Thursday, 24 November 2016


How many times a day do you throw your hands up in the air in pure frustration or mentally scream inside your head exasperated? I don't think I'd even like to count how many times a day I do this.  All I know is that inside my head it feels like there's a washing machine constantly churning around an endless bundle of negative emotions.  Half the time I don't even think there are identifiable thoughts any more - it's all so jumbled up now that I can't actually pull any of them out to check over.

I was talking to a friend recently about parenting (I sometimes wonder if that's all I ever do!).  I like to pick up tips and see how other people do it.  Personally I feel like I've lost the parenting plot a lot of time and I realise that I'm feeling way too serious about it all and not really enjoying the time I have with my children.

In my defence my time with my children generally involves Katie calling Pip a "butt-hole" or shouting at him to get away from her (unless she wants to play with him of course).  More recently she's discovered the word "bitch" so that's a new level of name calling currently in use.  We've already been and done the "F" word last year.  Mostly she's bored of that one now which is a relief. I do know that Katie doesn't use these words at school - she has at least that much sense - but Pip doesn't have that filter yet as he's only 4. I'm dreading the day when I'm pulled aside to be told he's taught some poor unsuspecting child some colourful new words.  I either spend my days telling them not to call each other names or telling them to stop harassing the poor kittens or not to throw things at each other.  I'm sure I'm exaggerating.  There are some musical interludes of whale song and playful dolphins but my stress levels suggest they aren't as plentiful as I would like.

My friend is able to parent her child with logic, reason, some wonderful reverse psychology and lots of humour.  I don't even know where my humour has gone to hide at the moment.  Being "playful" about my parenting when I'm being thumped or screamed at or totally being ignored when I'm asking either of the children to do anything quickly becomes a state of mind that I am unable to access.  How can you be playful when you've asked someone to put their shoes on 20 times or have argued that "yes you do need a coat because it's almost winter/it's raining/it's chilly"  I'm fed up with asking Katie to clean her teeth and then having to police it because she'll just use mouthwash (in fairness I used to pretend to clean my teeth when I was younger too). How can you be playful when you've called your child 10 times and they are pointedly ignoring you for whatever reason they have in that moment? Why do we feel this need to defy our parents requests at every turn?  For me that's the issue in our house.  It's the defying at every turn.  I don't think my children do anything they are asked to do the first, second third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh etc time - unless it involves sweets.

So, tell me, are we the exception or the norm?  Am I turning into one of those parents that is pitiful, who has to scream to get anything done and loses all authority and respect in the meantime?  Is it just me? I am not naturally that person.  I can be a bit controlling and like things doing the way I like them done and a bit of a know it all (I'm a Taurean I'm afraid - it's in  my stars!).  I am very kind and caring however and will do anything for anyone and frequently end up rushing about because I do a little bit too much of that. I'm a bit of a hippy in many ways and often describe myself as tie dyed without the tie dye.  I want peace and harmony in the world.  I'm a Reiki healer.  I don't feel the slightest bit spiritual in my house though I can tell you that for nothing and it flies in the face of everything that I am and I'm at a loss to know how I can parent in the face of such opposition and still maintain my integrity and the person that I am.  My neighbours would probably die laughing if they knew I do healing with the amount of arguing they can hear from our house. My friend said to me that she felt that I was shouting "listen to me" and she's right.  Generally when someone says something to you and you feel like crying it means it's hit a raw nerve.  Much of that is my stuff - I can't lay that on the children.  It's all the result of a difficult childhood etc etc etc. I'm bored with dealing with the effects from my childhood if I'm honest. If I could make a bonfire of all my residue issues and burn the lot of them then I would. I've had enough counselling to sink a battle ship and I don't think under normal circumstances these issues would be more than a passing niggle.

It's the "under normal circumstances" bit though that's the problem.  These are not normal times.  My house doesn't feel normal - or is it like this for all parents?  People never admit what it's like in their house.  Why is that? We could all normalise so much if we could talk openly. Generally I feel that I am a strong woman. I've come through a lot of stuff over the years and I'm still standing and functioning well. I'm at a loss to know how to deal with some of these fundamental issues with the children though. My friend has a tactic of just walking away in the fact of such behaviours or making fun of tantrums. I know I try and reason with the children too much and I know I need to use fewer words. I'm a communicator though. It's in my blood! I like to know why I can't do something so that I can decide if the reason is a good enough one or not. The problem with being an adoptive parent these days is that there is so much information coming out about parenting and it's often conflicting that we end up worrying about doing the wrong thing.  Will walking away and ignoring your child spark feelings of shame and worthlessness or exacerbate attachment problems?  Will sending your child to their room for bad behaviour make them feel too excluded and unwanted? Will forcing your child to do homework lead to some mental breakdown (most likely mine!)? As another friend highlighted on an adoption parenting group I belong to shame is often what inspires us to behave well or reflect on things that we've done.  That is how we learn. That is a refreshing point of view.

As a parent I often feel totally deskilled.  It's all very hit and miss.  Some days I do well and some days I don't.  As much as anything that it linked to the mood Katie happens to be in that day.  After a recent CAMHS assessment we have been offered a parenting course for ADHD.  I'll go on it with an open mind; try not to feel too judged, and see what they say.  I do wonder if I inflame things too much by not distracting or de-esculating Katie. Half the time I'm too exhausted to even see it coming if I'm honest let alone finding a playful way of handling things.  My head already hurts from over thinking just about everything as it is. I'm trying to ignore the little stuff (there is a massive volume of little stuff though, it's hard to ignore it). I'm trying to give lots of positive praise where I can. I don't want my children to feel that they can't breathe without getting into trouble but equally I'd like them to just put their friggin coats and shoes on when asked and maybe if we weren't so caught up in the small stuff we could cope with the bigger stuff a bit better. I'm haven't even started on the stress I feel every time I go to use something that has been stolen. I now lock stuff away in a cupboard so keep some things away from Katie.

For the most part Pip is easier to parent than Katie.  His capacity to rationalise, reflect and understand is greater than Katie's.  Katie is stuck in oppositional mode most of the time.  She wants to just do the opposite of everything she's asked to do. Pip is often concerned about whether he is behaving well (except when he's arguing about his coat or throwing things at me because he doesn't want to go to bed). Katie is not like my friend's son who will learn from a negative experience - Katie would just go right out there and do it again - the joys of FASD. Neither child seems to get that the outcome is always the same no matter how much they argue. Shoes and coats are always worn; teeth are always cleaned eventually after being threatened with no sweets for a year! We do get there but it's at the cost of my own mental health.  I feel so stressed by the time the school run is over.  Is that just me having unrealistic expectations and taking it all a little bit too personally? How do I find a playful approach to these issues?  If I could find it for these things maybe I could find it for other things.

Answers on a postcard (or the comments section below) would be welcomed please.....

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Steps Forward....

It's been a few weeks since I wrote properly. I've been doing a lot of doing and doing much less reflecting of late. As usual I'm juggling way too many balls in the air and will be glad to put some down. We're still tying up lose ends after Pop's died and are currently in the process of selling their house. It's quite the task as there isn't a lot of clearing out to be done. I've been going through another low energy phase so I'm looking in the opposite direction than their house for a few weeks.   

The reason I'm low in energy ties in with a difficult phase with Katie. The start of term has been tough for her (and ergo us). The transition to Year 4 wasn't handled as well as I would have liked so anxiety and stress kicked in for Katie as she settled into the new school year. This fact has been pointed out to school. She's getting there now after some great steps forward with support from an Occupational Therapist and the Behavioural Optometrist which I've written about before in Understanding Katie. School have taken on board the suggestions from the OT and there has been a noticeable improvement in Katie's work. The simple addition of a sheet with the instructions on for the work has been brilliant and at the Parents Meeting tonight it was a positive discussion indeed.  It's still all very stressful in our household though.  Katie is teaching Pip all sorts of words we'd much rather him not know just yet and are getting fed up with being constantly told to "shut up" or being called "buttholes".  Levels of non-compliance are very high and this is one of the things that pushes my buttons the most. Asking someone 10 times to do something simple like say "put your shoes on" and getting a constant reply of "no" or my other favourite being totally ignored is hard work.  We have a rule of no technology until both children are dressed and teeth cleaned and that helps to a point but we are often late for school because Katie takes ages to put her shoes and coat on.  She can generally only remember one instruction at a time.  Pip is pretty organised and I can definitely tell the difference between parenting a relatively neuro-typical child to a non neuro-typical child.  Pip at 4 is capable of much more organisation than Katie is at 9. One of my strategies with him, even at this age, is to teach him to think for himself and not follow Katie.

As I often say "it would be funny if it was funny!"

As part of my ongoing mission to get all the help onboard for Katie as possible I recently met with CAMHS to see if they are able to work with us and also provide a full psychological profile for Katie. It won't be a surprise to many to know that they won't offer the Psych profile despite an intimation that they might and have "suggested" school ask the Educational Psychologist to provide this assessment. I've already asked school three times for this and it was irritating amusing that CAMHS wouldn't put this suggestion in writing in case it was "dictating them how to spend their budget". I do love a bit of joined up working! So I have asked school (again) today for an Ed Psych assessment. Katie's teacher has promised me she will be seeing the EP tomorrow and will raise the issue. It helps (I hope) that her teacher can see why I'm requesting the assessment and how it will benefit her as the teacher to have this knowledge.   

In addition to tackling school Katie and I met with her Paediatrician recently and asked if we could try Katie on atomoxetine (Strattera) at the suggestion of the OT (we're building up lots of initials in our life now). The Paediatrician was very helpful and prescribed the Strattera and Katie has just started her second week on the drug. She had a few worrying days of mood swings last week but seems more settled this week thankfully. It will be 4-6 weeks before we see a marked difference if this drug works. The aim is to help dampen down some of the external noise for Katie as her high levels of distraction and hyper-vigilance are preventing her brain from developing properly. I hate the idea of medicating her and agonised over the decision but, if this works and it can give her brain some quiet time to develop and feel less anxious, then I pray the pros will well and truly outweigh the cons in the longer term. 

I do feel like we're making steps in the right direction even though day to day life is very stressful. We're still a million miles further along though than we were last year and the year before when Katie was having mammoth violent meltdowns. We've tightened boundaries at home with instant technology removal for hitting and swearing and we've seen a massive reduction in swearing and a noticeable reduction in her hitting her brother. He does push his luck though so I try and be mindful of the pressure she is under. 

One problem causing Katie grief is friendships. This has been an ongoing issue since last term but is now with different girls. Many adoptive parents report concerns about friendships and for children with FASD this is heightened. My ears started burning with after-school grumbles about, quite frankly, some rather bitchy behaviour from some girls in her class, not letting Katie play with them etc etc. Year 4 girls are notorious for taking no prisoners as they find their way with developing "best friends" and excluding others. There is this going on in abundance at school and it seems however that it is not Katie who is the instigator or the only victim. This year, partly because I wasn't sure that Katie could handle it, but largely because of these issues I decided to cancel Katie's intended birthday party. There was no way she was inviting those girls into my house this year (and they were on her party list). I had a moment of thinking about killing with kindness but I didn't think Katie's party should be spoiled if they paired off at her party and didn't include her. Instead I took Katie and a friend (another one being targeted by the girls) out to lunch and to the movies. We had a lovely time, both girls were fantastic and really enjoyed themselves and I felt vindicated in my decision. There is a big dose of "girls will be girls" going on here and lots of learning required but it's all getting nasty silly so I had a chat with Katie's teacher tonight. I'm glad I did. She was gathering information about what she was seeing in class from the parents of the children involved. She was frustrated that the girls haven't been to see her themselves to tell her but she has been seeing the bitchy looks and gestures and has already moved one girl so she can't see another one in class. My biggest issue really is Katie not wanting to go to school because of this. It doesn't take much to upset the apple cart. We've talked about ways of responding and ignoring etc but I did feel,she need something to do to be able to get the upper hand so I taught her how to give the bird Ross from Friends style....

Well it had to be done didn't it? Her teacher thought it was amusing when I told her what I'd done.

So over to the school to see what happens next.......