So far our sessions with Dave-the-therapist have gone well. We've had 3 with Mini there, and at times he's engaged, sometimes not so much, but he's listening the whole time and if Dave gets something wrong Mini will suddenly pipe up and let us know. He's often quite hyper in the sessions and whilst we sit on the sofa, with Dave in a chair nearby, Mini gets increasingly fidgety and gradually starts moving around. He's clearly becoming more familiar with the surroundings and is feeling safe enough to explore - this is good as of course we want him to feel safe enough in sessions to explore things that will be difficult.
However, the manner in which Mini fidgets and moves is different to the way he is at home. It's like he's agitated, but not in a cross way. He sort of darts around, paying little attention to the things he's looking at (he can't pay too much attention to them because that would mean he couldn't listen to us talking so well), and he just seems...wrong. There's no anger or crossness, indeed he doesn't appear to be showing any emotion at all. It doesn't feel like he's about to tip into flight and start running, nor does it feel like he's going to fight.
I've asked Dave if this behaviour is normal and he feels that because we're starting to talk about things that are uncomfortable, which bring new emotions, that it's going to make Mini behave in new ways. He's trying to find different ways of handling these different feelings, which of course makes sense.
After each of the first two sessions Mini was quite open with us, he was affectionate and started to talk about his feelings. He would do the exercises Dave set us the first time (5 hugs before school with mummy, 5 in the evening with Daddy), the second time we had some visualisation and control exercises which he started to struggle with and push against. But this last time has seen new behaviour develop that is more than a little challenging.
Mini has shut down.
He rejects me completely - no hugs, no kisses, no touch, no words. Unless they're on his terms and when he wants them - which is rarely. Funnily though the minute Dollop wants a cuddle, kiss or conversation, he's suddenly there pushing her away. He doesn't want me, but no-one else can have me either.
Conversations are rare - grunting, growling and shouting have been Mini's preferred methods of communication. He has this 'special' way of rattling the phlegm in the back of his throat to make a growling sound and that becomes the response to most questions and requests, either that or a definite 'NO!'.
Like a toddler, Mini is using NO as pretty much his only verbal communication. And I have no way of handling that. You can't merrily cajole a strong 6 year old into brushing his teeth, you can't force him either. I can't jolly him along to eat a meal or put his shoes on. If I 'encourage', 'help' or 'force' him, I'm met with a slap, scratch, punch or kick. The bear hug 'restraints' that have worked before (holding and reassuring) don't at the moment...he wins these battles because after 20minutes of holding a writhing, thrashing, angry heap I have to let go.
In the past when Mini and the NC have argued, Mini will run to me, let me hold him, let me reassure him. But not now, even when he's upset by the NC, he will run away from me and stand alone - unable to regulate his feelings, or let anyone help either.
Dollop is frightened and Mini seems to be taking perverse pleasure in frightening her even more. He snatches her toys, hits her when he thinks we're not looking, bickers with her, pushes her away and gets right up to her face - foreheads touching - and shouts/growls at her.
Bedtimes have become worse again - point blank refusals to put pyjamas on, point blank refusals to go upstairs, we can help with both of those, but we can't make him stay in bed, and we can't make him go to sleep. We think part of this is the return of nightmares - it used to be the wolves that came, now it's the man who tells him he's bad, or a place full of noisy shouty people, and a couple of times he's awoken after dreams of me and the NC dying. He's petrified of sleep in case the bad dreams come, and no matter how many nice dreams we give him, the bad ones still come...
Our next session with Dave is next week and was supposed to be just me and the NC, and we were supposed to be discussing a move from this talking family therapy (with small elements of Theraplay) to full on Theraplay, then Mini's next session would be a fortnight after that. However, after a week and a half of this, we can't wait another 2 weeks before Mini's next session, so it'll be a crisis call to Post Adoption Support on Monday to request moving straight onto Theraplay without the feedback/discussion session for me and the NC.
I always knew things would get worse before they got better. And whilst I understand that this is probably progress, and Dave-the-therapist is right that this is a reaction to new thoughts and feelings...it's hard. All I feel I can do right now is acknowledge Mini's feelings, and thank him for letting me know about it. I have another child to think about and protect, indeed I need to protect Mini and keep him safe too, but he's making that bloody hard to do right now.
It's gonna be a long weekend.