Whilst KC has settled back into school routine very quickly, TJ has struggled.
I suppose the first half term at a new school was filled with novelty and finding out new things. For TJ these are things that usually cause him to struggle - we really thought the first half term would be the hardest. In reality, everyone was really pleased and surprised at the speed in which he settled in. I guess in hindsight that should have triggered off a lot of warning bells.
KC now has an EHC Plan in place, to help with his learning and listed on there are not only his educational needs but also his attachment issues - and the teacher working with him actually knows all about attachment and the way in which it effects a child. She wanted to talk to me about TJ this week as, whilst KC has an official diagnosis, TJ doesn't and although he is on the 'spectrum' (as they say) his needs would not be considered great enough to justify a plan of his own. As she pointed out, he must be really bright because, unlike KC, he has never allowed his inner turmoil to effect his learning - she actually praised our parenting for achieving that - and in a world where the finger of blame for an adopted child's problems are usually firmly pointed at the adoptive parent, then its nice to hear someone on your side... I digress...
Anyway, as I was having my meeting with the new SEN teacher there suddenly came a cry from outside in the corridor - 'He's off again!" a voice shouted and from out of the corner of my eye I saw TJ racing along the corridor heading for the front door. 'Let's go!" said the SEN and we raced off in pursuit.
The great thing about school security is that whilst it keeps strangers out it doesn't stop people from leaving - one hit of the big green button marked 'EXIT' and TJ was off. Luckily, the school has been practising the 'lock down' procedure in case of unwanted intruders and the receptionist put these into place effectively locking us all in. TJ stood banging the front door and wailing. I sat down with him and he sobbed hysterically into my arms.
When we calmed him down it turned out that the children had been looking at a puppy that one of his classmates' mother had brought in and TJ wasn't too keen. Apparently, the mother was late and instead of coming during registration she had arrived whilst the children were supposed to be studying English. To most children this would be fine, but for TJ any break in routine is questioned. He was apparently coping quite well until another child, who was speaking out of concern, asked TJ if he was ok. That was it - the fact that it had been noticed that he was behaving differently was enough to push TJ over the edge. The mum asked him if he wanted to pat the puppy and he then burst into tears and ran.
Eventually I took him back to the classroom (whilst his teacher went and sat with my class - luckily mine were a senior GCSE group who were quite happy to work by themselves). We sat with the puppy and he let it lick him. The dog then peed all over me - much to everyone's amusement but at least it put a smile on TJ's face.
The SEN teacher and I carried on with our chat and talked about the fact that where KC is desperate to attach, so desperate that he will freely offer his love to anyone, TJ is completely the opposite - born into chaos and had to be completely independent from birth, practically. So for TJ, rather than seeing us as 'parents', Dylan and I are simply the people he lives with - as, unlike KC, he has no concept of what 'parents' actually are.
It was a hard conversation but, at the same time, I was pleased to be able to talk to someone who actually understands what adopting a child with a traumatic background can actually entail.
Later that afternoon I was called out to TJ again, luckily it was to after school club this time. TJ was swearing (again) using incredibly nasty language towards his football coach - and he wouldn't stop even when the coach was telling him he wouldn't be able to come back. It turned out that the coach had made the huge mistake of telling TJ that he was going to tell his mum about something - we don't know what but TJ just flipped. It seemed as though the puppy had triggered off feelings of despair, of being forcibly removed from mum, as I later learned, the children were talking about the fact that the puppy had only just been taken from its own mother.
Still, it enabled TJ and I to sit down that evening (as he was being grounded for swearing - I can explain but not excuse his behaviour). We sat and talked about parents, that he has two parents who love him even if he cannot live with his birth mum. He told of meeting other adopted children (usually within our friendship groups) who hear from their birth mums, who get letters and pictures whereas he gets nothing. He knows we write every year and she has never written back - whatever her reasons, for him it is simply yet another rejection from her. It has made me question the letter box system - are we better to make a clean break? Does she even read the letters we send? I don't know.
I told him about a senior girl (no names of course) whose mother has left her family and they only have one dad now - he seemed to appreciate that he wasn't that different, that other children struggle too.
He calmed down and accepted that he had to be grounded for using bad language and for trying to run away from school.
The next morning we headed back to school and as KC got out of the car he shouted, "Bye Daddy, I love you," over his shoulder. "I love you too," I shouted back. It sounds a bit churlish to write it but KC uses the words 'I love you' as freely as 'hello' or 'can I have an ice cream?" - sometimes he means it, sometimes not - but I'll take it anyway. Then as TJ got out of the car I said, "I love you as well."
Normally, TJ will just smile or shrug and get out out of the car but this morning it was different. This morning he leaned through the gap in the front seats and very quietly whispered, "I love you too, Daddy." It had taken four years but finally he said it and I truly felt he meant it...
I went into school in tears.