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going back in time(13 Posts)
There are often threads that come up where we have strong opinions due to our own experiences. Sometimes, living adoption day in day out, I don't see the issues till they are in my rear view mirror then kick myself for not putting 2+2 together.
So, in my beautiful shining time machine (and not to beat ourselves up but to offer warning signs to others behind us at the various stages) - what would you wish you'd known if you could go back in time?
For me it would be 2 things: firstly, not to feel so beholden to "The Routine". Yes, it's important to have continuity but my LO wasn't comforted by the smell of the same brand washing powder we lovingly sought or the exact breakfast cereal he ate in foster care that we offered him. For some reason, he was more fixated on the total strangers, different house and loss of the only mother he ever knew! Trying to comfort a child who you don't know and who doesn't know you, when you are part of his problem is tough. I look back now at my impatience (kept inside but even so) that he would push-pull me and feel frustrated at never being able to please him and feel so sad for him. sw's talk about grief but not what that might look like and how angry it can seem when you are on the end of it.
My second would be not to be thrown when foster carer or social workers didn't recognise things he would do and didn't appear concerned. I would tentatively ask if he always howled on not receiving food literally as soon as he woke up and they would smile and say what a great appetite he had and wasn't he bonny, and what a fab eater he was etc. And I just assumed that I was somehow over reacting and perhaps his sobbing uncontrollably when breakfast finished was just his age/me being a bit inexperienced. We literally couldn't eat anything in his presence without him trying to wrestle it out of our mouths and if we tried to go out to eat, we needed to keep a steady stream of food coming to keep him calm. He once ate a lemon because there was literally nothing else on the table for him to grab. I wish I had known that it didn't matter if he didn't do something before, he was doing it now! And the fact it was new behaviours made it doubly concerning! I think sw' s sometimes don't see the issues as of warning flags so don't connect the dots. Certainly my LA were so fixed on how well everything was going (and in lots of ways, it was going well) but it meant that they just didn't identify issues on my behalf.
Does anyone else have anything they would like to tell their past selves via my beautiful time machine...
I wish I hadn't let myself be fobbed off in y6 when I approached the school with a list of concerns about DD. Then she would have got the help she needed in secondary, instead of only getting the dyspraxia diagnosis in y11.
And I wish I could go forward a year or 3 with DD now. It's like watching a car crash in slow motion, and whatever we do seems to be wrong.
That LO will
eventually sleep! I lost faith it would ever happen, and it took 18 months to achieve longer than 45 min bursts (and LO was not a baby, at least physically). I genuinely lost hope that things would change, and totally forgot the transformative power of getting proper sleep to make life a lot easier.
That "all children do that" is a lazy, arrogant and unacceptable answer, and to trust my instincts about the intensity and severity of behaviour, so to keep pushing back to make sure LO got more support. I did keep pushing back, and we did get the right support, but I wish I hadn't allowed myself to feel like a hysterical flapper inside while we got people to take us seriously.
That the most unexpected things are the most precious - there was a lot of "I love you" from a stage so early that it couldn't really hold any meaning, other than fear and insecurity. Much further down the line, there was an absolutely wonderful "I really LIKE you mummy" which meant the world.
I would tell less people DD's story. It was a way for me to deal with the trauma of a contested adoption court case and contact with vile bio family but it's not fair on her.
Once when she was 6 I went to pick her up from school and she wouldn't come so I left. When I went back less than 10 minutes later she was absolutely hysterical. I wish I hadn't done that. (In my defense, I never had any kind of adoption training as I'm not in the UK and it wasn't the usual kind of adoption).
Another thread on here has reminded me of this one:
I wish I'd just ignored everyone telling me what age or way children should do things - sleeping, potty training, being able to cope with separation. It was not our reality, and hearing about it just knocked my confidence and made me think I was messing something up. My child is a lot younger inside than outside, physically and emotionally, and that's just fine with me - we'll get there when we get there. (I should say here that we have a lot of health monitoring by multiple experts, so I would never ignore real health issues.) I have perfected the smile and "how interesting!" response now, which is much healthier for us
"Your child was fine having sleepovers at 3 with their second cousins that they'd only met once? How interesting!"
and no there is not a chance in hell my LO would sleep anywhere other than home unless I was in the room too but I'm not defending myself to you
Rather - yep!! There are some very competitive parents out there too and they always give irritating advice that involves children being really independent and self sufficient as if that's the solution to LO refusing to self feed or other "life skills". I remember nodding along to a friend who told me her 5 year old packed her own case for holidays and "took responsibility for her things" while looking disdainfully at LO as he scooped up tomato soup enthusiastically with his hands.
I would understand when people say he can't help the behavior and continue to look for ways to change the behavior by helping him learn new neural pathways, instead of thinking I can nag him into changing.
Luckily my nagging phase did not last too long and I am back on track!
When a child behaves very well some of the time we' (people) can be fooled into thinking he can do it all the time. He can't. But he can learn to make new pathways in his brain to connect up his thinking and help to move forward.
The thing that I regret doing with my first ( and tried to not do with subsequent kids ) was listening to the ( lovely ) SW and ( lovely ) FC. Because they have only two objectives
- getting the child in a routine
- meeting developmental targets
It took me a long time to realise that that's ALL they care about- they are the holy grail to SW. I can understand why - Fc have kids arrive into a busy household often with other her kids - they need to fit in.
Likewise Sw understand very little about attachment and get very little / no training . Most of the time they just mouth platitudes at you or quote department policy, to hide the fact that they are totally out of their depth and don't have a clue what's actually going on . HV are the same .
Of course there's nothing wrong with routine , any more that there is with getting 8 hours sleep a night and eating healthily . But the only goal for adopted should be attachment . And sometimes these goals can be incompatible .
So if you adopt a 12 month old and they are on a bottle, the SW will want you to get them on a cup ( = meeting target ) . But attachment says " keep them on the bottle as long as possible and only give it when they are in your arms and making eye contact "
HV says "they should be walking by now, no point in them crawling, get them up on their feet " . TERRIBLE Advice, keep them crawling as long as possible .
Adopt a 3.5 yo and SW will say " get them into nursery and keep up their routine " . Attachment says " quit nursery and keep them at home with you for a year " .
Adopt a 2 yo and Fc says " I took him to toddler group twice a week and he loves it " . Attachment says " don't do it , take him to swim class instead and get skin contact and do one to one ".
I spent too long managing my oldest adopted child's behaviour ( which was extreme ) . This made everyone else very happy ( SW, school ) but didn't focus as much on building attachment. That was a big mistake .
Yes, I agree, they are definitely focused on milestones! Until my LO started missing them, then they laughed at "lazy boys" who don't walk or talk and how "all children do that" whilst I tried to figure out if these things were concerning or not.
And as I recall, they are also obsessed with the child's weight!! I had to take mine every month to the weigh in clinic and it was awful. He was the biggest one there and would fight to get away (and who wouldn't when a woman he barely knows is attempting (badly) to undress him in a hall. Both of us hated it but heaven forbid we stop worrying about weight percentiles for a couple of months while we all settled in together. Bloody awful
Thanks for reminding me what is really important, Kristina.
That transitions - however small - are really really difficult for a child who basically fears that this time she leaves the house might be the time she is not coming back to it.
DD went through a terrible phase of just not wanting to leave the house, ranging from advanced delaying tactics (20 mins to put on a sock ) to full meltdown tantrums. Bad enough when it's time to go to school - even worse when all you need to do is pop 5 mins to the shop, and could have been there and back 10 times in the time it's taken to get ready to go out...
As you say, OP, hindsight is wonderful - it was only when this had been going on for a while that the penny dropped that it wasn't about not liking school, or the wind outside being too cold, it was about transition
That other mums can be the most reluctant to appreciate the issues, aka 'they all do that'. Yes I'm sure they do, but is it too much to accept that the intensity with which adopted kids exhibit behaviours is on another scale.
That my initially smiley SW would become the iron gatekeeper when it came to accessing help. Or trying to! 'Support' from the SW ended up being an added stress.
That until the adoption order is through you are effectively an unpaid foster carer, and that the court process can be extremely stressful and not necessarily another box to tick.
That you will need 'me time' like never before.
That the attachment will grow. You might need help along the way, but that continuing to invest time and effort into bonding is the single most important thing you can do.
That no books or courses in prep will prepare you for a real life traumatised child.
That progress isn't linear, there will be setbacks, that is normal.
That once the bonds form things will get easier, and while family life isn't Disney, it's really special.
Ah dibly, I could have written that list myself today. Except for the last point - we are not there yet but it's reassuring to know that it's possible. Thank you
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