I need to say bye and tell them I love my new family.

I haven’t done a blog post for about 6 months as things have been hard and I’ve just not been able to write about it. Also my Twitter account hasn’t been working properly so I’ve lost touch with that amazing community (I think I have it back now).

My boys are growing up, we’re settled in our new home but school is hard and our eldest Tom (5) is starting to understand that his start in life wasn’t “normal”.

Tom has been getting very angry and asking lots of questions about his early life, unfortunately we can’t answer these as well as we’d like as his social worker and life story book (which was 2 years late) are crap.  He’s starting to explore what it means to be adopted and what it means to be part of our family.

Yesterday at lunch I think we reached a turning point, the conversation went like this:

Tom: I need a phone.

Me: Why?

Tom: Do you have tummy mummy & daddy’s phone number?

Me: I don’t, but we can write to them soon, what do you need to ask?

Tom: I need to say bye bye and tell them I love my new family.

We just sat there unsure what to say. He had clearly given this a lot of thought and wanted some closure. His birth mum hadn’t turned up for contact for at least 6 months before he came to us (over 2 years ago) something I didn’t think he would remember but clearly he had a notion of a need to tell them he was ok. We talked again, like we have many times, about his birth family and I could feel his positivivity about his future. It gives me hope.

I feel sad that he won’t get the chance to make that phone call (at least not for many years), we try to embrace his background and birth family but it’ll never replace the conversations he wants to have with them and the questions he wants to ask them. 

On a final note… he loves us!

A proactive school.

Tom is currently in reception, when he started things seemed to go well, he engaged with staff and made friends but unfortunately this hasn’t lasted. His teacher was well aware of the difficulties we have at home and how his presentation at school was different and was aware from the beginning that things may change once he truly settled at school.

Well, things changed once he settled.

Within the first week after Easter the teacher took me to one side and said “he’s struggling and his behaviour has deteriorated.” I made a passing comment of settling post-holiday but she felt it wasn’t that and it was something bigger, she was going to keep an extra eye on him and look at why he was struggling, I was amazed and encouraged she’d put so much thought into it. 

Roll on a few days later and his teacher has spoken to the SENCO and they feel his behaviour is due to his sensory and attachment issues which are more apparent now he’s had time to settle into school and feels more confident expressing his thoughts and emotions. They offered him a place in the nurture group, this is a group for a maximum of 10 pupils from reception, year 1 & 2 with 3 specialist staff. They spend the morning in this group and return to their class for play times, lunch and special occasions. It is amazing!

I met with the SENCO, who I’ve met several times, she went through how the focus is taken from a Boxhall assessment and they work towards an achievable goal specific to each child each week e.g. “I will walk not run in the school”, I could hear in her voice the passion she had for these children to feel like they are achieving and the focus on social skills and being part of a classroom. They also do their numeracy and literacy there. The success they have sounds great, typically children spend 3 terms there and spend another term reintegrating into the main classroom but they are welcome to come back anytime until they leave the school in year 6, she told me how with one child, who had a really disruptive background, she was his main constant and each week he come to her for a hug, this was really important in helping him manage at school so she made space for him each week all the way through his time there.

Tom has been there a few weeks now and he loves it, he has time to move and learn in an environment suited to him (lots of sensory toys), as a result he is much more regulated after school and we have more time to enjoy together. The afternoons when he is back with his normal class are still really hard and we are still trying to find ways to support him in the classroom but it really feels like the school are including us in their thoughts and concerns and putting Tom first.

The other area in which school have been amazing is their parent group. Once a week I have been going into school with some other parents (mostly parents who have children in the nurture group) and a trainer from the local college runs through how to support your child with reading, writing, listening, behaviour management (more sharing of strategies) and helping our children identify their feelings and emotions (the face / emotion turner in the picture was a recent big hit), the children then join us for the last 30 minutes to do a craft activity around what we’ve been learning. It’s been great to meet other parents and discuss basic things and ask silly questions, I look forward to these sessions and spending time in school learning with Tom. 

School is still hard put I feel we are very blessed to have picked this school and are very greatful to the amazing staff whom I know look out for my son each day. 

Foster siblings- an update.


This weekend we met up with our boy’s foster mum, her children and one of her foster children. We had an amazing time and it is always a joy to see them as our boys love them and very much see them as part of our wider family. 

However this time was a little different, last June I wrote about how one of the foster children was going to family under a special guardianship order, unfortunately this fell apart for many reasons just before he moved and he is now in limbo waiting for another plan. His 2 younger siblings were adopted last week, I felt unexpectedly emotional about this as we thought this wouldn’t happen due to their high level of needs, but the saddest thing is this group of 3 have been split up, the eldest (who we saw today) is feeling lost and lonely, the youngest 2 are really struggling being away from their brother. It was so sad to see but also there was a sense of great joy at the future the youngest 2 now had. Part of me just wanted to take the remaining brother home with us to give him some stability, he’d been waiting for 2 years and had many different plans and social workers, but I know he is in the best foster home with a woman who will fight to get the best for him.

We are very privileged to have a foster family who share so many of our values  and leisure activities and fit naturally into our sense of the wider family unit.

Existing.

  
The blog has been a little neglected of late for a variety of reasons (mostly illness) so I thought I would put some ramblings down.

One of the side effects of therapy (DDP) is that a lot of time is spent discussing the past and making sense of where we’ve come from and where the boys come from, however I feel that sometimes we miss the current. I haven’t blogged an update on our most recent sessions as I currently disagree with the therapist and I’m not sure what to put down without making it too identifiable!

We have lots of hopes for the future, hopes that we won’t be screamed at, spat at, hit etc but also the hope of being a family who can go on holiday or even just change our routine without consequences. My fear is that by spending so much time looking back and dreaming about the future I may miss some of the good stuff right now.

So, some good bits:

  • I have an amazing childminder staring after Easter who is perfect for James.
  • We are trying to move house and so far Tom has been really positive about it, compared to last time we tried and the violence escalated and he urinated on the floor a few times.
  • Tom is progressing at school and starting to make one good friend, he even managed a party today after school without too much fall out, this is amazing considering we haven’t even managed a play date yet!
  • I haven’t been hit for a few days.
  • About once a week I manage a shower with the boys alone downstairs in front of Octonauts without anyone getting hurt or screaming (this is so amazing I sometimes get very emotional having a shower).

The last 3 months have been difficult as I have had lots of chest infections and lots of sick days, it’s meant I haven’t had much energy to interact with the boys (or Twitter), despite this they have been very loving towards me when I have been at my worst. It has been a hard time and I’ve had to rely on family, especially my husband, to get us though. We had expected Tom to struggle with me being ill so much but he seems to love having time to sit snuggled on the sofa, though he is frustrated by my inability to run around in circles constantly. 

As a family we seem to be going forward despite the illnesses and I am enjoying being a mum, I just need a few days without feeling ill to fully enjoy every aspect of it.

I really feel that we have passed through our “existing” phase and are starting to actually live as a family.

DDP sessions 11-16. Using ASF.

  

We have had a little break from writing about our DDP sessions as the fall out has been huge after each one and we had a few weeks off over Christmas. Also I’ve been ill so I’ve missed some of the sessions, therefore I am passing over to my lovely husband again to fill you in on how we are getting on.

Hi there! We’ve had some sessions lately that have been really hard work – bringing James to some of his big brother’s appointments has made it difficult to keep them both settled, and it hasn’t helped when there has been a particular therapeutic toy that Little One snatches away!

I’ve been to two sessions on my own, which we had originally intended as “parent sessions” so we could feedback and discuss things with Dr. E. The first offered a chance to look at some things Tom had started doing recently. He’s always loved stories and building narratives, and has started spending lots more time ‘being’ someone else – normally a superhero but also a puppy, a baby or a ‘big’ Tom.  We were aware that a desire to be babied is sometimes helpful in therapeutic parenting, but found his insistence on maintaining the character difficult; he would refuse to respond to his name or direct questions, which started me worrying about him distancing himself from his real life. Dr. E reassured me that it was developmentally typical, and possibly evidence of him thinking more about his traumatic past by trying to ‘rewrite’ it. 

Then we had our last session before Christmas, which was really hard. Tom was doing well initially (Dr. E tries to set things up so he’s sitting with Louise or I before we get into hard stuff) but when she began gently exploring how he felt about ‘mummies,’ including a mention of Tummy Mummy, he became very anxious and hard to manage. We can normally see how Dr. E is using PACE techniques in the sessions, but for whatever reason there wasn’t much of it on this occasion. Tom was really angry and upset for days afterwards – lots of hitting, screaming, banging, all the old habits came back. We found it hard to deal with after moderate success in other visits, and were genuinely concerned about breaking up for Christmas with things as they were. 

Then, as she’s mentioned above, Louise was really ill over all of Christmas. From Christmas until last week she was exhausted with a chest infection and problems from endometriosis. Fortunately I was off work so was able to look after the boys (gratefully reinforced by grandparents and aunties!) and was worried that Tom especially might feel really rejected. In fact he was brilliant, he was really concerned about Mummy and made sure she got lots of sleep and tea. When she was resting on the sofa, he would snuggle in for hours with her, and one night was worried and suggested that we pray to God for Mummy to feel better. This was astonishing as he’s never liked the idea of praying before, despite some good work that school and our church crèche have done. Since then he has been much more playfully affectionate with her, and much less scared by the idea of having a Forever Mummy. Perhaps because he was feeling more secure at home, Tom did well to come with me on several visits to extended family and manage it all happily (James was fine as food was provided…). This was a real boost to both of us, considered how worried we were before Christmas. 

So…with all that behind us I had another ‘parent session’ just after New Year. This was really helpful, Dr. E suggested a slight change of approach. Previously she had been simply focusing on helping Tom feel safe with us; now we are going to be exploring (very gently) feeling safe while talking more about birth family. This is probably going to be hard going, but following on from last year we’ll be spending more time keeping him regulated as we do so. It’s needed as Tom is now talking a lot more about (his largely imaginary memory of) birth family. We showed him some pictures of his birth sister recently, with lots of discussion – he seemed to find it helpful but now has more questions. His brain never stops!

Our most recent session seemed to go well; James stayed with Grandma while Louise, Tom and I went in for some play. He was more focused and did less scribble-drawing (though he slightly dismember some stretchy toys), probably because Dr. E had a big pirate flag to play with! This formed the basis of a long period of Captain Tom directing First Mate Mummy and Deck Swab Daddy to steer the ship (chair) and take on various adventures. He loved this and came up with some very elaborate orders! It also seemed to help him to play as part of the same imaginary unit; we may need to watch The Incredibles again! Dr. E calmed him down at the end with a mindfulness exercise. In this case, we each had a slice of orange  which we had first to look at (slowly) then smell, touch and finally eat, all while thinking about how exactly it feels etc. This seems like it might be a good tool for some occasions, although multiple spare fruits are required as the first one just gets consumed instantly! (Dr. E made the mistake of doing this with James in the room once, we were all still contemplating our first raspberry as he wolfed down the rest of the pack!)

We’ll see how things go from here; Tom is now thinking more about his birth family, and will need to trust us in looking at it all. On a positive note the local authority have finally contracted someone to help sort the boys’ Life Story books (you remember, the ones we should have had more than a year ago…) which if done well should be exactly what Tom needs to build up that narrative of himself.