Friday, 29 June 2012

Wild wednesday

I can’t remember much of what happened pre-Wednesday this week. But Wednesday itself is a day I won’t forget in a hurry.

Our current morning routine means Dollop and Mini get 15minutes of Cbeebies in the morning, whilst I have a shower. After that the news and weather go on, whilst breakfast is eaten. Both children have been fine with this routine, and sometimes Mini asks to turn the tv over (he’s learning which channel numbers are which).
Wednesday was no different until it came to turning over. Mini and Dollop had already charged to the table and were halfway through breakfast when I realised Cbeebies was still on so I turned it over.

All of a sudden, Mini charged at me screaming and shouting. He’d wanted to turn the tv over. Except he was eating his breakfast, and hadn’t asked to turn it over, but I should have apparently known anyway.

Then the trashing began…a first for Mini…I almost feel it should come with a soundtrack and a slow motion video - that's how it felt whilst it was happening

The sofa was pulled to pieces; almost every single toy in the room ended up on the floor filling in the gaps between the sofa cushions; shoes were hurled at the window; the fireguard was pulled over sending the neatly stacked paperwork pile into the air like confetti; boxes of cars, happyland, instruments, plastic food was pulled out and emptied; children’s books provided stepping stones across the mayhem; mummy’s books were unceremoniously dumped in a heap; dining chairs on their sides made an impressive barrier between the living room and the kitchen, especially with the aid of a fully laden airer also on its side; a small heap of ironing (alright, a mountain but don’t tell anyone!) was distributed around the room and Mini even managed to pull a big heavy armchair across the room. Attempts to hold, calm, stop, and talk to Mini resulted in me being threatened with whatever he was about to throw, so with a crying, scared Dollop we just sat on the armchair and waited for the storm to recede. But at least Mini could see me and knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

There was some self-control during this rage, as Mini definitely had second thoughts when it came to pulling the television over and pulling my Bridgewater china off the sideboard – thankfully!

Then as suddenly as it started, it stopped again. Both children went back to the table, finished their breakfast and Mini got ready for school whilst Dollop packed her Happyland back in its box, and I put the sofa back together so we could at least cross the room and reach the front door.

Nothing more was said. Mini went to school. Dollop and I came home and tidied all morning.

The NC thankfully came home early to meet Mini from school, as I was terrified that things would reignite after school. They did, but in a different non-trashing-the-house way.
This time Mini wanted everything NOW! A film, dinner, pudding, bath!

Dinnertime came and when he'd eaten half his dinner, Mini then decided he didn't like it/wanted to be fed/was too tired/had itchy eyes/hated orange squash. Orange squash got thrown, food got spat out. Then he did want pudding/didn't want pudding, wanted to eat at the table/wanted to eat on the sofa. All of this was punctuated by LOUD screaming, thrashing, kicking and hitting.
Bathtime was equally awful, did want a bath, didn't want a bath, Mini faked choking, was offered a drink, didn't want a drink, drink got thrown. Got in the bath, threw water over the entire bathroom (including me).

Why? Well, Wednesday morning is when his usual teacher is out of the classroom, and he is greeted by Mrs Y instead. And they’ve been doing lots of practising for their upcoming sports day, and they’ve got ‘moving up’ day next week – events and occasions like these always throw him too.
And I suspect the afternoon and evening trouble was because he was tired after the outburst in the morning, and because Daddy was there which upset his usual routine.

This was one of those days were the trigger was unpredictable and completely unrelated to the underlying anxiety. It was impossible to avoid.

Since that day, Mini has been much calmer. In fact, he was fantastic yesterday when he went to hospital with Daddy for his test results (read a bit more about the tests here and why here), and despite having to wait an hour for his appointment, he was polite, pleasant and playful.
And this morning, despite finding out who his new teacher for Year 1 will be, and discovering which friends he’d be with and which he wouldn’t, he was still calm and went happily to school. 

Days like Wednesday make life hard. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Using the right goalkeeper!

It’s not just a moving goalpost – it changes shape all the time too.

That’s what my husband said about triggers, after we talked about how Mini’s triggers not only vary depending on his mood, but they can change too – what would cause a meltdown one minute, doesn’t five minutes later.

This got me thinking about the different strategies and techniques we employ to deal with Mini’s behaviours. Our CAMHS therapist reminds me frequently that adoptive parents need lots of tricks up their sleeves because just like triggers, sometimes a technique will have an effect, sometimes it won’t.

I’ve shared some of our techniques on various pages of this blog. Sometimes I’ve been absolutely certain that something is working, and at the time, couldn’t imagine it ever changing because it was great, then a few months later, I’ve had to stop that technique because it simply didn’t work anymore…Mini had gotten used to it, and it’s effectiveness had vanished. Other times I’ve been a little reserved about trying something new because I don’t want to constantly experiment on Mini, until we know more about what’s behind his issues. I don’t want to damage him more. And I’ve also been wary about re-trying things we’ve done in the past…they didn’t work then, so why would they now?

I’m quite an analytical person, and I like to understand why Mini behaves as he does, then I criticize myself, my actions and my mistakes. I’m learning to be more reflective so I can make those mistakes work for me and Mini.

Over the last 6 months I’ve learnt that I need to be more adaptable and quicker-thinking. I’ve also learnt that although Mini loves routine, thrives on it even, sometimes I need to give responses that aren’t routine, and are not expected. I need to throw him some curveballs sometimes. These curveballs make him think; make him stop in his tracks. Sometimes, this means trying something new or something that I’ve tried before.

So from now on, I’m not going to shy away from new techniques, or old ones for that matter. I’m gonna store ‘em up, keep ‘em on my subs bench and pick and choose what I use, and when. Those goalposts might move and change, but I’m gonna have the right goalie to put in place.
All the while remembering to PACE myself…Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Talking about triggers

I’ve been talking to some other parents recently – some are experiencing similar issues to us, some aren’t, some are adopters, some aren’t.
What comes up quite frequently is the subject of triggers. Things that start a tantrum or meltdown. defines a Trigger as: anything, as an act or event that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions

I’ve had several discussions recently about whether it’s possible to avoid triggers, therefore creating a more stable and less challenging environment for our children. And indeed, whether we should shield them from triggers, or expose our children to a number of different stimuli to help them develop and to socially prepare them.

There are pros and cons of both of course:-
Our main issue at the moment with avoiding triggers (which we do by avoiding going out into stimulating or worrying environments) is that we’re becoming isolated. However, we know that we need to really work hard on reassuring Mini that he’s not moving on, so the long-term benefits surely outweigh the short-term downside.

Our main problem with going out more and addressing situations which might cause a meltdown is that Mini will get upset, and why would we expose him to something that we know would do that to him? If he reacts the way he does at home he could hurt himself or someone else, and we will get ‘those looks’ from judgemental passers-by. As an adult I find that hard to deal with, but for Mini, those looks – if he saw them – would increase the shame he feels too.

There are also some triggers that are unavoidable…because we don’t know what they are; some days Mini is just in meltdown mode. Those days he is in a volatile mood where the smallest thing could set him off – offering apple juice when he wanted (but didn’t ask for) orange, picking up his shoes (when he was just about to, but hadn’t even started moving), giving him the ‘wrong’ type of paper when he’s colouring or even talking to him.
These are the days where we feel like we’re walking on eggshells because we have no idea what will set Mini off. I’m doing my best to attune to Mini, but I’m simply not a mind-reader!

Other days Mini is defiant. Every request is responded to with an aggressive ‘NO!’  When he’s in an extra defiant and angry mood, these verbal retorts are often accompanied by a shove or a punch too. The most basic request evokes a negative – can you zip your coat up please? Pass me the salt please? Mini can you put mummy’s phone down please?

The worst days are the contrary ones. On these days where Mini is indecisive, things could go either way, or often both ways – a quick meltdown to make frustration known, followed by a complete refusal to do what is asked of him. No amount of reasoning works; no amount of consequences work. These are just days when Mini can’t make up his mind about anything, and just when he finally appears to have made a decision, he changes his mind again, and again.
Eruptions can happen over questions or choices we give him (so we try to avoid offering too much choice), but also over free will choices i.e. he’ll choose to get his cars out, and then immediately ask for help to pack them away, yet the minute they’re away, he’ll want them again, so they come out and get packed away 3 or 4 times until the NC or I ask him to decide at which point he wobbles and cries, or if we make a decision on his behalf, he’ll wobble and cry because it was the wrong decision.
These days are absolutely exhausting.

Then of course there are the times when we can see Mini getting irritated because Dollop keeps standing in front of the TV when he’s watching Octonauts, so we move her before he flips; there are times when we can see him getting bored so we’ll quickly pull out a game; there are times when he’s getting over-excited so we get some puzzles or books out to introduced some calm time.  And I’ve already spoken about avoiding situations that we know worry Mini.

So you see, triggers are tricky little blighters, because sometimes we simply don’t know when they’re coming. It’s not just as simple as removing them.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Morning is broken!

Woken up at 6. Need caffeine fix.

Shit! – no shreddies. Here it comes, I’m ready…

Raging Mini. Cheerios are silly!

Child starts screaming. Cross words streaming.

Shouty boy.  Wants Dollop’s toy.

Objects fly. Everyone cries.

Toaster pops. Meltdown stops.

Toast buttered, thank you muttered.

Breakfast done. “You’re a crappy mum”.

Coffee gone. "Thank you son".

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Sharing hopes

The Boy’s Behaviour is a blog about our life, and at the moment, life is hard. So I’m aware that sometimes it doesn’t paint the most positive picture about adoption.
Earlier I wrote about some of my concerns and fears for the future. Now I’m writing about the flipside…because although we have to deal with some hard times, difficult behaviour, stressful emotions and fears, we also have been lucky enough to have a lovely little boy who, when feeling secure, is able to play, laugh, and enjoy life.

For the most part I’d just like a clich├ęd future for my children – I want them to be happy and healthy. Beyond that…

I want my children to have lives that challenge them, push them, develop them, excite them, satisfy them, please them and accept them.

I want them to have positive relationships, and not dwell on the hurts that will inevitably happen, but learn from them, and move on from them with maturity and dignity.

I hope that Mini will be able to handle and manage his issues so that he can lead a normal life.

I hope that they have fun…whatever happens.

I hope that Mini is not defined by his adoption.

I want them to make the most of opportunities that come along, and I’d like them to create their own opportunities.

I hope that we’re making memories, and I hope that the children will look back on these times fondly and with love.

They say that life is what you make it. I hope that together, the NC and I can make a life for our children that they can be proud of, one that they can work on, build on and improve.

Sharing fears

I’ve blogged before about Mini’s fears; in fact most of this blog is about Mini’s fear of abandonment. His fear of this, and of moving on, is what is at the bottom of a lot of his behaviour.

I felt it was time to even things out a bit and talk to you about my own fears…and I don’t mean spiders, or worse than that – cats *shudders*. I have fears for both of my children growing up, so this is an honest post about some of them…

I fear that over time, the differences between Mini and Dollop will become greater and more obvious, to others and to each other. And I worry that those differences will affect their relationship with each other, and with us. By differences I mean their backgrounds and birth stories, their start in life (in utero and in their first weeks), their stability, their attachments, even down to their gender and hair colour. I fear that even those small, subtle differences will become magnified and more important. Although I hope that they become less important, less defining.

I fear that I will fail as a good enough parent. At the moment, I feel that mostly in relation to Mini, because he is the one that has specific needs and issues that need addressing. I fear that I won’t be able to fight hard enough, shout loud enough, stamp my feet enough to get him the help that he needs, or the help that we need to support him.

I fear that Mini will be misunderstood. I already worry about this as we all naturally form opinions and make judgements without knowing the whole story. I did, especially pre-children. I used to tut under my breath when passing unruly children in the supermarket, now I give looks of sympathy instead! Mini presents as an excitable young boy, and although we know there’s more behind it, it’s not obvious to other people. Therefore some of our parenting techniques might look a bit soft, hippyish even, but they are what we need to do. I fear that we will also be misunderstood.

I fear that the NC and I won’t get through this. Like most parents, we have the occasional disagreement about how to approach something, and our kids try to play us off against each other. It feels at times though that Mini is trying to split us up, not just play us. I hope we’re strong enough to get through the rest of this journey together, which I’m sure will get more difficult as the months go by.

I fear that Mini won’t be able to lead an independent life. And if he is able to, I fear that he might not make the choices that I’d want for him. And I know that as he grows he’ll have to make his own choices, but I will always worry for him (as I expect many parents do).

I fear that I will spend so much time with Mini, that Dollop will feel rejected. And I fear that even if I try my hardest to be fair and equal, someone will always feel like they’ve drawn the short straw.

I fear that Mini’s behaviour will continue to deteriorate and we won’t be able to support him well enough.

The biggest fear I have is that if and when Mini decides to find his birth family, that he’ll reject us. I hope that we do a good enough job of bringing him up that he feels he has space for both us and them, and perhaps over time, it won’t be an us and them, but just a group of people that all care for the same person.

And of course there are those worries about whether they’ll be happy and healthy, and whether they’ll find a job in the future.

These are just some of the things I think about when I imagine the future.There are many more that are too personal too share, and could make us more easily identifiable.
Anyone want to share their fears?

**Edit  - I've also published a blogpost on my hopes for the future too - you can find it here**

Monday, 18 June 2012

School worries and bedtime blues

If our theory about teachers is correct, then Mini will be feeling pretty anxious about tomorrow – as Tuesday afternoon is when he regularly has another teacher.

What happens when Mini is anxious? Wetting and meltdowns.

Mini has been through 4 pairs of pants today. An entire school uniform went in the wash (including jumper).

From dinnertime Mini has been hyper, naughty and attention seeking.
During an hour’s playtime after dinner, the meltdowns started. Over jigsaws and who got to cuddle who first. Then over getting changed and who was brushing their teeth first. Meltdowns that involved thrashing and shouting, and throwing objects at people.

During bedtime stories, Dollop got jumped on…with full body-weight behind it. Daddy got hit on the back of his head and neck with wooden train track. Mini screamed, and then carried on screaming. Really screaming - that high pitched, nerve grating, gutteral scream that only little people can manage with such effect.

Not wanting to undermine daddy, I left it for a while before climbing the stairs to investigate and intervene. When I did, I found daddy still bravely trying to read to Dollop, whilst Mini was sitting bolt upright on his bed crying.
Carrying Mini downstairs I did some wondering… ‘I wonder if you’re feeling a bit nervous about seeing Mrs X tomorrow’ and ‘I wonder if you’re worried about Miss U not being at school’. Recently Mini has started responding to this and either agreeing or disagreeing, but not tonight. Tonight he just quietened down, cuddled up, and waited for daddy to come back down.

And there we go…only an hour late for bed, but he’s in bed and asleep.

Friday, 15 June 2012

My talk with the teacher

I recently wrote about our discovery that some of Mini’s less desirable behaviour was down to school. It’s taken us a while to link the two because, quite frankly, he is an angel at school. They’ve always had good things to say about him. His teacher has called him a model pupil. He has a small, mostly lovely group of friends (all girls). He’s never been in trouble. And he’s excelling at literacy and numeracy.

Over the last few months, we’ve learnt that when Mini is feeling emotional – happy, upset, anxious, angry, the first thing to go is bladder control. When upset he just can’t stop himself, or hold it in although sometimes when he’s angry he exerts control over his ‘little man’ and wees on purpose, telling us as he does so.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if Mini is dry (day and night) during the holidays, but wet (day and night) during school term-time, it’s because he’s anxious about school. Previous half-terms haven’t displayed it quite as clearly as the most recent break…which is why we’ve only just made the connection.

Today I had a meeting with Mini’s reception teacher (Miss U) to discuss what might be making him anxious – as we’re now pretty confident that Mini’s school related anxieties are specifically because of all these different teachers. Read more about why we think that here.

Miss U pointed out to me that now she has taken on the role of SENCO (earlier than planned) she has little choice but to be out of the classroom at times as the ‘powers that be’ are instructing her to do so. She told me that she feels guilty, and misses being in the classroom so much. I understand that she’s been thrown in at the deep end – and I understand that she has to do what her manager is telling her, but I’m really disappointed that the people at the heart of all of this – our children – are not being considered. And that parents haven’t been made aware of the change in teaching staff/routine. Incidentally I only know about her change in position via the school nurse, who happened to mention it a few months ago…no other announcement has ever been made.

Now of course I appreciate that we all want a well-trained SENCO, and I know that if Mini had special educational needs I’d possibly be feeling different. However for now, I have a little boy who is concerned that he’s being abandoned by us, concerned that he’s moving on, anxious about change and muddled when routine disappears.  He might not have educational needs, but he still has issues that need addressing and supporting by his teachers.
If other children without these issues are unsettled (and I know they are), how on earth can Mini be expected to cope with it? I pointed out that Mini needs routine, stability, reassurance, and that he’s probably worrying that she doesn’t like him anymore, and she is also (in his eyes) abandoning him. A bit harsh maybe, but from what I can gather from Mini’s actions and reactions – the truth.

So where do we go from here?
Well, I’ve been reassured that Mini will be with at least a couple of his closer friends when he moves up to year 1. So I can work on reassuring him too.
I know that those 2 regular sessions without Miss U will continue, but with the same teachers each session, so I can reassure him as to whom those teachers are, and remind him that for the other half of the day, Miss U will be back.
Miss U will also work on reminding all the children when she isn’t going to be there, and reassuring them that she’s still in school.
Miss U will look at including Mini in some transition sessions with some other children who she thinks will struggle with moving up a year.  And of course all children will take part in the moving up day too.
When class lists are announced and teaching assistants have been allocated to classes, we can work on establishing a link between Mini and an appropriate teaching assistant, to ensure that if teacher changes (like we’re currently experiencing) have to happen, at least he’ll have a constant known adult there.
And finally, Miss U will work on specifically reassuring Mini now she’s aware of the issues that can occur.

Am I happier?

The trouble I have is that I find Miss U a little…uninterested? condescending? patronising? I’m not really sure, but I feel uncomfortable talking to her at times. I find it really hard to present to her just how horrid things are for Mini and us. And her responses are almost always the same – uh huh, yes, I see, well we’re keen to provide support…. It’s hard for her I know, because they don’t see the child that I do, and she needs me to tell her what support we want, but in truth, I don’t know. In an ideal world, he’d have one teacher not four, but I can see that’s not a possibility.

So despite the action points we discussed, I’m still concerned that the next 5 weeks are going to be really tough for Mini. Although I understand why things are this way, it doesn’t make me any more comfortable about it. And until the class lists and teaching assistants are finalised, I can’t work with Mini on easing the transition for him.

The next step for me is discussing all this with the CAMHS therapist and our parent supporter. I’m also going to put these points in writing to the teacher, and copy the head teacher in too, just so there’s a trail if we should need it in the future. I’ve got a funny feeling we might. And a funny feeling that even those Mini’s moving out of her class, this won’t be my last meeting with Miss U, the SENCO…

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Bumping into birth mum

No don’t panic, this hasn’t happened…yet. But it is something I have worried about and have spent time considering.

Mini's adoption was a UK domestic adoption. We adopted him through our local adoption agency/social services, and he comes from the same county as us. We only have limited letterbox (i.e written) contact with his birth family, and that is sent to/from the letterbox co-ordinator at the adoption agency so neither us nor the birth family knows each other's addresses.

We live in a large town within our area, birth family live quite close by and would certainly visit our town to go shopping, to the cinema and similar activities. We know that birth mum has relationships with people who live here, some quite close. Of the few buses that operate between our town and where she lives, one of them passes *very* close to our house, and it often passes me when I’m out and about with the kids. On top of that, she knows what town we live in.

A few years ago when Mini was still in a pushchair, I had a major panic as I was convinced that birth mum had just passed me on the bus and had seen and recognised me. (We have met birth mum, so it’s a possibility…I haven’t changed much since then). I legged it home as fast as I could, shut the curtains, locked the door and phoned hubby. Then I waited for someone to knock on the door.
The knock, thankfully, never came. I still don’t know if it was her, but I’m 90% sure that it was and I hope I never have to experience that panic again.

Knowing that it’s quite likely birth mum comes into our town, I must admit that I don’t hang about when I need to go into the town centre, although I’m not really one for traipsing around the shops for hours on end anyway. I only tend to go with Mini if the NC and Dollop come too (they’re my ‘security’), otherwise it’s usually just me and Dollop during the week. I had thought about pimping Dollop’s buggy with spikes and the like so I can take out ankles if we are approached, but I think that might invalidate the guarantee!
I do have a loose plan too – lock self and children in a changing room such as M&S, immediately ring hubby, and if under threat – police too.

Now, years down the line, I’m less worried about it happening. I am Mini’s mum and I will protect him fiercely. I would have always fought for him and never let anyone take him, but in those early days I think I would have found the confrontation much harder and I wonder what the after effects of such an event would have been. These days, woe betide anyone who tries to get in between us.  Emotionally I’m much stronger and could cope (for both of us) better. I would also like to think that after all this time, Mini's birth mother could now recognise that he is settled (ish) and happy here.

It might sound like paranoia to some, but it’s been a real possibility for us. We do as much as we can to protect his identity – he’s not allowed in school photos in case they are seen by birth family, he can’t have his photo in the local paper, we changed his name, we don’t include photos in our letterbox contact letters with his birth family. I hope that is never jeopardised by a chance meeting…