of mine given the chance) in just one day!!

She has lots of obsessive tendencies . Again, these have become more apparent now I see more of her. I keep finding her wiping down the kitchen surface (and it’s not that messy!). She tidies my cutlery draw! These are just a few examples.

She has an inability to change it adjust her language for different situations.. So if she hears a boy in the street shout and swear, she will come in and tell me about it, but she repeats in exactly the same way she has heard it, with same volume, same venom and no abbreviation to “f” word or whatever. She also uses ‘playground’ talk with grandparents (which is a bit embarrassing).

There are more things I’ve been noticing too so when I was my Camhs meeting the other day I asked for referral for her to be assessed for Aspergers or Autistic Spectrum. The more I’ve looked into this, the more I believe she is Aspergic. If so, it would go a long way to explain some of the reason for her having had so much difficulty making progress in certain areas. It would also be really useful to know if she is and what would help her to be able to settle better when we get a new school sorted. Apparently Aspergic girls are also very good at copying other children so that the condition can remain undetected. I believe the Biggey has been copying others at school, certainly in Junior school. Yet this will be much more difficult to do in the busy classes of a Secondary school.

There are often a lot of things which help Autistic kids and also help traumatised and attachment issue kids so the cross-over is understandable.

A letter came yesterday from Camhs. They are not making appointments for Autistic assessment because the waiting is to long. They may come back to us in around three to four months!! More waiting then ….

We Have a Plan

I went along to the meeting with the Senco at a prospective new school for biggey. I’d had the local authority email a copy of her statement across beforehand so that she could peruse and hopefully be informed before the meeting.

The welcome into school was friendly and I already felt welcome (rather than an inconvenience as I have experienced elsewhere), so that was a good start. Mrs Senco was on time, had booked a meeting room and apologised for having to “wade” through the pupils on their break!

We went through the busy throng in the canteen area of kids being kids, chatting, laughing, pushing a bit, eating toast but generally seeming to be enjoying school life. Mrs Senco turned to me and said “I guess this would be difficult for your girl”!!!!!

Oh yes, absolutely. I like this lady already.

At the meeting room she positioned herself beside me, rather than across the table from me which I found to be a nice touch. I got all my paperwork out and I had prepared quite a list of things that I feel I would need. The first and most important for me was communication (since it was none existent in other school). Straight away she gave me assurance of different methods of communicating, email contacts, home school book discussed, and main reception will always try and find someone, yet she would be the main contact – no passing off to anyone else.

Yes, we’ve heard all this before and this time I was able to challenge a couple of aspects yet also put the information into context of what I had already experienced in making the appointments and having been in the school a couple of times already. I did get a better feel that I could believe what she said would happen.

Next, support. Straight away she said, quite honestly, that it will be difficult to assign an attachment figure or two because if Biggey came now it would be part way through the year. That’s said, she did not completely rule out being able to do something helpful from how until summer and then sort it better from September. Also said would identify a safe place for Biggey in school and provide her with photos and names of all TA’s and relevant people.

OMG ! YOU GET IT!! I managed not to jump up and kiss her at this point. Whilst containing those feeling I also managed to contains own self berating ones about why I didn’t choose this school before. So, (hopefully still outwardly looking composed) I raised something else on my list and she already had thought of that, and the next, and the next. All before I had to ask. Amazing.

When looking at the Statement she quite plainly and frankly said that we can put aside academic needs until we have her feeling safe in school. Until then, she knows she will not learn, yet we can still aim to have her in school! Oh yes please! That’s absolutely what I want and need! I now want to lavish her with chocolates (even though I nearly always keep all chocolate for myself!).

What areas of curriculum does she struggle with? Talked through all those, including the fact that she simply struggles just because of time of year (you know, the usual birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, Halloween) as well as struggling in some topics. When I mentioned that RE is nearly always an issue for her she did say that we could consider asking for her not to study that. This is usually done on grounds of religious belief but if it’s very difficult then … I said thank you, I’ll give it some thought when really I want to whoop loudly. I had never thought of that!!

Transition. She said it needs a steady approach to get her integrated calmly and safely back into school and school life (well, I know that, but brilliant that she does too)! Talked about her even just going in for an hour a day with me too and sometimes just sitting in canteen or the open library area and be able to watch everything happening then progress in small steps from there. She can have a buddy until she finds her way around, there are options for getting into classes and so on. How great that they will accommodate things at her pace (within reason).

At this point I wanted to jump on the table and do a little dance!

There was lots more discussed. Everything on my list was covered and I was more than happy with the answers and ideas and ways of approaching things.

She openly said they will not get everything right but they will work with me. I felt it only fair to then also admit that I will, at times, be a very stroppy parent and apologised in advance (although I still believe my Stroppy hat is a tool I use quite well). She seemed fine with that.

The next day I wrote to the Local Authority and asked them to consider moving Biggey’s named school from her current one to this one. We will have to wait about a week whilst it goes through SEN panel but they will come back to me and let me know the outcome. If approved, they would then have to formally approach this school and see if they will agree to take Biggey. It could all take about 3 weeks so no chance of getting her anywhere near school before Feb half term.

However, we now feel we have a plan. It’s important for me to feel like I have plan. Some of it is a waiting game, some is out of my control, but we have a plan.

The night that we made the request, my lovely hubby and I slept all night – for the first time in ages. Now that felt like a result!

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Reframing Christmas

Over the years we have done a lot to set up new traditions for our girls and our family and also to reframe their early experiences and expectations.  Seven years on, we are still carrying out some of these whilst changing some and adding new ones too.   Here are some that I am doing:

Picture advent calendar
Take pictures of lots of simple regular things that are included in christmas in your family.  I actually think the pictures I use are a bit naff however from a child perspective they serve as useful reminders!   The pictures we have include: making cards, sausages wrapped in bacon, a pile of xmas tree chocolates, christmas crackers, the christmas tree, some wrapped pressies, cards hanging on the wall and an advent calendar.

The first year I just wrote numbers on the back then stuck them picture side down on the wall with blutack. Then the girls turned over one each day.  In later years I’ve got  more organised so have got one of those plastic hanging picture pockets.  It comes out every year now and they still seem to need and welcome it.

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The Christmas Story
My mum bought us an Usborne Christmas book which not only had the proper Jesus story in it, at young child level, it also had a little card nativity model in the back of it.  Getting the kids to put this up each year has become a family tradition which they like.  I still keep reading the story to them.  It adds a tradition and good memories.

Of course, I also add in little anecdotes about how we can see that baby was so loved and looked after carefully; made comfy and warm in the manger; how all babies are so gorgeous and lovely that people have always wanted to come and see them.  I have found that this helps them because they believe or used to believe that they were bad and ugly when they were babies.  Such a shame but when mindful of the attachment cycle it makes sense and so I take every opportunity I get to reframe their thoughts.

A Christmas Activity
In town every Christmas there is always a little fayre with a helter skelter slide and a couple of other things.  It is only there at Christmas, so when they much younger I used to take them each year and let them have a go on that.  They began to remember that as something they do at Christmas.  Once they got bigger we changed that and I used it to explain and reinforce that sometimes in life some things stay the same and some things change.

Advent Calendars
My mum made my girls a fabric pocketed advent calendar so each year we put chocolates in the pockets and that makes them feel special and adds tradition of something which is their very own.

Santa
We learned the hard way!  Our very first Christmas was simply awful!  Full of tantrums, terror and trauma.  We very quickly realised that Santa had quite a lot to do with it and he was most definitely a bad and scary man. The best we could do was for them, that first year was to leave their presents in the porch (thank goodness we had a porch!!).  Over the years we discovered just what a bad man they think he is and what terrible things happened in their birth family. So he continued to be scary and we could not even put up cards with a picture of him or mention his name.  Therefore the truth about Santa and where present come from was revealed early on and he is now firmly referred to a “that bloke” and banished from our house for ever.

I never cease to be amazed at what will bother them.  This year, as well as “that bloke” we also had to deal with Herod!

My little J came home from school a bit upset the other day.  Through lots of exploring we discovered that in an RE lesson they had been learning about Herod.  She had a very disjointed idea of what happened and I can only surmise that she became so distressed that someone was going to kill the baby that she “missed” a good part of the lesson by being caught up in her own thoughts and worries.  So I needed to tell her (at an appropriate level, of course) the story of Herod and Jesus.  Needless to say, it included lots of “safe” words and ended with some comments about how Mary and Joseph were such safe parents that they did everything they needed to, to keep baby Jesus safe – just like we do for you!

Each Christmas-time does get better each year and so I firmly believe we are doing the right thing.  I wouldn’t want Christmas to happen more than once a year but I do feel it would be useful if we could have a few more chances to work on the reframing and re-learning!!  I often wonder what age my girls will be when we are able to have a Christmas without trauma.

Beyond the Behaviour

blog pic scars

Hi

This is my first blog!  Woo hoo.  I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I’ve not idea what I’m doing so I’m just going to type and see.   So what, may you ask, has made me finally get started?  Well, it’s quite simple – fury!  It’s a powerful tool which drives many an adoptive mum to new, adventurous places and this is now my place.  The reason for my fury is school.  Oh, that old thing, I hear many adoptive parents sigh.  Well yes, it’s got me started on blog so here goes.

I got an email from school today to let me know there had been a situation with K.  She started at this secondary school in September and I had asked them to email me so that I wasn’t left floundering in the middle of the after school strops wondering what on earth had gone on.  However, the main aspect of the issue was that she wouldn’t do her work.  Oh, and she was quite rude to the supply teacher.

I have heard (and dealt with) her rude and stubborn behaviour many times before, so have the primary school, and it has always been because she has been scared.  Lots of chatting and sometimes even intense giggling can often be seen too when she is scared.   I appreciate it looks like she is just being rude and stubborn or defiant.  I also appreciate she looks like a fine, healthy “normal” child.  It’s what lurks beneath ………..

She has said the supply teacher – particularly his voice – triggered a reminder of someone who used to hurt her.

I’m trying to build relationships with school, so am refraining from speaking my mind!  Those who know me, who read this, will probably be chuckling to themselves!  I have emailed the school and said I would like to offer a suggestion in order to try and work together to reduce the occurrence of these times.

“I wonder if it is possible for her support people to remind her that she is safe before trying to get her to finish her work?  If so, it needs to in a kind but firm voice and repeated several times with no other information.  So something like “K, I am your safe helper and you are safe” then a pause, then say it again, then again.  Hopefully, over time that will calm her down.  Then she may be able to get on with her work.  I do know that it is not about the level or ability of the work.  If anyone is reluctant or uncomfortable with this then do let me know and I will think of something else.”

I’ve sent the email now, I wonder if it is too patronising, too gentle, too much of me just wasting my time?  We shall see.

Later in the day, I got another email to say there had also been another situation where a teacher came to speak to her and she got upset and turned her back on him.  Oh dear.  I managed to contain my sarcasm!  When I  managed to speak to her about it she said – I quote – “his voice was angry and his face was cross and I turned away because I thought I was going to get hurt again”.   So again, I have tried to explain to school that tone of voice or a facial expression can be triggering for her.  I wasn’t there obviously, she may have misinterpreted, as she does very often.  That is her perception of the situation.

By 7.30pm tonight I thought we had things calmer and were able to move on even though she still hates school and doesn’t want to go.  Then we began to look at tomorrow and meltdown started again!

In English she has written a heading of “Autobiography All About Me”.  Her teacher has apparently said to her just write – my early life was not very nice – or something along those lines.  She was in a very tearful and distressed state about this.  She says she doesn’t want to write it, she doesn’t want to think it, she doesn’t want to remember it and she wishes it had never happened.  Just writing that line is too hard for her and bring up all sorts of horrific memories, so it’s just not that simple!

Another hour later and we have discussed how she can start her autobiography with “When I came…” and then write all the good bits she remembers from when she came to us.

English was second lesson today.  So, before she even got to the lesson where she was rude, is where the trigger began!  This is the reason that adoptive parents ask to look beyond the behaviour.  At sometime in the middle of this morning she was thrown right back into the horror of memories from her early life and that is where she stayed, being triggered and reminded and triggered again, until this evening when she was home and safe.  Eventually I could get her to know she was home and safe.