Archive | May 2015

Stitches for the heart

mend their heart

*Advanced warning – I tried to keep this post short but failed miserable. I am SO sorry!*

All this week The Adoption Social have been featuring articles and anonymous blog posts covering the ‘sore point’ topic of ‘Child to Parent Violence’. A topic that I wish to god wasn’t always at the forefront of the family dynamics in my family, and one which has had me agonising for a while now, whether I should or shouldn’t write a post myself, or whether I should ask for it to be posted anonymously or stop hiding from the truth and post it on here.

Stop hiding it is!

Sitting here I am trying to work out how to begin this post and even more so, what do I feel I need to write? How far am I going to go with this? Am I ready to do this? – If you haven’t worked it out yet. Just thinking about writing a #WASO post about my experience of CPV is triggering a secondary trauma reaction of fear and shame.

  • Fear of repercussions, on the grounds that the last time I was completely honest about what was going on behind closed doors. I was not only confronted with a barrage of accusations and blame, but I was also left humiliated by the people who I thought I could trust and as a result of their ill-informed, prejudicial judgement and narrow-mindedness, I very nearly lost both my boys.
  • As for the Shame. Well, I don’t know what to say here or how to describe it, other than to say. For a long time I was ashamed of myself for allowing Waxy to be able to reach such a dark, fearful point, that his ‘fight and flight’ responses would kick into action and he would come out fighting like a ‘terrified, wounded animal’. I am even more ashamed to admit that in turn Beeswax’s trauma and response systems, took me to a place in my thoughts and parenting that I NEVER in my wildest dreams imagined I could go. Then there is the shame of knowing that I had failed my boys, by failing to protect myself (and I am not only talking about the CPV). Okay in truth I cannot remember a day in the past 5 years I have not been left feeling wracked with guilt and shame for the situation our family was in.

As you can see I am already beginning to waffle – but then if you are a regular reader you will already know that this can often be my default mode when my brain has gone into overdrive (usually at stressful times).

I don’t want this post to become a post about blame or (as I fear to some it may come across as) self-pity, and no matter what I write here I do not want anyone to think that we regret our decision to welcome Waxy and Buzz into our home and hearts for one minute – they are my world (sometimes too much as I am often being told).

The early history of both Waxy and Buzz makes for heart-breaking reading and when thinking about how the boys (Waxy in particular) are responding to their need to be parented, I have tried to remind myself of the feelings it stirs up emotionally for myself thinking about their history and while I have met members of their birth family, I never personally went through it and it is not surprising that they (He) responds the way he often does.

But, of course this cannot be used as an excuse to dismiss his actions, and trust me in our household it hasn’t been, although over time, rather than becoming more open with the volume and results of the boys’ rage, I have sadly in fact become considerable more reserved cautious about who I talk to about it.

I don’t think it would help talking about the first time I received a fat lip or when or why it happened and as for cuts, bumps and bruises, it would be easier to count on my fingers how many times I have successfully managed to go a week without a mark on me.

Over the years I have questioned whether already knowing the boys before placement meant that we were denied the customary ‘honeymoon’ period that we had hear so much about or if in fact, this had had absolutely no impact on them and the reality of moving into a permanent placement and having parents that wanted to take care of them was just too unbearable for Waxy to cope with.

No matter what the trigger was, the fact was, very early on in the boys’ placement, Waxy’s aggression and difficulties to regulate his anger towards members of the family (primarily Me), walls, doors, windows…….., were already reaching a level that was raising questions for us how to support him while keeping ourselves safe at the same time.

Over the months we tried everything we could think of from using PACE to safe holding to show him that we wouldn’t give up on him and he was ‘here to stay’ no matter how many times he hurt me.

We were very open with the boys’ social worker as well as our own and welcomed any advice they wished to offer, however sadly, they NEVER got to see them in action and Waxy certainly never let ANYONE outside of our tiny family unit witness his rage. So despite seeing the visible bruises and scars, I never felt that they really took the situation seriously and with every visit that I tried to raise my concerns for the impact this was having on Buzzbee on top of Beeswax re-traumatising himself every time. The moment the topic was raised they would often begin to fidget ever so slightly in their chair or would manage to change the subject.   The independent reviewing officer and school staff were even worse. I remember one time seeing them recoil in sheer horror and disgust when I voiced my concern at their dismissive attitude of the domestic abuse I was experiencing at the hands of my eldest son – Yes, hearing myself use those words was repulsive but that did not mean they were not true and at the time I could not understand why, because it was a boy rather than a man who was the perpetrator, the suggestion that I was witnessing domestic abuse was completely unacceptable to say.

Not everyone dismissed what we were experiencing in our family and both of these wonderful ladies did their best to help support us and help us find a way to navigate our way through this swamp of trauma. One of these wonderful people was the boys’ previous foster carer and someone both boys had developed a bond with and in his own way, someone Waxy truly respected. The other was of course Jemima, Waxy’s DDP therapist, who not only worked so hard during sessions to engage Beeswax and help him in a shame reduced environment to explore why he responded the way he did, but she was always at the end of the phone or email if we needed her and if it hadn’t been for her vigilance I don’t believe I would have ever joined the dots together and realise that I had fallen into the ‘blocked care’ trap and that my own secondary trauma was retriggering childhood PTSD symptoms for myself.

I am not going to go into the hell that social services and Waxy’s current school put us through because it is a place I still don’t think I can go there yet, but for all their faults, Waxy’s specialist EBD school was the turning point for our family and quite honestly. Saved our family!

During one of his therapy appointments, Waxy suggested that he thought, because he found being part of a family all the time too painful but didn’t want to leave Buzzbee, that maybe if he went to boarding school during the week and only came home at weekends, it would be more manageable for him. I wasn’t keen at first – I felt that if I let him then I would have failed him but Jemima convinced me that it was worth trying and that she would continue for as long as she was allowed to work with us both to rebuild our relationship.

Has the aggression ever stopped? No! But it did reduce in intensity for a couple of years and in this time not only did this give us both time to build a relationship and learn to understand each other. The space each week also gave me the time I needed to heal myself and once again become the mum I wanted to be to both my beautiful boys.

As we entered the teens, I will not lie we are once again seeing a return of many of his old destructive coping techniques along with an increased level of his second favourite weapon – the cruel, controlling and verbally abusive tongue.

The only difference this time is at the moment I am more prepared for it and I am (at the moment) able to look beyond the behaviour and focus on what is going on underneath instead – I am able to deflect his anxiety, rather than take it on board myself or worse still take it personally.

Is it easy? Absolutely not and like many of you who may be also experiencing #CPV on a daily basis, I definitely have my days when it is all too much and I dream of my way out and wonder ‘why the hell I got myself into such a messy situation’.

As for support, well I have deliberately avoided raising it before now because although at present we are at the very early stages of making an application for the adoption support fund. Since Jemima left and Wise Owl left, post adoption support in our area has been drastically reduced and while we did have Shamrock for quite some time, because of the situation with allegations about my ability to parent the boys and her not being able to warn us about it. I lost any trust I had in her so found that even at the most difficult times, while I was able to accept her help with managing the schools. I just couldn’t bring myself to be open with her anymore about either of the boys’ behaviour – I suppose you could say “I was and still am experiencing ‘blocked care’ with the professionals who are supposed to be there to support us” – how do you sort that mess out?

I am conscious as a finish this post that I have focused on the ‘child to parent violence’ we have received at the hands of Waxy but haven’t really mentioned Buzzbee and there is a reason for this. Buzzbee rarely physically goes for Bumble or I, and on the times he has they have been because we have got caught in the crossfire, rather than Waxy’s lashing out or attacks. The other reason is Buzzbee has always been remorseful afterward, while Waxy cannot go there and has to deflect the blame back onto us for him hurting us.

Did I every expect when I started the adoption process that I would end up spending my days walking on eggshells and waking up with an overwhelming sense of dread and worry for how each day will turn out and whether I can keep my family safe and more to the point support my boys to the best of my abilities.

Of course not!

My heart may get shattered into a thousand pieces on a weekly basis but not because of the damage or harm that occurs because of the boys and their reactions to situations or request. No! My heart breaks because I see my boys in so much pain and I know that no matter how much I want to take that pain away from them. I can’t and as their mother that is far more painful than the physical blows I have been struck with over the years.

Child to Parent violence shouldn’t be dismissed by professionals and while awareness around this topic is growing, from a personal point of view there is still a long way to go and I hope that in the future professionals, families and friends will come to understand that if a parent was to find themselves in a similar position as Bumble and I have found ourselves. They do not need criticism, scorn or blame. They need your support and understanding.

 

Between a rock and a hard place.

At the beginning of this week I wrote a post, titled ‘Tiger feet’ about the emotional but ultimately cathartic, rollercoaster that I found myself on with Bumble and Buzzbee.

What I didn’t say in that post (because it wasn’t relevant) was 30 minutes after Buzzbee’s meltdown, I received a phone call from mother that turned my recovering internal ‘calm’ back into a broken hearted ‘storm’ and it has knocked me sideways this week.

Without going into the gory and very personal details of it. Monday night I learnt that one of my cousins had died, leaving my auntie and the rest of my dad’s side of the family devastated and in absolute shock, myself included.

Most of my dad’s family live close by to each other, as does my sister, so they are all able to be there for each other at this time.

**warning: selfish comment to come** On the other hand, I do not live near my family home and much like when my grandparents died. I am left to deal with it on my own and in private – OK I have Bumble but it’s not the same.

For practical reasons (the boys wouldn’t cope) it is not possible for me to be with them at this time and I know when it comes to the time as a family we will unite to lay him to rest, Bumble will as always find a way to ensure that I can get away to attend the funeral. On my own, as always!

Please, please don’t get me wrong, if you are reading this thinkimg I am bitter and twisted about the situation. This is not the case, but it has reared a feeling of resentment for me about the choices and sacrifices I have had to make being the boys’ mum – As Freddie Mercury sang “I am the great pretender”.

This week I have also met with our new PASW and while in the long term (or should I say for as long as she is with the team) I am beginning to think that, maybe she is someone who I can work with (so far she is really demonstrating that she ‘gets it’ and she understood when I said “sometimes I just need to know my experience is being validated and not dismissed”). Yet I still kept her at arm’s length during the meeting. Each time she began to show any sign of empathy or concern for the impact of parenting the boys, I could feel my whole body tensing up with emotional discomfort and alarm bells were ringing saying “Be careful what you say next. Don’t give her the wrong idea”.

Again my “Freddie” switch was flicked. Although I am not completely convinced she was fooled, but decided to not push it.

not ok

OK enough about my woes! This week has been a mixed week, Buzzbee has been up and down more times than an elevator and boy, has he been a stubborn so in so at times this week. On more than one occasion, when it has come to getting him to do his work, I have come up against a giant (ok, a 133cm) brick wall and proved challenging to persuade him to do what was asked – actually it has taken us all week just to do one piece of work, which once he finally started and finished it he was extremely chuffed with himself. One of the many things we have learnt about Buzzbee (and I kind of forgot at the beginning of the week) is the more you make it clear to him you want him to do something, the more he will dig his heels in. The trick is to make him think it has been his choice and that he is in control – forget threatening to not let him go on his tablet or computer, or anything like that because this boy has staying power and when fear of working/failure is driving him, personal enjoyment and privileges just are not on his radar. Well, not until he decides he wants them anyway.

On the flip side, this week the staff at his forest school commented on how amenable and delightfully helpful he had been this week (last few weeks he has been a little prickly and dug his heels in a few times over activities that he felt uncomfortable with). In fact, when I arrived to collect him I could hear him shrieking with delight all the way from the car park. Unbeknown to me, this was because he was having a water fight with the staff and children. A fact I very soon found out when he raced over and threw himself into my arms to give me a hug and a kiss as always – soaking wet boy + hugs = very damp mummy (but I’ll forgive him because he gives such good hugs).

waterfight

Beeswax’s school have been in contact several times over this week, mostly winding me up big time with their petty concerns and stating the bleeding obvious “Beeswax is demonstrating childish and silly behaviour and allowing himself to get drawn into negative foolishness. We feel Waxy is extremely emotionally immature for his age and compared to his peers” – Funny that! They seem to have forgotten to look at his records and see that his previous therapist had noted that his emotional age was significantly lower than his chronological age. If that is their biggest worry with him, then I will swap my weekends with them anytime – from 3.30 when he walked in the door yesterday he has been on TOP FORM and in BATTLE MODE.

The school have always underestimated the impact Waxy’s early history has had on him because he is so blooming good at hiding it from them and presenting himself at school as being extremely precocious and articulate, so they forget about the other side of him and refuse to take it into account.

woman-frustrated-1

Rather than my usual, getting into a pointless exercise/dialogue where I for the hundredth time find myself attempting to get them to take a step back and look at what he may be trying to tell them (In this case. Girlfriend trouble and they are STILL talking to him about GCSE options and repeatedly moving the goal posts for him). No instead I did something probably very foolish and I most certainly need my head read because rather than ague with them again, I have instead put my name forward to stand for the parent governor position that is currently available – in my head the time it sounded like a good idea, now I am wondering what the heck I have done. Not that I will need to worry because there is another adopter I know well also putting herself forward and she will most certainly be elected to the post and do exactly what I planned to do but with so much more style and experience.

Please accept my apologies for my rambling this week. Lots going on and brain not functioning at optimum level.

On a positive note: Today we have achieved the unthinkable and after a VERY slow start leaving the house. We have managed a pleasant and fun few hours as a family with Beedog visiting a beautiful local Rhododendron garden/walk. The boys had a great time racing around all the colourful and aromatic bushes and trees and Beedog was in ‘scent heaven’, although I am pretty sure the bluebells did not appreciate her flaking out on them at one point. Oh and despite Waxy and Bumble having a silverback’ moment before leaving the house, Bumble and I have got to enjoy a precious few hours feeling like a ‘normal’ family and enjoying being in the boys company rather than playing referee or ‘good cop/bad cop’

bluebellThis post was written as part of this weeks’ The Adoption Social #WASO.

Tiger Feet

First of all. No! I am not about to break out into a song.

When Bumble returned from visiting his dad and brothers, bringing with him a dusty old pair of tiger feet slippers, which had belonged to my late mother-in-law. Nobody could have imagined these orange and black, fluffy fellows were going to bring about a complete emotional meltdown for Buzzbee that would reduce Bumble to tears also (Yes the tears were flowing for me too but there is nothing new there – if my boys are in pain, it breaks my heart).

Ok let me take a couple of steps back. When Bumble arrived home from work yesterday afternoon, he brought in with him from his car a pair of Tiger slippers which his dad had found while going through boxes of at home and they believed that had been Bumble’s mum’s at some point. Bumble and his dad thought that Buzzbee would like them for his dressing up box as he already owns a Tiger onesie – absolutely wonderful idea, I thought and Buzzbee was delighted with them.

Throughout the day Buzzbee had been….. Well, let us just say. I suggested to Bumble that it might be a good idea to meet up at lunchtime as my therapeutic mummy juice was rapidly running out. So when Buzzbee volunteered to read in the evening with his dad (NEVER happens) and did so while wearing his new “feet”, I couldn’t help but let my guard down and believe that his dark mood had lifted and bedtime would be relaxed and positive before our babysitter arrived.

Silly mummy!!!!

Once Buzz had finished reading with Bumble, the nervous, fizzy energy came out to play. He had done such a wonderful job but struggled with one word and he began to fall apart. He couldn’t tolerate any suggestion that he had done really well considering on how difficult he finds reading and all he could focus on was, the one word he struggled with.

Beedog picking up on his energy began to join in with his ‘bubbling’ and herself begun to get over-excited. In the process of the chaos and madness, Beedog tried to remove the Tiger feet from Buzzbee’s feet which Buzz was finding oddly funny, considering how close her teeth were to his toes. In an attempt to prevent the slippers getting damage or Buzz’s feet being chomped. I slipped the slipper off Buzz’s foot, with the intention of retrieving it from Beedog before putting it back on Buzzbee’s foot.

Oh dear. Bad mummy. Buzzbee suddenly feel completely apart and raced hysterically out of the room and into his bedroom in floods of tears, completely inconsolable.

What had I done that was so wrong? Why was he throwing a wobbly?

Although it took me a minute to realise it. It wasn’t that I had taken the slipper off his foot that upset him. It was that I had taken ‘Granny’s slipper’ off his foot and in doing so I had taken Granny from him again in his mind.

All the grief and loss that he had experienced over the years was suddenly coming crashing to the surface and he had become overwhelmed by it all but he couldn’t let me near – painful as it was to see him in such distress, I needed at the time to remember that he wasn’t trying to reject me. The pain was just too much for him to accept comfort.

In the meantime, Bumble was conspicuous in his absence (usually he is great at stepping in when Buzz is in this state). Again, I didn’t need to think too hard to know the reason why. Bumble was trying his hardest to hide his pain at the realisation of Buzzbee’s connection to the slippers.

Buzzbee needed Bumble and no matter how much Bumble denies it, at that point he needed Buzzbee too. The boys haven’t really seen Bumble cry when it comes to losing his mum (they saw him cry more when our old cat died). Bumble’s has been quite stoic when the boys have been around (Neither of them cope well with seeing myself or Bumble upset. It really upsets their equilibrium and over the years we have subconsciously reined ourselves in when they are present).

Last night was different. Bumble couldn’t hide from it and he knew that Buzzbee needed him at that point and needed to know that it was OK to miss his granny and that Bumble misses her too.

So what started out as an innocent pair of old slipper being brought home to be put into a dressing up box and have some fun with, actually turned into an important but emotional evening, where Bumble had a rare opportunity to be the one to give Buzzbee the support and emotional connection that he needed at that time and strengthen their attachment just that little bit more.

tigerfeet

Many of you will think I am completely crazy but I have long believed that our loved ones are always watching over us and send us what we need, when we need it.

And, boy did they both need it.

“W.A.L.K”

This week is ‘Get Walking Week’ and The Adoption Social have chosen this weeks’ #WASO theme ‘Where I walk’ to fit in with this.

Where I live, we are blessed with so many wonderful places to walk and visit. So much so that I couldn’t chose which one to write about. But, it did get me thinking about a sentence that is used daily in our house and one that is met with a mixed response from members of the household

“I think it is time we all went out for a walk”

Bumble enjoys a nice afternoon walk and recently the lucky devil managed to bag himself a weekend away with some of his mates on a walking weekend along the coastal paths in Devon, while using my parent’s caravan as a base.

follow the muddy track

The boys! Well……. Let’s be honest they are less than keen most of the time with the idea of ‘going for a walk’, despite loving being outdoors. In truth, it often comes across to Bumble and I, that both of them couldn’t think of anything worse than going for a nice family stroll and over the years, I think I have heard every excuse and moan that they could possibly come up with, before, after and during the walk, as to why they can’t or don’t want to do it. To be fair, if they have trees to climb or enough open space to race each other then they will tolerate it but if we were heading further afield or attempting a picturesque coastal path…. Oh my god it is like pulling hens teeth, and often I end up feeling frustrated and wondering if all the stress is worth it.

Myself, I have always loved going for nice long peaceful walks, especially at times when I really need to cool down or I have so much going on in my tiny brain that I just need to be alone with my thoughts (although, in all honesty, lately this has not been such a good idea – unhelpful dialogues with myself. Not to mention the looks you can get from others when you start talking yourself. Not good). Being outside and taking in the beauty that surrounds me sounds really cliché but so many time it has been my saviour. Nature doesn’t judge you. The birds are singing not screeching and shouting or saying ‘all boys do that’. The soft, firm (OK mostly muddy at the moment) ground I walk on, isn’t going to crumble and disappear from under my feet, and every tear stained step I take, it is there to hold me up and keep me company when I am feeling lost.

Now, that brings me on to our resident furry, four-legged ‘family therapist’. The one member of our household, for who is always happy to hear the words “Let’s go for a walk”. It is music to her big, brown floppy ears and is guaranteed to send our crazy girl into a manic spiral of over-excitement.

It wouldn’t take a genius to realise that I am talking about Beedog. No matter if she is wide awake or snoring her head off, snoozing on the couch. At the slightest whisper/mention or even spelling of W.A.L.K, she is up on her feet and going absolutely crackers, right up until the point you clip the lead onto her collar and open the front door, ready to head out.

Like many spaniels I have met, her manners on a lead leave a lot to be desired and god help you if you are the unfortunate person on the other end of her lead if she spots a blackbird (she has been trained by the best hunters in our village – our 2 cats). Having said this she is absolutely brilliant at walking nicely most of the time if Buzzbee is walking her.

bird brain

Luckily for us we are surrounded by beautiful fields and walks within a couple of minutes of our doorstep, so Beedog has plenty of opportunities to run freely off her lead. Usually with Buzzbee or Beeswax in hot pursuit, laughing freely and without care.

Love it or hate it, both the boys know that owning a dog comes with responsibilities and taking Beedog for regular walks is important – and not only for her health and wellbeing, but for the sake of their socks and sanity too.

And, while they would never admit it openly…….taking Beedog for a walk helps them feel calmer and gives them the space and time to recharge their emotional batteries.

keep calm