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.