Sunday, 27 February 2011
We got up with plenty of time to take Glen to the station, as he will be away on a work trip until Wednesday night, but somehow - as usual - we ended up rushing and Glen made his train by the skin of his teeth. Afterwards Robbie and I nipped to the shops. It was a lovely sunny morning and our plan was to take the bikes out afterwards, but the weather changed and it started to pour, so we returned home instead.
After a quick lunch and a little persuasion, Robbie got one of the Lego toys he hadn’t opened since Christmas and built it all by himself while I sat in the next room (with a few calls to show off his progress). I actually fancied sitting with him so we could build it together, but want to encourage him to understand that he can entertain himself.
After he was finished with his Lego we put together another toy that we’d been meaning to build for ages. It turned out to be quite hard for his age so I ended up having to do most of it and he was a little frustrated by that, but he managed his frustration quite well.
Once we’d finished that we sat down and watched “ET”. He was a little scared at first, but ended up welling up at the end, when he thought ET might die. This was quite interesting because I’ve never seen Robbie get emotional during a film before (even the really sad bit in films like “Up”). With all the loss and sadness he’s had in his life I guess it’s hardly surprising he doesn’t relate to fictional sadness, so I was “pleased” that he could empathise.
We had dinner, read some more of his Paddington book, and then I put him to bed. I said I was really pleased he’d been good all day. He said tomorrow’s back to homework so “there’ll be trouble”. I told him I know we can get it out of the way without any trouble and I’m sure he’ll manage another good day. We’ll see who’s right…
Robbie came into our bedroom this morning carrying the cuddly dog that Annie, his foster carer, gave him the day he left their house. He still sleeps with it, but tends to prefer others now. He cuddled up to us and then said he thought it was funny that that particular teddy was no longer his favourite. I could see where this was coming from, so I reminded him that we can fit lots of people in our hearts and just because you start loving someone more, doesn't mean you have to love someone else less. As an example told him that he now takes up a big space in my heart, but it doesn’t mean I love Glen or my family in Spain any less. We concluded that he could love us and still love Annie and Peter all the same, and how we were sure that they still love him all the same even if they can’t be in touch at the moment.
After breakfast it was time to do some tidying and cleaning. Robbie was really keen to help, so after he tidied up his room he did some dusting and hoovering (what do you mean child labour was abolished?). He earned a “helping at home” star and was really pleased. While Glen and I got on with other chores he did some Mathletics on the computer and then, as a treat for all his help, I left him play on the Wii for almost an hour. Afterwards I had a go at his game and got really close to completing a level, but didn’t manage in the last minute. Robbie laughed at me. I told him I always cheer for him when he plays and it wasn’t nice to laugh when other people didn’t manage. Robbie, embarrassed, immediately snapped and stormed off. He knew he’d done something he shouldn’t and won’t allow himself any such “failures”. When Glen asked him why he looked so cross, he chose to pick a fight with him. To his credit, Robbie made an effort to calm down shortly after: when I walked into the living room I found him doing his “jumping it out”. I encouraged him to keep going, and when he’d finished I was there to “hug it out” with him. He was calm again, but cross with himself as he knew he’d lost his chance for a ‘being good all day’ sticker.
We went to our “real” house and Robbie played with the neighbours while Glen and I measured walls so we can start looking for replacement furniture and bathroom tiles.
There was a pile of post in the house. Among it was Robbie’s new birth certificate, which lists him with his new surname and names us as his parents. This means we can now apply for his new passport. There was also a letter from Sarah, Robbie’s social worker. She enclosed a letter that Robbie’s birth father wrote to him after he lost the custody hearing three years ago. The letter is completely inappropriate to show Robbie at this point, or even further down the line to be honest (we’ll have to revisit this in due course). His birth father assumes we’re a stopgap for Robbie and the moment he turns 18 he’ll run back to him (he invites him to join him in the pub and even specifies that when he does, Robbie should be wearing a piece of jewellery that he gave him as a present years ago). Letterbox contact is fast approaching, and this makes me worried about what he’ll write. I hope he’s got someone who can help him write something appropriate that we can show to Robbie.
After we were done in the house we went to a couple of tile and furniture shops and then made our way back to the house. Our friends Paul and Anthony were joining us for pizza and a DVD, and Robbie was looking forward to it. Unfortunately they were a bit late and then it took us a while to get organised with the food order, which meant that the delivery time was way past Robbie’s bedtime. Glen offered to make him a “pizza toast” (toast with cheese, ham and tomato sauce), which Robbie really likes, but Robbie was really distraught and started to cry. He was really disappointed that he wouldn’t be eating with us. He was also very tired, so after a lot of sympathy and hugs from both Glen and me, we managed to get him to have his dinner, get changed and go to bed.
When the pizzas finally arrived, we (the adults) sat and ate them in front of the TV. We decided to watch “Despicable Me”, which Robbie watched with his friends last Monday. You can’t even trust the latest animated feature: the film is full of references to adoption, as the main character adopts three children so they can help him defeat his enemy! How silly of him, everybody knows you adopt children so they can help with the cleaning : ) Thankfully, despite initial reticence, the children and the main character manage to attach. I’ll check what Robbie thought tomorrow or if his friends asked any awkward questions when they watched it…
Saturday, 26 February 2011
We had planned a day sightseeing in London with Robbie but he said he'd rather go to his football training and his friend Jonathan's mum invited him for tea, so there was no contest. We dropped him off at Jonathan's and his mum took them to football, picked them up afterwards, fed them and kept them entertained until 6.30. We made the most of it and had a lovely day sightseeing on our own. Having said that, we actually missed him and wished we could be showing him the sights. It would have been a much more memorable day for all of us, even if Robbie didn't fancy it as much...
After we picked Robbie up we came home, Robbie had a bath and a hot drink and he read some more of his bedtime story. He insisted on reading it himself and did really well once again, which is brilliant for his confidence. As usual he dragged his feet a bit when it came to going to bed, but we got him there without too much difficulty.
After we picked Robbie up we came home, Robbie had a bath and a hot drink and he read some more of his bedtime story. He insisted on reading it himself and did really well once again, which is brilliant for his confidence. As usual he dragged his feet a bit when it came to going to bed, but we got him there without too much difficulty.
Thursday, 24 February 2011
I only saw Robbie for a moment this morning before I went to work. Glen stayed with him today and together they did 'jobs' around the house. Robbie did a bit of drawing and painting, and he also watched TV for a bit while Glen did some work.
In the afternoon they popped round to see our friends Adam and Carla and Robbie played with Henry, Adam's son. Then they went to our house, where Glen had some bits to sort out, and Robbie made the most of the good weather by playing on his trampoline for the first time in months.
Once we were all back in the step-house, Robbie and I finished watching Superman (which we'd started the other day) and then we played a couple of games together. After that the three of us had dinner. At the end of it I remarked that Robbie was now very close to completing his second good day in a row since we made an agreement to reduce his DS consequence with good behaviour, hence tomorrow we'd be taking a month off his year without the DS.
As soon as Glen left the kitchen for a moment, Robbie found an excuse to shout and get angry with me over nothing. Knowing this had nothing to do with me and everything to do with not feeling deserving of a month taken off his DS time, I completely ignored it. He stormed off but came back a couple of minutes later and apologised.
A few minutes later, as we all lay in bed ready for his bedtime story, I asked Robbie why he'd shouted at me. "Because I don't deserve my DS". Once again we told him he's a good boy and he's not the one who decides whether he deserves treats or not, we are. He was still in a bit of a mood. He could tell as well as I could. He said he wanted to stop but couldn't, so I told him that when he needs to stop whatever he's doing, all he has to do is do something else. I made him jump it out and then blow it out, finishing with a big hug to hug it out, which worked very well.
He decided he wanted to read his bedtime story, and proceeded to read four pages of his Paddington book really well. It was quite a funny part of the book, so we all laughed together at the mess Paddinton was making. His reading's really coming along now at he's found the confidence to do it. He still won't read on his own without one of us there to check that he's reading properly, but hopefully that will come. After the story we put him to bed and kissed him goodnight.
I can see now, thinking back to some of the stuff that's gone on since he came to live with us, that this self-sabotaging has been going on for a long time and is the source of a lot of his more extreme behaviours, all to get the consequences he thinks he deserves. It's clear to me that is low self-esteem is the source of it. At least now that we've identified it (I hope correctly – we’ll talk to Alice the counsellor about it), we can try to address it. Tomorrow he will get his 'being good all day' sticker anyway to prove to him that he's a good boy. He needs to believe it so he can be it.
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Glen was working away all day again today and left the house very early, so I took the day off work. At 8 Robbie came into our bedroom. We had a long cuddle and play on the bed, and I “casually” got to the topic of last night and the finger-twisting incident. I asked what that was about and Robbie said he didn’t know. Not in a trying-to-deny-it sort of way, but because he genuinely had no idea. I wondered out loud if it may have something to do with getting his light sabre back. He replied “but I’ve done many naughty things and I don’t deserve it!” So my guess last night was correct. He wanted to provoke a consequence. I told him he’s not to punish himself. I said I’d decided to disregard the incident and let him have his sticker and his light sabre because I know he’s a good boy and he’d done enough to deserve it. I then mentioned his DS. He said he knew he’d lost it for a year. I said there may be a way to get it back: for every two days in a row that he gets a “being good all day” sticker, I’ll take a month off. He didn’t think it was possible at all, and I reminded him how from mid-November to the second week in January he hadn’t hit me once. He was really shocked. I think, like me, he only remembers the bad bits (hence the self-punishment). He decided it may possible after all and we shook hands on it. It may take a while and I have no delusions of 24 good days in a row, but we’ll work towards it together.
After breakfast Robbie played on his own with his Lego for a short while and then we went to the gym, where he played in the kids’ club for an hour. Then we went swimming. He was really keen to swim without the help of any fins or noodles and did seven lengths without any floating devices! I was just in front of him all the time, ready to hold him if he needed help. I made a huge fuss about it with congratulations, high-fives, and hugs.
After the pool we had a quick bite to eat and then went to the supermarket to grab a few bits we needed. When we got home we finished watching a DVD we’d started a few days ago and then played a board game. While I cooked dinner he happily read one of the books we borrowed from the library the other day (it was a really quick and easy one) and then he agreed to do a little Spanish revision of the stuff he knows! He counted to 100 and went through all the colours with me.
After dinner we had a quick game on the Wii. I won, which he wasn’t happy about, but despite the usual frowns and “I’m rubbish” drama he managed to snap out of it very quickly. Then came his bedtime story, which we both read together, and he went to bed a happy boy.
Not as happy as I was, I must stress. Considering two days ago I was afraid of being on my own with him, it was wonderful to have a full day with Robbie which we both thoroughly enjoyed.
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Glen left very early in this morning for a meeting, so Robbie and I were on our own. I got Robbie up and ready for his football training without any incidents and drove him to the football training ground. A lot of his friends were going to the same activity, so he was happy to join them.
In the afternoon, after football training, he had a bath and then I convinced him to play on his own for a bit while I finished some work. He was a bit reluctant but agreed to, and spent half an hour playing with his Lego. After that we watched a film together, but before that I suggested he should hoover the popcorn mess that he and his friends left on the living room carpet yesterday and he was happy to do it.
Glen got back and we all sat down for dinner together. Earlier I'd told Robbie that if he managed two good days in a row he'd get his light sabre back (it was confiscated last week when he hit me with it) and as we ate, I told Glen about it. Robbie was pleased that he was nearing the end of his second good day and looking forward to getting his light sabre back (he hasn't mentioned his DS at all since he "lost" it). After dinner Robbie got changed and we lay on our bed and finished a chapter of his Paddington book. He wanted to start the next chapter, so I suggested he read it. Robbie took the book and without much hesitation read a page and a half aloud all by himself. We congratulated him on how well he'd done and remarked on the long words he'd read. He was very proud of himself.
All was perfect right until the last minute. As I kissed him goodnight, for reasons better known to himself, Robbie grabbed hold of my middle finger and twisted it backwards. It hurt, and when I called out his name and asked him to stop, he just smiled and pretended nothing had happened. I asked him why he'd done that and he frowned, realising that he'd done something stupid. Automatically, his defences went up and he snapped "don't give me my sticker then". I didn't want to spoil the day so I just said goodnight. After Glen had said goodnight, Robbie looked at me. I said that at least he could apologise. Robbie said it doesn't hurt when he twists his own finger. I kissed him goodnight again and left it at that. I don’t want to read too much into it, but I suspect Robbie hasn’t quite forgiven himself for hitting me with his light sabre and therefore thinks he shouldn’t have it back, hence the attempt to spoil his “good day” at the end. Tomorrow morning I’ll ignore the incident and return his light sabre. I don’t want to reinforce his own views on what he does or doesn’t deserve.
Last night I told Glen I needed some time away from Robbie. Every time he perceives me as “mean” and rejects me it gets worse and worse, and I just felt that it was better to have some time away from each other. Glen disagreed. He said I should be spending more time with him instead. But if spending time with him leads to more confrontation, what are we solving?
I’d decided to cancel the day off I’d booked for today and just go to work. Glen got Robbie ready and took him to our “real” house, where he needed to speak to the plumber and deal with some stuff. Before they left, Robbie came to say goodbye and gave me a big hug. I know it’s his way of apologising, so I accepted it and hugged him back. In the end I didn’t cancel my annual leave and instead spent a quiet morning thinking about the events of the last couple of days. In the end I decided Glen was probably right, but I needed to make sure Glen was with me on this. Following a suggestion left as a comment on this blog last night, I rang Glen and told him I’d join them for the errands they were going to do, but I needed him to be the one to tell Robbie when he needed to do something, or to stop doing something he shouldn’t be doing. Glen agreed. I also rang the mothers of a couple of Robbie’s school friends and invited their kids over for the afternoon.
When I joined them, Robbie was in a good mood. After doing a couple of jobs in the house, we went to the shops to get a couple of things and also to look at tiles for the repair to the bathroom and sofas to replace the old wet ones. Glen made sure he was the one telling Robbie the things I normally have to: to do up his coat, put his hood up in the rain, look before crossing a road…
After our shopping expedition and lunch, we got back to the house just before our guests did. In the end we had three other boys come over. They watched “Despicable Me” on DVD and then played hide and seek all over the house and with Robbie’s toys. They stayed for nearly four hours and played well together, with only a couple of interventions from Glen or me to solve disagreements and misunderstandings.
Once they’d gone, we nipped out to drop off my car for its MOT and ate out again. We ended up getting back quite late, so Robbie didn’t go to bed until 9 pm. Just before we put him to bed Robbie told me he’s glad I’m his dad. I said I was glad he’s my son. It was his way of backing down and taking back the horrible things he’s said to me in the last couple of days without dragging it all back up, and really good of him to do so.
It was a relief to have a nice day and Glen was right to push me to spend time with Robbie. It also helped to have Glen on my side telling Robbie what needed doing, as I know he would have snapped if I had. It was a bit of an unusual day as we didn’t have homework or jobs to do and we had his friends round, but at least he earned a “being good all day” sticker, which helps him (and me!) to see that he can have good days. Tomorrow Glen is working away all day so I have Robbie all to myself. He’s got football training for a few hours, so it won’t be for the whole day. It’s not that I’m afraid of spending the whole day with Robbie, but in the current climate it will help to take things little by little and have some time apart rather than a whole day cooked up together. The rain doesn’t help!
Sunday, 20 February 2011
We had a lazy morning. I slept in while Glen had a bath and Robbie watched TV. After a late breakfast Robbie wrote thank you cards to the people who gave him presents on his day in court with only a little grumbling (Glen asked him). After that we went to our “real” house to measure one of the rooms (for future replacement furniture purchases) and Robbie played with the neighbours for a few minutes. Then, after a visit to the shops, we came back to the step-house.
Glen busied himself with dinner preparations and Robbie and I watched TV together for a while. After the programme was over, I suggested he tidied up his room. Glen had told Robbie earlier today that it needed doing. Robbie grudgingly agreed to, but got annoyed when he realised that we expected him to tidy up his Lego as well. Last Friday one of his Lego Star Wars toys got “destroyed” and Robbie was frustrated because he didn’t know how to put it together again. I got the blame for this, as – according to Robbie – I only asked him to tidy it up to annoy him. Despite being shouted at, I looked up the instructions online, downloaded them, and started to put his spaceship back together. With some coaxing from Glen, Robbie joined me and helped me. Soon it was all done and he thanked me for fixing it. I had a few words to remind Robbie that I don’t do things like asking him to tidy his room to annoy him, but because they need doing. I told him once again that until he learns to believe that, he will continue to get angry with me every time I ask him to do anything and we won’t move forward.
We sat down for dinner and I told Glen about the conversation Robbie and I had had. Robbie got angry again and claimed once that everything I do is annoy him, and that I do it on purpose because I don’t like him. I went through all the things I’ve done this weekend just for him, but despite this he maintained his position. The situation escalated to the point where Robbie was no longer rational, and just kept going on about how much I hate him.
In the end we managed to get him to put his pyjamas on. Glen kissed him goodnight and walked off. I also kissed Robbie goodnight. He wiped my kiss off his forehead. I then said I loved him, and he replied that he hated me.
A few minutes later he came downstairs to apologise. I accepted his apology, but refused to take him upstairs and put him to bed again. I told him I’d already done that once tonight and he’d thrown it in my face, so I wouldn’t do that again. Actions have consequences. Glen decided to carry him upstairs and put him to bed. I wasn’t happy about this as it only reinforces the good cop / bad cop situation. A few minutes later I gave in, as always, and went to Robbie’s room, kissed him goodnight and said I loved him. He said he loved me too. He was calm again. His thinking brain believes I love him. His emotional brain doesn’t, and continues to interpret anything I ask him to do as a challenge, criticism, or desire to do him wrong. No idea how to turn this around. It’s getting very challenging, tiring and depressing.
Robbie came into our bedroom in the morning and we had a cuddle. He was in a good mood. We had a chat in bed. I told him I know he loves me and that I know he knows I love him. I also said that the reason we ignore him when he gets angry is because his angry brain says nasty things and doesn’t listen, so there’s no point in trying to talk to him when he’s like that. He seemed relieved that we’d had our little chat, even though he normally hates having to talk about feelings.
We had breakfast and then something happened for the first time in 307 days: Glen and I had sex while Robbie was in the house! We normally make the most of the time he’s at school and we’re working from home, or whenever he’s at a playdate or at football training, but it’s never happened before with him in the house. We made sure he was happily playing with his Lego in his room and locked ourselves in the bathroom, the only room with a lock in this house!
Glen had arranged to pick something from his mum’s house and they agreed to meet at a garden centre near hers. He took Robbie with him and, much to his surprise, Glen found that Nanny had brought his father along. Glen’s father obviously hadn’t been told that Robbie would be there either. He said hello to Robbie, but decided to stay in the car while Nanny, Glen and Robbie went for something to eat and a hot drink in the garden centre. When they got out, he said “bye” to Robbie and that was that. Glen and Nanny explained to Robbie that Granddad is very shy, and Robbie accepted that as an explanation without further questioning.
When they got back, Robbie told me about meeting Granddad and then showed me the present that Nanny had bought him to mark his adoption day in court. When we went to put it away in his bedroom, I mentioned that the room could do with being tidied. Robbie automatically jumped down my throat. I explained that all I’d said was that the room needed tidying, not that he had to do it there and then, and he calmed down but it really left a bad taste in my mouth that he’d had a whole afternoon with Glen without raising his voice and the moment he was home he’d started shouting at me again.
We had dinner and put Robbie to bed without any further incidents. When I talked to Glen about how sad it made me feel that Robbie had exploded as soon as I’d made a comment about having to do something he didn’t want to do, Glen pointed out that on the other side of the coin, Robbie might feel sad that as soon as he’d walked in I’d felt the need to point out a fault with his room. He was right of course. Both Robbie and I take what the other says personally, and until we learn to get over it we’re going to remain in stalemate.
Saturday, 19 February 2011
I hardly slept last night worrying about Robbie and my relationship with him, so Glen took care of him in the morning as I was too tired. Robbie came into our bedroom when he was ready to say goodbye. I gave him a kiss and wished him a nice day.
Once he was back, Glen ordered Robbie’s new birth certificate online and requested the paperwork to apply for a new passport. I spent the whole day feeling really low, unable to decide what I can do to help Robbie see that I love him, even when I have to tell him to do things he doesn’t like to do. I rang the school to ask about changing Robbie’s name on his Mathletics (the online maths exercises the school uses) profile, and they told me that it cannot be done. He’ll have to have a new profile and lose the points he’s scored so far. Apparently his maths teacher has already talked to him about it and Robbie has decided to keep his old name. Glen and I discussed this and decided it’s not a good idea for his old name to keep popping up for the next few years. Although it feels normal to him now, at some point Robbie may not want to be reminded of his old identity all the time.
I couldn’t face Robbie on my own but Glen thought Robbie needed to see that I still want to do things with him, so we compromised. We both picked Robbie up from school and went to the library to borrow a DVD for the half-term. We also picked up an easy Star Wars photo book to read.
When we got home Robbie did his homework. Glen told him about the fact that we’d decided that his name should change on the Mathletics website and Robbie got really angry. Glen told him we’re happy to help him re-do his previous exercises so he can build up his points on his new profile, but Robbie wasn’t happy and had a big argument with him. I decided to ring the Mathletics website owners and double-check what the school had said. They told me that the name can be changed without losing the record of achievement and would email the school with instructions. I told Robbie about it and he calmed down.
We had things to do to prepare for dinner guests, so I suggested while Glen and I were busy Robbie might like to read the book we’d picked up at the library for a few minutes to earn playtime on the Wii. Robbie lost it again, as he’s convinced that he can only read if supervised. He hit me with his book and I tried to ignore it. He started taunting me and saying horrible things, all of which I ignored. Then he hit me to get a reaction, but once again I ignored this to avoid playing into his hands. Glen tried to intervene but in the end he lost his patience and ended up telling both Robbie and I to go to hell! Robbie retreated to his room and I shut myself in the room I use as a home office.
A few minutes later, Robbie came to find me to accuse me of not caring he was hurt. He was in tears. I, unaware of what had happened, started asking questions and found out what had been going on. Seeing as I would not react to anything and therefore he couldn’t get a consequence through me, Robbie had decided to punish himself. He was out of our sight, so he’d picked up the big ladder that leads to the playroom in the loft and tried to move it. When I asked him why he’d tried to move the ladder, Robbie replied he didn’t deserve to have a playroom. Of course. The ladder is big and heavy, and he’d dropped it on the floor. On the way down it hit him on the shoulder quite badly and that’s why he was crying. In his mind, though, he’d got what he deserved (hurt for being bad) and this was enough to give him the resolution he wanted. Once he’d got over the shock of being hurt, he was completely calm and acting as if nothing at all had happened. I find this harder to witness than the angry moments, as it makes me wonder how we’re going to get him to understand that he needn’t be punished, not by us and certainly not by himself.
Robbie helped us tidy the house for our dinner guests and once they arrived he was completely charming. You couldn’t tell what he’d been like only an hour earlier. He ate with us and played with our guests’ son until it was time for them to go. He started to drag his feet about going to bed, but Glen got him there in without a fuss. As it was rather late he told him he’d need to sleep in and if he woke up early he should play on his own until the alarm clock goes off.
I don’t know how much longer this is going to last, but something needs to break this cycle. He’s off school for the next 9 days and it cannot go on like this for all that time or we’ll all go mad. Glen and I feel worn out and unable to support Robbie. Three more weeks until his therapy starts. I really hope it works, because if that fails I simply have no idea what we'll do next.
All was well this morning until Robbie got out of the bath and I asked him to dry his hair again because it was still wet. Robbie interpreted this as being told off and scowled at me and then slammed a door in my face as I tried to help him dry it. Glen dried it for him, but when I asked him to say “sorry” Robbie refused to apologise. This led to a tirade of attitude that lost him his DS for the day.
I was annoyed all morning, thinking about how I could have approached him differently and wishing he wouldn’t jump down my throat when I have to ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do. If Glen had asked him, it wouldn’t have led to an outburst. No matter how I try to say things, Robbie still thinks that I disapprove of him and that somehow he’s failed me, which leads to his extreme reactions.
Glen was supposed to pick him up but was held up at work at the last minute, which meant I had to rush out of the office to do it. He seemed fine with me, though. Glen did the homework with him and then they went off to Beavers.
When they got back from Beavers, Glen gave Robbie his snack and then told him to go and get his pyjamas on. Before he left the kitchen, I asked Robbie if he wanted his Beavers star for his sticker chart, and he said yes. When I went to give it to him, he said “you put it on”. I replied, “no, you put it on”, as it’s his chart and he normally does it himself, and all hell broke loose. Robbie got really angry and started to shout at me. I told him to get on with it and he went upstairs to get changed. When I went up, I noticed that he hadn’t folded his clothes, so I asked him to do that. This only led to more anger, especially when he folded one of his tops and I unfolded it as it was a crumpled mess. He yelled at me, telling me that I annoy him and I don’t love him. I calmly replied that until he starts believing that I don't do these things to annoy him on purpose, he won't believe that I love him and he'll continue to get angry with me. Of course by then his angry brain had taken over and nothing I said would have helped.
He started taunting me, telling me that he hated school, everyone there hated him and that’s why we’d chosen it. Then he told me that he didn’t want us to adopt him, that his foster carers didn’t love him either, and challenged me to cry, as he wanted me to. I didn’t react to any of it, I just calmly kept saying that he needed to get into bed and go to sleep. As he wasn’t getting a reaction from me, he upped the ante and hit me with his light sabre, which I quietly took off him and confiscated. Unhappy that I hadn’t exploded, he slapped my leg. In a calm voice I told him that was a wrong choice and reminded him of what he’d said should happen if he did that. I took his DS and told him he’d lost it for a year, as we’d agreed. I didn’t like doing it, but I had to see the consequence we’d agreed through. We'll have to find a way for him to earn it back somehow. I genuinely believe when he thinks he's been bad and deserves punishment he keeps pushing until he ends up hitting me because that’s the way he knows will put an end to the confrontation. Because we won’t punish him, he does the thing that he knows will get him a consequence and we end up giving him what he “wants” from us (what in his eyes is what he deserves for being “bad”) and play into his hands.
Having got what he “wanted” and a resolution to the conflict, Robbie took himself to bed. Alas, not for long. He got up again and came downstairs for more. Glen and I, knowing that all he wanted was our attention and trying to engage in dialogue was pointless, just pretended we couldn’t hear any of the horrible things he was saying or see the things he was doing. After a few minutes he gave up and went to bed.
Half an hour later, despite not feeling at all like seeing him, I went up to give him a kiss goodnight. He accepted the kiss and even replied he loved me too when I told him I love him. Glen followed and did the same thing.
Glen and I spent the rest of the evening discussing what we can try to do with Robbie. Glen thinks that Robbie feels under scrutiny by me and anything I say that he considers a criticism sets him off. He suggested I spend more time with him doing fun things. I reminded him that only last Saturday Robbie and I spent a whole afternoon just the two of us, and that this week I have played with him most days. I don’t know what to do any more. I should be able to tell Robbie to dry his hair, get his stickers or fold his clothes without triggering his violent defence mechanisms. Otherwise how am I to bring him up?
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Another quiet day. I did the morning routine without problems and Glen picked Robbie up in the afternoon, took him to the park, came back to the house, did the homework and reading and then left him to play on the Wii while he cooked dinner. When I got home we all ate together and then Glen had to go to a Beaver planning meeting, so I read Robbie’s bedtime story and put him to bed. Long may this continue!
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Glen took Robbie to school this morning and had no problems whatsoever. In the afternoon I picked him up (Glen was working away until late so I was on my own) and after a snack and getting changed he did his homework really well. He had lots left to read off his school book (he gets two a week) and with carefully-timed alternating of reading and a couple of quick five-minute games on the iPad he managed to get through all of it. He read for over an hour! He was rewarded with double time on the Wii, which he loved, and then it was time for dinner. We had plenty of time for his bedtime story and then he went to bed a very happy boy. It was a beautiful day for its simple uneventfulness, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Please, may we have some more?
I took care of Robbie this morning and all was going well until I asked him to fetch the nail brush so I could clean his nails. Unfortunately it wasn't where I said it was. Because Robbie still struggles to differentiate between emotions, he externalised the frustration of not being able to find it as anger and started shouting at me. I did my best to manage the situation and it didn't escalate too far, but it still meant I left a very grumpy boy at the school gate this morning.
For the first time in a week I felt well enough to go to the office. It was busy, so I didn't leave until 5.30. When I got in, Robbie and Glen had done all his homework and were nearly finished with the reading. Robbie and I quickly finished his puzzle (at last!) and then we played on the Wii together. Today we had fish and salad, that most reviled of meals. Glen managed it magnificently, getting Robbie involved in picking what went in his salad and choosing which piece of fish he wanted. It worked a treat and Robbie ate it all without complaint. He also was happy to talk about his day at school and we even talked about his day in court. Robbie said that he was happy that we were now his forever family and he no longer wished to live with his birth parents. How much of that was true and how much was said to please us I don't know, but at least he was willing to say something he thought we wanted to hear instead of something to hurt us!
We read a bit of his Paddington book and then put him to bed. It was great to have a peaceful evening and he went to bed looking really happy.
Glen and I discussed Robbie’s emotional literacy tonight. Robbie really acts much younger than he is sometimes (the way he refuses to be on his own, the tantrums, the constant need for hugs) and we need to help him identify the different range of emotions he has and act accordingly. He cannot tell the difference between frustration and anger, for example. We hope the therapy with Alice will help with this, as it’s something that will save him (and us!) a lot of upset over nothing.
Despite the rule that at weekends he should play quietly in his room if he wakes up early, Robbie came to wake us at 7 to let us know he couldn't sleep any longer. We reminded him that he's supposed to respect our sleep and sent him back to his room. Robbie responded by shouting and banging on the wall, so Glen had a stern word with him. He came in again at 8.45 and I reminded him that he did the same thing yesterday and “grumpy Robbie” loses treats such as football whereas “nice Robbie” gets to go to the park and watch DVDs.
We let Glen, whose throat is still really sore, sleep in and Robbie watched TV while I did a few chores around the house. Robbie got grumpy again at breakfast but he managed to back down when we left him to calm down by himself. We were supposed to go to the New Family Social get-together, but with both Glen and I still unwell we decided against it.
In the afternoon we went to an animal rescue centre that was having an open day (to look at the animals and walk around the farm, not to get a pet), then we went food shopping. When we got back we all sat down to paint pictures. We'd got some watercolours at the supermarket and the plan was that each of us would paint a picture to put on our empty walls. We also saw this as a bit of “art therapy” pilot, hoping that we could look back on it as a nice activity that we all did together and that possibly we can do more often, perhaps leading to getting Robbie to draw his emotions, as Margot Sunderland advocates. Alas, Robbie got frustrated with his brush (of all things) and stormed out of the room after a short while. When he saw that we were ignoring him and carrying on with our painting, he came back and got on with it. I showed him how to load his brush so that it wouldn't annoy him and we had a nice rest of the afternoon, painting more than two pictures each.
While Glen cooked dinner, Robbie and I put the pictures up, finished the book he’d refused to read on Friday and did some more of his puzzle. Then I had to busy myself making beds and he got annoyed with me for suggesting he might like to play with his toys while I did that. Robbie still experiences being asked to play on his own as rejection, and this keeps coming up time and time again. Thankfully, Glen called us down to dinner then and that defused the situation. After a wonderful roast dinner, we put Robbie to bed. It wasn't our greatest day, but we managed to have lots of fun together as a family and get over some potentially explosive situations.
The day started badly. For the first time ever, the anger from the previous evening carried over to the following day. Robbie was moody and grumpy from the moment we got up. Things got worse when we informed him that he wouldn't be going to football. It's meant to be a treat and he'd not earned it. He said he wouldn't have breakfast with us, and I told him that we eat as a family and his choice was to eat with us or not eat at all. He decided to sit with us and, to our relief, by the end of breakfast he'd let go of his anger and was being his normal self.
There were chores to do so Glen went to do the week's shopping and took Robbie with him while I got on with cleaning. When they got back we had lunch and then Glen took himself to his (somewhat neglected) allotment and Robbie stayed behind helping me out. He hoovered while I finished the bathrooms. We were listening to a retro chart from 1990 on the radio and Robbie gave me pitiful looks as I danced along to Technotronic while I cleaned...
I'd promised Robbie we'd watch a DVD with popcorn and (decaf) coke after cleaning, but it was a lovely sunny afternoon and I suggested delaying the DVD until later and going to the park instead. He agreed. I rang a school friend’s mum and we agreed to meet at a nearby park. We walked for 25 minutes to get there, happily kicking the ball and messing around, which I really enjoyed. At the park the kids played for an hour and then Glen picked us up. Glen’s throat was feeling a lot worse, and he decided to go to the out of hours surgery.
While Glen was out, Robbie and I watched our DVD as promised and then we watched "Total Wipeout", which is not my kind of programme at all, but someone recommended as good family viewing and it does really work, as we all sit there laughing at the contestants and their falls. Glen got back with a prescription for a throat infection (no wonder he’s not been feeling well). We gave Robbie something to eat and then told him it was his bedtime. He got a little grumpy and did his best to delay and start a fight, but we managed to get him to bed before it escalated into something bigger.
As 300th days go, it wasn’t too bad. Sandwiched between two grumpy ends was a very nice day, where Robbie and I got to spend “dad and son” time together enjoying ourselves, be it kicking the ball on our walk to the park or sitting with our popcorn in front of the TV. It’s a pity that Glen couldn’t join us for some of it, but then again he tends to get a much better attitude from Robbie and enjoy ”quality time” with him more often.
Monday, 14 February 2011
Glen did the morning routine once again as I was still feeling full of cold. I'm going to owe him forever for this! He had to work away today and wouldn't be back until late, so I was in charge of Robbie for the rest of the day.
I picked him up from school and we stayed in the park for a while with his friends. When we got in, he had his snack and then opened his post: it was his adoption day certificate, with our photo and the judge's signature! He decided it should go in his memory box. Then we started doing his spellings, which made him cross straight away. He got progressively more and more impatient and snappy until the reading started, and he blew up.
I was a picture of calmness and suggested he do something to calm down, but he refused. He screamed at me, scratched me and tried just about everything to get me to react, but I didn't raise my voice, just got on with other things and ignored his behaviour. He followed me all over the house, saying things like he was going to scratch himself out of the family picture I painted, or how I hated him so much that he'd rather live with his birth mother.
I prepared his dinner and he told me he wouldn't eat with me there, so I left him to it. Then he took himself to bed. When I went upstairs a few minutes later I found an apology note. I knew he was awake, so I went into his room with the note and asked him why he couldn't just say it. "Because I'll only do it again". We had our usual conversation about how he never hit his foster carers and doesn't hit his teacher. He replied, as ever, that he's not allowed to. It really got to me this time, so I snapped "well, you're not allowed to hit me either and you do!" Robbie explained that at school he would get detention, but at home it’s not so bad as we only take things away for a day as a consequence. I asked him how long would be meaningful to him and he replied "a year" so I told him next time he hits he'll lose his DS for a year. This only made him angry again, but eventually I managed to get him back into bed. Will the fear of losing his precious DS be enough to stop him hitting next time? Probably not, so we'll have to come up with a way for him to earn it back... Also, I pray he never gets detention and realises it’s not so bad after all. Otherwise we’ll be in deep deep trouble.
I woke up still feeling sick, so Glen did the morning routine again. Robbie came into the bedroom to say goodbye before they left for school. I smiled, told him how smart he looked in his uniform, and gave him a hug. We then went through our "I'm a nice boy and I deserve a nice family" mantra and I wished him a nice day at school. Unbeknown to me, glen had had to convince him to come into the bedroom as he didn't want to. He was worried what my reaction would be after last night’s behaviour.
Glen picked him up from school. When they got in, Robbie was all smiles and hugs. I got him changed and we did the spellings, writing and reading without any problems. Then Robbie and I sat and started his new Dr Who puzzle until it was time for beavers.
When they got back, Robbie had a piece of toast and then we put him to bed. It was such a relief to have a good day again. Maybe yesterday was the outlet for all the adoption day emotions and we can hopefully settle again.
I woke up feeling too ill to go to work, so I had to call in sick. Glen took Robbie to school. Robbie's best friend Jonathan gave Robbie a lovely card. It said "Dear Robbie, I am glad that you have your new name and you can stay with your dad and daddy. We can be best buddies forever now”. Have you ever read anything sweeter? His parents had a card for us too, it was really lovely of them.
I spent all day in bed feeling terrible. Glen picked Robbie up, took him to the park and bought him sweets. When they got in, I asked Robbie to get changed and put his clothes in the washing bin. Then I asked him how it went at school with telling everyone about his day in court and his change of name. He said his teacher did most of the talking, and he’d shown the picture he'd brought and answered questions. Then he clammed up and started getting worked up. I don't think he liked being the centre of attention and I suspect his schoolmates didn't understand why he'd changed his name.
While he was having his snack he started to give me attitude and answering back, so first he had a warning and then was given 7 minutes to think about it. He lost it, kicked me in the face and scratched me. I remained calm and talked in a gentle voice, hugged him, empathised with his frustration... and got more abuse.
Glen stepped in. He gave him a choice to behave or go to bed. Robbie was beside himself, so Glen sent him to bed. Robbie got violent with him too, screamed, and got out of bed as soon as he was left alone. He came downstairs yelling that he didn't want to have his new name, took the new label that his teacher had put on his school bag and changed it back to the old one. We did our best to ignore his behaviour until he hit me with his light sabre, which Glen confiscated.
Eventually we got him talking. I he explained that I made him angry by asking him to put his clothes in the washing basket (such cruelty!). He refused to apologise for hitting me, though, because “I'll do it again anyway”.
At dinner time I asked Robbie what he did at school and he refused to answer me. I took myself to the living room and told Robbie I wouldn't say goodnight until he apologised. Eventually he came in to apologise and I accepted his apology. We put him to bed but he was still an angry little boy, annoyed with the world and mostly with himself, I suspect.
I suppose he did behave really well yesterday at the adoption day in court and all the emotions from the day were bottled up, so they had to come out. The more I think about it, the more I feel for him. Yesterday can’t have been easy at all. First of all, he must have been really scared about the judge. Secondly, he said goodbye to Sarah. And finally, even though I believe he’s happy to know that we’re now his forever family and he won’t have to move on to anyone else, I suppose this is also the confirmation that he’ll never live with his birth parents again. We and everybody else familiar with his case knows that he’s better off without them, but I’m not sure he truly understands that. At the end of the day I think every adopted child fantasises about going back to their birth parents. A dreamed-up version of their birth parents who don’t behave the way the real ones did, of course. And inside Robbie may be grieving the loss of that fantasy in which he went back to play happy families with his birth parents and siblings.
I’ve been feeling quite poorly with a chest infection that won't go away and our internet connection is very hit and miss at the moment, so even though I’ve been typing away each night, I haven’t posted any updates for the last five days. I’ll proof-read and upload them as soon as I can.
Thursday, 10 February 2011
Robbie came to find us in the middle of the night: he was scared because he thought he'd seen a ghost. I was half tempted to ask him if the ghost was wearing a black robe and a white wig, but I refrained. At 8.45 he came to wake us up again. He was smiling and excited, asking "do you know what day it is today?" as if it was Christmas!
Both Glen and I had slept badly and both of us had terrible colds. Glen went for an hour-long bath (as all Brits, he believes that anything can be cured by soaking in a bathtub) whereas I made an appointment with the doctor, who saw me within an hour and told me that I have a chest infection. He didn't prescribe a bath, he gave me antibiotics.
Nanny kept Robbie entertained while we tried to get on with making the house look tidy for our guests. At 1.00 we all started to get ready and by 1.30 we were ready to leave. Robbie looked really smart in his new shirt and trousers. Outside the court we met Sarah and Miranda. Phil and Elisabeth were waiting inside. We were taken to a Family waiting room, which is decorated with Disney characters and has toys and kids' books and waited for 10 minutes or so to be called.
An usher came to get us and we all stood when the judge came in. I was disappointed that he wasn't wearing his robes, but I guess it made him look less intimidating than if he'd been wearing them. He addressed Robbie and welcomed him. Then he asked Robbie to tell him who everyone else in the room was. Robbie pointed to Glen and me and identified us as his dad and daddy, and then to Nanny before his nerves got the best of him and he went quiet, so I finished for him and introduced the social workers and godparents.
The judge said he had a teddy for Robbie and asked him if he wanted to go over and pick it up. Robbie, quite bravely I thought, did. The judge gave him the teddy, which has a ribbon that says" adoption day bear", and then let Robbie sit on his chair. He invited Robbie to sign his adoption day certificate with him, which he did, and called Glen and I over so we could all have our picture taken together.
We shook hands and posed for pictures, and then the judge turned to Robbie and asked him if he understood what today meant. The judge told him that from today Glen and I are his forever family. Robbie nodded. I could see Nanny crying in the back...
We were asked to wait a few minutes in the family waiting room while they printed a photograph and added it to the adoption day certificate, but there was some sort of technical fault and we were told that they'll post it to us when it's ready instead. The whole ceremony took about 15 minutes in total. We took some photos outside and then made our way back to the house.
As soon as we walked in, Robbie gave the social workers the cards and boxes of chocolates we'd got for them. They in turn gave us and him a card each wishing us luck and they even had a little gift for Robbie, which I thought was very kind of them. Sarah got him some "Celebrations" chocolates and Miranda an England Football Team colouring book. Phil and Elisabeth had also got Robbie a present: a beautiful silver money box.
In our "normal" house we have a painting of two cartoonish stick men that are meant to represent Glen and me and which I painted for our tenth anniversary. For this occasion I had painted one of the three of us, which I showed Robbie to show that he's now part of the family. He seemed really touched and we think he got the significance of it.
We had a hot drink, biscuits and a cake and chatted for a while. Then Nanny left as she had to drive back home. Miranda and Sarah followed shortly after. I had to tell Robbie to come to the door to say goodbye to them and Sarah explained that she won't be coming to visit him again. Robbie didn't show any kind of emotion and just waved her goodbye.
Not realising that he would have so many presents, we'd bought a couple of things for Robbie and we brought them out then: a Doctor Who puzzle and the Bayblade stadium and a couple of Bayblade spinning tops. Robbie and Phil spent ages playing with them and I joined in as well. Then we went out to eat at Robbie's favourite pizza restaurant.
After dinner we said goodbye to Phil and Elisabeth and then printed out a picture from the day for Robbie to take to school tomorrow. His teacher asked for it so tomorrow morning Robbie has a chance to explain what happened today and tell everyone his new surname. Robbie isn't very happy about it as he doesn't like the idea of standing in front of the whole class and talking about it, but he knows it's got to happen.
My parents rang and had a very quick word to congratulate Robbie, and then we put him to bed. We were delighted with how well the day had gone and how well Robbie had behaved. Even though we've had the adoption order since December, this felt a lot more like the real thing. It was also goodbye to his social worker, which - although sad in a way - was something we all were looking forward to. Miranda says she'll keep in touch to ask how the next few days go, and then I guess she'll be out of the picture too. I guess we'd be feeling a lot happier about it if the last few days hadn't been so difficult. We know if the house hadn't flooded and all the upheaval that's followed hadn't happened, none of the extreme behaviour we've had would have occurred, or it would have been a lot more manageable. It's a pity that we've got this recent bad taste in our mouths, but hopefully from tomorrow things will begin to get better and we'll look at today as the beginning of our new lives, just the three of us, no social workers involved.
Robbie got up a bit grumpy and very tired as last night he went to bed two hours later than usual, but he did OK all morning until he suddenly remembered that he couldn't use his DS, which he lost yesterday as a consequence of hitting us. From then on he started giving me attitude and being really argumentative, which I ignored as best as I could. We ended up leaving quite late for school, both of us in a foul mood.
We had a session with Alice to plan Robbie's therapy. She won't be able to fit him in until next month, though. She said that although tomorrow's day in court should pacify his thinking brain and give him reassurances that he'll stay with us forever, it may not be the case for his emotional brain, which will for many years continue to assume that people are going to give up on him, take things away, and hurt him. She hopes the therapy will enable him to recognise and talk about his feelings until he learns to trust us one day.
Glen went to pick up his mum and I went to pick up Robbie. We stopped in the park for a while and then made it back to the house. He had his snack and then started his homework. He tried to play up and I ignored it all until he was done. Glen and Nanny arrived and Robbie was very happy to see her. He hadn't done his reading yet, so he read for her. Then they watched TV together for a bit. Afterwards Robbie started zapping back and forth between all the kids' channels, which must have driven Nanny insane. I told him to choose a channel and stick to it and he told me that the channels "sucked" so I picked up the remote and switched off the TV. He got a little annoyed, but he knew he shouldn't have said that and soon apologised. He still had a few a little grumpy moments throughout the evening, but nothing major. We played a board game all together for a while and then sat down for dinner. Robbie did his best to delay bedtime, which we didn't mind terribly as he's not going to school tomorrow, but we got there in the end.
My cold got worse overnight and I felt really awful in the morning, so Glen took care of Robbie and I slept in until 11. Glen did chores around the house and Robbie watched TV until lunchtime. He also wrote his goodbye card for Sarah. He wrote "thank you for finding my dads", which we thought was really sweet.
We'd been asked to join our friends Adam and Carla and his sons Spence and Henry for lunch at a pizza restaurant to celebrate Henry's birthday but I felt too ill to go, so Glen and Robbie went on their own. Afterwards they went shopping to find a nice shirt and a pair of trousers for Robbie to wear to court. When they got back, they showed me all their purchases and told me all about their lunch.
It looked like we were going to manage two good days in a row until I sat down to fill in Robbie's after school club form with him. We'd talked to him about it and he's going to go on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after half term, which he'd accepted as something that needs to happen as we're busy at work. However, there'd been some confusion. At school there had been a demonstration for a different after school club where they do lots of fun science experiments and he thought that was the one he'd be going to. I explained that that one is on a Monday and it was full already, but he didn't believe me. He thought we were signing him up for this other one just to annoy him, and he flew into a rage.
He started calling us "losers" and then said that he is a loser. In his anger he slapped Glen's leg, then mine. Glen was furious, and started calling him by his birth parents' names, telling him he was just like them when he lashes out like that. All Robbie could say was that he'll do it again because he can't stop himself. We genuinely don't know if he truly believes that or it's the excuse in his head to justify his actions to himself.
It took ages to calm him down enough to get him into bed. By then it was late and we were all exhausted. One “positive” thing is that I was relieved he’d hit Glen. I know this may sound really perverse, but it showed us that it really isn’t personal and he lashes out at whoever is near him, rather than just me. It’s really sad when you see your partner being hit and you think to yourself: “I’m glad it’s not only me”…
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Between having to move three times and the cold he's had, Robbie hasn't been to his football training this year so far. Because he was still coughing last night, Glen and I decided not to set his alarm for it and if he woke up in time for it we'd take him, if he didn't then he obviously needed the sleep. He didn't get up until 9.45 (football's at 10), so we all had a lie-in. As soon as he came through our door, he headed direct towards me and gave me a big hug. We do this thing where I hug him with my eyes closed and I pretend that I think I'm hugging a teddy bear, and he did that to me this morning, saying I was his teddy bear. I think he knew he'd overstepped the mark yesterday and was seeking to make some repair, which you have to give him credit for. I whispered "I love you" and he did the same.
After a few minutes of playing in bed Glen got him in the shower and we all had breakfast. After that I suggested he should try writing what will be his new surname and he did so despite not being keen on writing. We praised him for him efforts.
While we got ready, Robbie played with his toys on his own for a while. I had an email from a fellow adopter who sent me the summary report from Adoption Today on the Adoption UK conference where Margot Sunderland gave a speech on therapeutic parenting. It was perfectly timed and almost as if she'd been addressing me. She talked about how traumatised children transfer a lot of their experiences, so basically the new parent is hated for what the birth parent did. She recommends not taking it personally and empathising. I loved the bit where she says that even the parents of well-attached children only get it right about a third of the time. It gave me hope and helped me put a lot of Robbie's recent behaviours into perspective.
We'd arranged to go on a shopping trip to find a new shirt and trousers for Robbie to wear in court (all his nice clothes were damp and stayed behind in our house to be sorted) with Jonathan and his son Connor. In the car on the way there, Connor told Robbie all about his own day in court: how the judge wasn't scary at all, let him sit on his chair, and even gave him a teddy bear. Robbie didn't say much, but I could see he was reassured by this.
We spent the afternoon shopping (alas didn't find a court outfit) and then came back. After saying goodbye to Jonathan and Connor, we all sat at the kitchen table. I told Glen what Connor had said and this served as the perfect excuse to talk a bit more with Robbie about his court day and reassure him some more. I reminded Robbie that he can ask anything anytime. We also said we must get thank you cards for the social workers as we may not see them again. We then gave Robbie a special present we’d got while we were shopping. It was a kid’s dinner set. Glen and I saw it in a shop last year before we had Robbie and were very tempted to buy it, but we told ourselves we mustn’t just in case something went wrong. The next time we went to the shop, they didn’t have the set. I recently managed to track one down and get it delivered to a nearby shop, where I sneaked out to get it today. As we told Robbie this story he seemed really touched by it, and he absolutely loves his new dinner set.
Glen went to get a takeaway and Robbie and I watched TV and set the table (using his new plate, of course!). When Glen got back we ate in front of the TV as a treat. Robbie dragged his feet a bit when it came to bedtime, but we got there and, after congratulating him on a really good day, we kissed him goodnight.
It was lovely to get a break and remember what a nice day was like!
Sunday, 6 February 2011
I woke up this morning with a firm resolution to stick to the principle of not getting into arguments with Robbie, and this was soon put to the test. I'd overslept slightly, and instead of getting up at 7, which gives me enough time to run Robbie's bath, I got up at 7.15, his getting up time. I told Robbie that we didn't have time for baths and he could shower instead. In our house he's happy to shower, but he's not had one yet in the step-house and he refused to. Rather than get into an argument I gave him a choice: to shower or not to wash at all. He didn't respond, so I got in the shower instead.
When I finished get dressed I found him on the stairs itching for a fight. I simply told him to get downstairs for his breakfast. He said he wasn't hungry and he was going for a poo. Once again, I gave him a choice: he could have breakfast with me then or not have breakfast at all. He chose to go to the loo.
After finishing in the loo, he asked for his cereal. I reminded him that he'd chosen not to have it, but said he could have an orange juice if he wanted to. He tried the usual, "you don't like me" stuff, which I completely ignored, and a couple of minutes later he joined me at the table and had his juice. He takes a pot of fruit to school and they eat fairly early, so I knew he wouldn't starve. He seemed to be in a good mood when I dropped him off at school.
I had a brief chat with his teacher to plan our day in court and manage his name change. He'll be off school that day and the idea is that the following morning we'll send him in with a picture or two from the courtroom so he can talk about it if he wants to. If he doesn't want to, then she'll tell the rest of the class about Robbie's special day and his new surname, so they can all get used to using it.
When I picked him up after school, we drove to the hairdresser's. Whilst he was having his haircut, I had a phone call from Miranda. I'd texted her after our meltdown on Wednesday but she hadn't got the message until then. I told her things were better now but we wanted to sort out the therapy as soon as possible. She agreed. We also agreed to meet directly in court next week and I told her we'd just be having a small celebration back in the house. She agreed that it's the best thing not to involve lots of people.
I decided that the phonecall from Miranda was the perfect excuse to tell Robbie about the date for our day in court, so as soon as we were finished at the hairdressers I excitedly told him about it. I made a point of looking really pleased so he could mirror my mood, but he didn't react at all. He just nodded. This is where I made the first of a long series of mistakes. I let his detachment get to me. I wanted him to be pleased and he didn't seem to be, which hurt me. I should have let him digest the news and told him he could ask any questions whenever, but instead I kept going on about it.
I explained that it'll be just the three of us, Phil and Elisabeth (his godparents), Nanny, Miranda, and Sarah. I also told him that this may be the last time that Sarah visits. Stupidly, I asked him how he felt about saying goodbye to Sarah. He said he was sad about it. I replied I was surprised because I didn't think he liked her. "I like her but I don't like her coming over", he said. "Well, she won't any more", I replied. I added that we'll still hear from his siblings through our contact arrangements. He was still completely unemotional and detached. So I kept pushing. I asked him how he felt about going to court. "I don't feel anything". "oh, so you're not pleased that we'll finally be a forever family?", I asked. "I don't feel anything", he repeated. I don't know what came over me, but I just wouldn't let it go. I guess it was the disappointment of his reaction not meeting my expectations. I kept asking until he got really angry with me.
He stormed off into the house ahead of me. Glen asked Robbie why he looked so angry, but he refused to answer. I explained "the good news" and how Robbie wasn't pleased about it. Robbie became quite unsettled, kept shouting he won't go to the court and he'll tell the judge he doesn't want to be adopted by us, and walked off. We gave him a few minutes to calm down. When we went upstairs to check on him he was doing his homework, bless him. He clearly wanted to do something to please us, as he never does it of his own accord.
Glen knows Robbie doesn't like to talk about feelings when asked directly and he opens up better if you talk to him whilst doing something else, so he went up to our improvised playroom and together they set up Robbie's train track. While they did so, Robbie told Glen that he was worried about going to court, asked him if we know the judge, who else will come... At the end of the conversation Glen promised him that when we get back to our house he can use some of his office space in the loft conversion as a play area, and suggested a takeaway. Then, when they came down, Glen disappeared downstairs. This made me cross for a number of reasons: first, the play area and takeaway are something we've discussed before and he didn't say "Dad and I have decided", but passed it off as his own idea (Glen = good cop). Also, whenever I have a chat with Robbie, I always tell him that together we're going to tell Glen what we've talked about, so that there aren't any secrets,. Glen didn't extend me the same courtesy.
Robbie came to find me to finish reading his book, which we did. When it was over, I asked what he and Glen had talked about in the playroom. He claimed he couldn't remember. This made me cross and he could see it in my eyes, so he stormed off. When he got downstairs Glen asked him why he was angry, and Robbie refused to explain to Glen, so Glen ignored him.
At dinner Robbie still refused to say what Glen and he had talked about. Glen didn’t want to tell me himself because he thought Robbie should be the one to tell me. I changed subject and asked Robbie what he did at school. He refused to tell me that too, even though he knew that would mean he wouldn't get a sticker for it. While he ate, his shirt sleeve kept dragging on his buttered piece of bread and I asked him to be careful with it, but he ignored me. I picked up the piece of bread and chucked it on Glen's empty plate, which Robbie interpreted as a threat. Immediately, he went into a rage and threw his napkin at me.
I shouted at Robbie that I will not be attacked in my own home and walked off. I was truly furious. So much so that when Robbie came to apologise I wasn't ready to accept it and he became quite upset again. Glen had a chat with him and he tried to apologise again, this time with Glen. I accepted the apology and they told me a little about their conversation. I was still seething from Robbie's "attack" and it was obvious to Robbie, though. He said I must hate him. I replied I don't, but added that judging by what he says and how he treats me, he must hate me. Robbie stormed off one more time. Glen, who'd taken a while to calm him down, wasn’t best pleased with me.
Glen got Robbie ready for bed. He convinced him to come and say goodnight, but when he came into the room I ignored him. I know was being petty, but I couldn't stand the sight of him right then. I was really struggling to keep it together. The last few days have been so hard and I just felt like Robbie's punchbag. He stormed off one more time and Glen put him to bed. Robbie told him that he thinks I hate him.
A few minutes after Glen put him to bed I went into his bedroom and kissed him goodnight. I said I loved him and he said he loved me too. After that, Glen and I had a huge argument for the next two hours. I told Glen I'm just not going to put up with being hit any more, because it's destroying me. I feel worthless being treated like that. Glen thinks I scare Robbie when I do things like taking his bread away and that by rising to his outbursts instead of ignoring him I make Robbie go into "fear mode", which is when he attacks.
All in all, another miserable day. I went to bed wondering how I could face Robbie in the morning. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to even smile at him. I love him so much, yet I feel like a victim of domestic abuse. Only my attacker is a 7-year-old whom I can't stand up to, reject, or walk away from.
Friday, 4 February 2011
I was still feeling full of cold this morning and Glen’s much better, so he got up to get Robbie ready for school. They had an “amicable” breakfast. Robbie refused to eat much, so Glen told him from now on he’s not going to get into a fight with him. He can choose to eat it or leave it, but he won’t be given alternative choices. They also had a chat. Glen reminded him that we know he’s a good boy but also told him he mustn’t hit me again. Robbie said to him that I really did scratch him. I got up just before they left. I looked like death barely warmed up, and Robbie gave me a look of pity. I gave him a big hug. Then I asked him if he really thought I’d hurt him on purpose. He shook his head. We talked about how at the time when it happened he was struggling with me and as I put him down I must have scratched him by accident. For this I apologised, but I reiterated that it was not on purpose. We had another hug and he seemed fine. I told him that because he’d hit me and threatened me he wouldn’t have his Wii or DS for the day, which he accepted. I asked him if he meant it yesterday when said he didn’t want to go to beavers. He he replied that he didn’t. I said that because I know he’s a good boy, when he got back from school I’d give him a chance to earn being able to go to beavers by doing a job for me, so it was up to him whether to do it or not.
Glen took him to school and I rang Alice and updated her on the situation. She agrees we need to get Robbie in and we’ve scheduled a meeting for next Monday to discuss how we’ll go about it. Now that we’ve got the adoption order we don’t need any permission.
We received a text from Annie, Robbie’s foster carer. She says she understands completely why they can’t be at the day in court (I suspect they wouldn’t have been able to come anyway) and hopes the day goes well.
Glen picked Robbie up from school. Robbie wasn’t too pleased that Glen had walked to the school and therefore they had to walk back (now that we live nearer it’s “doable” in half an hour – we suspect there probably is a shortcut somewhere as well) but he didn’t flare up. As soon as he came in he had his snack and then did his homework and reading quickly so that he’d have enough time to do the job I’d planned for him and still make it to beavers. The job was to unpack our boxes of DVDs that we salvaged from our house and put the ones he thought he might like to watch on a shelf, nice and tidy. This he did well (with me on a supervisory role) and as a reward he was allowed to go to beavers.
When they got back Robbie was exhausted, so he had a quick cheese on toast (Alice reminded us to pick our battles and it’s more important for Robbie to realise that we can have good days than for him to eat a piece of fish leftover from last night as we’d originally planned) and then he was off to bed. I made a point of stressing how much nicer it was to go to bed like this…
So there’s hope. We can have good days again. What we mustn’t do again is be fooled by the return of the good days, however long they last, and assume that Robbie knows how to manage his anger now. The therapy will go ahead. I guess part of me was reluctant to take him to therapy before because I worried that the message it sends to Robbie is “yes, there is something wrong with you”. But at the end of the day he needs help and both he and we know it.
I feel really bad that I wrote that adoption felt like it was a big mistake yesterday. I was feeling so low and rejected by Robbie. It was a very dark moment. We’ll always stand by Robbie. He is our son.