This week the incredible Adoption Social are celebrating their 100th #WASO blog post link up with the theme of ‘The first one hundred’, and it happens that this post is also my 100th post for 3beesandahoney.
So a double celebration, although I could never compare my posts to the amazing job Sarah and Vicki do over on The Adoption Social site or the amazing posts that are written by the many amazing people who link up to #WASO.
A heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to you all.
So as this is my 100th post and the #WASO theme is ‘the first one hundred’, I have had to think very hard about what this means for me.
- The first 100 times I tucked my boys into bed and kissed them goodnight
- The first 100 photos I took of us as a family
- The 100 times I have heard someone say “if you didn’t know they were adopted, you would swear they were yours. They look so much like you” Grrrrrr
- The 100 times I have felt like I am hitting my head against a brick wall trying to get schools to understand that behaviour modification programmes just don’t work with my boys
- The first 100 hours I spent with boys before we even knew they were to become our sons.
I am sure I could go on forever with my list of ‘first 100’s’ and I definitely have 100 reasons to celebrate firsts, and having Bumble and my boys in my life, but while writing this post, there is one ‘first 100’ that keeps jumping to the front of my mind – ‘The first one hundred’ hours we spent parenting Beeswax from a distance and the boys were free from the influence of their ‘trauma bond’.
When we made the painful decision to agree to the recommendation for Beeswax to attend a residential specialist school, we never imagined the effect it would have on home, or the relationship between the boys, or his relationship with Bumble and I.
At the time we felt like failures and Buzzbee couldn’t understand why his big brother was choosing to leave him and only come home at weekends. Obviously it wasn’t as easy as that and while Beeswax was instrumental in starting the ball rolling with his suggestion that he thought family life would be more manageable if he went to a boarding school and only came home for short periods of time, I am sure that when the powers that be agreed to the suggestion and found him a school, there was part of him that felt that we were washing our hands of him and sending him away because of his volatile behaviour and that he didn’t deserve to be part of our family.
That first week the he attended his new school were certainly the hardest 100 hours I had experienced since the boys had moved in (Ok actually 102 hours but close enough). The guilt that I felt was almost crippling and to be honest that first week was shrouded in a fog of grief and unhelpful thoughts.
“If I had just kept quiet about his violence towards me”
“I should have tried harder to help him to learn to trust me”
“What kind of mum am I sending him to a boarding school? I am just proving to him that mum’s are not to be trusted”
But, in amongst the haze of our own selfish thoughts, we couldn’t help noticing the almost immediate difference in Buzzbee’s demeanour. Our high octane, ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ 5 year old was going to sleep at night without a battle, he was less oppositional or inclined to fly off the handle at the drop of the hat, he was cuddly and chatty, I suppose you would say he was more relaxed. Of course he was not a model child – there is no such thing, but rather than the traumatised unpredictable little boy we had come to know, he instead appeared to have an air of freedom about him.
100 hours later Beeswax came home for the weekend and WELL, to be perfectly frank it was like he had never been away. The stress and anxiety that we had all been living for several month came flooding back through the door at 2pm on that Friday afternoon and hit us like a juggernaut. Bumble and I felt that we had failed again and had put Beeswax through yet another unnecessary transition for nothing (irrational I know considering it was only his first week, but certainly I have convinced myself that when he came home he would have missed us as we had him, and he would suddenly accept me and I could finally feel like his mum rather than a sparring partner or something that he had trod in). The change in Buzzbee was also incredible.
At the time I was keeping a diary for Jemima and while reading back what I had written over the week and documenting the events of the weekend, I began to realise the true power of the ‘trauma bond’.
A few days later, on the suggestion of Jemima, I wrote the following letter for Beeswax (edited slightly to fit with this weeks’ #WASO theme)
As you leave to start your second week at school, I just want to you to know that last week was one of the hardest weeks for your dad and I, and while we know that it was the right decision for you to be there, it was not what we would have wanted for you. It was not what we dreamt our family life would come to.
I know it was your suggestion to go and I truly hope in time that you will begin to feel that you can spend more time at home and being part of a family.
It is so difficult for me to think that you are struggling being part of your new family because your ‘first family’ let you and Buzzbee down and you are frightened of it happening again. Please, please, please know that whether you are sleeping in your own bed, in your own bedroom at home, or you are sleeping in your bed at school, you are part of our family and this is your home no matter what. We love you and that won’t change.
This weekend you have told me how different it has been not spending time with Buzzbee and how, although you have missed him deeply, you felt free. Your thoughts were no longer engulfed by worrying about what he was doing every second of the day, or hating having to watch as Buzzbee slowly transferred his dependence from you to me. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you after the length of time you have taken care of him for. Please know that even when Buzzbee is becoming more dependents on me and looking to me for comfort first before you now, this does not mean he does not love you and it can never break the bond you have between you. It just means that you are now free to be a big brother and do all the things with him that a big brother would, while letting Bumble and I be both of yours mum and dad – I know it is not that easy but I honestly believe as time goes on, you will slowly realise that Buzzbee is not replacing you. He is promoting you to the important role of a Big brother who he loves and can look up to.
This week has been hard for Buzzbee too, but like you there has been this week a change in him also. I suppose you could say in the 102 hours you have been away, he has to felt a sense of freedom (not that he is old enough to recognise it).
I can hear your voice right now saying “see I told you he didn’t love me, he couldn’t care the less that I have been away all week”. That is certainly not the truth, if your name hadn’t crossed his lips 100 times a day it had crossed it more. He really does miss you, but I think both of you have been through so much trauma together, at such an early age, that there is another bond you have between you both and it is one that is not healthy and sometimes you both need a break from the memories of that trauma, but being together all the time means that your subconsciously trigger memories in each other and you both deserve a break.
I think this is why this week at school you have felt free and Buzzbee has been more relaxed. It is nobody’s fault and I know you are blaming yourself, thinking if you hadn’t been such a handful or hurt so many people, you wouldn’t be where you are now, but for me all I see is hope and opportunities:
Opportunities for you both to begin to heal, at your own pace. Opportunities for you to learn to trust Bumble and I, at a pace which is more comfortable to you. Opportunities for you to regain some of the childhood you lost. Well, you get where I am going with this.
Please remember while for 102 hours a week you may not be in sight, you are never, never, never out of mind and never will be.
Since the first one hundred hours at school, there has obviously been many more weeks/hours the boys have spent apart and Beeswax has had the space he has so desperately needed to be a child without the pressures of being in family unit 24 hours a day.
And, no matter how frustrated I get with his school, and how they repeatedly fail to acknowledge the impact his early history has had on his ability to trust adults and maintain positive relationships with people he is fond of, or how many tears I have shed after dealing with them for one reason or another. The best decision that we ever made for Beeswax was to agree him spending 102 hours a week there, parenting from a small distance.