We argue over homework, or more precisely, handwriting. Every Sunday she must copy a long list of words using cursive handwriting. Her need for control is so great that she employs her own letter formations which renders her writing barely legible. She refuses even to follow lines and margins. The words float around the boxes, some large and bubbly, some tight and cramped. She uses a blunt pencil and a rubber which doesn’t rub. The page looks awful but I forget that in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t important.
‘Come on, you can do better than that?’ I say unkindly, ‘you’re supposed to copy the words properly. The ‘t’s should have a flick on the end.’
‘That’s not how I do ‘t’s,’ she shouts.
‘Well that’s how you should do them,’ I retort, like a head prefect from an Enid Blyton story.
‘I don’t care.’
And on we go until pencil, rubber and workbook are thrown and child is head in hands, despairing.
‘I am a dummy. I am a bad girl.
She pinches the back of her hands and slaps her head. I am stopped in my tracks. I try to comfort her and tell her everything is alright and I am sorry. She puts her fingers in her ears and rolls up into a ball. She is unreachable.
I back off and sit nearby.
She has lived for the most part in the dark shadows of her elder brother’s more obvious trauma. Where he has shouted and raged, she has hidden behind smiles and compliancy. After several years of mind-blowing behaviours, her brother has recently calmed and the clouds have parted. Difficult and frightening as the past few years have been for her, there has been a simplicity to it. He is the bad one, I am the good one. The roles have been clear. And whilst the focus has been on his pain, hers has been buried and protected. The rug has been pulled from under her and now her pain and shame is out there, and it hurts.
Later that morning I come across a small piece of paper. On it, scribbled in scratchy green ink is a raggedy face with messy hair, an upturned mouth and big eyes full to overflowing with tears. Next to the little face is written,
‘I AM STUPID I HATE ME!’
She is telling me it is her turn now and she needs me to be strong enough to journey with her.
This is so moving. We have very similar homework experiences in our house with our adopted son, and it’s exhausting. Best wishes to you and your daughter as you support her on her journey.
Thank you Gretta. I wish the the homework thing would just go away so we could focus on fun and bonding instead.
Oh sally how are lives are mirrored sometimes. My oldest is moving into a much more positive space and my youngest is just growing into the open space that this is creating, with more confrontation and outbursts. He too hates himself and wishes to throw himself, down the stairs or out the window. I hear him muttering to himself. “I’m so stupid, I’m so stupid…” It breaks my heart. Your words convey the painfulness of this situation beautifully. You have the strength I know you do and you will be there to help her through.
Thank you Sarah. Just when you thought it was going to get a bit easier ….!
I know this isn’t the number one problem here, but there an excellent powerpoint on curvsive handwriting here with a little dot that moves so you can follow the movement which could help you in the future. http://www.tes.co.uk/ResourceDetail.aspx?storyCode=3003266 the tes is a teaching resource website, but it’s free for anyone to sign up to.
Good luck to you and your daughter.
Funnily enough this reminds me of my own childhood except I was the older, calmer, one whose issues weren’t quite so obvious. I’m so glad that you ARE listening and have realised that your daughter needs some additional input. It can be so easy to miss. Let’s face it, life is busy and compliancy tends to be overlooked. I’m glad you found the paper. Sending you both a hug and hoping that she will come through this relatively quickly.
Katie will sometimes look at herself in the mirror and poke out her tongue at herself and say she is stupid. It’s heartbreaking to hear. I can see the lack of confidence she has in herself very clearly now she has started reading and writing. She loves writing but worries that she can’t do the reading (not that she would tell me that of course!). We are sneaking reading in at various places so she doesn’t feel like the spotlight is on her and then give tons of praise when she does. Her face lights up when that happens. I do worry that this internal lack of confidence is something that will stay with her due to being adopted and seek out ways of showing her how well she is doing and encourage her hobbies so she can see for herself where she is achieving. xx
What a candid post, and a wonderful (if that is the right word) insight into an adoptive life. I often use these posts as benchmarks for my own parenting. Thank you
I told school a long time ago I wouldn’t battle with my girls over homework, it does nothing for bonding. And really, what do they even learn from it anyway.
I found that once I stopped ‘making’ my big girl (8) do her homework, she was actually more willing to do it. I have to say though, I no longer sit with her, if she wants to do her homework then I make sure she has the space she needs, but its now something she does alone. She does her homework everyweek without fuss these days
This could be us! Our daughter’s writing and her attitude to it is exactly the same. She too has lived in the shadows of her brother’s trauma, because he was older and remembers more than she. We are just waiting for her pain to really emerge – which it does, from time to time, when he is calm. I would be interested to know which, of any of the therapies, books or training programmes you have been on has helped you the most?
The most useful resources for us have been anything by Dan Hughes, a local course on therapeutic parenting (in style of Dan Hughes) and i also like Bruce Perry’s books, Margot Sunderland and Louise Bomber. And I’ve mentioned it before, but the support available on twitter is brilliant. Hope this helps.