I doubt she could tell you why she behaves in the way she does when it's our birthday. Is it excitement or jealousy or some deep seated sorrow due to being adopted or a combination of everything? Who knows!
Last year around my birthday we were getting ready to meet Pip so we had a baby shower which Katie really enjoyed. Being a bit wiser, after several sabotaged birthdays over the past few years, TCM and I went to Harry Potter World whilst Katie was at school instead of having what I'd hope would be our traditional family day out. This year my birthday also falls on a week day so I've planned to take Pip out with a friend and her daughter to the New Forest Wildlife Park. I'm going to get a season ticket there this year because we love going there and it seemed a nice day to buy the ticket and take my friend along with me. Pip is old enough to enjoy the play area and the animals this year. So weather permitting that's what we'll be doing. TCM and I briefly considered taking the children out for dinner after school but we decided there was no point because Pip is currently throwing all his food and Katie's behaviour is still ridiculously challenging, to say the least. My lovely friend is going to babysit instead and we are going out for a Thai at our local, favourite restaurant. We've not been out together for ages so it will be a real treat.
I felt guilty about this approach because I want to share my birthday with my family. Any guilt I felt was extinguished this morning however when I realised that the sabotage had already kicked in.
Last night I went out for a pre-birthday meal with one of my oldest friends. We have a lovely tradition of taking each other out for a birthday meal. I've lost count of how long we've been doing this now. It's extra special nowadays because we don't get to spend lots of time together at the current time. Katie wasn't impressed that I was going out and said, as I was tucking her into bed,
"I don't want you to go out Mummy. I want you to stay with me for ever and ever. Can I come as well?"
In some ways, after being repeatedly over the past few weeks that she hates me and wishes I was dead, it was nice to hear that she wanted me to stay. I asked myself whether she said this because she is feeling vulnerable and insecure or feeling left out. I said that I would see her in the morning and that I was going on my very own play-date with my friend, just as she does with hers (without the fancy dress outfits though!) and I would see her in the morning. We had a kiss and a cuddle and did her bedtime routine and I went out. She went to bed relatively nicely according to TCM. Only one trip downstairs before going to sleep.
I will just say that I had a lovely evening. It was lovely to spend time with my friend and have some real conversation. Not distracted or tired conversation either. It was a real treat on many levels. I am also looking forward to the massage treat that my friend has organised for me as my present.
It took me a while this morning to realise what had happened and why. Katie climbed into bed with us and asked for her Hudl at around 6.45am this morning. All quite happy. No problems at all until she was asked to get up and get dressed. Then World War 3 started. Everything I asked her to do had the word "No!" screamed back at me.
I asked her to get dressed.
She ran off, messing about, refusing to put her dress on. Then she couldn't put it on. Then she couldn't do the buttons.
I asked her to put her socks on.
I asked her to come and do her hair.
You know what the answer to that was.
Every part of the process was accompanied by being slapped or kicked or grunting and groaning.
This continued until I lost my temper. The frustration was overwhelming. The time was a-ticking. We still hadn't had breakfast. Pip wasn't dressed. I wasn't dressed and it was 8:15am.
I ended up picking her up and putting her in the chair. She then screamed at me as I was brushing her hair:
"I hate you! I wish you were dead"
So I did something that probably isn't in the therapeutic parenting manuals but the child in me had really had enough by this point. I pretended to collapse on the floor. I did a real Oscar winning performance as well. I lay there, hairbrush in hand, still as can be, on the floor.
Katie ran off to TCM shouting "Mummy's dead, Mummy's dead!
OK I probably shouldn't have done it. I don't want to make her any more insecure. I should have ignored it as I do most of the time. I should have dug deep and found an ounce more patience. It felt good though to give into a reaction after trying to be so contained all the time so don't send the Therapeutic Parenting Police after me just yet ( I probably shouldn't make police jokes should I?).
I obviously came back to life pretty quickly and explained to Katie that she should never, ever, say something that she doesn't mean.
After we had all finished exploding things calmed down again, to an extent. Breakfast was eaten, albeit very slowly. TCM went into work a bit later and stayed with Pip so I could take Katie to school on my own and we made it to school just in time. I had a chat with her on the way to school and explained that, from now on, she wasn't allowed her Hudl in the morning until after she was dressed. She acknowledged what I had said although I'm anticipating ructions in the morning when she realises I mean what I say. I'm going to make up a sticker chart with a morning timetable to help with a visual reminder of this.
It occurred to me, on a rare solo walk home from school, that Katie was probably cross because I'd dared to go out last night. She wasn't happy and she was letting me know. Add that to the events I wrote about in Hot Fuzz; all the regression and the fact that it's been an explosive weekend (which I suspect is linked to all the anxiety she was feeling after her shenanigans that evening) and it's not a surprise.
Having said all that, I'm asking how much of this we should accept? How do we handle this? I'm inclined to tighten boundaries as much as possible in the house. I am not going to accept anyone hitting, slapping, kicking or spitting at me. whatever the reason. I don't want to lose my temper. It's not my natural personality but at the moment I just feel tearful and explosive myself. I've had enough. I feel overwhelmed. I'm fed up with living in a war zone. Something needs to change. I need to change.
I try to treat Katie's tantrums as I would Pip's but ignoring is all very well and good when you've got all the time in the world. School starts at 8:45am and the tension builds very quickly. I'm trying to spend time with Katie but it's not easy when Pip is with us all the time during the week and he's going through the Terrible Two's in massive fashion at the moment so it's coming at me from all sides.
For once I don't have any answers. I really don't know what to do. So other than doing the timetable and trying to think of ways I can minimise stress in the household I'm going to do nothing specific and see what happens. I will continue to reassure Katie that she is safe and isn't going anywhere. I will continue with the parenting techniques we have been using but will be tightening the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. Maybe she needs this to feel safer? I'm going to try and choose my battles more carefully and try not to feel aggrieved that Katie never picks up anything she drops and that I am constantly tidying up her discarded things. I'm going to try to let that one ride for a while and see her as Pip's age (although he tidies up with me). I'm going to try and organise our time after school so she has something specific to do. I try and give her some time to relax and do what she wants to do but I'm not sure it always works with Katie, particularly a regressed Katie who seems unable to self-amuse. I'm thinking I'll get both of them out for a walk/scoot after school when I can to burn off some energy. I will continue to hope that this is just a phase and that it will pass as things at school settle down more and once we've moved to our temporary house and that anxiety has also passed. It feels like a riding it out sort of time. I hope my instincts are right.
Of course all of this is made harder by the fact that I'm totally exhausted nearly all the time. I suspect that kids are picking up on that as well.
I'm also going to try and not make more of this than it is and enjoy my birthday.
I'm also aware that I might just be living in La La Land and holidaying in Denial but I'm aware of that and will keep an eye on what's going on to see if more input is required.