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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Sibling Adoption

My Littley is scared of fireworks. So I didn’t bother to attempt to do bedtime tonight and let her sit with me. That way I had less stress for us both. Biggey went to bed, she sleeps through everything. So whilst there was some particularly loud bangs Littley told me she was fed up with having problems. After chatting (she’s really good at chatting) about fears and feelings I explained that this week was National Adoption Week #NAW2014 and that the focus was on sibling adoption and the reason for that. Then I simply said

What do you think about being adopted with your sibling?

This is all her own words….

When she (Biggey) explodes I get scared and want to hide away. I don’t like it and I’m too scared to do anything and even too scared to tell you.

It’s better to have someone who knows my experience and understands so I can talk to them about kids stuff. I’m not lonely.

Better to be with someone I was born with than be on my own.

I know she’s bigger than me. But she talks big and clever and tries to tell me what to do all the time but I don’t like her telling me I’m wrong all the time.

When she does stuff (outbursts) in the street and in the supermarket then I’m really embarrassed. Why does she have to do these things it’s so embarrassing?

When I have to walk with her to school and stuff it’s like on outside she’s bigger but inside she’s a little girl. She only does stuff, like get a glass milk, or go out to play, when I do. Why can’t she do it for herself or just learn like I did? I try to understand but sometimes the things she does makes me feel like she relies on me all the time and this is a lot of pressure on me to do things and do things for her. I try to encourage her but she gets stroppy and upsets me and I don’t like it. It feels like too much pressure which makes me upset. When I get upset I get tummy ache.

I do want more people to adopt children because it stops us having horrible lives and it tells us that there are people out there who can care for us and not people who hurt us all the time.

Before you adopted me I had a horrible feeling in my tummy all the time. I used to eat to try and get rid of it. I used to eat crisps every day and even that didn’t help. I used to try and play and do things but it didn’t work cos I was so upset. Since I came to you I know that you love me and care for me and I feel much better, even though my behaviour is sometimes very bad, I know you will keep safe me forever.

My advice is : adopt a baby cos it must be much easier. Then you won’t have to catch up with learning by doing peek a boo and things like that when they are big.

Be patient because we have to adapt to you but you have to adapt to us as well. Do be calm and kind because it is hard if we had a horrible past and been hurt or not looked after enough.

Please do get us new toys and warm comforting things as well as toys to fiddle with. It helps us to feel safe and happy because it makes us feel safe and loved and comfortable.

It may take a while for us to settle in but no matter what we will begin to feel safe and be able to tell you we love you.

By Littley Safegirl age 11.

Helped by Safemum (age 21 again). Immensely proud, quite sad, totally blown away.

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.

Parent Power

When Biggey was having all this trouble with the old school and had been out of school for several weeks we applied for a place in the new school.  Now, because she has a Statement of needs we had to ask for local authority approval to move her. The new school said they were happy to begin getting her meeting people whilst we were still waiting for formal approval. The school had also said they applied for more hours on her Statement to support her. So I then went home and sent an email asking for more hours and increase to the maximum support of 27.5 hours and gave a variety of reasons, taking information for the previous school’s report and other areas. I hit the button and thought ‘what the hell – if you don’t ask …’

Her introduction to the new school is documented in my post So Far, So Good

Weeks later, I hadn’t received formal confirmation so chased the LA for an update and was delighted to get an email that said they had awarded the extra hours.  I was even more delighted when I got an email from the school to say Thank You for my contribution to the request.  Apparently school had originally been told that the hours would stay the same, then the LA got my request and said they would give it some further consideration!

So Parent Power is effective.  Challenge does get results.  Certainly in my area.  Always worth asking.

ParentPower

So Far, So Good!

So we are at the end of the first week of my Biggey being introduced to her new school.  We are still waiting on the Local Authority to sort out the formalities of the arrangements in regards to the Statement of Needs, yet the school were still comfortable to begin the process – whilst we wait.

Biggey, Dad and me all traipsed along on Monday for her to have a look around the place.  It didn’t take long – there are only two classrooms, a games room, breakfast room and toilets!  It is a special support unit attached to the school and for now, that is where she will be based.  There is a teacher and teaching assistant based there all the time and many of the lessons take place in this unit with teachers from main school coming into the unit where possible.  All classes are small, perhaps up to 6 children, sometimes only one child.  Sometimes children are in there full time, others part time, others as needed.  It may sound a bit like the “naughty children’s” unit but in fact it is very small, patient, nurturing, caring and understanding.  Exactly what she needs.  Not only to meet her ever expanding needs, but also to repair the damage done by the other school and improve her perception of what school and support is all about.

Whilst we were there the Head teacher came across to say hello and welcome her.  He chatted to her for a few minutes and asked if she had any worries.  She tearfully said she was worried about not having any friends.  He reassured her that they will help with that and hoped that she didn’t worry for too long about it.

I have to say, I really wanted to hug him, or just rub his arm or do something insanely touchy feely at this point!  He was just so nice!

Introductions to people took place and then she was invited to go in the next day to join their cookery class.  She agreed readily (since she loves cooking and baking) so the TA took her across to the main school to show her the cookery room.  Now here’s the difference – they showed her the exact route she would take, the cookery room, introduced her to the cookery teacher and gave her a typed list of ingredients.  None of the old stuff of figure it out, write it down, go with flow, be independent and “you’ll be fine”.  She was smiling. Normally.  None of the manic-too-big smiling that she does when trying to cover her anxieties.

I wanted to kiss these people!  Of course, I refrained (you’ll be pleased to know).  Yet I was delighted because they had thought all this out, I didn’t have to ask and nudge and suggest.

Tuesday came and I dropped her off at the school with her box of ingredients and plan to collect her again in two hours.  That is when I posted briefly about being alone.  It was amazing, for her and for me.   When I collected her again she talked animatedly about the whole experience.

The Headteacher came to see the cookery class.  He wanted to taste my cupcake so I had to take him one when they were finished.  I met my Head of Year.  She teaches PE and asked me if I liked PE.  I said I love it.  She said we will have to try and get me to go to some clubs.  She said that she will come with me for a few times because I might not know anyone and so she will stay with me until I feel more comfy about going.  She seemed nice … I’ve had a good day… blah blah…”

I was crying at this point!  After so many months of intense difficulty, the fights, the phone calls, the emails, the lack of understanding, thoughtlessness, no empathy.  The tears were happy tears of relief.  Thank goodness for a bit of kindness, compassion and understanding. 

She went for two hours each day and then a bit longer today, Friday, so she could join a PE lesson.   There is check in each morning and feedback at end which we are all involved in.  It’s like taking your child to nursery (or so I imagine – I never got to experience that because they were both older when they arrived).  So far, so good.  Everyone (School, Head, Senco, Support and us) agree we need to take it slowly to ensure her success; she is going to get very tired; we cannot put a timescale or deadline on exactly when she will attend full time.  When she does eventually attend this unit full time, there will eventually be another transition, little by little, to main stream schooling and classes with the unit there when needed.

She’s absolutely shattered tonight although she still had enough energy to have a little strop about the fact she didn’t want to go to bed!  She quickly went off to sleep.

 

Illness and Insecurity

Littley has a vomiting bug. Whilst these are not nice for anyone – child or adult, it is interesting to notice the wider areas that are affected in our children. She sits near one or both of us and has a needs to chat (as ever); yet as we listen it is clear that she has a need to process what is happening to her. So we get questions that are sweet and funny and cute and also show how she worries and has regressed to a much younger age. Things like: Continue reading

Still Waiting

The Local authority were supposed to come back to me by close of play Friday about whether the SEN panel decided to allow my request to change Biggey’s school. Guess what! I didn’t hear from them!

I sent an email after 5:30 saying that I am wondering what time their close of play is. Sarcastic? Hopeful? Naive? I’m really trying hard not to p!&& people off because I need them to do their thing. However more importantly I need my child in school!

Everyone (family, friends, colleagues) I speak to cannot understand all the difficulty we are having. Cannot understand that the school would not meet us, cannot understand that it is taking so long to get changes. Cannot understand that we are having to fight, chase, nag and do all of this on our own. People say you would think they would recognise this child needs to be in school and do whatever to help that happen.

Well, no. That’s not how it works. I and many others are not surprised that help is minimal, poor or non existent. Such a shame that this is what we (adopters) have to put up with.

This panel met on Wednesday, by the time there is action next week that’s another week my girl has been out of school, then half term is looming so nothing will happen during that week either.

I’m tempted to escalate the issue. I will do if I feel necessary.

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