Reflections on this week

It's been a funny old week. (By which I mean I have journeyed through the depths of howling despair and back again.)

Less than a week ago I genuinely thought we might have to disrupt. Weirdly, today I'm feeling more positive about things than I have done in quite some time. This has been achieved, I think, by a few significant shifts in the way I'm thinking.

The first was to do with self care, though actually it's more than that. We all know that we should look after ourselves, do nice things, make sure we get a break now and then. However, this week I realised that what self care actually means is placing my own needs on equal footing with those of my children. Or maybe even above them, sometimes.

For the last 18 months our entire household has been a slave to Tickle's emotions. He has blossomed under this approach, but the rest of us have suffered.  This week we gave ourselves permission to step away from him and focus on ourselves and each other, even at the times when he clearly needs us. (As did our therapist, incidentally. I like having a therapist.)

There was an interesting incident a couple of days ago, involving me popping to the toilet and (as usual) screams coming from downstairs before I'd even started weeing. However, instead of yelling for Tickle, I instinctively called to Fairy - come upstairs, run away, make yourself safe. She was crying, "But Tickle is throwing my toys everywhere!" I told her I'd sort that out later, she needed to make sure *she* was safe. I found her sobbing on my bed, and after making sure she wasn't physically hurt, instinctively started to go downstairs to Tickle. But then I stopped. I sat back on the bed, put my arms around Fairy, and I held her.

After a few minutes it all went quiet downstairs, and a tentative Tickle peeked his head around the bedroom door. I asked him to wait outside. He sat on the landing. He called for me a couple of times; each time I told him to wait, and he did. When Fairy had calmed down enough for me to go to him, he tried to explain that he'd thrown the toys because he'd wanted to play with them, and Fairy hadn't wanted him to.

What really surprised me about that incident was how quickly Tickle de-escalated when left alone. I realised a long time ago that there is a difference between Tickle when he's angry and frustrated, and Tickle when he's anxious and scared, and we have found to our cost that if we leave an anxious Tickle alone mid-meltdown then things will escalate. However, could it be possible that there was another truth we had yet to uncover - that when Tickle is angry and frustrated perhaps we have been making it worse by trying to stay close? Perhaps our response to his anger has frightened him, and pushed him in to his fight-flight setting? Or maybe he is just ready, in some situations, to start managing his own emotional regulation. Maybe, by prioritising Fairy, I unwittingly gave Tickle the space he needed to sort himself out.

We've been trying out some different things over the last couple of days, and noticing what happens. Like when Tickle is screaming at Husband, and Husband calmly says "I don't really like that screaming, so I'm just going to wait outside until you've finished". There are still times when he does need our physical presence; I'm pretty sure he gets flashbacks of his abuse, particularly around bed time, and during those manic episodes holding him is the best way to bring him back. But it's been very liberating knowing that it's actually ok for us to step away at certain times.

By coincidence, we've had very little CPV this week - and I do think it's mostly coincidence, or rather attributable to factors other than my parenting epiphany. It's great timing though, as it's given me the space to work through things in my head a bit, and think about how we would address the CPV under our new regime. If I'm honest, I'm not entirely sure. But I'm kind of ok with that. I do think we need to be flexible on how we deal with things - which we haven't really been up til now.

After finding in the early days that time-in (or a sit, as it's known in our house) worked well for Tickle, we've clung desperately to it as if it's a life raft, and I think in doing that have probably escalated some situations beyond what they needed to be. I read a blog post by the lovely frogotter where she talks about battling for control, and choosing to step away from that battle, and I realised that's exactly what we had been doing when we enforced a time-in for Tickle. Husband and I had often talked about how uncomfortable we sometimes felt when Tickle was resisting the time-in (in a very physical sort of way) and we were sticking with it (by dint of being stronger than him), but we didn't really know what else to do; time-in has always been lauded as the 'correct' method for adopted children, and it always did calm him eventually, so we struggled on with it. And mostly we were too exhausted to question it anyway.

Now, I know that I will never again attempt a time-in while Tickle is violent. I'm not entirely sure what the alternative will be, beyond keeping myself and Fairy physically safe, but maybe that's enough for now. In the long term I'd like to think that Tickle will be able to use his bedroom as a safe space to calm down when he needs it, but that's a long way off and I'm not entirely sure how we're going to get there yet.

Even though there is more uncertainty in this post than ever before, I find myself feeling more confident about my ability to parent Tickle. Quite how I'm going to do it is still up for discussion, but I don't have any doubt that I can. I have accepted that our family life is not going to be normal. I have accepted that we have to step up, and be elite parents, with all that entails. I have accepted that we know far more about parenting traumatised children than Social Services, so can stop worrying about what they think of us. I have finally understood that my needs *have* to be prioritised in order for our family to keep going.

I still feel a little tender from the emotional load of this week (not to mention the last 18 months), so Tickle has gone off to Gran's today and Husband and I are taking it easy. As for the future, I'm cautiously hopeful.

And finally, in an attempt to stop that blinking toilet picture popping up every time I link a blog post anywhere, here is a picture of me and the cat watching snooker.


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