I've not felt like writing for quite some time. When you're knee deep wading through the dark murky stuff it's not always easy to find the words to express yourself. I just didn't have anything to say because I was stuck in my head and my head was so full of worries and stresses and responsibilities that everything was jumbling around like a non-stop washing machine. Life has thrown some incredibly difficult challenges our way as a family in the shape of Alzheimer's, caring, bereavement, breakdown, money stresses, anger, and illnesses and I've been desperately trying to find my path through it all mostly chopping away at the undergrowth with what feels like a blunt scythe and hoping for some sunlight to shine on the way ahead. I have been trying hard to understand what has been happening and find meaning in it all so that I create a plan to carry me forward.
My need to understand things drives me (and other people) crazy, I'll be honest. It's like my head doesn't feel right if I'm not flowing with some sort of clarity. That worked fairly well until I became a parent. Not only did I become a parent but I now parent children who experience the world in a very different way to me. They process things differently. They react differently. So I've done what most parents do, I've tried to make them more like me. I've grown up following the rules and the universe gave me a daughter who thinks rules are made to be trampled on. Not following the rules for me is an alien concept and it never really occurred to me to question why I felt that way. Making sure people feel happy is something I've always done and I've lived a life helping people and finding great validation in that. I've just accepted all that that as part of my identity. As a parent though it brings to mind that fab Sinatra line:
"When an irresistible force such as you
Meets and old immovable object like me
You can bet as sure as you live
Something's gotta give,
something's gotta give,
something's gotta give"
And give it has. Me. Not my daughter! I have been fit to explode with what feels like everyone around me just doing whatever the hell they want and I'm running about trying to make everything better. Trying to heal everyone. Trying to find solutions. Failing to ask myself what I need and what I'm prepared to accept. Falling to my knees in total exhaustion as a result. Hands up other adoptive parents who can relate to this?
One thing that occurred to me a while ago, and I've certainly written about this before, is that as adoptive parents we feel we are handed the responsibility to resolve the deep psychological and trauma based issues for our wonderful tiny people. If you read any support group for adoptive parents we are always asking "how do I help my child?" and also "why won't any services actually provide an answer or help us?" We are inundated now with parenting models to help our children heal. We get up every single day ready to fight the healing fight. We often forget who we are as people and mould ourselves into therapeutic parents often whilst being verbally abused and punched and kicked and having things thrown at us by the children we are desperate to help. I don't know about you but I really do feel like I've forgotten who I am as a person and what type of parent I wanted to be and it's very hard remaining therapeutic in a war zone.
I am a Reiki Master, counsellor and holistic practitioner. Helping people heal and be all that they can be is my life's work. Over the past year though I've felt like a real fraud. In my therapy room I live and breathe the person I truly am. I am calm and peaceful and living in the flow. My healing room reflects everything about who I am. There are singing bowls and crystals and candles and a feeling of peace and tranquility. Step outside my room and the energy in the house feels like sandpaper. There is mess and chaos everywhere and is a true reflection of my life. I have felt like I need to be this parent who is tough and no nonsense with tight boundaries to help my children feel safe. All they do is spend their lives butting up against those boundaries in every way they can. I try to be nurturing. I feel like it's all thrown back at me. I have spent 8 years trying to find a solution because if I don't then I've failed. I've failed me and I've failed my children. My mind would spiral to the future and see all the dead ends and the problems that having a child with FASD might bring. Everything I read about FASD seems to highlight problems in the penal system and misunderstood children. Like all news it's fear based and, boy, have I been afraid. I have worn my fear like a hooded cloak. My own previous experiences working with teenagers who were disenfranchised and fighting against school supported this fear. I spend many years in schools trying to help children who were losing their own battle against "the system". Becoming an adoptive parent has opened my eyes to so much and made me so afraid. I've written this blog for so many years and immersed myself in a world of confusion and fear and anxiety desperately trying to find a solution. Our support groups are inundated with people in turmoil and distress. Parents absorbing all the projected fear from their children and becoming afraid themselves. So much anxiety that I've had to remove myself from everything just to find myself again.
My daughter, some great people and the other challenges over the past few years have helped me strip away some of my views of myself and the world. I have exhausted myself reacting to all these stresses and trying to find solutions. I have cried. I have shouted and screamed. I have been so scared of the future I couldn't breathe. I'm starting to break free of all that though. I am learning not to people please and am wondering if my daughter might actually have something to teach me about breaking the rules. I've closed myself off from the answers because I was so busy trying to label them myself. The truth is I have no idea what the answers are but what I have realised is that by constantly seeking the answer I have forgotten how to ask the right questions. I have forgotten who I am as a person and how I wanted to live as a person and be as a parent. I have made the assumption that I cannot be the parent I want to be because I am parenting adopted children, one of whom (at least - we're still unsure about Pip) has FASD. Because I have followed the rules I have desperately adopted the parenting models of the various people out there who are offering some answers, feeling like I was racing against time to change the outcomes.
I found myself crying this morning when I was having a cup of tea and welcoming in the Summer Solstice (not at sunrise because these days I value my sleep too much) and contemplating on some recent experiences and some new people and ways of being that have come into my life. I have realised that my children are here to teach me as much as I teach them. They have come bearing valuable lessons and we are missing them because we we are trying so hard to force square pegs into round holes. The world celebrates neurotypical reactions and we are frowned upon and ostracised if we don't meet those expectations. I've spent my life people pleasing yet also living with quite alternative views and as a parent I've tried to mainstream my children because that's what I did to myself, I mainstreamed myself mostly as self preservation in a very abusive family. A family I now realise was also about not breaking the rules. Break the rules = getting hurt. I have been sent this amazing child who breaks the rules and is also breaking down in me all the barriers I learned as a child. Who's healing who here?
I've got a lot of learning to do and there will be some massive barriers to break down in me around control. I've been asking the children what they need from me each day to help them grow and the answers they give have been so easy for me to deliver as a parent. Who knew? Pip apparently just needs a hug, a kiss and an energetic love heart to feel happy (I suspect a bike is also on the list though!). This way of being flies in the face of so much that we learn as children and as parents but yet it feels like coming home to me. Bringing the children into the heart of what they need feels so right. Asking their higher selves what works for them. Enabling them to do homework with the TV on if that helps their busy brains focus and be more creative. Trusting their judgement more. Asking the question "what needs to change to help us be a happier family?" and just letting the answer unfold. Involving them in saying little mantras and opening themselves up to possibility and a life of adventure. Since I have been asking the questions and not seeking the answers there has been a real synchronistic flow of people coming into my life and helping me rediscover who I am and how I want to live and not to care quite so much what others think. I feel like a weight has shifted in me. I'm not saying my problems are solved, far from it. There is much that still needs to be worked through in my life and I'm healing from some very hard challenges and some decisions still to make. There is a lot of anger floating about our house that needs redirection but I feel lighter, brighter and able to see things differently. I can see possibilities and how I can change and not try to control things so much and live in the now rather than in my fear for 5 years time. I'm trying to find my compassion again in a body that has been exhausted from compassion fatigue mostly absorbed from others. I'm changing me and trusting that I am the best person for this parenting job but the shift has to come from me first. I know this way of thinking might not for everyone and that's OK. I'm only sharing what's going on in my life and how I'm feeling. That's all I'm doing. I'm asking the question "what needs to change for adoptive parents and their children to live happier and more healing lives together?" and letting that question fly off into the ether for the answers to filter through. All I do know is that I need to answer the question of who I am now and how I want to live my life and see where I end up.
Here's the video I was sent if you fancy a watch. I love the enthusiasm and realness of parents. They still get issues to butt against but manage them so differently. It's not about becoming some smiling, happy, clappy person or being walked over. It's keeping it real and in the moment. It's about giving our children some responsibility for their actions and trusting in the long term picture. I have now asked Katie a few times "what makes you think it's OK to speak to me like that?". Seeing the concentration on her face as she came to the conclusion "it's not OK". I then said no more about it. Yes, I've had to repeat that question a few times but I've noticed a small shift in how she is responding to me. Small but noticeable. Last night she even took herself back to bed after coming back downstairs again after I'd already tucked her in twice. I calmly said I wasn't because I'd already tucked her in twice and that I was now busy. I reminded her she was responsible for making sure her body had enough sleep and that I'd trust her to do that. I nearly fell of my chair when she created an excuse to take herself back to bed by picking up a cat to stay with her and off she went. I'm going to just keep going each day and see where this thing goes and I know I'm doing it for me as much as I'm doing it for them. What else is possible?
I'd love to hear your comments.