I woke with a start this morning. It was 4am. Something was wrong. I could feel dull aches across my body and a knot in my stomach that was pulled tight. I tossed and turned and couldn’t relax my body or brain to go back to sleep. I decided a change of temperature might help, so I left our cosy bed and headed down to the lounge and curled up on the sofa. The snoring that had been going on beside me (sorry M) was agitating me even more so I thought the silence would help. Sadly, it didn’t. Instead, it just provided even more air space for the thoughts and anxieties running through my head….. my heart was racing and I could feel the usual smile from my face drooping. I felt utterly drained. I remember a number of years ago having a job that was causing me a huge amount of anxiety and stress. Each Sunday night I would have these same feelings- I simply couldn’t face the prospect of getting up in the morning to go to the job. This was the same- I couldn’t face getting up in the morning, but this time, not to attend a job- this time to parent my children. I love my children with all my heart, but parenting them is harder than any job I have ever had. Sometimes the issues they have resulting from their early life experiences can make our lives a very dark and scary place. 5 years on, things are never as bad as they once were, but just every so often, old issues will rear their head and cause a massive regression. The past few days have proven to be one of those times. We have just been on holiday and had a wonderful time overall. The final two days of it though, have proven to be the most challenging. Let’s start with Sunday. Each day of the holiday we had been busy as a family doing something, Legoland, swimming, walking, bus museum, you name it, we did it. There were a few grumps here and there- mainly because of the heat, but overall, all was well. On the Sunday, the day before returning home, we decided to have a lazy day. The boys could just relax and watch tv, play their iPads and later on, have a little shot in the hot tub. M wanted to get some time to himself to go a drive and do some photography and I wanted to relax in the sun, drink tea and read my new book about Hygge. All was going amazingly until after lunch time, Tiny tried to steal Tom’s iPad. He was reminded that he had his own and so could either play this or watch TV. The protest of ‘I hate my own iPad, I hate TV’ came. I sympathised with him, but reminded him that untimely there were two options available, his iPad or TV, or indeed, coming to play a game with me. None of these options were acceptable to him and so a violent tantrum ensued. This began with the verbal attacks ‘I hate you Mummy, you are a stupid Mummy’ and then followed the physical attacks- kicking, biting, slapping, nipping. I tried to keep calm and to remove myself from the situation, but the fear was that he would begin to cause damage in the lodge that we were staying. I tried to hold him close to me, recgogising that kicks were a need for some connection, but this only resulted in further pain for me as I was head butted in the chest and my arms were bitten. I couldn’t help but loose the place and start screaming at him to stop hurting me. It was making no impact and I knew it was the wrong thing to do anyway so instead I managed to grab my symbols book from Emotion Works that I had been trialling. I was able to go through the book pointing out with his help, the different emotions, behaviours and body sensations that were currently happening. He was still hugely angry and shouty, but at least the violence towards me had stopped. We then were able to look at the pages suggesting ways to calm down- he wasn’t ready to discuss this and so I decided to take the lead. I got him to lie down with me and I encouraged him to take breathes in for 5 then out for 5. He was still screaming and refusing to do this, but I just continued to repeat it calmly over and over again until eventually, he was able to relax in the hug, steady his breathing and finally, slowly but surely, calm down again. He then decided to return to his iPad, but I only allowed this for 5 minutes as I felt he needed some 1-1 time. He came and snuggled up on the sofa with me and we watched a film that we could laugh together at. All in all, this incident was spread over around 20-25 minutes which is nothing compared to the 2 hour tantrums I’ve previously dealt with, but because this was quite out the blue and took me by surprise, it completely floored me.
The next morning was going home day and everyone was calm and excited to get home. Just before lunch time, the boys gotten to play their DS games in the car. Tom had taken a game from the shared tub of games that belonged to Tiny. Tiny of course objected but was reminded that it was nice to share the games in the tub. All was fine again. We stopped at a shopping centre for lunch and M left to nip in for a few items of clothing he needed. After lunch, Tiny asked if he could use one of Tom’s games to which he got a resounding NO. Tom was reminded that just a few minutes earlier, he had used one of Tiny’s games and that it would be kind to share. Cue violent meltdown. His DS was thrown at me, quickly followed by each of his shoes- each stricking with force on my arm. He turned round in his seat and began trying to kick the windows out, he grabbed all the games belong to Tiny and emptied them all over the floor. I was still feeeling wobbly from my day before with Tiny and I just didn’t have the energy or resolve to remain calm. I screamed at him, telling him not to dare to this and not to dare do that (ugh, not a good moment). His threats became worse- a fist was out in my face with a threat of a punch coming my way, and a threat to tip a bottle of juice all over Tiny. Tiny became extremely upset and this only added fuel to the fire for Tom as he was getting the reaction he wanted. I grabbed the bottle out his hand with a little squirting out the top as I did so- of course it ended up on Tom which meant I had poured juice all over him. The screaming got louder, the threats more intense and by this point I couldn’t do anything- I knew my words and frustrations were aggravating him more and so I chose from then to just keep quiet and not say anything. After half an hour of this attack, M returned to the car and I jumped out and walked away, explaining to M that I needed space. I walked in to the shopping centre to nowhere in particular and decided a trip to the toilets to cool down might be best. I could easily have just kept walking around for hours but equally, I too was at the point that I just wanted to get home. I slowly walked back to the car to find that Tom was still in crisis and aiming all his threats and aggression at Tiny. Tiny and I went a walk- to the toilets! By the time we returned, Tom was still very angry, but in a place that he could at least sit in the car and be ready to go home. On the journey home, tears filled my eyes. I felt utterly drained, upset for the boys and upset for myself. I was in quite a bit of pain from the physical attacks and was not in an emotional state to be ’emotionally available’ to the boys. When we got home, M sent me up to bed to chill and he made dinner and put the boys to bed. I hoped that a good night sleep might do me the world of good- sadly, a panic attack in the early hours prevented this. I was unable to go back to sleep and so by the time the boys woke at 7, that draining feeling had returned. I made the choice to let them watch TV while I sat on my own for breakfast. When it came time to get them ready, I honestly felt the knot in my stomach return. I knew I had to be kind on myself today for the good of all of us. We took a trip to the shops together to do the food shopping with Tom pushing the trolley and Tiny doing the scanning (Scan as you shop is a God- send when you are with the kids) then for the rest of today, the boys have been doing their own thing- watching TV, playing iPads etc. This may by some be seen as ‘bad parenting’ but for me, today, it’s called survival. My boys need me to be the strongest advocate possible for them and I strive all the time to be the best parent possible for them each day too. Every so often in times of stress, crisis and anxiety like this though, I can’t give them my all- they can only get a ‘good enough’ parent for the day which is what today has entailed. They are fed, watered, attended to, but ultimately, making their own choices of things to do, on their own. I need a day to heal both emotionally, physically and mentally. I’ve decided also to look at doing some yoga and meditation to speed up such recovery times. M is also giving me a day on Saturday just to disappear for the day and just be ‘me.’ I don’t want to meet any friends, I just want to go and have time on my own. The holidays are incredibly difficult. The children have been off for 4 weeks now, and I’ve not had a single break. That’s 28 days being with them 24/7. By the time the 7 week holiday ends, that’s 50 days solid, 1200 hours.
I have been told by many people that I must be incredibly strong. Yes, I think I am, but then so is every adopter I meet. What I would say to anyone who has a friend, family member, neighbour or parent at school who is an adopter, don’t assume that they can be strong all the time. We are human and we can crack and find aspects of our children’s chaos very challenging. For me, it’s the physical side.
Today’s approach has been necessary. The boys are safe, I am healing and by tomorrow, hopefully my strength will be restored to take on the world again. The next three weeks and the transition back to school is going to be a tough ride, but we will get through it together.