Last Sunday evening, when we would normally have been watching Secret Millionaire or reading the papers, Rob and I hit the rocky bottom of parenting and adoption. I hope it was rock bottom but it may not have been.
Our son, so affable and personable in public, becomes possessed by something he calls his red brain at home. I’m relieved the outside world doesn’t see much of red brain, but Rob and I have experienced enough of it. Red brain appears to have read the best works of Dan Hughes, Kim Golding and Bruce Perry and is working its way around the A to Z of attachment difficulties and developmental trauma. Aggression and Anger rock up regularly, Blaming, Controlling, Demanding are constants. Lying, Messing, Opposition, Sabotage, Stealing, Violence are frequent and unwelcome visitors.
Last Sunday Rob and I sat on our bed and looked into each others tear-filled eyes, haunted by the remembered fragments of another hideous weekend at the end of a horrific week.
‘I cannot live like this,’ said Rob.
We soothed each others wounds and hatched a rough plan. We decided to keep our son off school the following day, to lay out some fresh ground rules and to call out for help. It may seem counter-intuitive to keep a child at home who has brought us close to the brink, but parenting children with developmental trauma is highly counter-intuitive at times.
We came up with a list detailing how life is going to change. Jamie initially rolled up into a ball and refused to listen. Eventually he unfurled, engaged and then agreed that what we were laying out seemed right. I sat him in front of the computer and set him about typing the list in his own words. What he wrote was moving and demonstrated how badly he had needed us to scream ‘ENOUGH’.
Close supervision, reduced school hours, zero tolerance of verbal abuse and violence and plenty of time in with one parent are key parts of our plan for Jamie. For Rob and I; some respite and a cry of help to Social Services. Our daughter, who so often gets forgotten in all this, gets more time with either Rob or I and only supervised time with her brother, whose jealousy of her so often results in a sneaky kick or a punch.
There has been a slow improvement and this weekend was the first for a long time without a major incident. To maintain calm and prevent drama takes an amount of strength and tenacity I would never have believed I possessed. It feels like waking up every day and running a marathon. At low times I find myself doubting whether I will be able to last the course and then am immediately seized by a deep and terrifying guilt for even considering failure.
Meanwhile, as our family and many others like us buckle under the strain of parenting children who have suffered neglect and abuse in their early lives, the silence ringing out from the government on the much hailed subject of the reform of post-adoption support is deafening. There is plenty of inconsequential noise; all children are to be ‘improved’ by receiving a free bible and learning poetry by rote. I would go and see my MP, write some letters, organise a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament, but right now I’m far too tired. In the future, well who knows?