29 10 2011

“Mummy” says LML,

“I” she points to her chest,

“Love” she spreads her hands over her chest,

“You” she points to GM and ends with a dazzling smile.

Nursery blues

11 03 2010

Lolly is starting to attend nursery, and she is currently doing short(ish) visits building to 2 days a week.  She will be joining the ‘baby room’ at the nursery that LML attends, so she is familiar with the general environment (if not that particular room) and many of the staff.  Last week she was left for half an hour one day, then for about 5o minutes a couple of days later.  There were no tears, and she seemed to be taking it all in her stride.

Today was the first day that she went to stay whilst LML was at nursery.  LML spotted GM and Lolly making their way through the nursery room to the baby room almost right away.  They all said hello, exchanged kisses and hugs and GM explained that Lolly was going to spend some time in the baby room today and mum and dad would be back later to collect them both.

As soon as the pair went into the baby room, LML became utterly and completely distressed, throwing herself out of the arms of her carer; inconsolable.  This is a familiar experience for GM, but it was clear that she does not often behave like this at nursery.  Lolly was oblivious to the grieving sibling in the next room, desperately trying to claw her way into the room, though the door and the round window that the children can see through.  As soon as she was allowed into the baby room LML miraculously cheered up and she was soon exploring the space and playing with her sister.

When it was time for GM to leave the children it was agreed that LML would be allowed to choose whether she remained in the room with her sister or would go back into the main room of the nursery.  She opted to stay in the baby room.  GM gave them both a kiss goodbye, told them that she and daddy would return later and left the two children happily playing.

An hour and 50 minutes later the mostly functioning parents arrived back at the nursery and were greeted by LML’s shrieks of delight.  “Mummeee!  Daddeee!” resounded across the main room as soon as they entered.  They were told that after a little while LML was persuaded out of the baby room and happily played in the main room for the remainder of the day.

As CD and GM entered the baby room it rapidly became apparent that all was not well there.  CD immediately took the distraught Lolly from her key worker but as soon as she saw GM her wails of distress increased.  GM took her in her arms “We’re here Lolly, we’re here” she chanted as she tried to listen to the clearly frazzled key worker.  Lolly was inconsolable, hiccuping and sobbing her distress.  Eventually GM maneuvered around the key worker and found a sofa to sit on, and settling face to face with Lolly she rocked and soothed, cuddled and reassured the child until she began to calm.  As soon as the key worker began to talk to GM again, Lolly burst into fresh floods of tears, but GM could see that she had regained enough equilibrium to be soothed with rocking and cuddles and did not immediately need her full attention.

GM began to listen properly to what the key worker was saying

“She was ok to start with, just a few little moments of unhappiness, but lots of playing and fun in between;  I took her outside when she got upset and that seemed to do the trick.” she said as GM stroked Lolly, and rocked her back and forth,

“But she wouldn’t eat much of her tea and really started to get upset then.”  the key worker continued.  GM listened, looking from the key worker, to show she was attending, and back to Lolly to gain eye-contact and reassure her that she was there for her.

“As I said, she was ok at first and has only really been crying for this last bit, since tea-time.” the key worker shrugged and half smiled “it has to be done” she said, “to settle her in.  She’ll get there”.  Lolly’s little body was still shuddering a bit, but she was calmer, just hiccuping a little.

“It’s been about a third of the time she was here, that she’s been upset” the key worker explains “mostly just since tea-time..”

A little part of GM froze .. mostly since tea time .. her little girl has been crying for 30 or 40 minutes?  Inconsolably crying?

Internally she is has to steel herself, but it does not feel right …  It does ‘have to be done’, as GM will be returning to work within a couples of months, but she doesn’t want it to be so hard for her little girl.

It occurs to GM later, as she discussed it all with CD, that although they have been educating ‘the nursery’ about some of the issues that can arise for adopted and looked after children, this has not been directed at the baby room.  She had assumed some basic level of understanding of attachment, trauma and loss that actually should not be assumed.

GM knows that Lolly is not going to be less upset at being left, if the nursery staff in that room have a better understanding of what the 2 year old might be experiencing or feeling.  But some understanding has clearly helped other staff feel more empathy for LML, and Lolly needs that same chance.

Let the process of education begin … again.


Screaming Banshees

1 09 2009

It’s been a while since we posted. The last few weeks have been hard work. Little Sis has settled in really well and has attached to us better than we could have expected. Where we have had to work hard is with Little Miss Loud, who transformed from the beautiful, funny, cheery child we knew so well into a relentless and merciless bully. Slapping, kicking, shouting and jumping on Little Sis at every opportunity she created a tension that has made each day a trial, a battle of wits, as we have fended off the blows and comforted the often screaming Little Sis.

It was distressing to see that one of the first things Little Sis learnt at her new home was a flinch reflex.

This has tested the Mostly Functional parents beyond anything they had anticipated. It has been hard to provide rational, thought out responses, to LML’s behaviour when Little Sis was in tears for sixth or seven time in an hour.

So what has changed?

The mostly functional parents have got better at heading the more serious confrontations off, Little Sis has toughened up (a little) and LML has started to enjoy the company of new sister. The random attacks haven’t ceased, they’re just less frequent, with less intent to hurt and are now interspersed with play between to two siblings.

For the fist time in weeks the Mostly Functional parents feel able to leave the children in a room together with some confidence that LML will not be making an immediate attack on Little Sis. They still listen for the tell tale sounds of LML’s rushing feet, but they no longer have to hurry to get back in the room, with the cloth or snack that they wanted; they no longer have to remove Little Sis every time they want to do something in another room and are getting better at reading the warning signs or stress and irritation in both children.

It’s been hard because LML’s development delay means that she doesn’t have to spoken or emotional language to express her feeling about this interloper in her world. The problem parents have had to find ways of communicating with her which acknowledges her feelings and reassures her that their love for her has not diminished. They are still learning this, and are beginning to think it may be a lifetime’s work.

It feels like progress is slow and painful, and the Mostly Functional parents need to remind themselves that Little Sis only came home 2 months ago, and just a few despairing weeks ago, they couldn’t see how things could improve so much in such a short time.

There are unanticipated consequences to the glasnost that is developing of course. Today Crap Dad was woken by LML and Little Sis playing their new favourite game with each other at the bottom of the stairs – screaming at each other at a tremendous volume. It’s not the most pleasant way to be woken up, but it’s so much better than than the wailing wake up call of just a few short weeks ago.

Repetition: the things we say .. over and over and over,

7 07 2009

Please don’t hit your little sister

It’s not nice to poke Little Sis in the eye

That’s lovely playing with Little Sis

When you hurt Little Sis it makes mummy and daddy sad


Stop! LML just stop!

Well done for playing so nicely with Little Sis

Why did you do that?

Look what you have done

That’s good sharing LML

I don’t understand what you want Little Sis

Look you’ve made her cry, she wasn’t doing anything to you and you’ve made her cry.

Oh what a lovely kiss

Be gentle with Little Sis

That’s a really good attempt at feeding Little Sis

Would you like a cuddle?

You really need to stop throwing things at Little Sis

Oh! For gods sake!

The slumber of babes

5 07 2009

It’s 11 am and LML slumbers in her mothers arms.

As she drifts away, she wonders why mummy and daddy are so grumpy. And what is it with this ‘Little Sis’ creature – when is she going back to the car that used to come with her?

She sucks her thumb and snuggles into the ample breast of Mummy. All the colours and sounds of the farmers market flicker through her memory, and with the images come the feelings – the desire to touch everything, the urge to run from one interesting thing to the next. The need to be picked up for a better view, to be put down, to get closer – to touch oh to touch, to taste, to feel. The frustration, the familiar sensation of the arched back, the arms pushing against daddy – ‘put me down put me down’ but he doesn’t understand.

Flick flick flick … it’s earlier, she has been sitting on mummy’s knee, thumb in mouth, the comfort of ‘suck’, a familiar DVD. She feels safe and content. Mummy goes away and returns with the ‘Little Sis’ . The Little Sis is funny and she laughs at her and mummy smiles at her and gives her a kiss, then mummy goes away again. The Little Sis crawls after Mummy, who calls out in a sing song voice “Little Sis, Little Sis, breakfast time”. She’s feels confused; breakfast time was ages ago, we’ve done that, she goes to see what is happening. Mummy is making something special for the Little Sis – not the same as her own breakfast – anticipation comes next – the Little Sis is going to go to the special chair, and Mummy will sit with her. The frustration bursts out and the item she is holding flies through the air, and she has Mummy’s attention again for a moment. “yaberyabberblahblah” she repeats back to her Mummy, who laughs (agreeing that she does sound like that).

Flick flick … Mummy is not looking at her, even though she is smiling and chattering. Mummy is looking at the Little Sis, she is laughing and smiling. Putting a spoon in the mouth of Little Sis. ‘My Mummy!’ she thinks and goes behind the special chair. Mummy smiles and talks to her and then her attention is gone again. She moves around to the other side of the chair, and Mummy offers her some of the special food .. it feels lumpy and slimey and isn’t good – Mummy has given her nasty food – the Little Sis is eating it – she pushes her hand in the Little Sis’s face, and is told to go away by Mummy.

Flick .. frustration, loss, confusion – you will take notice of me. Mummy bats the shoe out of the air and jumps up out of her seat. Yes! But she is marched into the other room and told to stay there and mummy leaves again. A bursting anger, escaping as a high pitched scream and then tears, and only when she is feeling spent does Mummy return. Daddy comes too, and he holds her in his arms and talks to her in his soothing voice, and the feeling of safety and contentment returns.

As she drifts into a deeper sleep, she feels the kiss on the top of her head, senses the arms holding her safely and hears the steady beat of her Mummy’s heart.

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