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.....


  1. I really have appreciated your honesty in today's blog. I too have had an anxiety over-loaded, head over-stuffed kind of week where his anxieties are mine and then I seem to magnify them. We have become so frustrated with each other and school life that I lost my way in my joy of parenting him this week. It's that extra intensity that goes alongside adoptive parenting isn't it - we mustn't let it steal the joy. Today I resolved to just enjoy him and it really worked. I loved the comment about your friend just laughing off a tantrum...maybe I should try it - after all after they are done with a tantrum they just get on with their day - maybe I should too...hope you find the lighter side of parenting soon ...along with me!

    1. Sorry for the slow reply. I totally switched off from the blog over the whole of December. I love what you said about that you got frustrated with each other and lost your way. That's such a good description. I'm hoping that now Christmas is over I'll find my way again too xxx

  2. Wow! Flippin eck. Where to start? When did you come into our house and decide to blog my life story? I've often noticed how similar our lives seem when I read your blog. A lot of stuff occurred to me when I read this. In no particular order:
    1. Are you a single parent?
    2. You are utterly exhausted and REALLY need some time out to look after yourself.
    3. Why are you comparing yourself with your friend.
    4. Be gentle with yourself and stop beating yourself up.
    Your kids are obviously massively challenging. That's a given. Sorry about that. But I think there's probably not a whole lot you can do to change that. This is the conclusion I've come to in my family. The only thing you can really change is your response to it. You can choose whether or not to be exasperated / upset / disappointed / passed off OR to heal yourself.
    Oh God. I can imagine you're screaming inside reading this. The only reason I'm saying it is coz you sound so much like me. I kind of stood on the edge of the precipice not so long ago, looked down and didn't like what I saw. I've been doing all sorts of research and soul searching and have found the things that help me: yoga EFT energy alignment. Some of it is a bit "out there" but it's worked for me. Are you normal? Well this is your normal. Maybe the word to I'm looking for is acceptance. When we accept where we are instead of fighting against it, we can heal. But first you need some respite. We sat down with a calendar and roped grandparents in to take older daughter once a month, just to give us a break. Is that an option for you? It was that or have a nervous breakdown. We didn't see it as a weakness. It felt empowering to acknowledge where we were and seek help. Things are far from perfect. Bur we're surviving. And the playfulness in slowly coming back. Good luck. Xx

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful reply and apologies for the delay in replying. I needed to just down tools for a while and get through the month. To answer your questions no I'm not single but am on my own with the children a lot of the time. Yes I'm exhausted, not just with the kids but with other stuff going on as well and I fear that has meant the kids don't get all the focus they need. In the next few months I should be able to get back on track with that. Regarding my friend I think I was reflecting on the fact I liked how she handled the situation with her son. That is her personality however and it's not in my nature to be like her. I think I was wishing I could be more like that in that moment in time. This old dog does keep trying to change one or two spots LOL. I do try to stop beating myself up but I fear that's an ongoing journey. I used to do lots of yoga but stopped when chronic fatigue got too bad and I've not got back to it. I've got the mats out but that's as far as I've got this week. I do Reiki however and do self treatments. I need a beach and a MaiTai I suspect LOL You're right about acceptance though. I have old issues that cling to me about that subject. Still working on it. I really appreciate your comments and time. Thank you for commenting xxx

  3. I have no answers, but everything you wrote sounds very familiar! I've said for years to my now 22-year-old that I'd like just once to have him do something simply because it would make me happy even though he doesn't see the reason for it. He's always been one to do things if, and only if, he thinks they make sense. And he didn't think things like wearing a jacket made sense.

    1. Sounds very familiar too. Pip hates wearing coats. I think it's a boy thing. None of the boys seem to wear coats at school. So many parents who have given up the battle! I guess our children are destined to learn the hard way eh? Thank you for commenting and apologies for the delay in replying.

  4. Playful parenting is brilliant. It really does work. It doesn't mean being a soft touch and letting children "win" it just means you change the dynamic.

    So, she is refusing to do anything you ask, and she is incredibly defiant. So clearly asking her to do stuff is not a good way of communicating with her. She either is not processing it (the ADHD bit) or she associates the things you want her to do with stressful "transition" or "correction"- going to school, stop playing, being told off. So even if from your point of view the next thing on the list is enjoyable or necessary, the present is much less stressful. Even thinking about doing the next thing requires some effort or fear. That is what anxiety is.

    She is 8, so you might assume an 8 year old could dress themselves and should dress themselves. But for now, for whatever reason, getting dressed for school (I'm not sure about other days) has acquired a negative association. In the SHORT TERM you want to make getting dressed for school have the best associations it possibly can. That doesn't mean sweeties or presents, or the next thing being good (sitting in car listening to favourite song, or looking forward to a trip, or seeing friends in school) None of that is any use. The actual getting dressed bit might need a SUPER POSITIVE ASSOCIATION.

    So a playful parent might practice it like this: get dressed downstairs in the sitting room in a very warm room (sensory issues - she might not like the cold air or feeling of being undressed first thing compared to cosy pjs) and YOU dress her as if it is the Hokey Cokey, leaving plenty of time. Don't ask her to do anything at all, don't make demands on her at this particular juncture, just concentrate on dressing being something calm and nurturing, not a chore which she is driving you mad by not doing. Perhaps start doing this at the weekend, when there is no pressure to get it right or wrong and where she is wearing clothes she especially likes. Then move onto uniform. Have the uniform downstairs on the sofa, so she doesn't associate it with a transition from her cosy bedroom but part of the day outside. We went through a few stages of getting our children dressed downstairs, partly because their clothes were always downstairs drying overnight, and I think they liked being part of a "production line", it was quite therapeutic to be buttoned up and tucked in and have the decisions taken away at quite a stressful time of day. We also put ds2's shoes on for him and tied ds1's laces (ASD and dsypraxia respectively) but this was before they were even diagnosed, and long after they were 8 when they were diagnosed.

    We are possibly quite a topsy turvey household, but we used to bring ds1 his breakfast on a tray to eat whilst he got dressed by himself (this was when he was at secondary) and dd had hot chocolate or ribena with straw in bed first thing before she even got out of bed (very bad tempered in morning)

    Playful parenting isn't about dancing round the house with the children, it is more rejecting the idea that you are the authority figure, dispensing justice and laying down rules all the time. It is more about thinking about what really matters - the thing I'm asking the child to do, or the effect on the child. It is not about what should happen, but what actually happens if I do x and y, and what might work better. If it isn't working for Katie, then maybe digging in deep is not the answer but a different approach entirely. If getting to school is consistently a flashpoint, how could it be done differently? Sandwich in the car? Get in car without coat, turn heating up - pretend you are the North Pole? Piggy back to the car with no shoes - put them on when you get out of the car at school? It's not nonsense and pandering, if it works, it heals. Playing is one of those things which despite being a "waste of time" is important.

    Aggression and swearing are signs of anxiety.


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