Well I'm not so sure it's the latter, not by any stretch of the imagination. I made an adoptive parent rookie error on Christmas Day.
In my defence, awareness of the issue that the mistake relates to is relatively new in our family and I've not really wrapped my head around how to manage it. Regular parents would read what happened and wonder what all the fuss was about. After all, isn't that actually in the parenting 101 handbook as an example of positive parenting? It's still the default position for me and I know I'll struggle with how to remodel it. All I can say is forgive me, I'm still transitioning from the regular parenting handbooks and venturing into the more specialised adoption parenting books.
So what happened that had such a devastating effect? What was this rookie error?
Well I, quite simply, paid Katie a compliment. I congratulated her on her wonderful behaviour to that point on Christmas Day and reflected on how nice it had been. We were walking back from the park (well Katie was riding her bike very nicely and I was walking along with Pip holding his little hand ) and before I could edit my words, I'd already said it. She had been wonderfully behaved and we had had a fairly relaxed day. I'd pitched all the Christmas presents right for both children and they were delighted and so I was feeling a little smug. We'd had a nice time at the park and I was feeling chilled and Katie and Pip were lovely company. I thought it would be nice to tell her how I was feeling and now proud of her I was.
Bad idea and the impact was virtually immediate.
Within 5 minutes she started riding off and then she disappeared around the corner and didn't return. Now we weren't far from home and it was very quiet but I'm pretty strict about roads and being out of sight. She is only 7 after all. She didn't come back when I called her. A knot of fear clutched at my stomach. I couldn't chase after her because I was walking with Pip, very slowly as he has short little toddler legs. After what seemed like ages she appeared back with a defiant look on her face. I reminded her that she had to stay where I could see her but again she rode off.
Ever since then she's been on a mission to be as annoying and rude as possible. It's like she is winding herself up into a frenzy. She had a maniacal pitch to her laughter on Boxing Day and moved herself to hysteria within seconds of something being wrong. A total nosedive.
To be fair Boxing Day was a mixed bag of behaviour but it turned on a dime from acceptable to awful. She helped me beautifully when I was making Bubble and Sqpueak for lunch. I gave her a very grown up job of cutting up the left over roast potatoes and parsnips and she did a wonderful job and seemed very proud of herself. She asked if I'd given her the job because she was so grown up with the knife and I confirmed this's she glowed with pride. She helped taste everything as we were cooking (because she'd said she didn't want B&S so my cunning plan was to get her to help me and taste it as we went along. That worked brilliantly until we sat down to eat when she refused to eat it citing that she didn't like it!
"Errrrr sweety you just ate some whilst we were cooking and said it was lovely!"
She did eat some eventually after she'd said she was too full up to eat it and I'd pointed out that there would be no popcorn whilst watching the film after lunch as she was full up!
The rest of the day was a strain and Katie went to bed undear a cloud of silly decision making including tantrums and hyperness and finally going into her brother's bedroom after I'd said goodnight to her. She put her hot water bottle and new FurReal Daisy in him whilst he slept and then said she wouldn't go to sleep until she had them back again. She's not allowed in Pip's room after lights out so she was looking for mischief and was one step ahead of me. It didn't help that I was feeling exhausted and just couldn't find the energy to do much at all.
Today I was at desperation point by 10am so I stuck the kids in the car and took them to a nearby miniature steam railway where we rode the trains and played in the park and soaked in the puddles (Pip ended up knee deep in a ditch!). The change of scenery and a bit of fun seems to have helped and Katie seems to have blown off some attitude whilst we were out. I'm learning to use a reward instead of a punishment to turn difficult days around because reprimand just seems to make things worse. I'm also learning, albeit slowly, that compliments seem to trigger something in Katie that requires her to then sabotage the positivity. It feels wrong not to compliment a child when they are doing well but I'm learning not to compliment her behaviour. Instead I can own my own feelings and say how happy something has made me or how much I've enjoyed her company.
I feel that I seem a lot of time lately correcting Katie generally. In fact I feel like all I do is tell her off. I know that's not helping but some of her choices are very silly. Pip ended up getting a nose bleed Chrustmas Day after she pushed him over after we'd removed her to calm her down. She was incredibly anxious that she'd seriously hurt him. I'm not sure if she was worried that she'd hurt him or worried that she could get into trouble. She was fixated on what might happen if he needed to go into hospital and what would I say had happened. She wound herself up into a total frenzy and I think all those stress hormones are taking the time to settle. Pip is ok so there is no need to worry.
So yet another Christmas with Katie causing arguments. On the plus side we did make it to 4pm which I think is a personal best. Maybe next year will be better and maybe I'll learn to rephrase my praise!