I like to take photos. Hundreds of them. It’s really my big passion in life. What I would really like is some time to set up my shots properly and a bundle of cash to invest in some seriously good camera equipment and to do it a little more professionally. (I am actually going somewhere with this.)
This week I have had a difficult time with both children. Boy is displaying some seriously out of character and worrying behaviour and Girl? Well Girl is just her usual self; up and down but well… manageable. We have had some really awful, demoralising moments but actually some really incredibly good moments too, moments where girl has properly relaxed into cuddles, where she has chilled out in the bath (Girl likes a bath but tends to be tense, unable to relax and enjoy the experience), where she has fallen asleep in my arms and those are the moments I hold on to.
We have been away for a few days, it’s been arranged for a while, before all the trauma of illness, hospitals and poorly puppies and in the run up I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea with life being chaotic but you know what? I am ever the optimist, I thought the break away might be good for all of us and selfishly after the crappy winter and the difficult few weeks I wanted a change of scenery, a chance to use my camera and do something I love.
I couldn’t really have been more wrong in my decision. The ‘relaxing seaside mini-break’ has been stressful for all of us, there have been few truly good moments, holidays are difficult for a lot of adopted children but if you were a member of my distant family or somebody on my facebook friends list you would never know this. My photos, because I take so many in those small moments of happiness show a regular family; a bit like one of those films based on a true story, it’s true but perhaps not the whole truth. I paint a story with my camera that doesn’t accurately mirror the reality of our life. In truth the photos have been taken in a rare moment of peace and to people who don’t know us very well the kids look happy and carefree but that happy, carefree twenty minutes was probably followed by a sulk or a major tantrum, certainly some tears from somebody (at times possibly me). My status updates rarely hint at what we go through as a family, and only a select few know the reality. People who know us well can recognise the small clues hiding in the photos, the hollow look in Girl’s eyes, or maybe puffy, tired eyes, a paleness, a chewed lip, a false smile.
The photos do record the moments to treasure and that is exactly what I do, I remember Boy giggling on a swing ‘Higher, higher!’, Girl kicking a football through the water on the beach and getting absolutely soaking wet and loving it (Girl does not like getting wet). I try not to dwell on the memory that behind my camera boy is having a meltdown because he doesn’t want to be on the beach, he doesn’t like Girl playing football in the water, he wants to go back to the caravan but he wants girl to go too and now, this very minute (we had only just arrived). As a mum I look at the photos and remember with a photographic memory the detail of the moment but I am hoping that in time to come the kids will look at the photos I have painted and come to appreciate that we tried our best, we tried to make life fun and interesting and hope that they don’t remember the minutes of anger or anguish that may have followed.
Try as I might sometimes I let Girl’s behaviours get to me and all my efforts of therapeutic parenting and treading on eggshells fly out of the window. Maybe it’s because it seems futile, maybe it’s because I’m only human. The last couple of weeks have been highly stressful as well as the puppy drama Boy also ended up in hospital overnight when he got very ill with chickenpox (because my kids can’t just get chickenpox, of course they have to get some sort of secondary infection as well) and Girl has reacted badly to assessment week at school.
For Comic Relief we got invited to a Charity Bake Sale at the Hubster’s cousins house. She recently moved to a property she rents from the National Trust and I was keen to go and have a look but I had a niggling doubt in the back of my mind. Girl does not cope well with these sort of gatherings and recently her behaviours have been worrying me more and more but we can’t put our life on hold all the time, as the CP said, life is for enjoying not coping with.
So yesterday afternoon off we went but not before giving Girl a pep talk about appropriate behaviour; we have been here before and I felt that a reminder of our expectations was justified. Our expectations were simple; she was to listen to people’s questions and answer, not just totally ignore and blank people as she is wont to doing and she was not to keep mithering for cakes (well I can try eh?). That was it, pep talk over.
Now I have to add that the cousins house was a 45 minute drive away and Girl suffers from travel sickness, more frequently recently so really the odds were stacked against us of this being a good experience. By the time we arrived at cousin’s house Girl was scowling, she hadn’t been sick, maybe because we tried out some new accupressure bands but she did complain of tummy ache. I sort of believe that a lot of this travel sickness is stress induced, I think because she can’t stay focussed on the travel and is tense and worrying about the impending event she gets sick. I could be wrong of course, her elder sister suffers a lot of travel sickness so it could be ‘one of those things’.
So we arrive at the house with a grumpy Girl and a freshly awoken Boy (Boy does not wake well, see what I am getting at?), marvellous. Cousin invites us in and gives us a grand tour of her house that used to be a village post office and shows us all the interesting features and tries her best to engage Girl but Girl is having none of it, she moans that the house is cold and refuses to speak otherwise. We are off to a flying start. Girl warily eyes up the cakes but we have to wait a few minutes, we have arrived early and cousin hasn’t finished setting everything up, Girl’s scowl deepens. We sit by the log burner and make small talk, Girl sits making baby noises and scowling and refusing to answer questions. Boy, being her loyal subject copies her every mood; luckily he is easily diverted so we get him to help cousin’s teenage daughter (I’ll call her B) to assemble a cupcake stand.
Finally the cakes are ready the kettle is boiled, Girl and Boy choose cupcakes with lurid green icing and I start the sugar rush countdown, B takes the kids to her room, I am still counting down and trying to drink my coffee while I have the chance, takes about four to five minutes…right on cue the noise starts eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh, aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh, bang, bang, bang, stomp, stomp stomp yyyyyyyarrrrrrrrrrggghhhh…thirty seconds later and cousin appears, ‘I hope you don’t think I’m being cheeky but my daughter needs a little help…’. The Hubster went to deal with it and B said they had just flipped out, yep that sounds about right. On his own Boy will play delightfully, put the two together, post sugar (more Girl than Boy it has to be said) and they are like wild animals, Boy following Girl’s lead.
We spent the next ninety minutes watching Girl flip between acting like a maniac, mithering for cakes (after the first sugar rush, are you kidding me? I tried to use this as a bargain tool, cake for nice behaviour…I have to have hope, Hubster gave in), sulking, behaving like a toddler (lots of baby noises and behaviour), trying to be the centre of attention, interrupting conversations and behaving well frankly to all appearances like a completely spoiled brat and sometimes (dare I say it) when I am at a really low point I even think it myself.
Now before you judge me I know she isn’t really a spoiled brat (well I hope she isn’t) but I don’t know how to help her behave appropriately, I have tried everything, so I find myself not wanting to accept invitations, I can’t predict any longer how she will behave. Girl snapping and being rude to the CP last week was a complete shock to me, this wasn’t just a display of shyness of the situation which is how it has looked in the past, this was something else entirely, an insolence and a bravado from a need to have some control instead of shyness, a new stage.
I found myself leaving the gathering feeling low and upset, on the verge of tears and very cross with Girl for her difficult behaviour, I gave her a telling off for being rude and difficult but even that was futile. You see Girl does not care if she upsets or behaves badly in front of people she does not know so well, her own needs are more important, it’s not selfishness just self-preservation.
Last weekend we bought a puppy, it’s something we have been considering for a while and was in our ‘life plan’. We have another dog, Harry and we always wanted a companion for him but life just sort of got in the way. Harry was recently diagnosed with a heart murmur and arthritis in his back legs. He’s getting old and these thing are common in Cavaliers so we decided that getting a companion now might liven him up a little.
Buying the puppy has been a bit of a traumatic experience, the lively Border Collie puppy that came to us last Saturday rapidly deteriorated to the point where she was on the verge of liver and kidney failure, it was touch and go for a couple of days but after some TLC and daily vet visits she has bounced back to almost full health in a week.
Having the puppy even with the ill health has been properly amazing for Girl, Harry she has always been able to take or leave but then he has always been around, not helped by the fact her foster carer had a nasty vicious little dog (how she got away with it I have no idea) .
Every day for the last week Girl has told me repeatedly how much she loves Meg, if we go out she yearns for her, she cuddles with her but has also learned when to leave her alone, she bosses her around (no jumping, no biting, get down) and is thrilled to be helping teach Meg tricks.
Meg has already learned to sit on command in two five minute sessions. I controlled the first session to get Meg used to the command but then realising what a fast learner she was I let Girl take charge of the second session. I knew this would be good for Girl, it was fun but it was also good for her self-esteem and self-confidence because I was giving her an important task but also that the dog was doing as she was told so readily so Girl in turn felt it was a task she could do well; a lot of things she fails at simply because she feels that she can’t do them. It was very rewarding for Girl (and for me to watch them) and a good end to the day.
One of the things we never really gave much thought to when contemplating adoption contact arrangements was bereavement. It was one of those ‘oh that’s a long way off’ sort of thoughts and then life came and gave us a swift kick in the ass. It has left us in the strangest position.
Direct contact with a birth relative is a strange situation anyway. You meet, you may become ‘friends’ but there is always an elephant in the room, the relative feels a certain amount of shame of the situation and you feel yourself treading carefully so as not to offend or cause distress or look like you are poking your nose in where it does not belong.
I have to say I grew to like Girl’s grandad a lot. He had a very dry sense of humour, he was honest, trustworthy, kind and friendly and he absolutely adored his granddaughters. Parting was always sad for him because you could see it pained him to leave his grandaughters, knowing it could be another half a year before he would see them again although we were getting to the stage in our relationship where we were comfortable enough to share more of our life with him, he had proved himself trustworthy so many times and we were happy to share more time with him as long as Girl coped with it.
To learn of Grandad’s cancer last year was a shock and his death this weekend has saddened us. We are now in the position where we would like to say our goodbyes at the service but for Girl’s security reasons cannot. We would like to support his lady friend in her time of sorrow but again we cannot. We wanted to support in the final days but we could not. In time we will be able to say goodbye in our own way but it is the strangest feeling and something we just never gave thought to.
Goodbye Grandad, you will be missed.
Trauma and Loss. Two words that go hand in hand with adoption and at the moment are a very real and current issue for us.
Girl’s grandad sadly passed away this weekend and we were faced with the question ‘how do we handle this?’ It’s a difficult enough subject for a child at any time but for one who can be volatile when anxious getting it wrong can really be traumatic for the whole family.
I have to add that this weekend Girl had already been feeling some anxieties about separation. I had been out for a long girly lunch for a birthday and also out with the hubster and some friends who we had not seen for a long time the night before. This rarely happens and Girl really did not deal with it very well and we ended up with a few bruises and scratches to show for it. Yesterday Girl was still not herself, like she was on the edge of flaring up again so to receive the phone call about grandad’s passing at this time left us in a bit of a quandary.
It was one of those times I really needed some advice so I called upon my army of friends who have also adopted and the advice was varied. My gut instinct was to wait until today to tell her, keep Girl from school for some nurturing and cotton wool treatment and send Boy to the grandparents so she could have some one to one attention. My best friend agreed this was a good idea. However, opinion between friends was divided. A child of six does not understand completely the implications of death, it can be confusing and some felt that breaking the routine for a child that thrives on routine might be even more confusing for her. That carrying on as normal as possible would be of far more benefit to her, to be there if and when I was needed.
In the end Boy went to bed early, exhausted from a few hours at soft play so we took the opportunity to tell Girl the sad news. I had hoped not to tell her so late in the evening so that she did not lie in bed worrying about it but it seemed a calm time and would not have too much impact on the day ahead, we could then judge her behaviour in the morning and decide what our next move would be.
This morning Girl was a little defiant but after a weekend of manic, silly and difficult behaviour perhaps not particularly much more than would be usual. We sent her to school and had a word with the teacher. Time will tell how she is feeling about things. She told me she was sad about her grandad, she also told me how much she missed Mary her old lady friend who passed away last year. She asked me for a photo of grandad for her wall pockets and expressed her concern for grandad’s lady friend, worried that she would be lonely. So really allt hings considered some good reactions, recognising her emotions and showing compassion for another. I told her I was sad about grandad too that he was a good man and that I liked him a lot, which I really did.
If you are dealing with beavement and there is a young child involved I took some good advice from this website: