Archive | September 2014

Doing what has to be do.

I really should begin with apologising for the rant that is about to unfold with this weeks’ #WASO post.

Earlier last week our PASW and I prepared ourselves for yet another school meeting where the expected end result was that, at the best, we would leave with lots of empty promises and the feeling that we spent the majority of the time ‘hitting our heads against a brick wall’. Or, I would end up having to excuse myself from the meeting with a river of tears pouring down my cheeks, in order for me to avoid coming across any more neurotic and ‘over-sensitive’ than they already believe I am and avoid me telling members of staff what I really feel about them and their professionalism.

This meeting has been a long time coming and dates back to before school broke up for the summer – OK really it dates back a couple more years than that, but now it has come to a head and I need to see an end to it before it, not only makes me ill, but ends up resulting in more serious implications for relationships with home, school and Social Services. Prejudices and personalities need to be checked at the door before Beeswax slips through the net.

So with Beeswax and his welfare, front and centre of my mind:

I sold my soul to pay the devil.

I fell on my own sword in the name of my son

I sacrificed my self-respect just to keep the peace.

Or would it be a more accurate description to say. Today I took the higher ground. I can’t continue the sentence with “and it felt good” because it most definitely did not feel that way.

OK I know I am not making any sense, am I?

Over recent months I have been having more than a couple of issues with Waxy’s school and their understanding of his needs (or lack of it more often than not). As a result I have been on the receiving end of some pretty horrible treatment by several members of staff – sometimes I wonder why I put myself through this carp. When he joined the school I could have easily put him on transport with the intention of (with exception of parent’s and sports days) only having indirect contact with staff. Maybe if I had, we wouldn’t have had to get to this position. Who am I kidding! Waxy’s default mode is ‘Splitting’. He cannot bare home and school working together, and in his mind mums are the easiest target – heck I am definitely not perfect and have definitely made mistakes over the years, but you would think I was some kind of Dickensian matriarch who wants her children to be ‘seen and not heard’ and do as they are told always and every time.

OK I’m getting off topic and veering towards getting on my ‘soapbox’ about the complexities of the traumatic effects of both boys’ early years’ experience on their attachment history and how vicarious secondary trauma (at the darkest time – blocked care) can illicit reactions and responses in you that can give people the wrong idea about you – it is amazing how quickly school especially can put me into a defensive mode and I can then come across as ‘negative, cold and neurotic’ (I hate it and beat myself up afterwards every time), however NEVER at any point has school come to me and expressed their concern and instead they have drawn their own conclusions from the fact that while Beeswax is in school during the week he is a ‘model pupil’ (completely compliant) and all the problems are at home, so my relationship with him and my parenting is believed to be the problem. Of course it is! Nothing to do with the fact that he is terrified of the implications of acting out at school, feels unsafe and the fact that, throughout his life, Waxy believes that mums can’t be trusted (OK it is far more complicated than that, but it is his story and not for me to share, but I hope you understand what I am trying to say).

So why did I leave the meeting feeling like I had sacrificed my self-respect?

Quite simply, everyone and I mean EVERYONE, including myself and Shamrock (PASW) was expecting me to go into the meeting and open a ‘can of whoop arse’ on school. I could feel their tension and Shamrock and I had already come up with an ‘exit strategy’ if it got too much for me. So no one was more surprised than myself, when I found that I was in control of the meeting and the staff attending were very quickly thrown off guard by my responses and questions, rather than the dialogues being a barrage of pointless ‘he said, she said’ and lots of misunderstandings, miscommunication and Shamrock having to step in when a comment or two finally gets my heckles up. I believed I was going to have go into the meeting and ‘justify’ myself and I was worried I would make matters worse, but instead school became Beeswax and ‘therapeutic, supportive PACE mummy’ came out to play, and school were thrown – I wasn’t defensive, I wasn’t emotional (inside I was screaming) and I was completely honest with them, without telling them that ‘I think their staff suck at supporting and understanding children with complex emotional, social and behavioural difficulties despite it being a BESD school’.

So why had I requested this meeting? At the end of last year school had written a complaint letter to SS, which they refuse to show to me. As I covered in a previous post Dark clouds and shiny metal, apparently I lacked emotional warmth when collecting Waxy from school at end of each week – translation, I wasn’t all hugs and kisses and squealing with delight at his return home. Two main points here (which have been pointed out to them before and were again by Shamrock) 1st: Waxy cannot tolerate hugs from me most of the time, let alone very public displays of affection (that is a one way ticket to trouble later in the evening) and 2nd: I have often complained to Shamrock and Bumble that I never have a chance to even say ‘Hi’ to Waxy before the member of staff who is doing handover is bombarding me with over the top positivity about his week at school (don’t get me wrong that is great but I would prefer to hear it from Waxy himself and not have it presented to me in a manner that has me feeling I am being judged for his horrendous weekends). They have also complained about how, on a couple of occasions they have witnessed me being less than regulated when dealing with Waxy turning on his brother the moment he is out of ear shot of school staff and Buzzbee biting back – I admit I am not perfect and, yes, on occasion I have been upset or had to raise my voice to get the boys back in control. Do I like doing that? No! Have staff ever bothered to ask me if they can help or talked to me about what was happening? No! They just go running to SS and make ridiculous complaints about me (I know I sound really self-absorbed and angry at the moment, but this has been their default mode for a couple of years and never have they shown me the slightest bit of respect in coming to me and talking about their concerns – they never believed Jemima’s (Waxy’s previous therapist) explanation of the complexity of Waxy and my relationship and the ‘blocked care’ that I was experiencing at the time and working through. They saw a bad mother and still believe that to this day.

OK so I am guessing that anyone reading this will be confused by my comment that I feel I sacrificed my self-respect during the meeting – I did what any mother would do. I fought to get my child the support he needs and did it with decorum – everyone who knows how much I have been struggling with this situation, have told me how well I did and ‘this is what mum’s have to do for their kids’ – and they are right. The problem for me is school’s last complaint almost finished me off – I have been teetering on the edge of a deep depression cliff for several months and clinging on for dear life to what was left of my self-esteem and their character assassination left me feeling hopeless and I felt my feet beginning to slip on that edge of the cliff for the entire summer holidays.

Did I fall? Not yet, but at that time, in my mind, the only way I felt, I was going to claw my self-esteem and self-respect back was to tackle school and their accusations and backstabbing head on and change their minds about me, whether they wanted to or not – instead the result was I found myself biting my tongue and giving school the space to explore their feelings in a safe, accepting environment free from judgement (again, inside I wasn’t quite so calm and I was finally connecting the dots between some of the interesting nicknames Beeswax has given staff and his reasons for choosing these names, but all the time I managed to maintain a PACE mindset).

So what have I learnt from this?  First of all – I am stronger than I think, and secondly……. Well the picture says it all.

When they stop talking

That Monday feeling

It seemed fitting to give an update about the events of last weeks’ post before writing about this weeks’ #WASO theme ‘A typical school morning’.
Last week I found myself writing a #WASO post about Beeswax’s first week back to school, and the anxiety and angst that he brought with him on his return home on the Friday afternoon, due to a confusion with his timetable and placing him into a vocational activity which was for many reasons, so unsuitable. I am pleased to say that one wonderful woman (curriculum co-ordinator) not only took time out from her own personal time to respond to my email at the weekend, but had by Tuesday morning resolved the situation and placed him into a more appropriate programme.
So this is one mum who was hoping that on his return today, she would have a happier teenager son (OK, well as happy as a raging, hormonal teenage boy can get anyway) – Oh well maybe next week!
It is fair to say that, with one son currently being home educated and the other attending a residential specialist school Monday – Friday, there are very few occasions where I can safely say “this is a typical school morning for us”.
Of course I could bore you with the insane madness of a Monday morning in my pursuit to make sure I have 2 boys who are ready to walk out the front door no later than 8.15am – rounding up a gaggle of geese would be easier and far less stressful. Trust me!
“Mum where the hell are my shoes?” (“By the front door where you last dumped them”)
“Muuuuuummmmm! Beeswax won’t get out of my room. He is being a (bleep bleep bleep)” (“Beeswax stop tormenting your brother and concentrate on getting yourself ready for school”)
(“Beeswax can you please stop messing around with the dog and eat your breakfast”) “Why should I?”
If I am honest there is too much talking and not enough ‘doing’ on a Monday morning – I have learnt over the past couple of years that on a Monday, rather than expecting my pseudo-independent eldest son to get himself sorted out, if I want him to ‘get a wriggle on’ I need to walk him through everything step by step and repeat myself 9, 10, 300 times before it is done – his toddler brain, well and truly takes over on these mornings. I am not even going to go into what Bumble and I have come to describe as ‘Waxy’s Monday morning download’ – in short, in order for Waxy to switch into ‘survival mode’ and become the exceptionally compliant pupil that his school have the privilege of experiencing all week, he must first ‘dump’ all this stress and anxiety onto the household before he reaches the front door of the school building. Chaos and stress doesn’t come close to describing it and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was thankful that I no longer have to endure this EVERY morning with him.

mondaymorning

OK, so let’s move from the routine and structure of getting Waxy off to school on a Monday to the flexibility of home education and ‘a typical school morning’ for Buzzbee.
I think flexibility is the key word here. Buzzbee is a creature of habit in most areas of his life, but now that he is no longer in a school setting and having to manage the stresses of the start of another school day and all the anxiety and fear of failure that this brought, mornings are more relaxed and his is able to gently prepare himself for the day ahead.
Although I have found that allowing the morning to be more self-guided by Buzzbee means that I have a better chance of getting him to engage with school work, there still remains some routine to our mornings:

– Breakfast.
– Washed and dressed.
– Take Beedog for a walk to local fields or woods and sneak in a crafty bit of ‘learning’ without him knowing or have a relaxed chat about what the plan for the day is.
Juice and a snack whilst laughing at mummy grappling with Beedog trying to dry her off or clean her up.

The rest of the morning (days’) home education adventures really depends on Buzz’s frame of mind that day.

I suppose this is why I say that a lot of our day is guided by Buzz. Maybe a better way of describing it would be to say my plans are guided by Buzz’s mood and his threshold of tolerance to making mistakes – some days the volume of work I can get him to do is amazing, but then there are the days where I have to be quite creative with how I get him to engage with learning, or more accurately allowing him to believe he has wormed out of doing any more work that day and instead getting to play his PC game ‘Spore’ (reading practice, designing and programming creatures, planning and strategy, emotional literacy/social interaction between creatures – but he definitely isn’t learning anything 😋) or one of my recent favourites – Geography on the beach.

SandMarks
OK, so while I am reading this post back, it occurs to me that in hindsight, maybe there is no such thing as ‘a typical school morning’ in the Hive – Normal is so overrated sometimes anyway.

#WASO – ‘Grape Expectations’ the return to school

First of all, I should probably apologise for the cheesy title and play on words – I needed to find a way to maintain some degree of my sense of humour with this #WASO post.

I think it is safe to say the entire household (baring Bumble who is still at work) are more than aware that Beeswax has arrived home after his first week back to school and has brought a weeks’ worth of built up stress and anxiety with him to boot.

The moment I had closed the front door after finishing the handover and saying ‘goodbye’ to the member of transport staff , my traumatised teen began imploding rapidly and very LOUDLY (sitting here writing this now, has me wondering if I had started a stopwatch going when he arrived home, what would have the time-lapse have been?) .

“Did you take Buzzbee to his opticians’ appointment this week? Did they say that they were going to give him his glasses so he can stop faking and get his backside back to school?”

“I am F***ing hungry. Why is it that I have to always arrive home at a time when you are going to tell me that I can’t have anything too big because I will spoil my evening meal? I want to eat what I F***ing like, when I want it”

“Where the hell is Buzzbee? God woman! Don’t you even make that child do any school work? What has he been doing all week while I have been at school? No, don’t answer that because I already know that the little maggot will have been on the Xbox most of the time”

“I thought you were going shopping this week. Why is there never anything I like in the house? And don’t you dare say ‘I always buy food that everyone in this family likes’. It is Bull!”

“Where is the Xbox? I bet you have hidden it from me so that only Buzz is ever allowed to play with it in the week!”

“I want to go out on my bike to the rec, why didn’t you charge my phone for me this week? You probably did it so that I couldn’t go out and I will have to give Buzzbee some attention. Where is he anyway? Is he avoiding me?”

All this before I have even had a chance to say a proper ‘Hi’. My jaw was moving a lot but I wasn’t able to get a word in edgeways – actually after 5 minutes I stood in the middle of the lounge with my hand in the air and waited for him to say “Good God woman, what the hell are you doing now?”, which then gave me the opening to tell him that I didn’t want to interrupt, because he obviously had a lot he needed to say, so I thought it would be easier if I ‘put my hand up and wait for my turn to speak’ (he pretended to not be amused by my silliness but there was definitely a brief sighting of a smirk).  What I really wanted to do was respond to each of his tirades with a wonderfully therapeutic PACE style response – and given half the chance I would have.

Stressed

So enquiring minds (in other words mine) start wondering what has gone on this week to upset the apple cart quite so much!

Well, if we forget for the minute that it was his first week , and he was always going to be a little on edge, considering that is what he usually does anyway (and has as long as we have known him), or the fact that there had been a lot of structural changes to the school which he needed time to get used to.

What does that leave?

Speaking to his tutor earlier in the day I was told he has ‘settled wonderfully with no issues all week’. So, maybe he is just tired.

Nope! Not only has a child returned to school who Waxy feels tries to bully and intimidate younger peers (including himself), but there was a confusion/mistake with his timetable (I won’t give you the exact words he used to tell me that they had messed up, but be reassured it was more than a little colourful).   The moment he told me the nature of the confusion and what topics it affected, all the venom and angst made sense (I do not want him talking to me that way, but I could now understand why he felt the need to ‘spit his pips’ at someone with such force) – the 2 topics that had been confused would both (in different ways) be huge trigger points for him and, while I am trying my hardest at the moment to support school, I cannot deny that I am upset for my child at their insensitivity at not only the handling of the situation once the mistake was discovered, but the lack of awareness of how this unnecessary vocational lesson would impact on him in the first place – what are the topics? His timetable states ‘catering’ but he was told he would actually be doing ‘hair and beauty’.

Other than firing off an email to school, which I will then need to follow up swiftly on Monday, all I can do for now is find a way to safely support Waxy though the weekend without the entire household feeling like we are having to ‘tread on eggshells’. I will sort it for him, although I know I am definitely not going to be flavour of the month at school on Monday (what’s new there?) and I know that they will automatically jump to the conclusion that I am being an ‘overprotective’ mum, but I know my son and, although I regularly try to push him just that little bit beyond his comfort zone, I know him well enough to know that for a boy who has significant anxieties around food to have that taken away from him, only to be replaced with a topic that means he would encounter his worst nightmare – physical contact – something he can barely tolerate, even at home, unless he is playing sports (it has only been in the past year that he has begun to allow me to smooth this hair on receptive days). So to be told that he would be washing other people’s hair (or worse still have peers washing his) is definitely a stretch too far for him.

On a positive note, this is probably the first time I can remember him coming home from school and letting me know what is going on for him almost immediately rather than bottling it up and ending up violently melting down later into the weekend and returning to school on Monday feeling like he has failed.

The Weekly Adoption Shout Out
This entry was posted on September 12, 2014. 6 Comments