Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Therapy Begins...

Therapy is a funny old thing, often dismissed as 'mumbo-jumbo' or words to that effect. I'm not going to chat about everything that happens - as it's also a personal thing. But I hope that by sharing some of the more 'general' things that I can help show just how beneficial it can be.

A couple of weeks ago we had our 'family' session. Where Papa and I, and the two boys, attended our first group therapy session. We went into a small room and were given a number of tasks to complete. Games to play, cream to put on each other, feeding each other etc. All the things you would expect after reading a little about theraplay - Dan Hughes is the go to person for this.

This was all videoed and a week later Papa and I were called back in to go and discuss the therapist's findings.

We sat down in another little room, clutching a cup of tea as if it was Dumbo's magic feather and hoping that everything had been ok. We hoped that we had come across as lovely, caring parents and that we would, therefore, have passed the therapist's test.

It's funny - it doesn't matter how long you have been an adoptive parent for, you simply can't get away from feeling that you are constantly being judged. I wonder if birth families feel the same way when they ask for external help - do they automatically enter a room expecting to be told that they aren't really very good at this parenting lark and maybe they should try something else, like fly-fishing? (Believe me, there are times when I wish I did find pleasure in the solitude of fly-fishing - although I don't think the waist high waterproofs would suit me.)

So we sat there and watched...

It took me about ten minutes to get over the fact that I looked so fat on TV. I know the camera add ten pounds, but this one was obviously faulty as it had added at least fifty!

But, once I remembered it wasn't all about me, we got down to the nitty gritty and assessed our behaviour as a family.

It was pretty much a lovely scene. We played well, we were age appropriate in our responses. We worked with the children and allowed them the room to explore whilst retaining the necessary boundaries - it was all good.

Then our eldest boy, KC, left the room for a while with Papa whilst TJ and I completed a couple of activities - one of which nearly had me in tears, as it showed that since the loss of my mum, one of his biggest fears is the death of either Papa or myself.

Then, a little while later, I left the room and TJ was left alone. I told him I was only going for a minute and that it was all ok. But it was obvious that as soon as he was on his own he became anxious - something I didn't realise he did. I've always assumed that, as he sees the world differently, that he would prefer his own company. But, I was reassured, this was trick that an adopted child becomes very good at - pushing away the very people he/she needs without our being aware of it. In our case, I felt he didn't want or need me, when in actual fact he was screaming for us.

I became upset. "It's ok," the therapist said, "children who have experienced trauma become very skilled at this - they need to feel that they have been abandoned - it justifies their sense of self. They are not worthy of anyone's love. That's what we are here to help him with."

I realised that my assumption had always been that he was very much self sufficient - but, of course he is exactly the opposite.

Back to the video and a little later both Papa and I are back in the room playing with TJ. A lovely game. Then KC entered - and it was like a whirlwind had come into the room. A whirlwind that simply took over. Everything. Including Papa and I. TJ retreated into a corner as KC played the games and ensured that Papa and I were focussed entirely on him. A little later he did try and involve TJ in the game - but by then TJ had already retreated into himself and was sitting as a passive observer.

My heart broke.

We had bought into the image the boys had been projecting for so long. That KC was the sociable, outgoing, chatty one whilst TJ was cold, distant, insular.

It was a lie that had been perpetuated by the children and had been fed by us.

I felt so guilty.

But again I was reassured, that this was a survival technique - this was how they had managed to survive in care. KC used this as a means to protect his younger brother and, being born into chaos, TJ had no idea of any different form of family.

But now, even though there was no reason to play these roles, they had simply begun to live them. For KC this was hard as he now no longer wants his younger brother hanging round him and his friends, which is age appropriate I guess. But for TJ this is a massive rejection and, as he hasn't built a real bond with us, then he is left floundering.

So now it is time for us to focus on TJ. To build that bond - even if it does mean starting from scratch. We start theraplay properly in the next couple of weeks - and I, for one, am looking forward to the next stage of our adoptive journey.

But first of all... I need to lose weight!!!!!!!!!!


Thursday, 5 May 2016

Why Did You Choose Us?

That was the question I was confronted with in the car today on the way home from school.

I often wonder why these conversations always seem to happen on the move, I guess it's simply because we are in an enclosed space, with nothing else to do. I looked out of the window pretending to see where we were going.

'Don't do that,' KC said, 'don't try and avoid the question... I'm asking you a question. Why did you choose us?'

'Well,' I started, ' we looked at profiles of lots of children, ' (I wasn't going to tell him we spent nearly two years ploughing through profiles, that we had three failed matches and that their profiles were our last attempt at the whole adoption thing).

'When I saw your pictures then I knew you would be our children,' I stopped him from speaking, 'I can't explain it, but when I saw you and your brother's photo I just knew it was right.'

I expected that to be the end of it. But no.

'But why have children, why adopt?' I looked at him. Had he heard the countless arguments where we had asked ourselves that very question. The times we had nearly given up, the times when it really didn't seem worth it. Of course, we came through that phase, but what parent doesn't occasionally miss their years of pre child freedom, although you cannot underestimate the pressure that adoption places upon a couple, upon a family.

'I mean, adopting children is hard work,' he went on, ''Normal kids (his words, not mine) don't go to therapy, they don't cause as much trouble, they don't get angry and break things, they don't make their parents quit their jobs. You gave up everything to be our dad,' he said, 'Why did you do that. You love acting why did you stop?'

If I wasn't driving I would have burst into tears, purely at the depth at which he had obviously been thinking about all this. I wondered how long he had been playing with these ideas.

'but, we have you,' I said, 'Yes, it can be tough and yes we do have our problems, but all families have problems at some point. We just have to remember to be able to talk about them.'

'I want to look at the picture,' he said.

I looked at him.

'The picture in the magazine that made you choose us,' he went on, 'I want to see it. I want to see what you saw.'

'Ok,' I said, 'I have it still. You can see.'

He nodded. We came home.

He walked through the door.

'Let me know whrn you want to see the photo,' I said.

'It's alright,' he replied, 'I don't really want to see it."

He then rushed on out to the park to play football with his brother.

I sat down and wrote this.... My therapy.