Thursday, 22 September 2016

Decisions decisions decisions

In Medias Res* as the Ancient Greek dramas would deal with stories.

To Initiate a Disruption Meeting or Not to, that is the question in our bedroom lately. A week ago we would be leaning towards 'no, we can still manage it' but after the weekend we got very close to pressing the big red button.

Goofs (6) had a particularly bad week and it culminated in him trashing our dining room completely. When he was finished downstairs he went up to his room and started throwing things out the window. He was so worked up and so beyond himself that he didn't even care what he was throwing out - his own toys and stuff included, not just his brother's or my stuff! This is something I have heard of before from other adopters or foster carers, but somehow I could NOT allow myself to believe it. I knew those people were telling the truth, but as they say only 'seeing is believing'. Well, I saw it all.

He developed a 'whatever' attitude and a new vocabulary; we believe he picked some of it it up from school. I guess he also overheard in the park older children (and here I mean 8-9 year olds) shouting the F word at each other and now he keeps using it (I doubt he knows the meaning, but it's only a matter of time). His response is now either 'Shut up you idiot' or 'I don't have to tell you anything' or my personal favourite: 'You can't tell me what to do'.

His aggression level and defiance got to new heights and we got to a point where nothing works any more. He is not bothered by long hard walks, toys being taken away, privileges withdrawn, punch-y pillow punching, shouting competition, distractions, sanctions or consequences... He is a very strong child and I already struggle to collect him into a super tight bear hug or to pin him down in order to keep MYSELF, MY HOUSE, HIMSELF or HIS BROTHER safe! I can't imagine what we will do in a year's time...

Snoops (7), his brother, on the other hand seems to be flourishing here. Even according to the play therapist he has no anxiety or doubts about his future. He loves his parents and his life, he knows and feels that he is loved and supported, that he is safe and understood. He gained so much confidence and knowledge that he is now easily the smartest boy in his class! He is still an introvert, but he is so mature emotionally that he is very able to say when he needs some 'me time' or when he is 'so angry that I need to go to a different room for a few minutes to calm down' or 'at the moment I can't say sorry, mum, for accidentally knocking your flower down, because I am so ashamed of myself so I will come back a bit later, ok?' and guess what; he DID come back later to apologise!

And here lies our dilemma! We signed up for adoption to offer a home and a future to a sibling group of 'hard-to-place' older brothers. I felt complete without being a mother; we felt our family of two was complete without children. We applied because we felt it was our Christian responsibility to help these children and change their stories!

After having them in our life for 4 months or better to say the boys have us in their lives for 4 months now (with Intros), it's time to face the music and talk about some hard questions.

We are offering the same for both boys and one is settling in beautifully while the other struggles big time. To get a fuller picture it needs to be said that both boys went through the same massive trauma, loss and separation before they were taken into care many years ago and at that time for whatever reason only Snoops received play therapy. It's very clear to see now that all the efforts his 'play lady' invested in Snoop's life back then pays off now and you don't have to be a genius to see the results of ignoring Goofs and his needs just because he didn't present to have any issues back then...

Clearly their personalities and interests are very different and it would appear that Snoops is a perfect match for my husband and I. The IRO and all SW involved agree that he settled in so well here you can't even tell he wasn't born to us! And that's wonderful! But when it comes to Goofs it's an entirely different story. He suffers from ambivalent attachment disorder, which makes it very hard for him to form any bonds with anybody. In his better moments we see some hopeful signs, but those are very few and far in between. In his worst moments, however, we see the full damage that it is done to him and therefore the damage he is able to inflict on everyone and everything around him. He really is at a point (in his mind) that he has absolutely nothing left to loose or fight for and that's such a tragedy that I can't even type this without welling up again.

And here is one of our biggest (Christian) challenge: It is easy to love somebody who is lovely, lovable and loves us back. But how do we love someone who is constantly destroying us in every possible way on a daily basis 24/7 and who is not able** to love us back?

Another challenge hubs and I constantly torture each other with is what would happen if we call in a disruption meeting. We already had a pre-pre disruption meeting and next week we will have a pre-disruption meeting (don't ask, the SW called it like that). In flower language we discussed the possibility of separating them and the effect this decision would have on everybody. They keep saying that the boys came as a 'package deal' and therefore they need to stay together and honest to God that's what we want, too! Following their first breakdown the original plan was already changed and obviously this is not a route the LA wants to even consider again. We fully appreciate it, we really do, but the question remains. If this placement breaks down because Goofs' needs are too huge for us to manage is it really in Snoop's best interest to jeopardise his future as well by removing him from this house?

To return to the Christian angle, we do believe that God knew what He was doing when he placed these two into our home and in a sense that WAS their last chance as a 'package deal' to have a better future, but what if we can only help one of them? What if we overestimated our own strength, the unity of our marriage, the support network of our friends and church and grossly underestimated the challenge this 'package deal' would present to us?

Many of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about. You do, because you personally have experienced it through adoption or foster care. You know how to support us. You give your ears to us and not your lips! Some of you shared far worse stories than ours and still carry on carrying your cross. A dear adopter friend told me 'for me this is what it means to be a Christian; to die for myself and live for my child'. What a beautiful representation and what an almost unbearable task! What a great example you are to me and a source of silent encouragement whenever I think of you and your family!

So for now, the big red button is untouched. For now...

*    meaning 'into the middle of a narrative; without preamble'
**  obviously he is capable and we believe that deep down he wants to, but currently he is his own worst enemy and his untreated disorder prevents him even the seed of a hope that things might be OK in the future


  1. I feel for you! I don't know if this will help at all, but we went something almost identical, at almost the same time as you. At just over 4 months into the placement, we were ready to hit the red button about our 5 year old daughter. She was destructive, didn't seem to want to be with us, was rude, controlling, bossy, demanding. We took the children on holiday to Devon and out of 7 days we had only 1 which wasn't ruined by her behaviour. It was a complete nightmare and I really didn't know what to do. We spent such a long time discussing what we were going to do as our 3 year old son was so settled with us, so bonded that you can't tell he wasn't born to us! However, we did battle through and by 6 months in we were seeing slightly more good than bad days, and now, a year and 2 months later, we are seeing nearly all good days with just a few bad ones. It's still not perfect but when I look back I'm so pleased to see how far we have come. I wish you every bit of luck! xx

    1. Thanks for your comments! I don't doubt eventually things will get better, my question is how to survive until that day comes? Glad you got there though!

  2. Hi there I've been following you on Twitter. It's tough. But it's early stages, very early. You're trying to build a family and you have a little kid who is testing you to the limits. He wants to know will you stand by him or will you abandon him like everyone else and so confirm exactly how he feels about himself. We're almost 5 years in and I remember those first few months - same as you!

    I remember after six months in had two good days one of my kids. We sought out CAMHS which really helped. We have also had art therapy, OT, play therapy - all of this I have had to seek out.

    We have a sibling group, but a half sibling has been placed with another adoptive family. It's tough this as this has been the biggest and longest lasting trauma in their lives. It's one I can't address, it's out of my control. The kids are learning to come to terms with it and it's still a big challenge for us.

    How do you survive - it's hard when you are living through this, believe me many nights ended in tears, getting up the next morning utterly exhausted wondering what the next day will bring.

    The change will come, it will be slow and it will be incremental. One day you'll realise you've just had a good day and you'll be blown away.

    Just make sure the SWs are giving you and the kids the support you need.

    1. Thank you for stopping by to comment. Yes, early days. Change is actually happening, but in the oddest way, I think this will be my next post. We asked SW for more support for LO, they said 'he couldn't cope with more therapy at this time' :(

  3. Please please hang in there for the sake of both these boys. I can totally understand your frustration but you are their best chance of a secure future. Call in all the help you can, grit your teeth and things will get better. He is testing you to see if you will give up but he needs to know you mean it when you say forever family. It's not uncommon for one sibling to try and disrupt things but boy can it be hard to cope with. Sending you lots of hugs and determination x

  4. I've just seen your blog and want you to know you are not alone. We are four years into life with our gorgeous daughters (11,7 and 4). We had a fairly easy settling in period with bursts of outrage from our oldest. They are now getting more frequent and it is exhausting. We are learning to celebrate the good days and not dwell too much in the bad - obviously we are trying to get additional support for her.

    It's been a hard lesson to learn but self care is huge. Are you part of a support group where you can be relaxed and say what is really on your mind? As a Christian too I've found the Home For Good charity really helpful and especially love their annual get togethers. There is one this Saturday in Oxford which another adoptive mum and I go to. In the midst of everything it is hard to convince yourself that time to yourself is important BUT it is essential. Yesterday at church we heard about that verse in 1 Corinthians 13, 'love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.' Jesus is the perfect example of that verse, when we were at our weakest and furthest from Him, He kept on loving us. Praying that you will know the power of Jesus enabling you to bear, believe, hope and endure. Keep pressing on X

    1. Thanks for your comments and encouragements! Yes, we know it's hard, I am trying to get some #selfcare every now and then... :) I have contacted Home4Good, will see.