Tuesday, 1 May 2012

All children do that

I’ve been having some more of those ‘all children do that’ conversations recently. I'm sitting here, writing this post with a mild concussion and a blackening eye after my 5 year old headbutted me during a rage, after he pinched, punched and slapped me. And I'm wondering, do 'all 5 year olds *really* do that?'

Everyone knows a child who displays one or two, or sometimes even three or four of the same (or similar) behaviours as Mini. Whether it’s aggressive tantrums, sibling rivalry, screaming, an inability to calm down, the need to make noise, controlling conversations, babyish behaviour, fear of sirens or hand-dryers, difficult decision making, refusing to go to bed, wetting, soiling, or a bad reaction to ‘No’.

I know that most 5 year olds do ‘some’ of these things at some point in their lives. But I know not all children do ‘all’ of these things almost ‘all’ of the time – Mini does. He is good mostly when in company, you might see him as a little excitable, but he is excitable all the time, and because he puts on a ‘good’ front for you and holds in all the ‘not good’, he then lets that out when he is at home with us – when you are not there to see it. He’s good because he likes to please you, and he’s craving your acceptance, but when he’s home, he’s not good, because he’s punishing us for letting him think (even if it’s just for a short time) that he’s going to be moved on to another family i.e you…and it doesn’t matter whether he loves/dislikes you, he’s still worried that he’s being prepared to come and live with you…

If you know Mini well, or even not so well, you’ll probably see a little boy who looks confident, brimming with bravado, pleasant, friendly, chatty, with mostly good manners. To us, that confidence and bravado hides a frightened, unsettled little boy who is holding in all sorts of horrible and upsetting emotions, who is worried that his mummy and daddy are going to leave him somewhere else, worried they don’t love him, worried they love his sister more than him.

If you’re very lucky and extra close to Mini, you might get to see him hitting and spitting at us, or diving off high furniture and you’ll probably think that he’s being a slightly raucous, but completely normal 5 year old who is testing his boundaries (and his parents).  To us, those over the top behaviours are covering worries and anxieties, and are desperate attempts to get attention all the time – that way he can’t be forgotten about, that way he knows we’re acknowledging him, to Mini negative attention is better than none at all. They're also indicators to us that a meltdown or rage is coming, because Mini is angry about his feelings, about not being able to understand those feelings properly.

If you sit and observe long enough, you might see Mini copying Dollop’s baby talk, toddler waddle, sucking his fists (like he’s teething) and immature play. You’d probably think he was showing off by being silly, or even (if you were quite imaginative) amusing his sister. To us, he's making sure we don't forget he's there,  and he wants to see that despite their differences, we treat him and Dollop the same.

Many many people think that love is enough to care for an adopted child. But you have to remember that no matter how young the child is, they’ve always had a past. In some cases there will be traumas such as neglect or abuse, physical or emotional. In all cases, our children have experienced the trauma of losing their birth mother and then their foster carer whether they remember those ‘events’ or not. Love is not enough to undo those pasts and traumas, but it can make the journey away from them a little easier.

My boy can't remember those things happening, he remembers the bad scary feelings he felt when they happened. My boy is frightened. My boy is worried.  We will continue to reassure him that we love him, that he’s staying here forever and ever. And we’ll hope that if we chip away at the bad stuff long enough and continue pushing the good, loving stuff in…it might start to get through to him.

I love him to bits, but I really hope that not all 5 year olds are like my boy.

20 comments:

  1. Very good. and very true. And I get very fed up with hearing 'all children do that'!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just feel it belittles everything I'm saying to them. Everything I'm trying to get across. AAaarrgh!

      Delete
  2. Living with a child with developmental trauma is very very hard and hearing 'all children are like that' only minimises your experiences or worse, says that you are not believed.
    My children are older than your son, but we have had exactly what you write about. If you continue to parent therapeutically it WILL get easier. His feelings of fear and shame will reduce and he will start to relax.
    I wish you happy and calm times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sally, I really hope he will start to believe in us, and will start to relax. We can't change his past, but I do believe that eventually our actions will help shape his future in a positive way.

      Delete
  3. So very true. There's nothing typical about our children. I wish you good luck and peace xx

    ReplyDelete
  4. Considering how raw you must feel from yesterday this piece of writing is calm.Well done and All Children Do Not Do that/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Anne. Definitely still raw, but hopefully channelled it productively? x

      Delete
  5. You could be describing my daughter, I actually posted similiar last week after some such conversations, it drives me potty, I even had a neighbour ask me if I was overthinking things. Grrrrr.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Grrrr indeed. I think sometimes this 'stuff' is just too much for people to comprehend, especially if they don't know much about the lives of our children pre-adoption. Of course it's right that we don't share that information but I'm sure at times explaining more would help people 'get it'. You keep 'overthinking', you're doing the best for your fox cubs x

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, I saw your link on Scribbles Dribbles and the title drew me in. I have heard that before too, and it usually ends the conversation for me. I think, this person is not going to get it so why bother. The difference is, yes, most kids have tantrums. Most do not last 5 hours and include biting, spitting, hitting, peeing, kicking and whatever else. Most kids test their boundaries. Yes, 2-3 times and they get it. Not so with our kids. As soon as my daughter picks up on a boundary you better believe she is going to spend her days and nights tap dancing on it.
    Anyway. Like your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for your comment. It's so great to hear from other people who 'get it'. Am just about to head on over to your blog :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is a wonderful post and excellently highlights the challenges and rewards of raising an adopted child. You are doing a wonderful thing xx

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is such a moving post and in a way, I can definitely relate to some of your feelings. My middle child is not adopted but she does display these very negative and aggressive emotions at home as a result of supressing her anxieties all day long whilst at school or in someone else's company. It's very hard work as a parent, to constantly have to 'big up' a child and ensure they feel loved. I have 2 other children and sometimes it is to their detriment and I really feel for them. Thankfully, my daughter has a teacher this year who is incredibly understanding and sees her worried little face. She thinks she is wonderful (as do most other parents), the unacceptable behaviour is reserved for us! In a way, this is a compliment (and this goes for you too), I realise that she feels loved no matter what and this bad behaviour is okay in front of us because we will still love her. I am aware that the anxieties need to be addressed and for you, these anxieties and worries obviously go so much deeper. I hope you're getting help. Thanks so much for linking up to oldies but goodies this week - a really interesting post. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Suzanne. It's hard work at times isn't it? I do worry about the impact this has on my daughter, as my son is definitely the demanding one. But I do take comfort knowing that whilst he's not secure completely, he's secure enough to share his feelings with us, and whilst not the best way, it's his only way for now.
      x

      Delete
  11. I think people say that thinking they will make you feel better, that your child is actually just like all the others. But you don't feel better you just feel more frustrated and more alone in dealing with what is far from normal and is exhausting and very stressful at times. I hadn't discovered your blog when this one was posted so it's good to see one of your oldie but goodies. I wonder if you see a change in Mini when you read back over old posts? xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your understanding S. Not much of a change to be honest...certain behaviours have gone, others have evolved and developed. But my understanding is changing and so are our approaches.
      For too long we were told 'All Children Do That' and were given approaches that work with all those other children, no we're stronger, fighting back and we know that different things are needed xx

      Delete
  12. I am with you 100% on this. Most recently it was my mum who said "But every 2 year old does that." I just felt like saying 'well no actually, they don't. because if EVERY 2 yr old did that, we woudn't bother calling it naughty would we?' Every child is different and I don't think any can be treated the same as the other because of that. From the sounds of it you have an amazing understanding of your son and you're doing the best you can. He's a very lucky boy :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Misty for your comments, really appreciated (and no, not every 2 year old does that!) x

      Delete