Mommy 2 Cents

Mommy 2 Cents

0 comment Thursday, April 24, 2014 |
The full title of this book is "When Love Is Not Enough: A guide to parenting children with RAD - Reactive Attachment Disorder", which I saw someone recommend on the AdoptionUK message boards. It seemed like it might be full of tricks and techniques to help deal with those, you know, slightly difficult aspects of parenting adopted children.
Nancy, the blurb on the back tells me, is a Therapeutic Parenting Specialist, who has a very high success rate in working with high risk children, 90% of whom have killed.
Yes, you did read that right. The author of this book works with children who are so disordered they have murdered. That might be quite shocking, but somehow, throughout the book, Nancy keeps up such a breezy note that you don't doubt children can be brought up from such depths in order to heal and become a functioning citizen.
This filled me with much confidence, because I'm thinking if Nancy can help a psychopathic child to love, then surely I can help mine be less irritating.
I do suffer some drawbacks though. Nancy lives in Colorado, "a land noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateaus, rivers, and desert land". She's therefore big on things like mountain hiking and horse back riding to help heal her children, which is very difficult to arrange in Birmingham. Also, her advice that after the child has been with you for 2-5 years you can let them 'shoot a weapon' and after college 'own a rifle, handgun, hunting bow or crossbow' are also lost in translation. Can't imagine my children ever wanting to hunt bears, and even if they did good luck finding them around here.
Nancy's old wild west religiousness is also difficult for my English, secular sensibilities to digest. I'm just not going to be using the Power of Prayer, it just ain't me. And also, I'm not going to tell my daughter that girls who wear lots of black round the eyes and neon lips are whores. In Birmingham they are known as goths!
However, despite such things, Nancy speaks my parental language. Some of the adoptive stuff I have read insists on using sunny language when describing a child's behaviour. You know, children are not attention seeking, they are attention needing. Children are not naughty, they just require boundaries. That sort of thing. But Nancy tells it like I feel it. Children can behave in a manipulative and sneaky and downright abhorrent way and I have seen it with my very own eyes, many times. (Note I don't say that the child is manipulative, sneaky or abhorrent, I say their behaviour is. Big difference.)
Throughout the whole book Nancy is totally on the mother's side and teaches how to call children with attachment difficulties on their bullshit. She has many a technique for dealing with the manipulative, controlling and passive-aggressive ways that make up the weaponry that children with attachment difficulties employ, and for that this book is worth the money. Underpinning everything she advises is the idea that you cannot make a child do anything, but that natural consequences will guide their way. For that to work the parent must act smarter than the child and must, at all times, be the one in control.
Big for me about the 'control' aspect was that the parent should be in control of the hugs, smiles and affection. Those things are meted out on the mother's terms, not the child's. This may seem abnormal, maybe even cruel, to people who haven't adopted a child with attachment difficulties, but you would not believe how they will use even these things to control the adult. And if the child controls the adult, there is no hope for healing.
Still, inconsistencies pop up in the book, the same inconsistency that appears in every book about parenting adopted children. That inconsistency goes something like this: don't EVER reject a child from your presence for ANYTHING they have ever done, NOT EVER, oh, unless they've done x y or z then you should. Here Nancy will tell us not to send a child to their room for more than 30 minutes because you can't bond with a child who who is in their room, she will also tell us to hug a child who has stopped showering, no matter how smelly they are, but on the other hand she advocates sending the child to respite care that is stricter and less fun than your own home so they appreciate what they have with you, and to make a child eat in the laundry room if they deliberately employ bad habits at the dinner table! Also, do you hug a child who won't do their chores to 'unstick them' or do you let them 'rust on the coach' until they do it, I'm not sure!
(What is it with American's and their chores? I'm sure half of USA parenting problems could be wiped out in a flash if parents just stopped expecting their children to sweep floors and take out the rubbish.)
So, this book, sometimes it's an odd read because I don't live in cowboy country and pray over my kids, but in other ways it speaks directly to me. It also made me realise that my kids have actually done some healing whilst they have lived with us and that they have every chance of leading happy, functional lives if I help them.
I shall keep this one handy.

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0 comment Wednesday, April 23, 2014 |
Yesterday, my Husband and I had a catch-up session with CAMHS, that is with the psychiatrist and the Social Worker. There was a change in attitude towards us, particularly from the psychologist, which I believe is down to the fact that I have told them that since son started getting violent at home, I am showing signs of secondary trauma.
My GP had written CAMHS a letter, which I had asked to be passed onto adoption support, which mentioned that one of my symptoms was not being able to enter the children's rooms during the day whilst they were at school. I found any association with the kids when I was alone retriggred traumatic feelings in me and so I was avoiding them. This was in reaction to the outburst son had where he screamed obscenities at me, flew at me and went for my eyes, and then spent the next couple of hours tearing his bedroom apart. I recognised this as a sign of secondary-truama and I reported this to my gp and hoped for help from adoption support.
Unfortunately, this openness seems to have worked against us, because it has given the psychologist something to peg Son's aggression on. Rather than seeing my symptoms as a reaction to Son's aggression, I think she sees Son's aggression as a reaction to my symptoms.
I am frankly, gobsmacked.
I am also hurt, drained, furious, upset and, at times, despairing. Just when you think things couldn't get any worse, CAMHS come in and tear away what was left of your confidence.
Everything Husband and I told them about how we are trying to parent and also manage this situation was met with criticism. Even the fact that I use Dan Hughe's Playful Loving Acceptance Empathy Curiosity and Empathy (PLACE) was used against me because I am overwhelming the children with something they are not used to!
And they really went for me when I told them about the emergency measure we have put in place for this week. Basically, I have put Son in the after school club to give my daughter some space at home where she is not either having to be subjected to her brother's aggression or having to go to her room to get away from him. It also means that husband and I can pick him up from school together so that I am not alone with him if he decides to go on the rampage again.
This was absolute proof to them, apparently, of how we are separating him from the famly, and harming his attachment to us.
I dare say that putting him in this club for one week does do nothing for attachment, but he has had two years of therapeutic, attachment-based parenting, and so I made the judgement call to do something for Daughter for a change.
In the midst of all the defending of myself I had to do, I made sure they had some defending to do themselves. I asked why I was not allowed in these sessions with Son and the Social Worker, and was told again that it's not attachment work, just a 'safe' place for Son to talk. I asked, as the psychologist seemed to think my relationship with Son was the root of his aggression, if we could have attachment therapy. I was told that a parent needs to be in a calm and stable place to be able to do attachment work and that as I was very 'fragile' at the moment, I couldn't do it. So I asked if I got help for my secondary trauma, could we do it then, and was told no! There is no plan to give my Son therapy! I need to do all the work at home and they will give me appropriate strategies!
So I asked for a strategy for when son screams abuse at me and starts breaking things and chucking them around. The psychologist said I should hold him and the SW disagreed and said I should stand calmly by and comment on what he was doing in an empathetic manner.
For fuck's sake!
I could go on and on with the shear awfulness of the meeting. The stuff we got turned against us, like them picking up on my Husband saying he was worried about me, and not also saying he was worried about Son. Like how we told them we spend one-to-one time with the kids separately at weekends, and being told we're dividing the family!
We are managing the situation apparently, not managing our Son. I'd like them to say that to a woman who is a victim of aggression perpetrated by her partner. Tear down all the things she's put in place to keep herself safe, and say that if she just managed her man better, things wouldn't escalate and she wouldn't get hurt.
Husband and I felt very blamed by the psychologist for our Son's escalating behaviour. I felt that my being honest about suffering from secondary trauma was used against me. I don't think she understands that for two years I have been a strong parent for our Son, that I have always put my children first. And that me asking for help for myself is not an indication of my selfishness, but of my recognition that this is taking it's toll on me and that to be in the best place to parent my kids, I need support for myself.
You'd think it wouldn't need saying wouldn't you? Not to professionals.
The whole of CAMHS is a complete mess and should be dismantled. What on earth is the point of a mental health service that takes a year to see a suicidal child? I want Direct Payments so I can bugger off and get therapy for my Son from the private sector. I don't want to have to rely on these bunch of clowns.
Son's got his session with the Social Worker again on Friday. The Social Worker informed us that Son told her that when he swears at us, we swear back! No we do not, I said! Not that I felt believed. Perhaps this session Son can tell her that we beat him and get a Child Protection investigation going, that would just be the cherry on the cupcake.

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0 comment Tuesday, April 22, 2014 |
ME: Excuse me Mr Dalek, could my son please tell you a joke?
DALEK: What's a joke?
ME: Something that will make you laugh.
DALEK: Daleks don't laugh
ME: Pretend you do.
SON: Why do Daleks like apples?
DALEK: I don't like apples.
ME: Pretend you do.
DALEK: I don't know, why do Daleks like apples?
SON: Because an apple a day keeps the Doctor away.
DALEK: Haaaa haaaa haaaa haaaaaaa haaaaaa
DALEK: I know another joke. Knock knock.
SON: Who's there?
DALEK: Doctor.
SON: Doctor who?
DALEK: Doctor Who! Exterminate! Exterminate!

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0 comment Monday, April 21, 2014 |
When husband and I did our first batch of Mother's Day and Father's Day with the kids last year, friends and family were so happy for us that we finally had children to celebrate these day.
But they were awful for us, both of them. Couldn't pin down exactly why though, but yesterday was our second Father's Day and now I think I can.
Firstly, if husband and I could have had birth children, we wouldn't have to share Mother's or Father's day with any other parent. As it is, our children's birth parents are present in mind if not body, for us as well as for the children, on both days.
Secondly, if husband and I could have had birth children, they would not have been screwed up by neglectful parenting, being in the care system and the trauma of adoption. Therefore our birth children would not be presenting us with such emotional and behavioural difficulties that meant I couldn't work, that meant sleepless nights and tears shed, that meant professional input was required.
Thirdly, our birth children would love us, which I am not yet sure our adopted children do.
Lastly, it's hard to take part in a day celebrating Mothers and Fathers when our children's birth parents - and those of the majority of adopted children in this country - were so unfit to be a Mother or a Father that their children had to be taken away from them.
So, yesterday was awful. The weirdest thing is that people who are close to us have no idea of the trauma such days bring to our family. It feels like someone died and they're being all jolly about it. Still, over now for another year.

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0 comment Sunday, April 20, 2014 |
And just as I was really loving my Daughter, having spent an enjoyable weekend with her getting all her stuff together for her week long residential trip, that too goes belly-up.
At a friend's house recently she and friend's Daughter raided the sweet cupboard and helped themselves to five bags of Haribo. A lot of talking to Daughter ensued. What did she think her friend's Mother thought of her now she had done this? How did that feel? Why did she think it was it OK to steal sweets at a friend's house when she knows she shouldn't do it here? What should she have done instead? What would she do if her friend's wanted her to steal someone's sweets when she went away with the school?
Lots of talking, reflecting, and discussion have followed that Haribo stealing episode.
After I had waved Daughter off for the week on the coach, I went home and did some housework and I found an empty box of jaffa cakes hidden under the coffee table. This made me very unhappy.
We had an incident at the end of last week when I went to fetch Daughter her jaffa cakes for her pudding, when all I found in the treat box was an orange jaffa cake wrapper. I keep the treat box on top of the kitchen cupboard so high that even I have to stand on a stool to reach it, so I knew the kids couldn't have taken it. I concluded that Husband must have eaten them all. He does that. Stuffs his face with the kids' things when I'm not looking. It's VERY annoying.
But Husband denied having them, reminding me that he doesn't like them. I was puzzled. I totally know what the kids have to eat because I am in charge of it, and no one had eaten the jaffa cakes that week because we had been eating the cakes and cookies we'd made for Halloween. And yet, I could also have sworn I'd bought toilet roll that week too, and I couldn't find that either and we were having to wipe our bottoms on tissues, and so I concluded that I must be misremembering and had not bought jaffa cakes at all.
And That's what I've thought all week. Right up until I found that badly hidden jaffa cake box. To get those jaffa cakes Daughter must have climbed up onto the kitchen work surface and then STOOD ON TOP OF THE MICROWAVE.
And she did it in a week that she was getting a cookie or cake after school, a chocolate mousse for pudding, and fruit, Froob or Cheese String for supper, so she was not exactly going without.
And she did it in a week that she and I were having chats about trust and honesty, and not stealing things, and the difference between right and wrong, and most specifically NOT STEALING SWEETS.
After this find I went into her bedroom. I had told her I would be thoroughly going through her room when she was away and so to make sure everything was just as t should be. And That's what I did this morning. Where I found chocolate bar wrappers (not of any chocolate bars I have ever bought her, so where did they come from?), money (I keep all her money for her, so where did that come from?) and felt pens (not allowed in room and not seen before, so where did they come from?) as well as a few assorted things carelessly hidden in bags instead of put away properly, now placed loving in the kitchen bin.
When I was putting the felt tip pens away in the felt tip pen box kept downstairs under the coffee table, guess what I found hidden in there? Why, I do believe it was a mouldy jam sandwich.
Daughter's the one who eats jam sandwiches in this house.
And so, the stealing and lying continues unabated.
It is probably a very good thing that I won't be seeing Daughter for a few days. Gives me time to calm down and think up something really enjoyable to dish out for a consequence.

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0 comment |
Husband and I went to CAMHS appointment this morning. I had already spoken to the Clinical Psychiatrist (CP) on Monday to tell her that I wanted her to come into the appointment knowing what help was going to be offered to Son. I didn't want to sit around talking anymore.
So we met her and the Social Worker (SW), and despite CP's efforts the meeting ran away from her and Husband and I got to explain just what it is like living with Son. Much to our relief SW got totally on board and we ended up having an actual conversation about our life, about Son's previous life, about why he was acting as he acted, about what support we had had so far (none), what therapy the children had had so far (none) and what support this family needed. Then when time was up SW stood up and said she wanted to talk to CP for five minutes. They left the room and Husband and I talked about things like the fireplace in the room and the drive over, as you do.
Upshot is that Son gets therapy starting next week, and we get a referral to our local authority's adoption support team who seem to be able to offer all sorts of magical things, like discounts on massages and respite ideas!
I am a bit confused as to why we have not been referred back the placing authority, as we are less then three years into placement, but we were assured that we are entitled to post adoption help from local Social Services. Our local Social Services are crap btw, but anything is better than nothing.
In the afternoon I finally got a call back from the drippy Learning Mentor at school who has previously promised me anger management courses and SENCo involvement, and delivered fuck all. I dare she's what might be called a 'nice woman' but nice on its own is a bit useless. I like my professionals to have skills and professionalism too. Half of the phone call was a low-level attempt to exonerate herself from her lack of action, which would infuriate me if I had the energy.
She offered a referral to counselling for Son, which might lead one to question why this has not been raised before. She also suggested that I might like to talk to the School Nurse, to what aim was not explained, but it didn't matter because I have met her and she is insufferable, so no. Then there were some practical suggestions that she had cooked up with two other key members of staff to some specific situations I highlighted, which were much more worthwhile.
Isn't it wonderful what a frank letter copied to the Head Teacher can achieve?
I'm quite tired and would benefit from doing something enjoyable that didn't include sticking rockets up the arses or professional people, but that has to wait until I can see me bestest mate on Thursday. Tomorrow I'm over at mum and dad's to take mum shopping, and the other night my gran was taken into hospital and is most likely dying. Life on this planet stinks sometimes.

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0 comment Saturday, April 19, 2014 |
So the in-laws came to babysit last night. Husband overheard MIL whispering to Son in a conspiratorial way as she gave him a mini chocolate bar. Son immediately sought me out, knowing that he'd had his supper and wasn't allowed to eat anything more. He's one for sticking to the rules, my Son.
Not so Daughter. Before Husband and I left to go to the cinema a fight broke out between the two children. Son had spotted Daughter hiding the mini chocolate bar she had been given (given by MIL after Son had already made it clear they were not allowed any more food treats that night, I might add). As she denied having anything, I stood over Daughter and held my hand out. With a right face on her, she put the mini bar in my hand and Husband got an apology from her.
Driving to the cinema I remarked to Husband that it just wasn't wise to encourage our children to break the rules. You might get away with it with neurotypical children, but the stakes are too high with adopted children.
And yet! There was a little whispering voice in my head that said 'Yeah, but it was only a small chocolate bar, can't the grandparents just treat the kids? How mean did you look standing over Daughter getting her to hand over the treat her Grandmother had just given to her?'
Hands on the buzzers please ladies and Gentleman for the following question - was giving the children chocolate just before bedtime without their parents' permission:
A) the harmless act of an indulgent grandmother.B) the act of a subversive grandmother trying to buy the affections of her grandchildren with sugar, messing with the kids' heads by undermining their parents, and storing up a whole lot of trouble for herself?
***the studio lights flash and spooky music plays whilst the readership make their choice***
And those of you that plumped for answer B give yourselves a pat on the back!
It was very upsetting for Husband and I to come back from the cinema to find a strained pair of Grandparents. Son had lost the plot again. And it was worse than the time Son stayed over at their house and went mental.
We don't have a clear narrative of events, but Son's behaviour escalated after a happy bedtime story. We've heard fragments of stories about him saying how he didn't like them, that they weren't 'generous', that he preferred my Mom and Dad. He wouldn't do as he was told. He wouldn't stay in his room. His bedroom door was held shut on him. He threatened to wet himself. Finally he was screaming obscenities at MIL and after threatening to hit her, did so. Several times, apparently about the head.
Son has violent emotions but has never been physically violent towards anything but his toys before now. I was, and am, shocked. From the things MIL said he was saying, it would seem that he was trying to get MIL to stop him, but she just didn't know how. It made me think just how much of my energy I spend of 'containing' son, steering his behaviour and managing his moods. If he doesn't have an adult doing that for him he can't contain himself. Clearly.
None of this was the fault of my Parents-in-law. My son's impressive range of expletives and his need to scream them at a woman in her mid-70s who has shown him nothing but indulgence and kindness, comes from the years he spent with his birth parents where such conflict was every day.
But if last night proves anything it is that you just simply cannot parent traumatised children in the same way you would ordinary children.
You cannot try to get these children to break the rules and not have payback. By giving him chocolate in a subversive way she made Son choose between her and me. He chose me. She was doomed from that moment.
I wish my parents-in-law had listened to me and their son the times we've tried to explain to them how and why we parent like we do. I wish they had taken our advice to 'be in charge' and to not let the children get away with anything. It makes them feel safe, we told them. Their birth parents were chaotic and scary, they need adults who give them rules and routine and refuse to be bossed around.
But they bumbled on with their particular brand of relaxed grandparenting, an open palms , shrugging style of parenting, indicating that nothing will phase them, all behaviour is acceptable, pitting themselves in open conflict with me and Husband too many times.
Son was literally begging for boundaries last night ('Aren't you going to hit me to shut me up?') because he didn't feel safe. I'm not making excuses for him, I'm just outlining cause and effect. He kept pushing and pushing and pushing trying to find that boundary, for someone to stop him, for someone to at least tell him off. When that didn't happen ...
The whole thing is hideously upsetting. I feel very sad for MIL who has wanted for so long to be the type of loving, affectionate grandparent that her own parents were to her children. I feel sorrier for her tonight than I ever have for myself that I was not able to have birth children. She's probably grieving right now for the grandchildren she wanted and will never have. Yet, bless her, she left our house last night insisting that she was still going to carry on babysitting for us.
At 7pm we are having a family meeting. I will get out the Rug of Truth and we will all sit on it and talk. If Husband and I can come at this with curiosity then maybe we will learn something. Although I have to say if it was my parents he'd done this too last night I cannot say I would be able to handle this so calmly.
Otherwise, having babysitters in is now a lost dream, much as we were enjoying it and benefiting from it. I won't have people come into my house and be physically and emotionally abused by an eight year old boy.

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