I Can’t Believe It!

I can’t believe it!  I can’t believe it!

The first words we heard from our beautiful daughter when she came running out of the foster carers house.  She was fairly closely followed by big sister who stumbled towards us saying nothing and keeping her head down. They couldn’t believe their new family were finally here to meet them.

Well, we couldn’t believe it either.  After about two years going through the process of approval and matching, we were finally meeting our girls and becoming a family.  This weekend we went out for a family meal to celebrate our 8 years together.

Littley is still chatty and dramatic about events although much quieter than when we first met; Biggey still, mostly says as little as possible and although she doesn’t keep her head down these days, it’s very quick to go down at any given moment.

In those 8 years there’s an awful lot of things that have happened that I can’t believe I’ve lived through and experienced. It has been the most incredibly steep learning curve and one that I was not prepared for and could never have imagined.

When I began learning about effects of attachment, trauma, neglect, abuse, loss and how the children respond it made perfect sense to me.  Yet even when it all made sense, when I went to more conferences and training events I got to know more, I implemented everything I could, there’s still so much to content with.  I’m glad I know what I do, goodness knows what state we would be in as a family if I didn’t!

We lost friends and even family support along the way, yet we’ve gained some truly wonderful, supportive friends too.  Adoption has filled our lives in more ways than with just the girls.  It has also restricted our lives too and we certainly live life very differently to that which we imagined when we started the process.

So, here’s my top 10 things I can’t believe.

I can’t believe:

  1. That we were told “they just need firm boundaries”.
  2. That in 8 – 10 years since we entered the process things haven’t changed much.
  3. That it’s apparently OK that even now we are finding out crucial information from files which would explain just how terrible their early life was.
  4. That the education system is not able to accommodate my girl even with a Statement of Needs.
  5. That we are well known to the police (but they are very nice and helpful about it).
  6. That I have had to learn to restrain my children – I certainly wasn’t told that on the prep course!
  7. That there are so many days when I say I can’t do this anymore, then get up again the next day, finding strength from somewhere to carry on.
  8. That instead of continuing to work in the corporate world that I now have my own very small, but very flexible business.
  9. That I am campaigning for change in our LA so that the Virtual Head is involved with adopted children.
  10. That we have dog!  This really would never have happened if it wasn’t for Biggey’s intense needs but he’s almost the best thing we have done since the girls came.

Our Puppy

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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.

Love Conversation

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?