Parenting Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

Adoption is not what it used to be 30 years ago. I was an innocent small child back then, but from what I hear people still think and believe about adoption today makes me think it was all rosy and peachy and hush-hush. My friend and fellow adopter wrote a very good post last week about the differences of then vs now, please read it: The Adoption Contract. It was so true and powerful that I needed time to think it through before I wrote something again (hence no post last week)

This week there was quite a buzz about this topic in the media again; one from the BBC with the title Over quarter of adoptive families in crisis. I watched it and frankly got a bit upset when the reporter asked something along those lines of ‘don’t you think that these bad stories will deter potential adopters to come forward?’ 

Parenting Jekyll and Hyde is how it feels sometimes for Feelingmumyet and her adopted boys.

Early childhood experiences

Let me start by saying my child doesn’t have a split personality in a way the poor doctor in the title had it, however, it often feels that way. Ever since I first started digging into the minefield that’s called ‘Adopting traumatised children’, I can’t stop thinking about not only this story, but any fictional or real character who ended up having a troubled life later and wonder how their early childhood experiences shaped them into a burglar / abuser / killer / psychopath / addict / sociopath / serial liar…etc.

A few moths ago I wrote about this issue already in My Child Might Look Normal, But… and since then I came to realise that for me this is the hardest part of adoption. 

15 months into this placement (I know, some adopters get touchy when their adoption or family is described as ‘just a placement’ , but since we are VERY far from having an adoption order and legally they are NOT my children and I have no parental rights whatsoever only responsibilities I will continue to call it as such.) I think my boys feel safe, secure and loved by living with us. If their feedback to their SW is anything to go by they also believe that this is indeed their Finally Forever Family!

When I look at some random, yet in our Adoption World extremely important factors I must agree with the SW’s assessment: the boys are happy here! Before coming to us 8 (then 6) wouldn’t do homework even if his life depended on it and got often red-carded  in school – now he is at the top of his class. We can now walk nicely on the streets and I don’t have to worry even if he runs ahead or stays behind with friends that he will not come back to me. We even managed a few dry nights with him, which is a massive step for him. He has managed to say sorry – something even his therapist said he will likely not be able to do for a long time! We are in the process of learning ‘it was my fault’ instead of anybody else’s – again, a huge step for a child who was blamed for everything so naturally he has learnt to deny every little thing he did. Every now and then he is even able to feel sorry for somebody else after I really really spell it out for him in great details why his words or actions were hurtful. I could give you examples all day, but it’s sufficient to say he has come a loooooong way and we are extremely proud of him!

His ‘doctor Jekyll’ side

Now, that he feels safe and well looked after, his real personality has started to come through. We found that he is extremely funny and creative. I guess most parents would say that about their pride and joy, but 8 really has a wonderful sense of humour. He quickly became a bookworm and lately he started to make up his own, intellectual jokes. I must say I was well impressed! Academically he has impressed his teachers (when the topic is of any interest to him I should add) and demonstrated that he can work out complex correlations just by observing. One day we were talking about triangles and he was bored because he found his homework too easy so I explained Pythagoras’ Theorem and he understood it and could use it well! He was 7!

He is not a boisterous boy, more like a little softy who thrives on cuddles and kisses and holding hands, which makes walking into shops a lot more easy these days. Today after waking up he came to me, gave me a big hug and said ‘I am so happy my SW has picked you and daddy to be my parents!’ (yes, I also went aaaaaaaw) In school he often draws a picture of a happy family of four and keeps telling everybody ‘my mummy is the cleverest and beautifullest (sic) in the whole Milky Way Galaxy’. Aaaaaaaaaaaw! Which mother would not melt and be just a little smug about how wonderful and lovely her child is… Yup, guilty as charged 🙂

He has learnt to be kind and polite and adults give compliments pretty much all the time wherever we are about how lovely and sweet my boy is. These are the moments where I struggle the most, because I know his other side, too!

Suddenly he becomes Mr Hyde

In the beginning when people made such comments I would snap and give them a sarcastic response like ‘you think? You should have seen him 2 minutes ago when…‘ or ‘just tell him no and watch his reaction’. Nowadays I learnt to just smile with my mouth only, offer a quick ‘thanks‘ and walk away before I start a rant. Why? Because it’s not worth it; it’s not their problem! If they want to see my boy as a sweet little bundle of joy with the brightest smile and loveliest laughter ever then I shouldn’t ruin it for them! They don’t need to know that most of it is still a facade only! They don’t need to know that he is only behaving so well because he is terrified and once we get home he will surely let me know in the most unlovable ways that he was feeling a lot of things but happy!

Simple things like ‘it’s time to brush your teeth’ can turn into a 3 hours screaming meltdown and please don’t even start with ‘all kids do that sometimes‘ because, frankly, I don’t care about other kids! I care about my boys and my family only. Just because all kids do that it still doesn’t make it right or any easier for me when I am in the bathroom holding him in a big bear hug to keep both of us safe!

Not giving him a treat due to his poor behaviour can trigger a nasty ‘I hate you, you stupid xxxx’ in no time and once he is there he usually doesn’t stop at the verbal abuse. I can’t count the time my orchids have been thrown to the floor as a way of showing me his feelings ‘you are hurting me so I destroy things you like’. Currently he is only 8 and quite clumsy so his punches are not very painful, but I am dreading the day he gets older and stronger.

Of course he always calms down… eventually. Of course he always returns to his sweet little angel attitude and comes to me with his arms open for a big cuddle. But I can’t just switch personalities like clothes. I can’t just forget the things he has done moments ago as fast as I should.

When I am calm I do know his Dr Jekyll side is his true identity. I know his poor and unfair circumstances developed his Mr Hyde side and I do know in time, together, we can kill Mr Hyde. But on worse days I feel unless I also develop a second personality (someone who just doesn’t care about anything) I won’t be able to cope with this emotional roller coaster much longer and one day I will undo the safety belt…

Parenting Jekyll and Hyde is how it feels sometimes for Feelingmumyet and her adopted boys.



60 thoughts on “Parenting Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

  1. Karen Dennis says:

    We have friends who have adopted children, it is wonderful, a funny story that I have to share is the family who adopted a son who had the same first name as their surname, so if that was me he would be called Dennis Dennis #thatfridaylinky@_karendennis


  2. frogotter says:

    We adopted two boys together and much of what you say is painfully familiar (except the orchids, I’ve never been able to keep orchids alive, and am super impressed).
    Lots of things have helped us over the years. We’ve got a lot out of Filial Therapy, Love Bombing and NVR. Though we’ve also had some miserably ineffective therapeutic interventions. I think it’s hard to get the right support, particularly when you’re in the midst of coping with traumatised children, and it’s very hard to know what will help your family before you try it.
    I hope you manage to get the support that you need.


    • feelingmumyet says:

      Thanks! Yes, we had play therapy, filial therapy, been on a nvr and full circle training, have lots of books… each child is so unique and different problems so it’s really a hit and miss. 😦
      Thanks for reading and commenting


  3. RelentlesslyPurple says:

    My brother was very much like this in foster care and is still the same now, he can be so lovely and intelligent but certain tings can set him off so bad it can take days to calm him down. Hope you find a way to stop Mr Hyde reappearing 🙂 #ThatFridayLinky


  4. Sarah - Mud, Cakes and Wine says:

    Wow what an amazing difference your making to this little boy. Must be so hard to see him so angry and know your doing the right thing. lets hope slowely he begins to fade away and you have the clam sweet boy more and more #Blogstravaganza


    • feelingmumyet says:

      well that would be wonderful indeed! 🙂 See, I don’t dream of him winning the Nobel prise (well, yes, i do, but…), if he grows up to be an OK member of society that’s already an amazing achievement for him considering how far behind he started the race from… Thanks for reading and commenting


  5. Ani says:

    I saw Dan Hughes speak a couple of years ago and one of his comments that struck me the most was how our children’s rage and sense of injustice is what has kept them alive and surviving. As hard as it is we have to try to embrace it as part of them whilst also showing it’s not necessary to be like this anymore. Simple right 😣 GBB run by family futures changed our lives. Honestly. The best help we’ve had.


  6. grtlyblesd says:

    Adoption can be beautiful, but it’s also really complicated. I have 2 daughters from China, and we’re talking about fostering.


  7. aimz18 says:

    I have no advise to offer, just sending love and hope that life gets easy. Concentrate on the good days xx


  8. Lisa Pomerantz says:

    When things get hard, and I sense that they really do, try to think how far you have all come together. Hoping things go easier for all, soon and you can get to the root of the jekyll/hyde dilemma. #fabfridaypost xoxo


  9. jayjayell says:

    It would be stranger still if you didn’t feel the way you do. If I’m sitting in the gods at the theatre it’s all I can do to stop throwing myself off the top. Just because. I think it’s just the way humans are – our brains suggest the most extreme option (“give him back” in adoption) Parenting a challenging child without an AO is Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket for the brain – a sweet factory of outrageous thinking. From the “fine, sod you, I’m off” thinking when LO says “go away you’re not even my parent” to the “it’s too hard and I want out” that you experience. Adoptions disrupt, you know that, but most don’t and somehow we find the strength to keep carrying our ingrates 😉forward kicking and screaming. I hope you’re in group, and I hope that you also find the strength to thank your mind for its contributions when it says “I’m done” but to keep moving forward just living in this moment. Sometimes that’s all we can do.


    • feelingmumyet says:

      Wow, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, I think I should thank my brain for still functioning properly (as in saying ‘no, it’s not ok, you need to get out to protect yourself’), but also for my heart balancing this with ‘you need to keep pressing on’. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Karen Dennis says:

    Congratulations on becoming a parent to your son, I think everyone has issues with behaviour in our children at some point, I have written a blog post on how I managed behaviour when I was working as a registered child minder #familyfun@_karendennis


  11. diynige says:

    Sounds very tough but looks like you are doing a fab job Thank you for linking to #ThatFridayLinky Please come back next week


  12. The Mummy Bubble says:

    Fascinating insight into life with adopted kids. I read the BBC story too and I thought it must be tough when you’re dealing with the challenges of a traumatic background x #triumphanttales


  13. Lucy At Home says:

    Oh you have such strength to keep going through this. It sounds like you really are making good progress, even if there are times that it doesn’t feel like it. You have a really amazing gift at writing this stuff down and drawing us into the highs and lows. I love popping over to read your blog and I am sure lots of adoptive parents find it really helpful and encouraging too – just to know that someone else feels the same as they do #blogcrush


  14. twotinyhands says:

    A definite roller coaster and one I don’t think anyone takes lightly. It’s amazing what you are doing. ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬


  15. talkingmums1 says:

    I think it takes a certain type of person to adopt and I really admire you and your strength. Your boys are clearly a credit to you.
    Thanks for joining #kcacols


  16. mackenzieglanville says:

    Such a mix of emotions reading this, it is so sad that there are such cruel, people out there who hurt children and traumatise them! On the flip side there are amazing people like yourself who would do anything for this precious child, and you are doing it! I can feel your pride and love, yet also your struggle in your words. But you are making a difference and you are truly an amazing woman! #ablogginggoodtime


  17. says:

    I must admit my son also likes to turn 3 minutes of teeth brushing into 3 hours battle too. He is such a handful. I do feel guilty of shouting at him when he doesn’t listen, etc., but then when he calms down he just want to cuddle too. It’s draining – really draining, but I am taking it a day at a time. Like you I am hoping this will ease in time. I can see these boys really do love you, even though – it can be challenging for them to connect. Lot of love my dear friend. xxx

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal post with us on #fabFridayPost


  18. Amie Richards says:

    It truly is incredible that you are helping these broken children and making their lives fantastic. We need more people in this world like that! I would love to adopt and help a child that has nothing so hopefully one day between my partner and I we can make this a reality 🙂 #KCACOLS


  19. JakiJellz says:

    I don’t know much about adoption but it seems clear to see that you are doing an incredible job and making such a difference. Thanks for joining in at #TriumphantTales. Hope to see you back on Tuesday.


  20. Someone's Mum says:

    That is really tough. I can relate, as my son lashes out and gets very frustrated when he has autistic meltdowns- but he is the most sweet and cautious boy at other times. It is very hard to know what to do for the best and all you want to do is support them and do your best to help them we well adjusted and happy. Just keep swimming. He is so lucky to have you.


  21. queerlittlefamily says:

    I assume you are getting the support you need to deal with his ‘hyde’ side. My friends adopted their two kids and in no way has it been easy, but easier than you have it perhaps. And no, you do not need to care about how other kids behave or react. I hope you never feel like that. Focus on your kids. #kcacols


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