Thursday 20 December 2012

Dreading school holidays

It's 90 minutes until I need to go pick up Missy as they are finishing an hour early today for the Christmas holidays.  My heart is pounding, the anxiety rising.  I'm dreading the school holidays to be honest because it will be full on attention-needing from Missy.

On one hand I want to fill the days, but on the other I do need to keep some normality and routine.  Daddy is off work on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve, but the other days he's in work and on some of those days he's doing extended hours.  Suggestions of what I can do to amuse a 5 year old who often exhibits as a 3 year old are most definitely welcomed.

A friend is coming round on Saturday with her adopted daughter aged 10, so will be interesting to see how Missy plays with her.  I had to take Missy into school today as Daddy was in work early and within seconds of walking in, she was having a strop with another girl in her class over sharing an activity.   We went to see the school play yesterday and as I sat there looking round at the other ever-so-proud mums and dads, beaming with pride at their child, taking loads of photos, I couldn't help but feel a little sad and a little jealous of them.  I didn't feel that pride.  Missy didn't have a big part, just had to sing some songs with her classmates, although I say sing, she actually looked like she mumbled most of the time and stuck her fingers in her mouth.  I did notice she didn't sing 'figgy pudding' but instead sang 'piggy pudding', which made me smile.  At the end, all the parents went over to their child for a big hug, and a 'wow, weren't you brilliant' moment. Daddy and I went over to Missy but she just stared at us and then backed away when Daddy tried to hug her.  We said she was fantastic and in reply she said "I don't want to talk about it" and backed away, getting very stroppy.  When she's like that we really can't do much so we left and a TA took her back into the classroom.  She's like that most afternoons I collect her actually.

There have been a few good moments over the last few days.  Daddy is brilliant at playing with Missy and doing lots of rough and tumble stuff, plus he's great at just thinking up random games.  There was lots of laughter yesterday afternoon after school and she was in a great mood.  She loves doing our hair and Daddy and I both visited her hairdressers.  Another good time was on Sunday after lunch when we went out for a walk over the fields, a favourite walk of mine and Daddy's.  Surprisingly, Missy enjoyed it and loved walking in the mud, getting her wellies covered, although she did nearly get well and truly stuck.

Everyone I speak to says we are doing well and it's very early days.  It's 8 weeks tomorrow since she came home to live with us so I suppose it is early.  Mums with birth children are also moaning about their children at this time of year, with so much going on.  My cousin and my Mum have been giving me some great advice and ideas on what to do.  It's still hard though.  We're still not feeling much affection towards her, rather we feel like we are just babysitting.  I'm assured this feeling does go and we will suddenly realise one day that we do have affection for her.

The social workers came round yesterday for a catch up.  It felt like a moaning session from us really, with not much practical advice coming back from them.  They did say however that Missy's social worker, who visited last week, was really pleased to see how much less anxiety she was displaying.  We're still getting wet knickers though, a sign of anxiety, and now she's started, in the last week, to continually say she is hungry.  I'm quite sure she isn't as she's actually put some weight on recently.  I'm sure it's a sign of something else, though what I don't know.  We're not aware of any major food issues when she was in birth home, but then again we don't know for sure.

Oh well, I'd better savour this last 45 minutes of peace before I go on the school run.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Tolerance level

My tolerance levels are maxed out this weekend already and it's only Sunday morning.  I've already escaped for 90 minutes down to the shops for a quite cup of coffee and a read of a book.   Yesterday Daddy was at work and I just about lasted til he got home.

You may be forgiven for thinking it's all negative in this house because my blog is clearly quite negative at the moment.  So I shall say a few positive things because to be fair to Missy there have been some positive moments.   Dinner time on Friday evening was very positive; I can't remember why but she made me laugh out loud a couple of times.  (Oh dear, I can hear her downstairs having a tantrum, Daddy can sort this one out).  Sorry, back to the positives.  We were playing the Round of Applause game after dinner, giving each others rounds of applause for doing things like making tea, reading a book well etc.  At the end Missy said we should have a round of applause for being ourselves.  I like this.

I can actually deal with her tantrums, they don't last for long and I'm fairly ok at the therapeutic parenting thing (though by no means perfect!) to help her move from that tantrum state. It's the constant 'mummy, mummy', constant chatter, constant attention. I get why she's doing it but that doesn't make it any less draining for me.

I saw the play therapist on Wednesday and ran through a typical day and typical behaviour.  I said I thought Missy was emotionally 12 months behind.  The play therapist suggested we actually treat her even younger.  Some of the behaviour she displays is like a 3-4 year old and so we should treat her like a toddler.  Which is difficult since I don't actually know how to treat a toddler.  Anyway, Missy has started to play at pretending to be a pussycat, meowing (or on occasions screeching) around the house and copying what our cats do.  I wonder if this is because she sees our cats get loads of love?  But this gave me a good opportunity to be tactile with her by stroking 'pussycat'.  I've made a den too for her which she likes.

Back to the play therapist.  It was a useful consultation and we have a follow up in January which hopefully Daddy can attend too, and then this will be followed by play therapy sessions with Missy.  She could see from the info the SW gave her and from what I said that Missy is a very anxious child and so she gave us lots of suggestions such as visual agenda for each day, lots of rhythmic activities such as rocking and dancing, being tactile such as rubbing cream into hands, and when it calls for, parenting as if she were a toddler.  So, we'll see if this reduces her anxiety over the next month (although with Christmas and interrupted routine at school, I think it may be difficult).

(Tantrum over downstairs and now happily reading her school book with Daddy).  Two interesting things that happened yesterday though were that on two of the occasions when Missy had a tantrum, she actually came over to me for a hug.  Interesting and definitely a positive change.

We put the Christmas tree up on Friday.  I'm not sure if this is the first time she's helped decorate a tree but I suspect it might be.  I'm not big on the whole commercialism of Christmas so the tree is really the only decoration we have in the house, other than a patchwork Christmas tree on the wall that Daddy's Mum made, and a wreath on the front door.  Missy loved doing the tree and pointed out that the house was different. We explained it was still the same house, still the same place to feel safe, just with a couple of things she hadn't seen before.  Missy's SW came last week and she got Missy to draw pictures of the house and each room, with the emphasis on it being a safe place.  Her visit gave me a chance to have a quite cuppa and to read my book, but I was interested to see how Missy behaved in her presence and there were definitely a few times when she behaved much differently - less stubborn, less controlling.  So is it me that isn't parenting well, or is that she feels more comfortable about expressing herself if it's just me and Daddy around?

There is a lovely smell of cheesecake wafting upstairs.  Daddy makes a rather awesome one, with the help of Missy.  It's also lunchtime, cheese on toast as requested by the little person.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Root canal and adoption don't go

I had my second treatment at the dentist this morning on one tooth's root canal and I still have to go back for a third time.  The injection is almost worn off and I have the painkillers ready and waiting, and no doubt I'll have to take them for several days.  I usually try to avoid painkillers and go down the natural route, but I can't put up with the pain of the tooth and the pain of a 5 year old at the same time.

Saying that, the last two days so far have been ok with Missy.  It's like we are making very very tiny steps forward with a few big leaps backwards and then forwards again.  Hopefully she is beginning to learn the boundaries and beginning to feel a little more comfortable here.  We're still feeling like its a minefield we are stepping through when she's around, we don't want to make the wrong move and BOOM! But I think we are all learning.

I was reading a page on a website last night from Alison Astair, The Parenting Coach on which she describes ages and stages of children.  I looked at the 5-6 page and, yes, there are one or two points on there I can tick for Missy, but there are far more on the 4-5 age section.  Alison says "They love to tell you "jokes", are enthusiastic, constantly talking and have vivid imaginations.  Reality and "make believe" are often confused and you will hear exaggerated stories".  Alison also explains that this age group will be very independent, often jealous, can be bossy and throws tantrums over minor irritations.  They also find calling people names like "poo poo head" hilariously funny!   Oh yes, that's definitely Missy.  I don't think she's too far behind but I'm sure she has some minor developmental delay.  I saw it again when I picked her up from school and the way she is compared to her classmates.  I'm not worried though, she'll catch up.

Daddy and I also think we've sussed the main reason she wets her knickers.  Of course, some of it will be anxiety but the main reason we think is that she doesn't sit on the toilet properly and so some of her wee goes on the seat and knickers.  Not surprising really when it's highly likely she wasn't potty trained properly and was still often in nappies at three and a half.  So we made a game of it and I sat on the toilet (with my jeans still on!) showing her how she needs to sit back on the seat without falling into the toilet.  She thought this was hilarious.  So we'll see how she fares.

We had our SW and the family finder SW around last night to see how we are getting on.  We're very honest with them, it's the only way to be.  We had a good chat and explained our issues.  However, when one of them tried to explain how adopters often go through what we are feeling and in a couple of years virtually can't remember the pain and likening it to not remembering labour pain, was a little, erm, insensitive I thought considering that, er, no, I don't know what labour pain is like and NEVER WILL!  That's why we've adopted!

They did offer some practical advice though and have also offered us play therapy which I'm really happy with.  I'm off to have a consultation tomorrow with the play therapist and see what she suggests.

Right now though, I'm off to find those painkillers.  Ouch!

Sunday 9 December 2012

A good few days ...until

It's been a ok few days.  Last Wednesday Missy had the longest tantrum after school that she's had, over an hour.  By the time the social worker arrived late in the afternoon to see her, we were both exhausted and the SW could see Missy had been crying and I was fed up to the back teeth.

But then things changed for a while.  I picked Missy up from school on Thursday, dreading the usual attitude I get from her, but no, she was fine and looking forward to our trip to M&S where we had hot chocolate in the cafe and picked out a new jumper for her.  Back home, tea came and went without any issue, she played nicely til bedtime and I had my first evening in a long time feeling relatively calm.  I think I even managed a smile.  I'd spent the morning with a very good friend who has a non-adopted son the same age as Missy and it was so good to hear her experiences of parenting.  Many of the things Missy does, her son has or is doing, the same tantrums, same hitting, same attitude.  I came away feeling so much better and hopeful.

Friday and Saturday were pretty incident free too.  We had one or two minor strops that last a minute or so but that was it.  Daddy was off both days which was good. We visited my Mum yesterday, the first time Missy has been there, and she was on the whole really good.  She was inquisitive, bright, ate all her food, chatty and played fairly well whilst me and Daddy chatted to my Mum.  She loved a singing Father Christmas my Mum has and this brought out her gorgeous shining smile and infectious laughter.  Bless her, she fell asleep in the car on the way home, probably the quietest non-bedtime 20 minutes we've ever had with her.  And last night she was good as gold too.  I naively thought we might be heading for calmer times.  Ha! I have a lot to learn.

Today though Daddy was back at work so it was just me and Missy.  The first part of the day was fine, a few minor strops but otherwise ok.  We went to the pet shop to buy a few things, we went to the shop next door to find some shoes and came out with a lovely My First Nativity Book which Missy chose.  We had lunch, we read the Nativity Book and played with the pop-out characters that make the Nativity scene, we did her reading homework (she can do it, but she finds it boring and so plays up - I actually think in some respects she's more intelligent than she makes out), we played fairies.  It's hard work keeping Missy entertained  she demands constant attention.  I have to give her a countdown to when I need to go and do a job, like making tea.  She gets upset but quickly gets over it.

One issue we do have now which has escalated in the last few weeks is wetting.  Tonight she wet herself IN the toilet.  I'm not sure how because I heard her weeing but she came out saying she'd also wet her knickers.  I get the anxiety issues behind it and I try my best to keep her stress-free, but then she stresses out big time over getting changed and letting me freshen her up.  I kept so calm for about 20 minutes despite her ranting millimetres from my face.  In the end I have to admit I shouted at her, my patience ran out.  I'm worn out. Even when her behaviour is ok and I'm feeling calmer, I still feel like I'm walking on eggshells.

When she came downstairs, still snivelling, she picked up one of the cats and accidentally banged him into the kitchen door.  I pointed out what she'd done, not telling her off, but the tears started again, mostly because she thought she'd hurt him.  She gave him a cuddle and said sorry to me and the cat. Bless.

I think it's probably tiredness (is it? or am I just finding an excuse).  It's been a busy few days and it's school again  tomorrow.  When Daddy came through the door at 5.30pm she was over-excited and wanted to continue to play after dinner.  It's good bonding for her and Daddy so I let her but gave her a 20 minute countdown to bedtime.  Generally she's fine about getting ready for bed although today she flipped out over having a bath.  She said she didn't like showers so Daddy started to run a bath, only for her to say she did want a shower and flipped out over potentially having a bath.  Thankfully Daddy sorted it all out and got her to bed with relatively no problem.  She'd wet herself again though.

Daddy has done bedtime the last three evenings.  When he's not at work, he will do the routine, and today as I'd had enough he also did it.  What a lovely Daddy.  When he came down, he said Missy wanted to say goodnight to me so I went up to her room where she held out her arms for a hug and told me she loved me.  It's little moments like that which I have to focus on, not the negative stuff.  But it's moments like that which churn me up inside because I'm still not feeling an attachment and I just don't know what I want to happen.

For now though, she's sound asleep, I've had a cry, some Disaronno & Ginger and I'm watching the hype that is the X Factor. Jahmene to win.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Word of the week is Anxiety

Firstly, thank you to all of you who have sent me messages of support.  It means a lot.

The word of the week has been 'anxiety'.  I've woken up each morning in a state of anxiousness, with heart pounding.

Last Wednesday and Thursday were ok-ish, Missy's behaviour was relatively ok and by Friday morning I even felt like doing some Christmas shopping.  But Friday afternoon everything came crashing back down again.  Missy was in a right mood when I picked her up early from school and everyone queued to get into the school Christmas bazaar.  Whilst queuing, I saw really for the first time how emotionally immature she is compared to her class mates.

The bazaar was hideously busy and I just wanted to get in, look round, get out.  Missy had a tantrum in the hall and we left sharpish.  Her tantrum pretty much lasted til bedtime, by which time I'd had enough.  Daddy arrived home just in time to continue the bedtime routine whilst I cried in the bathroom.

Saturday morning started pretty much where we left on Friday...until 10am when my Mum arrived and right on queue Missy turned into the perfect child, right through til when my Mum left at 3pm and then, much like in Cinderella when the fairytale ends a midnight, Missy turned back into tantrum child.   Sunday was Daddy's day off and we decided to do one of favourite walks by the canal.  Unfortunately Missy didn't feel the same and was largely disruptive.  She loved the bacon sandwich we had at lunch, but stropped when Daddy picked up a chip that she decided she had wanted despite there being a plate full.  She loved running, feeding the ducks but for the most part was miserable.  I was too.  I didn't want to be there with her.  Neither did Daddy. It's the tiniest most random things that set her off.  Many of the times that she is frustrated/angry/upset, I can kinda see where it might come from. But other times the trigger is completely random, like me not cutting my slice of pineapple in half, or copying what she was drawing which she asked me to do but all of a sudden I can't, or when I said  the words Well Done, which apparently yesterday meant Bad.  In play, I can't keep up as she changes the rules all the time.  One thing she loves to do is play with my hair, which is apparently showing good bonding. However at the moment she'll spend ages trying to put my hair in a ponytail.  After twenty minutes yesterday she got so frustrated that she couldn't do it, she thumped me hard on my shoulders and it hurt.

Yesterday morning was World War III before school and my and Daddy's anxiety levels were sky high, both of us feeling quite upset.  We understand that Missy can't regulate her behaviour right now and she is not to blame as such, but we were feeling so fed up.

So last night the Social Workers came to see us.  They could see we are exhausted, very down and nearly at the end of our tether.  We talked for nearly two hours.  I can't even remember what we talked about really, I'm not sure I came away from the discussion with any practical tips with what to do, but they were reassuring and empathetic which I do value.

This morning we have a new child in the house.  We've had a child transplant over night.  Well, that what it seems like.  Missy's behaviour was very good and she even apologised for hitting me, completely off her own back, no prompting from Daddy.  I'm still feeling anxious though as I sit here and type.  I think we're still unsure of what we want to happen.  But what needs to happen needs to be the right thing for all three of us.

The right thing right now for me is a cup of hot chocolate.
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