In Weekend in focus I review the weekend and look at our therapeutic parenting successes and failures, with the aim of learning something each time.
Win, win, win
Friday night was about celebrating successes.
Joanna has been going to football club on a Friday night since January. She seems to have a bit of a talent for it, if I say so myself. And this week after school we watched her save two penalties. She was astonishing. I cheered. (Perhaps a bit too loudly, but I don’t care.) Afterwards the coach said ‘Did you see her in goal? She’s really good! I beamed and agreed. (Possibly too enthusiastically again. Never mind.)
While Joanna was in ‘official’ football training, me and my mum sat nearby, and Charlotte and two of her classmates had their own unofficial training. I’ve never seen Charlotte play like this before, but she was dribbling round trees like a pro and tackling a boy from her class like she’d been doing it for years. I was impressed. I can see her joining her sister next year (our after-school clubs are only open to year 1 and above).
We got home from school and opened their book bags. Joanna had suddenly remembered that she’d been made ‘Pupil of the Week’ at school. Wow.
Let’s rewind to the autumn term to explain what an achievement this is for her. Having experienced too many major goodbyes in her life already, she – quite understandably –
hated the transition from reception to year 1. Hated saying goodbye to her teacher, hated moving classrooms, hated all the extra expectations that were placed on her in terms of explicit learning rather than the learning-through-play she was used to. Her teacher was new to the school so it wasn’t someone she’d had a chance to get used to, and she was also very young and inexperienced, unlike the veteran reception teacher who oozed wisdom and confidence. So she showed all this by refusing to join in with lessons. By screaming and shouting. By hitting/biting/kiching the teacher and TA most days for about six months.
But in the last fortnight something seems to have clicked for her. I’m not sure if it’s that she has finally got used to the routine, or that she has built a really solid attachment to her LSA, who has been with her almost all day, every day at school since November, or whether us copying the daily schedule she has at school (details here) throughout half term helped her settle… but whatever it is, it seems to be working.
Charlotte had also come home with a certificate for earning ten merit points during the week. She doesn’t seem to know what she earned them for – she lives in her own little bubble a lot of the time – but she was duly rewarded as well. I’d already bought Joanna a new football and Charlotte a toy broom (her choice) on Friday in recognition of how hard they’ve been trying, and am really pleased that school recognised and rewarded it too.
The girls had their usual Friday night pizza (a tradition in our house) and Pete and I basked in the warm glow of pride in our girls.
Consumption and construction
On Saturday morning Pete took the girls out for an all-you-can-eat breakfast – another reward for their achievements. I went back to sleep for an hour and then worked until they came in at 11.30. Charlotte bounded up to give me a cuddle and in her enthusiasm headbutted me hard on the nose. Ouch.
Earlier in the week I’d bought Pete a Lego double-decker couch (from The Lego Movie, a big favourite around here), so making that was next on the agenda. Charlotte lost interest very quickly, but Pete and Joanna enjoyed it a lot.
Charlotte and the biscuit cache
After lunch, Pete saw Charlotte attempting to sneak upstairs with the bottom part of her T-shirt folded up – obviously hiding something inside. He asked what she was carrying. ‘Nothing.’ Hmm. He discovered a couple of biscuits in there, and asked where she’d got them from. Our tub of biscuits was on top of our fridge-freezer, well out of Charlotte’s reach, and he was concerned that she’d climbed up on the kitchen worktop to get them. No. Evidently she had taken them earlier, because she led Pete to her little cache of biscuits, hidden on the shelf where we keep all the girls’ colouring books and stationery.
It’s not the first time she’d taken something without asking, and we don’t really mind her having a few biscuits. But having read stories of adopted children for whom hoarding food becomes a big issue, alarms were set off in my head.
Charlotte is forever pilfering bits and pieces, both at home and at school. Not the classic ‘I want something that’s special to you to keep with me while we’re apart’ sort of pilfering that you read about a lot in adopted kids, but just little tactile objects like coins, bits of Lego, anything small enough to hide in a pocket and put in her mouth. She’s a sensory-seeking kinda girl and loves chewing things. (Yes, we have tried giving her chewing toys (these ones). They just don’t seem to do it for her.)
Anyway. While I read up on how to handle the food-hoarding, the girls played in the garden with Joanna’s new football and we had half an hour of (relative) peace before dinner. Bliss. They got completely covered in mud, of course, but nothing the washing machine and a bath couldn’t handle. Then Joanna got soap in her eyes and that was the end of the world. Never mind that she’d been putting bubbles in Charlotte’s face. They were now in hers and that was cause for a big meltdown. She was not going to put her pyjamas on, she didn’t want a cuddle with Pete, she definitely wasn’t interested in doing any calming-down breathing. So Pete left her in her room to calm down (not many other options when she just wants to fight him) and when the volume had decreased a bit I went in and did the sit-her-on-my-lap-and-talk-quietly-until-she’s-regulated thing.
Less drama on Sunday. We managed a bit of a lie-in while the girls played, and headed off to church at 10.30. I’ve learned to provide Charlotte with plenty of sensory input (bouncing on my knee, backscratches, anything rhythmic) to keep her regulated when we’d like her to sit quietly with us, and she did pretty well at staying still-ish and quiet-ish for the 25 minutes until it was time for the children to go out to their groups.
Home for lunch, and again, all was calm. No complaints about leaves on her plate (never popular with Charlotte). Other than during church, the girls had been listening to their iPods all morning (that purchase was one of my best ideas ever) and so they sat around quite happily and we enjoyed the quiet… until Joanna’s headphone cable broke. She was devastated (that’s the second of her Christmas presents she’s broken in the last few days). There was wailing. Pete got cross with her for breaking them (she likes to twiddle the cable when she’s wearing them, while Charlotte, of course, chews hers). I looked up the online reviews for these particular headphones and disovered they are prone to doing this, so consoled her by giving her an old pair of in-ear ones that came with an old phone of mine. But arrrgh. I do expect children to break a certain amount of stuff – they haven’t yet learned how to be gentle with things – but it is still a bit galling when it’s just one broken toy after another.
Anyway. Replacement headphones provided, she happily watched several episodes of Octonauts in her room, while Charlotte fell asleep in hers. Thus we whiled away the afternoon and – shock – read our books in a quiet house with the children present! It was really lovely – the way Sunday afternoons should be!
Naturally the idyll didn’t last all evening. After dinner Joanna suddenly wanted to talk about her birth family and was upset about a sibling she misses (they only have letterbox contact for various reasons). That was hard. I know it’s the right decision for them but they are both innocent parties and were very close. All I can say to her is that I have some understanding of how rubbish she must feel, that’s it’s OK to miss each other, and how about we write a letter and draw a picture soon?
After we’d said goodnight I came downstairs and made her a hot water bottle to comfort her. I went back up with it, but she was already asleep, so I just tucked it in beside her. Even if it’s cold by the time she finds it, it shows her I was thinking of her and I’m doing what I can to help.
- football in the garden without arguing!
- iPods for a quiet life (most of the time)
- remembering to give Charlotte sensory input at church
- not being entirely sure how to handle the biscuit-hoarding
- I’ll provide some new CBeebies programes for their iPods (we haven’t added anything since Christmas and it might buy us an extra hour’s peace and quiet)
- we’re thinking of providing a tin of snacks so there’s no need to hoard anything
Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to read your comments.