2 weeks after the disastrous delivery of Life Story Work we are still suffering the aftermath in the most random ways from both boys. This past week especially has been very difficult for the boys and sadly the Social Worker is still working on her tan somewhere warm, the therapists are busy with other children and school is less than understanding. Sufficient to say, we are having an absolutely rubbish time.
Through little episodes from this last 2 weeks I try to show you some of the problems we had – and by this I don’t mean the actual manifestations, rather the underlying issues these 2 boys are still crippled by.
There is no point beating around the bush so I will just say it. As silly as it sounds if you hear it for the first time, our traumatised children carry a huge sense of shame around their necks because of the way things happened TO THEM in the past! My 8 year old was often scapegoated for issues that dysfunctional family faced on a daily basis. He was told he is stupid, useless, waste of space, but it was his fault if BM didn’t have money to buy food because she had to spend it on nappies for him. These emotional and physical scars don’t just disappear, not even with time and counselling; they fade a bit over time with the correct support and of course, with much much love. 8 knows that it wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t live with his first (or second) family, he remembers much of the trauma and pain pretty well. But he doesn’t know or believe that we won’t blame him for ridiculous things. Last week he asked for a cup of milk, I went to the fridge and realised we have ran out of milk. I told him ‘sorry sweetheart, it looks like we need to buy some more tomorrow‘ and he started shaking and crying. He was sure he will get punished for it!
When you follow his logic it is easy to see why he is convinced that he doesn’t deserve to be happy! He doesn’t deserve a loving family and nice people around him who will support him. He can’t accept the fact that regardless of his ‘shameful’ past we still want him! It makes no sense in his head that we don’t react the same abusive way like his first (and second) family whenever he decided to push our buttons or test our patience!
7’s problem with shame is different. He didn’t think much about it before the Life Story Book. In his head his first family was dead and therefore he needed new mummy and daddy. But seeing current pictures of BM really shook his imaginary world into pieces. He believes that he must have been truly awful so BM didn’t make more of an effort to care for him. He is utterly ashamed by his past and carries it as a burden. This invisible burden then translates into more big feelings without labels and eventually he will need to find a valve.
He calls this valve ‘release of unbearable tension’. Society call it ‘naughtiness’.
7’s teacher called me in on Friday saying ‘we had a very difficult week, didn’t we?’ Now, if you put aside my first gut reaction of ‘why on Earth did you wait till Friday to say this when I ask you every bloody day if my son had a good day or not‘ we can move into the details. Apparently he has been lying, back chatting, disrespectful towards staff, as a consequence he has been banned from Breakfast Club for 3 days (again, why I am only informed about this now???), he was jumping on the top of desks, gave a racial insult to another child, constantly defied authority, was poking children with a pencil which is arguably quite dangerous and to top it off on Friday he said to his teacher in front of the whole class ‘I can see your big butt’. (to be honest it’s really hard not to see it and she isn’t helping by wearing leggings, but that’s besides the point, but clearly that was the tipping point for her).
As I was sitting on those tiny chairs my son wasn’t even looking at us, he was hiding his face, which the teacher found highly annoying. I explained that ‘the reason why he is doing it is because he knows he has done some silly things and in his head he deserves punishment and he worries about seeing rejection in your face which he couldn’t bear because he loves you very much so that’s why he is not looking at you.‘ Miss IAmTooInexperienced was just gaping at me with her mouth open. She was perplexed when my son turned around and actually nodded towards us. So I turned to him and asked ‘what is really bugging you?‘
‘I worry when the judge hears about how badly I behaved I was he will not let me stay with you and there will be no adoption!’
Now, try to digest this for a second. My son, being a true man, is not fond of talking about feelings. What’s worse is most of the time he doesn’t even know what he feels, because well, nobody really took the time to teach him which feeling is for what emotion or in which life situation is it normal, expected or acceptable to feel in a certain way. The only thing this poor little guy knew was that he loved his new family and didn’t want to start all over again in another family and this fear drove him mad and because he was having these big feelings in his tummy and he was nearing explosion he had to shout for help in the only way he knew: by misbehaving!
I was soo happy to hear him say that. Bless him, he has come so far from that angry young man who was attacking me and my husband very violently and fairly regularly in the past to this sweet little boy who (in his own way) said it that he loved his new life with us.
Clearly the teacher lost us a long time ago. I was cuddling my son and reassured him that the judge (‘what judge?‘ – oh, the teacher was catching up) ‘will not need to hear about this and besides, all the judge wants to know if you are loved, happy and safe here with us and we both know you are so he/she will be happy to approve the adoption.’ And then some huge invisible weights have dropped from his shoulders and from somewhere deep within massive tears started to erupt.
His poor behaviour continued over the weekend. We are quite used to him pushing our buttons and usually I can recognise there is an underlying issue and see HIM instead of his naughtiness; quite often I remember he is not doing this TO me to annoy me. But not always! Sunday morning all was well until out of the blue he started calling my husband stupid for seemingly no reason. Hubby reacted badly and by the time I came out of the loo all hell broke loose: doors were slamming, sanctions issued, toys banned. Naturally this was met by even more defiance from 7. ‘You think I care? I will do whatever I want. If I break my bed you have to buy me a new one!’
We were supposed to go rock pooling after church, but husband took 7’s net out of the car as a way of consequences. He couldn’t go to do some fun kids activity in church as husband was forcing him to sit in Time in. Clearly things were not progressing at all, if anything, things were getting worse. Husband went to children’s church with 8. 7 was fighting him off, dropping himself onto the floor, shouting at him – just the usual. I was supposed to enjoy the service, but clearly it wasn’t happening. I went after the guys; 7 was protesting on the stairs refusing to get up. I sat down next to him.
I went through the usual mantra. I got yelling back at my face ‘you are not my real mother!’
I remained very calm: ‘I know that. You want to talk about it?’
‘I see you are upset, do you want a hug?’
‘No, stay away from me!’
‘Ok, I will just sit here with you then.’ (other parents passing by giving us looks)
‘I don’t want to talk to you. I hate you’
‘You don’t have to talk to me, we can just sit here quietly’
(he turned his back at me)
(I can’t keep quiet for long) ‘I can see on your face that you are very angry. I think I also know, why…’
(shaking head, but getting an inch closer to me)
‘I wonder if your big feelings have something to do with anger… (no reaction so I guess I am close). … I wonder if you are angry at the situation that you can’t live with your first mummy and daddy.
‘It’s so unfair!’
‘Yes, it is. Children should be able to stay with their mummy and daddy and parents should love their children and make sure they are safe and healthy. I am also very angry with you that BM and BF couldn’t do that for you.’
‘Are you angry, too?’
‘Yes, very! But I do not take out my anger on others. I understand if BM and BF were here you would want to hurt them… (here he went into details of how exactly he would make them pay for causing him this level of sadness, no need to repeat it, it was scary enough just to listen to him) … but remember what we have been saying? It’s not OK to hurt for real. I see that you are hurting the grownups around you like me or your teacher who love you, because it reminds you of the ones who should have loved you but couldn’t.
‘Can you please hug me? I really hate these stupid big feelings.’ (so we cuddle on the floor for a few minutes.
‘Now I am sure the judge will be very cross with me if he/she hears about this…’
‘No, like I said before, the judge will not hear about this, don’t worry about it. But for the future it would be really good if you…’
‘I know, I know, talk about my feelings before they explode in my tummy’
🙂 We are getting there… Slowly our message gets through to him!
And I am not talking about the ‘I am sad that I can’t play another 5 minutes with my toy‘ type of thing, although sometimes 8 makes it look like it’s really the end of the world. I am talking about the deepest darkest sadness that there is; the one only those can experience who have lost a dear person or those going through the scariest depression ever. We all know it’s not fair, no person, let alone an innocent little child should experience that level of sadness!
It’s so hard on our adopted children. There is a natural inbuilt love and connection to their first family. Regardless of how horrible they were to the children, not being able to see them, hug them or punch them is a massive loss and this lack of closure creates a never ending sadness.
Then they move from Foster Care to and adoptive family. Again, another massive loss and the sadness deepens. No matter how happy they are or will ever be with their new mummy and daddy, that deep sadness will always be there!
I could write books about this already and I am no expert by a long shot. Sufficient to say that many of their wobbliness comes from the subconscious mind and often they don’t even know what has triggered something. Sometimes it comes out during the day in various forms, sometimes it is carried over through the night. The older one is now 8 years old, but he still wets the bed every night, on particularly bad days he wets it twice in one night. The younger one was 5 when he came to us and he wet the bed every night. Slowly it got better and for the last couple of months he has been completely dry with no occasional accidents either! Even 8 managed some dry nights and we thought we turned the corner. But after this Life Story Disaster they are back to bed wetting. The younger one wet the bed twice last night and all before 11pm! After that he had 2 very vivid night terrors and 1 bad dream that he actually remembers.
These are just some of the ramification we have to deal with since the Life Story Work started. It is incredibly hard on all of us who are involved with these two boys, but it doesn’t even come close to how difficult it is for the boys! I know adults who couldn’t take half of this and ended up in mental institutions and society just expects these children to ‘stop lingering on the past, look ahead, enjoy the future and consider yourself lucky to have such amazing new parents who put up with your poor behaviour…’
Update: This post became the featured post of the week on the 18th July at Mrs MummyHarris’s website. Thank you!