Archive | February 2014

Project: The Little Volcano

As some of you will know a little while before the end of Term 2, Bumble and I made the difficult (but definitely the right) decision to remove Buzzbee from his primary school and begin home educating him.

When we deregistered Buzz, I believed I had a moderate understanding of where the gaps were in his learning ability and needs, and I’d like to think I still do.

At some point I will write a post focusing on what these needs are and how his early years experience and lack of understanding by school, has had a dramatic and profound effect on his ability to learn.

Having said this, I am not above taking any opportunity that I can, to use learning activities as ways of helping bridge the self-esteem and emotional gaps.

This week’s #WASO theme is ‘The work of my child/children’ and ties in very nicely with the end of the first part of Buzz’s latest topic – Ferocious Volcanoes and Dinosaurs.  With Buzzbee, I very quickly learnt that it was pointless me trying to get him to sit down to a desk with workbooks and follow the national curriculum guidelines – admittedly at first I was as stubborn as him and we endured several very stressful and unsuccessful mornings locked in a battle of wills.

Buzzbee prefers to be very hands on and visual – maths and science are by far his favourite subjects and his is relatively confident in his own skills in these 2 areas.  Currently his biggest barrier is his reading, which then impacts on everything else, but we have found ways around this.  Buzzbee’s handwriting is actually quite good and his ability to remember and translate factual information is far superior to mine (he is a little sponge), but he lacks the confidence to write his ideas down independently and he tells me what information he wants to add to his project, I write it down for him and then he will sit down and copy it out (although he will try his best to write as little as possible). For now this works for him and allows him to be in a position where he can succeed and feel good about his work.

little volcano

Where self-control for Buzzbee is difficult, at times he can demonstrate an incredible level of self-awareness and on several occasions while discussing/researching volcanoes, he has identified similarities between his reactive responses and the warning signs that a volcano is about to ‘blow’.  Cue mummy moving into reflective dialogue mode: “I’m wondering if there is anything that maybe the little volcano or others around him could do to help him calm down the hot bubbling lava before it starts exploding and spilling out over the sides and burning something or someone?”  Rather than using his usual distraction/shooting down techniques – an outpouring of ideas came flooding out from Buzzbee. Most were, understandably, unachievable, some were absolutely hysterical (put him in a Yoga position, open his mouth and pour in slush puppies until steam comes of his ear or he gets brain freeze), but then there were a couple of gems which, with support, he could use (jumping jacks or squeeze a teddy bear)  – he is a star, and I only wish he could believe that himself.

Buzzbee has several challenges to overcome when it comes to his learning, and there are days when I wonder if I am the right person to help him with this, or if we should have pushed harder while he was at school to get him the assessments he needs so we can understand whether his barriers are down to his anxiety and fear of failure or if (as I suspect) there are other contributing factors holding him back (be that sensory or cognitive), but for now Buzzbee and I will keep trying to do the best we can and we will wait to see what the future holds.

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Fear and Trust

Over the past few weeks I have come across several heartfelt, and incredibly amazing and courageous blog posts talking about struggling with trust, privacy and security issues, support networks and some truly incredible adopters who have had the bravery to open up about the impact parenting their children (and everything that comes in conjunction with this) has had on their own mental health.

I am in awe of their bravery! Especially because in each post that I have read, I have not only been able to empathise with the author, but because each one of them has stirred up emotions and memories that on a daily basis I am fighting to try to supress. Some would say “if they affect you so much, why would you continue to read these posts?”

The posts and the authors are not the problem – my secondary trauma and my fear of being overwhelmed by my emotions is the problem (I actually find reading the posts quite comforting, despite the emotions it brings to the surface – for a few short moments I do not feel so isolated).

I am not sure where I am going with this post – I started out thinking about how for every story/post that had been shared, there was an element of it I could identify with.  But as I am sat here writing this 2 words keep rearing their ugly heads – Fear and Trust, and the shame of my own awareness of the implications and how much impact I have allowed these 2 little words to have on my family’s happiness.

FEAR!!!!!!

I never imagined that I would allow this word to engulf and manipulate my life as much as it has over the past few years.    It is certainly not something I planned and I definitely do not want to be trapped in this endless cycle of fear and anxiety.

Did I bring it on myself?

Almost definitely!  I made the choices I did and now I am living with the consequences of those choices.

Do I deserve to feel like this?

At the moment I cannot answer this honestly.  No of course I don’t deserve to feel like this and nor should anyone else, but if I hadn’t been so naive, trusting and open with certain people, my already vulnerable self-esteem wouldn’t have taken such a huge battering  – so maybe Yes! I do deserve it.

TRUST!!!!!

Being the other word that dominates our household and my interactions with professionals, friends, family etc.

So why have these 2 words become such huge barriers in our home and our lives?

When we started the adoption process I made a conscious decision to not allow the walls I had built up around myself to get in the way of being open and honest with our SW and any professionals involved in the adoption process – I lapped up the spiel about not suffering in silence if our children’s early history was having an impact in anyway (school, home, personal, etc.) and as Bumble and I had a wonderful SW (Shamrock) who we got on really well with. I fell into the trap and have paid the price ever since.

Knowing your children for some time before they move in with you cannot only be a blessing but also a curse – looking back over the years we only had a very brief ‘honeymoon’ period (especially with Beeswax).  We hit the ground running the moment the boys moved in and found ourselves having to wade through all that this meant and, like many parents, we made mistakes or misinterpreted situations.  And that is how we I ended up trapped in this negative mind-set which stops me doing what I really need to do.

Until Beeswax, along with Buzzbee moved in, I don’t think anyone other than their foster carer really had a clue as to the true impact both their early years history had had on Waxy.  On paper we were everything he wanted, but for him the reality was far more terrifying and he needed to take any and as many measures as he could to prevent himself from ever getting too close to either of us.

Before I go any further I am not about to turn this into a “it’s all Beeswax’s fault” diatribe – Yes, his trauma and actions were the catalyst that brought about several of the issues, but he is a vulnerable child and we are adults and should have had more common sense.

Splitting was and still is his favourite weapon of attack and 9/10 professionals and busy bodies (of whom I really should say ‘their heart was in the right place and they were only looking out for him’) fell into his trap.  My crime was pointing this out to them in an attempt to prevent some of the conflict that Bumble and I were witnessing.  The reward for this was that I was treated as if I was the problem and he was a ‘poor, innocent young boy whose mother was cold and overly controlling towards him’.

So my first mistake – believing that the professionals understood the impact of working/parenting a child with a traumatic and complex attachment history.

My second was believing that when people are telling you “you are doing an incredible job” that they are being honest with you and not telling you what they think you want to hear to keep you quiet.

When things got difficult, we did what we thought was the right thing to do and spoke to Shamrock and Clover (boys’ SW) about our concerns – hey, that is what they drummed into us during our preparation after all.

To our knowledge, both SWs were supporting us and understood where we were coming from.  From where Bumble and I were sitting they were backing us all the way and truly understood how hard we were trying to do what was best for both boys.

Let me skip several months forward and to the point where my world was turned upside down and my own personal history plus my relationship with Beeswax was thrown to the wolves.  All the supposed support we believed we had was a big, fat lie.

The truth was:

  • People I trusted and considered to be close friends (along with professionals)were making allegations left right and centre about my parenting and my mental health.
  • A new SW had come into our lives and had put 2+2 together and come up with “Honey is an unfit mother”. (In the cold light of day – years later, I can see how with everything that was being presented to her, she really thought she was acting in the best interests of the boys. The problem I had was she never attempted to understand the heart-breaking situation we found ourselves in or at least allow us the courtesy of addressing some of her (and others’) concerns with us.  She simply just blamed it all on me and my inability to cope with my traumatised eldest son who was physically and mentally attacking both Buzzbee and I on a daily hourly basis (that sounds so bitter and self-pitying, but it is how I truly felt then and do now).
  • And then there was the fact that we found out that the one professional I thought I could trust had been keeping secrets from us (Ok maybe that is not fair to Shamrock. She was in an impossible position and deep down I have to believe that she wasn’t allowed to tell us what was going on). Yes, I feel she let us down and now, despite her still being involved in our lives, I find it very hard not to find myself being very guarded when talking to her.

And this was simply the tip of the iceberg.

Was I wrong to believe that by confiding in people I thought I could trust that they would support us and not condemn us? Sadly I do regret ever opening up and allow others to know how – tired, anxious, low, tearful, overwhelmed I had become.  I should have done what I had done for so many years before and kept my wall firmly up and weathered the storm.

Did we fight them tooth and nail to change their perceptions? Hell yeah!

Did we change their minds? Well, when it comes to the social workers, I would say we did, and I suppose the fact that they finally backed off and allowed us to formally adopt the boys is evidence of this! I am not sure I can confidently say this in respect to school staff or members of our village community.

Should I have done things differently in the first place to prevent this happening? Ok unless I had a crystal ball, I have to say “how could I possibly ever answer that?”

Do I think that I am now letting my mistrust of professionals prevent me from fighting for my boys needs as hard as I would have before the ‘bombshell’ hit?  Definitely! There is always that voice at the back of my mind saying “be careful what you tell them”, “It’s not worth the heartache – I can weather the storm” (and so many more unhelpful internal dialogues).

Do I think that I am letting myself and everyone else down by being so defensive and trying to hide away from my own emotions?  Well, reading this back it sounds quite ridiculous that I have allowed myself for so long now to be ruled by the fear of honesty. So I guess the answer is YES! But the truth is, even today (as I contemplate deleting this post before it is even uploaded) the fear of opening up to someone again is preventing me from getting the emotional support I know I need to get if I am ever to be able to move past this point, forgive myself and put it to bed once and for all, rather than ‘going through the motions’ and attempting to ‘fake it until I make it’.

And, I will eventually make it!!!!!!

Mayhem Vs. Mischief

This week has been difficult in so many ways and if I had the emotional strength to write about some of the challenges this week, I could have written several posts which would have had the potential to raise people’s blood pressures (toward the issues not me – although that could have been a very possible reaction too), or they may have given people the wrong impression about the kind of mother I must really be.

If I had to put the events of this week into a collection of keywords, they would have to be:- BETRAYED TRUST, MISTRUST Vs. NEED FOR SUPPORT, SECONDARY TRAUMA, PTSD FLASHBACKS, ALL CHILDREN DO THAT, SPLITING, SICKNESS, SCHOOL CLOSURES, LATE NIGHT MEETINGS, SILLY MISTAKES, PREDUJDICE, ATTACHMENT RELATIONSHIPS, TRAUMA BONDS, INTERFERING BIZZYBODIES, PRIVACY, DATA PROTECTION, SCHOOL ISSUES, FINAL STRAW, CAMEL, BACK (and several more).

The “delightful British weather” and having Buzzbee poorly this week has not helped either because I have spent almost every waking hour for the past 5 days needing to stay indoors with a very clingy, fevered young man (ok that bit is quite nice – lots of snuggles and opportunities for bonding).

Cabin Fever can really be your worst enemy when you are already struggling physically and emotionally – I need fresh air, I need to get out and walk – even if that means I end up completely soaking wet as a result of this “lovely” British weather.

I think this is a good time to apologise for the chaotic ramblings of this post (I really should have just not written anything but the photo at the end, just had to be shared).

Rather than make this post a ‘pity party for one’ I thought I would share with you in this #WASO post a solitary (but nonetheless important) sample of how when Buzzbee and Beeswax are getting along, their bonkers personalities and sense of humour can lift everyone’s mood.

This morning we woke up to rare sighting – beautiful weather. As Buzzbee was starting to feel perkier and because we wanted to take advantage of the gorgeous sunshine, we decided to get out of the house for the day and visit a safari park, as this is one of the few places we can take the boys together without all hell breaking loose.

It has something for us all – OK maybe not so much Bumble and Waxy, but they do love watching me squirm and squeal when visiting the Bugs and Bats. Given half the chance Buzzbee and I would spend all of our day taking photos of the animals (or in Buzzbee’s case every possible shot he could get of the Otters).

And, that brings me to how, while looking at the photos I had taken and with the help of PicMonkey, the boys allowed their more mischievous personalities to come alive this afternoon.

It certainly was the pickup I needed today.  Enjoy!

rhino

 

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out
This entry was posted on February 16, 2014. 2 Comments

A Year On

This week’s #WASO is ‘A Year On’ and I have to be honest my mind is running at 100mph thinking of what to write for this week.  So, rather than sit down and agonise over what to write, this week I am going to simply pick the first five thoughts that came into my head when thinking about the topic and elaborate on them (and hope and pray it doesn’t sound too batty).

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

If someone had told me one year ago that I would have the courage to sign myself up for a 4 days DDP level 1 training course and hold my own in a group of professionals.

I would have said “That isn’t going to happen.”

Guess what? 

One year on – It has happened and I had never felt more comfortable with the course content in my life!

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If anyone had told me one year ago that I would be able to trust Beeswax enough to take Beedog for walks unsupervised

I would have said “Wouldn’t it be lovely, but…”

Guess what? 

Not only can I trust him to walk her without an adult being present, but Beedog now trusts him enough that I now feel confident that if he does let her off her lead, she will come back to him without a problem.

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If one year ago I had been told that I would have to Home Educate one of my boys and add another job title to my already endless list of Extra-Curricular ‘mummy’ jobs.

I would have said “No way! No how!”

Guess what? 

One year on – I am home Educating Buzzbee because he simply wasn’t coping or learning at school.  Is it easy? No.  Is it worth it? Yes – Buzzbee’s confidence and self-esteem is growing every day and on the days when it is not so good, well, there are always plenty of documentaries on BBC iPlayer or YouTube that Buzzbee and I can snuggle up with and watch (learning and bonding – what more could we ask for?)

edu

If someone had told me that one year on I would be taking my 8 year-old (who becomes very anxious when in poorly lit areas or the dark) out on a very dark and wet early evening to a National Trust location to take photographs of the property all lit up with majestic lighting, and label it under the ‘home education’ banner.

I would have said “I would be insane to even think about it. Buzzbee would be high as a kite before we had even reached the Abbey.  It is not worth the stress it would cause him”

Guess what? 

One year on – Not only did Bumble and I take him (and get very wet) but rather than Buzzbee wanting to leave the moment we arrived. We were the ones having to keep ushering him along because he and his camera were in photography seventh heaven – and I have to admit some of his pictures were great.  So, not only did we successfully achieve doing something that normally we would not be able to, but Buzzbee showed himself that he could find a way to not let his fear hold him back from having a good time.

national trust

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And finally – if anyone had told me a year ago that my boys would FINALLY feel comfortable enough with my parents to allow Bumble and I to go out for a whole evening, without all the usual control tactics and for us to come home and find that the boys have been OK for mum and dad.

I would have said “One day. One Day”

Guess what? 

Last night not only did we manage it and have a lovely time, but – the boys have not woken up in payback mode (although I know I am tempting fate even writing this).

fishtank