Life Story Hell
0 comment Monday, April 28, 2014 |
Yesterday, husband and I went on a jolly, attending a course run by our adoption agency on the subject of 'how to talk to your children about adoption.' Well, apparently what you do is occasionally raise the subject of their being adopted in friendly, casual way, and talk about it in an age appropriate manner.
No shit!
One bit of advice did stick out. We were told that if your child doesn't often pick up their Life Story book then you need to be getting it off the shelf for them, and getting it out there. Children need to be lead the way, to know that it is OK to talk about their past life and their adoption. We were told the story of one little girl who loved her Life Story book so much that when the school asked the children to bring in their favourite book, that was the one she wanted to take in! Because it was all about her, you see! Oh, how we laughed.
Now, my children know where their Life Story books are, and whenever they have said one of their casual little anecdotes about their old mum and dad, I have reminded them about the book and suggested they take a look again. But other than the time I read through the books with them when they first moved in, they haven't read them since being with us, although they would have done so many times in Foster Care as part of their Life Story therapy.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in the snug, busy on the laptop, and daughter had already tried and failed to draw my attention away from it and onto her just for the hell of it, when she hit upon the idea of asking me to get her Life Story book for her. There was stuff in front of the bookshelf and so an adult was needed to reach the across to the shelf and get it. Clever girl. She read her book without comment, getting slower and slower the closer it got to bedtime in order that she could control what time she went to bed. A double victory! Give that girl a round of applause!
Son read his Life Story book too because he saw his sister doing it. I hung around him, helping him out with who people were and what things meant. After that he went to bed, started sobbing and continued sobbing for two hours.
When he'd finally gone to sleep I went downstairs and read through the book myself. Oh. My. God. I had forgotten just how nightmarish it was. My children's birth parents had the kind of upbringing that would break most people, and it is heartbreakingly easy to see how they turned into the dangerously dysfunctional people that they did. I was chilled to the bone that night to think that those children lying safely in the rooms above me, those children whom I strive so hard to treat with care and consideration every minute, were once living in that household with those people.
Since reading his Life Story book we have experienced a marked increase in son's behavioural difficulties. Two days after, for instance, he walked out into the middle of the road, not checking if there was a car coming, saying he wanted to die.
So, when we were on this course yesterday and the Social Workers were telling us with gusto to get them Life Story books out and read 'em until you know every word off by heart, I mentioned this. I can't remember what the reply was, but I it was of no use what-so-ever.
It seems to me that Social Workers are still working from old models of adoption. Yes, there is a mass of research out there that proves that secretive adoptions were very bad for the well-being of adoptees and that an open relationship with their adoptive parents about their birth parents is immensely important, but this research is mostly based on adult adoptees who were babies voluntarily relinquished by their birth mother. They were not adoptees who spent several years with abusive, neglectful parents before being taken into care at an older age.
Perhaps all these nice Life Story books, that are so cuddly wuddly that the children want them as bedtime reading, were made for very young children, who were taken into care as babies or toddlers. Perhaps that will work for them.
But what about the older children? Can it really be beneficial for them to remind them on a regular basis of the hell pit into which they were born? My son has clearly been retraumatised reading his book and he'll not be allowed to read it again any time soon.
As husband and I were on this course, grandparents kindly picked the kids up from school. It was the same story; daughter was fine, but son couldn't handle it. He was moody when we got back, had a screaming rage at shower time, and later refused to go into his bedroom, never mind get into bed. I helped him through it best I could. When he wouldn't get into his room, I ushered him downstairs and he sat on the sofa whilst husband and I read. I didn't think he'd last 20 minutes before boredom would compel him back up to his room, but he held out for nearly an hour.
But I made a huge mistake. I was keeping calm and everything, but when he said he wasn't going to bed I tried to make him. Said he had a choice. He could either get into bed now, or if he wasn't capable of that, I'd assume he needed more rest and that tomorrow instead of coming home and going on the wii, I would insist he go for a lie down in his room. I was so tired after being on that course all day and I just desperately wanted him to go to bed so I could finally relax. Usually it works. Last night it didn't. In a parody of my calm voice he said that he didn't care about the wii, was fine with not going on it.
Now That's what he said last night. But nothing causes a shitstorm in our house like son being banned from the wii. He will remember the second he leaves the school gates that there is no wii tonight and he will be out to punish me with all the earth's fury.
I'm going to be brave. I'm going to take him up to his room when we get home, I'm going to sit out the traumafest, and then I'm going to talk to my son about his Life Story book. Because he might not realise why he's going crazy at the moment, but I do. Oh yes. I do.
addendumSon brought up the subject of the wii ban as soon as we got into the car after school. I told him we'd talk about it, but not now. I told him the same thing when he brought it up again when we got home, and I held him off until he'd had a drink and a snack. Then I took him into his room with his Life Story book, and I said as age appropriately and as caring as I could that I think he'd gone crazy since he'd read the book. We talked a little about what was in the book, about adoption, about his memories and he cried a little, and I held him. The he asked if I would buy him a new wii game to cheer him up (always worth a try!) and I said no, but I would do a jigsaw with him. And we sat together, on his bedroom floor and completed a dinosaur jigsaw. There has been no screaming. He has gone to bed happy. I am so hoping I don't screw up tomorrow because I done good!
addendum #2I found son loitering on the stairs at about quarter past nine; said he couldn't sleep because of something that had happened with two school friends that day. I suggested he write them an apology letter, as that would make him feel better, and I got him some paper and a pencil and took him back to bed. I checked on him twice and he was much happier.