I've been very quiet on the blog recently. I will be writing more about that soon when I get time to reflect and find some inspiration but suffice to say the summer term and the start of the holidays have been the annual melting pot of emotion and my inspiration has drifted off to find a quiet beach of white sand with the sound of waves lapping gently on the shore. I've cracked open the Kalms tablets and Rescue Remedy instead and have my head down trying to restore calm and order to the house and to soothe the minds of two very overstimulated and exhausted children who are trapped in the annual cycle of fear of change.
It's hard to explain to non-adopters just how challenging change is for adopted children. Many people probably see me as a stressy helicopter mum following her children about like a Meerkat, always on alert and trying to pre-empt what might happen next, stamping swiftly on too much fun and judging the current speed of escalation. They can probably understand that the children are worried about the change of teacher. That is a situation that the majority of children, be they adopted or birth children living within totally stable homes, feel at the moment. Children who have a stable background will know that they can trust their parents to be there and that the change will be ok. They can be distracted and calmed. It's a bit like the old biblical song about the wise man who built his house upon the rock. His house was still stood firm after the rain came tumbling down. Adopted children certainly aren't foolish but their houses are built on sand and when the rain comes they are slipping and sliding all over the place. The adoptive parents are standing by with a supply of rocks and are desperately trying to build a new house with new foundations whilst the rain is falling (or maybe just to throw - it depends on how challenging the day becomes).
When stressed my children up the behaviour ante. Katie dives into stealing food and taking anything she fancies, peeing in places I'd rather she didn't and generally being angry, rude and relentlessly obnoxious. I'm regularly screamed at and called names involving her favourite "F" word. She lies about everything and screams when caught out in a lie, she hits and bullies Pip constantly and she's kindly taught Pip that word now so he's added that word into his vocabulary too. She's terrified of anything out of her control, screaming hysterically at spiders and wasps or any creepy crawlies because she can't regulate any stress, even low levels. Her internal barometer is off the scale. She's hyper-vigilant and unable to shift her thoughts off whatever topic she's worrying about. Pip is angry, big time angry. He's throwing stuff around and at me when he explodes and refusing to do most things he's been asked to do. He's had to face leaving pre-school where he was happy and settled and is now in the waiting period to start school. He's very regressed, wetting himself, poo'ing himself, refusing to listen and mostly talking in Minion language. When bored he will find things to do that he knows are not allowed to do so i have to know where he is and what he is doing constantly. The pair of them are either fighting with each other and screaming at the tops of their voices or playing together but as partners in crime. Fidget spinners have been a great distraction. I literally cannot take my eyes off them for a second. My only respite is giving them their iPads but boredom has definitely forged an alliance with the Devil (continuing the biblical theme) and there is little or no ability to stop and think if the course of action is sensible or not. Both are speaking at 1000mph, not pausing or thinking or waiting for replies. Arguments reach fever pitch within seconds, with very little warning or time for me to change focus. I'm left with a head unable to process more than simple thoughts and that's one step away from exploding through stress, desperately trying to be therapeutic in a hurricane and to hang on to the skills I learned on a recent Adopting Changes parenting course run through my local authority. I'll write more about the course in a future post.
Of course as adopters we understand that change pushes buttons in our children that they cannot understand or even begin to explain. It's a bit like muscle memory that just moves in its own direction. Change can mean your whole life is disrupted for adopted children, irrespective of whether that change was something that ultimately brought you stability, change is scary. Pip was 7 months old when he came to live with us. He has no verbal understanding of his feelings so his reactions are pre-verbal. I watch him expressing now all the feelings he couldn't express then. Katie shows her anxiety by building a "f*ck you" wall and lashing out at everyone in our little family until she feels safe and in control. Sadly her feeling of control disrupts the control everyone else in the family is struggling to hang on to as well. I find I then start pushing for control, tightening the boundaries of acceptable behaviour whilst feeling powerless and anxious about my parenting ability. I feel judged as I manage public temper tantrums. I see the disapproval on the faces of people passing by. People who have no concept of what is going on. I try hard to find the bravery to sit in the chaos and just focus on each moment without allowing the internal pressure to build and to trust my plan. By the end of the day I also feel like a pressure cooker that has run dry and is going to explode. My voice raises as I repeat myself for the hundredth time. The feeling of dread as I wake each morning is hard to shake as I steady myself for the mental barrage that is to come. It's hard to remember that this stage will morph slowly into a calmer place as the children shed some of their anxiety. I have to trust my plan. I use the same plan every year although the weather impacts on the locations and can help or hinder the process.
So this is my plan....At the moment, for the first week or so of the summer holidays, my parenting aims are simple. Simple food (things I know they like and trust); lots of exercise (rain permitting); as much sleep as I can force on them (early nights, little stimulation, long baths), and just keeping them close. I do little else other than be with them and try and be one step ahead, adjusting the pace as needed. I'm watching them unwind slowly. They are already sleeping better already and enjoying walks to our favourite nature spots in the rain. I'm letting them run and trusting that nature will help ground and heal them. I'm trying to ignore some of the anti-social behaviour towards me but that isn't always easy, especially as the day builds and tension grows. They are earning points for kind and thoughtful behaviour to earn rewards. There are treats which I know are enjoyed but not appreciated currently but I hope help lift the mood. Katie has lots of gymnastics camps to come to keep her exercised and will help absorb her stress and lift her mood and also to keep her away from Pip whilst he regulates too. Hopefully by Week 3 of the holidays we'll see a massive improvement.
And just to add to the fun and games we've had an explosion of fleas on the cats due to the hot weather and I now need to fumigate the entire house. This involves cleaning all the skirting boards, re-mopping floors, evacuating rooms for long periods of time, washing just about everything I can wash whilst we try and get on top of it all. If I hadn't been so distracted with the end of term, my new business and some other stuff that is sapping my soul currently I might have realised we had a problem that the very expensive flea treatment we put on the cats wasn't handling and been able to react more quickly. Happy days!
I'll keep you posted.....