The unexpected benefits of camping.

  

Last weekend we took the boys on their first camping trip, we are seasoned campers but this was their first trip and our first holiday (excluding grandparents’ house). 

The boys loved the tent and being outside, they loved the beach, just loved it. That is until it came to going to bed, it was noisy and unfamiliar. Both managed about 4 hours sleep a night and ended up in our king size sleeping bag with us eventually. Despite the lack of sleep both were amazing during the day.

Them being on their best behaviour was great, however this then lead to an argument with my mum as she was starting to say there was nothing wrong with Tom and we were over-reacting etc. I tried to explain he was doing well because we were putting a lot of work in and he was likely not feeling safe enough to express his emotions when camping, she didn’t get it.

After 2 nights we drove home Sunday night with the boys ready for bed, they fell asleep in the car and we put them straight to bed. The next morning was one of the best ever. Both woke up around 5 having had a better sleep, but the best thing was they were so excited to be home. James sat in his cot for an hour after he woke up playing with some toys and ‘reading’ his favourite book, he loved it. Tom came into our room smiling and excited about being home, he told us he missed it and missed being just the Four of us, he was also really happy this was his home.

Monday morning despite still being sleep deprived I felt refreshed in my mind knowing my boys feel this is their home and they want to be here, they miss it. 

Since being back from camping Tom seems more settled, he seems to be appreciating us and our home / things. We have had a few episodes of violence but he has ‘come down’ within 30 mins which is such a change (previously it was 90 mins+ ).

I know we still have a long way to go but it was lovely having a bit of respite and seeing a change in the boys’ attitudes to home.

I bruise easily.

  

Summer is coming and I normally see this as a good excuse for wearing dresses everyday, however this year I’m not sure I can brave it. My body is covered in bruises from our eldest boy, they are a reminder of the pain my boys go through on a daily basis.

The bruises come from when he can’t control himself, it usually starts small, he lies on the floor screaming, I try to smooth him and acknowledge his pain, sometimes it ends there sometimes he just can’t control what he’s doing. He starts doing these ear piercing, life draining, screams and kicking and punching wildly. If possible I give him space and sit close by, but usually I need to move him to prevent injury to him or his brother, this is a dangerous move! Most of the time it ends up with me holding him like a baby while he crys, possibly through shame of the injury / damage he has done, the state of the room is a reminder but by this time it can be impossible to move him without restarting the screams, we can only move this time when he is ready.

It is hard to see him in pain, but it is also hard seeing the risk he is placing me and his brother in (he doesn’t usually do it when daddy is home). He can’t see what he is doing as he is so focused on getting any emotion out in any way he can.  We are yet to find a trigger as they can start from nowhere we can see, once he told me he screamed and hit me because he couldn’t remember his sister’s name.

More recently we have seen a change in his violent outbursts, he has started to ask me if certain things hurt i.e. hair pulling or hitting, if I say yes he then does it harder. We have also started to find marks on him from where he has hurt himself, a few days ago I came into his room to find him hitting the floor, he told me he was hitting it as I had been hitting him in his dreams, it broke my heart. 

My precious boy can be so caring and attentive at times, but he can also really scare me. 

We had been telling the social workers that things were getting difficult and I don’t think they believed us, then during a recent visit Tom just started attacking me without any prompting mid sentence, he was hitting and clawing at my face with his hands around my neck. The social worker was shocked. They promised us some support form CAMHS, that was a few weeks ago, we’re waiting, hoping.

So far the advice we have been given is to not hide the bruises and ensure he understands we are in control. I can not keep the bruises on show as I can not deal with all the questions from those around us and see the heartbreak on his face, I will let him see them but only for a short time and where he has space / time to react, I know this is not what they want us to do but I just don’t feel it’s right for us to do more at present. As to asserting our control, I find this difficult, we encourage him to have some control and choice around things in the house and he seems to thrive on that, but we always ensure he knows we need to keep him safe and we are in charge of him, we have struggled taking the control away from him and are desperate for a more structured plan as we don’t feel this is right for our boy, so again we are not doing as adviced.

Over the last few days I have found Twitter and The Adoption Social really helpful in letting me know I am not alone and it has given me the confidence that I need to push for what’s right for my son, also to finish this post which has taken about 20 drafts!

Is it mine?

  
When the boys first moved in they were confused about why they had so much stuff.

James (1) loved exploring everything, which helped as he was quite delayed physically and he made huge leaps just by searching through a box of toys.

Tom (3) was able to verbalise the strange place. For about the first 2-3 months he kept asking “is it mine?”. He was confused as to why he had his own room, his own toys, grandparents etc. He was excited to be able to own things and by extension have some control over them. He did come with a lot of toys but in foster care he hadn’t realised they were his as there were several other children around, he had no real attachment to any of his toys (even those he slept with). Our home was the first time he had a sense of things belonging. He loved it. The Gruffalo outfit above was one of his first “owns”, we gave it to him the day he moved in and he wore it almost every day for the next 2 weeks. The teddy we gave him for Christmas rarely leaves his side, but when James was ill he lent it to him to help him feel better. Because he didn’t have much sense of ownership before it also means he enjoyed sharing “his” things, now this is an essential skill when you have siblings!

Tom takes real pride in his belongings and will tell anyone who listens that he has his own room etc. I do feel this has helped him understand we belong together. He keeps telling me I don’t have sisters anymore as they are his aunts! When we meet new people and they pass comment on some of the more visible “issues” (no easy word without being identifying) with James he declares loudly “he is my brother and he’s wonky” (this is far better than some of the more rude phrases which go through my head). Tom takes great pride in having a little brother and will defend him with great spirit. He doesn’t have quite the same attitude towards us yet but I believe he’s getting there.

Now the real battle is likely to be if he starts getting angry and controlling over “his” things and we get the opposite – “it’s mine!”. For now we are letting him run with it as we think it’s helping understand this is his family and his home, forever. We want him to understand he has a right to own things, to feel that things belong to him, but also that we sometimes need to share things we treasure.

Not my favourite week!

  

So this last week or 2 things have not gone the way I thought. I have really struggled to write anything as it’s hard to think logically on so little sleep.

Firstly let me address a problem I come across regularly from people I love, yes I am very lucky to finally have 2 beautiful children after a long wait but that doesn’t mean I am going to like them all the time and I can’t complain about things related to them when I want to. Some times they are a pain in the backside! We never entered into adoption thinking everything would be rosy from the start, however some of our friends and family did seem to think that and have been added to my ‘pain in the backside’ list (it’s got quite long recently). I shared with some friends and family a link to a article called “10 things adoptive parents wished their friends and family understood“, I thought it was a helpful summary but wasn’t well received. That feels better to get it off my chest.

We have had some big challenges in the last 2 weeks. My uncle passed away unexpectedly so my emotions were on edge, never a good start, the boys were able to pick up on this especially as I haven’t had time to grieve properly. For a few weeks Tom (3) has been screaming at length over very small and inconstant things (teeth brushing, steps, flowers etc.), this we think is related to some regression and have been going with it (thanks to some lovely twitter people’s advice), we had just started getting the hang of this when it all changed. Last week Tom started to get really really angry, this cumulated in violent outbursts usually hurting myself or his brother (rarely daddy), this unfortunately was witnessed and affected some other children from church (the parents were amazingly supportive). We tried all the PACE stuff but he didn’t seem able to regulate himself and just couldn’t stop. Fortunately (or not depending on how you look at it) this coincided with a social worker visit who witnessed the dramatic change in our little boy, she was fantastic and went through some play therapy bits with him to help identify some motivation – he really wanted to hurt me. The social worker was quick to offer support from CAMHS which was such a relief, she thinks it is likely an attachment issue. We had spent the whole week feeling like failures unsure if we had understood everything we’d read right, it was great to get some reassurance. We are also really lucky that we had help offered so quickly, within the first week of violence. Now the violence hasn’t stopped but we feel more confident in doing what we do knowing help is round the corner.

James (1) has been sat quietly observing everything that’s gone on, the screaming, hitting, kicking etc. and in the last few days has started to think this is normal behaviour and tried to join in – ahhhh!

Then as if I wasn’t fed up enough already I find out a friend has used something she found out accidentally about our boys and been telling people without our consent. This had lead to some confusing conversations. Then to top it off the Tories are in power again so I can say goodbye to a decent education system and my job (I am an NHS professional).

After a frustrating few weeks I just felt like it was too much and I couldn’t carry on, I wanted to hide away, then they both show their winning smiles and give me an amazing hug and show real affection. Then when Tom was ill this week a friend took James for the day to give me a break and focus on Tom, it was a great relief, my faith in humanity was restored in a few simple gestures.

Today I feel like everything will be manageable in the end and that I am not alone. I also got the chance to meet up with a lovely lady to pray with from Home For Good using their local link up (here), never underestimate a real life person to share with who doesn’t judge you and will pray without prying.

Sorry it’s a ranty post, but putting it down helps me process it. Any survival tips greatly received!