Are we nearly there yet?

21 Nov

After 5 years, it feels like this therapeutic parenting lark may finally be starting to filter through.

It isn’t easy and I am still guilty of wandering from the gold-paved path. It’s a very conscious way of parenting and is the antithesis of my instinctive style.

This mindful approach sends streams of information to my head that make it explode. It gets messy in there. It means I can think no further ahead than the next small chunk of time. It means I have to forego my morning crankiness and my grumbling of succinct greetings. It means I have to inhale caffeine at some ungodly hour just to muster up the strength to tackle the potential shiz that may be thrown at me.

But, as with any …erm…hobby, practice makes perfect!

I am far from perfecting this method of parenting but with each day I am finding that it is becoming less of an uphill struggle and more a series of small climbs. I am seeing the benefits and – dare I say – getting a glimpse of the rewards.

For those who don’t know what therapeutic parenting is: In a very teeny-tiny nutshell – it’s a nurturing approach that involves routine and firm boundaries imbued with empathy and compassion. It involves recognising and understanding the root causes of behaviours.

Though, mostly, it does feel like there’s a fine line between being a concerned, supportive parent and being a downright sucker.

Our children are often seen as “naughty”. They lie, manipulate, refuse to do as they are told, adopt a rude tone and appear controlling. Even when tackled and even if the child appears to grasp the “rules” of the house/school, they will often repeat their behaviours time and time again. They often have little or no understanding of cause and effect. But the roots lie buried in their traumatic early years.

Standard behaviour systems simply don’t work with our children. And certainly “shaming” techniques and removing privileges only serve to compound their feelings of shame and lack of self-worth, sending them into an enduring cycle of chaotic behaviour.

On Thursday morning, Pickle left the house just ahead of me. He swung his leg back to kick a twig on the floor and inadvertently wellied me in my bony shin. I bent down to grab my shin, making no sound, conscious that any rebuke would have a detrimental effect on his mood. But it seemed that even the innocent motion of bending down to nurse the throb was enough to reinforce any embarrassment, shame or whatever it was he was feeling at that moment.

Quick to explain that it was an accident, I reached out to place a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

Too late.

He was salivating with spite towards me, screaming that I shouldn’t have been behind him. The now blazing ball of fire thumped the car – and himself – and shot out a rapid and repetitive barrage of “I wish I was dead”.

No amount of cajoling, bargaining or distracting has an effect at this stage. The only tactic is to ignore and carry on with mock cheerfulness, knowing that any verbal intervention will simply serve to contribute to one almighty backdraught.  I have to allow his fiery plumes to die down on their own so that he can regain control.

However – abandoning my querulous self-pitying – I have to admit that his bend-it-like-Beckham moment with its sweltering consequences has been the only lemon that he has thrown at us this week.

We have had a curiously level-tempered seven days.

I am wary of projecting these words on-screen as, no doubt, they will jump out and bite my (unfeasibly small – ahem!) tushy in the coming days.

Maybe it’s a blip, maybe we really are becoming more focused in our parenting approach, maybe – just maybe – we are inching forward again.

It’s a fragment of hope and I’m clinging to it for the sake of my crumbling sanity.


Pickle’s Profound Philosophy (3)

17 Nov

Today, Pickle’s teacher asked the children what was special about each of their families.

Pickle apparently responded with:

“My family gave up their time to adopt me. Without them, I would have nobody to love….and nobody to talk and laugh with!

Whoa, he kills me!!

At least, I’m disguising my floundering parenting skills well!



Antsy? Not ‘Arf!

12 Nov

No one person’s problems are any greater or lesser than our own, since fundamentally everything is relative!

My ‘tough shit’ is written here….in this little padded cell in cyberspace that I’ve claimed for myself, yet share publicly. This space is my psychiatrist’s couch. It’s where I lie; it’s where I spew guff; it’s where I whingebag my way through life; it’s my space to say what I like when I like and drink as much virtual gin (my new tipple of choice: Brockman’s Gin – Try it!!) as I like without having to suffer the intoxicating after-effects.

Right now, I am feeling frustrated. We’ve hit somewhat of an impasse in the Permanently Pickled Household. And I’m buggered if I know which way to turn.


Actually, to be honest, I’m feeling downright fecked off, Dr. T’internoob!

I lay awake last night pondering the TAC meeting that we had a couple of months ago. Going over what was said, what wasn’t said. Going over how I personally felt in the meeting.

Feeling the defensiveness and sensitivity rising up and overwhelming me and having to bottle it up while the professionals battled over who has more experience, who can blind who with their semantics, and who has the busier diary! And all I wanted to scream was this is a child, a child who doesn’t understand compliance once his mist descends, a child who will not conform to the ideals of your theory books!

Listen to me! But I stayed quiet for fear of being the inflexible, irate and witless harpy that I invariably am these days.

I listened to them preach to me about healthy eating, exercise, and yes….rewards and consequences (was that an audible scoff from the adoption community??). I was asked about my parenting and about how we are helping to control Pickle’s weight.


I. Am. Frustrated. I have been festering on this for weeks.

Can you tell, I’m frustrated?

We had a brilliant summer in terms of Pickle’s behaviour this year. Given the huge changes that took place prior to the summer and during this summer, this was somewhat of an achievement.

Grandma passed away after a long illness. He was a rock. As ever, we were unable to predict his exact response. But this time he shone. Or had we raised our game of patience? Probably both.

Prior to the end of the last school term, Pickle was removed from his ‘mainstream’ class and placed unofficially in the Moderate Learning Difficulties division. Unofficially because he doesn’t have an EHCP. He has taken the non-existent 11th place in a class of 10!

I will be completely candid. On being notified of Pickle’s move to the MLD division, I was beyond gutted! I broke my heart crying and felt like I had let him down. There is no doubt that there is an underlying capability that will allow him to do well in mainstream education. But his hypersensitivity and hypervigilance make it difficult for him to concentrate, to relax, to function, to co-exist with others without eagle-eyed adults pre-empting his every move.

He is followed around the playground!! This week he attempted to escape the playground. As would I if I were faced with such totalitarian constraints.

Not long before his transition to the MLD I had been posting about how well he was doing. So well in fact that the TAC team had decided to cut back on the meetings. We were spending our time discussing his achievements as opposed to any negative issues.

So what happened? I have my theories, I know my child. I had a plethora of information in my head that helps me understand what is going on for him. I have the supportive words of many other adopters, carers and birth parents going through similar issues. But to lambast at this stage is not going to move things forward.

Over the summer, we had our first meeting with CAMHS and Pickle has subsequently undergone the QB test for ADHD. We still don’t have the results!


We have purported referrals for speech and language, the educational psychologist, and occupational health.


He has seen a physiotherapist for his gait, though we have had no feedback from her supposed visit to school, of which the school have no record.


I am still awaiting the minutes from the TAC meeting. As well as the TAC plan and its concomitant timescales.


I’m sure you get the general gist of how I’m feeling!!! And, to boot…I’m at an age when you really shouldn’t be messing with my tolerance levels. Even my see-sawing hormones are frantically trying to escape my crabby body.


So here I sit, weltering in my cul-de-sac, with my Brockman’s gin and current malignant loathing of the system, planning which of my prey to attack first!


Holy Crap!

29 Jun

By now, it will come as no surprise to you that change affects Pickle’s ability to self-regulate. This is common is children with attachment issues. Pickle is basically a slave to his impulsivity, he has a lack of control over his emotions and over his responses to the emotions of others.

One thing I failed to mention in my Trouser-gate rant last week was that there have been several changes going on in the Permanently Pickled household recently.

The main one being that my mother-in-law is becoming increasingly unwell (see The Big C). This has meant that we have had to travel 3 hours south most weekends, disrupting the usual weekend grind. On one occasion, I travelled down alone at short notice without having the opportunity to speak to the boys before I left.

Family was called in to help at the last minute.

Superficially, Pickle often shows little in the way of what most would consider ‘obvious’ anxiety. In fact many people would unwittingly believe that he is über-confident. I have seen this described in attachment theory as “low self-esteem with a big ego”; the perfect description for Pickle.

Pickle’s anxieties tend to bubble away underneath, slowly simmering and then ultimately exploding like a violent sneeze, except more prolonged and far messier!

One of his (many) latest attention-needing behaviours which appears to have superseded the former forehead-smashing against brick walls – which, quite frankly, I feel like doing myself at times – is, quite simply, running!

Yup, he runs.

Just runs.

That’s it!

He runs out of the house, out of the driveway, sometimes down the street. Usually accompanied by a distinctive staccato roar, building to a crescendo of disparaging chants.

Prior to Trouser-gate and during my absence, there was a perfect Pickle moment at school, which involved a Usain-type bolt out of the classroom… almost out of school – had it not been Pickle-proofed!

The trigger? Who knows! A pen tapping? The need for the teacher’s immediate attention? Sitting in the ‘wrong’ seat? Usually something seemingly trivial to those of us with secure attachment patterns hardwired in our brains.

So, Pickle does as Pickle does. He decided he had had enough. He was going home!

The teacher admitted to her momentary panic before realising there was no Tom, Dick or Harry tunnel leading under the school playground – well, not to her knowledge. (I believe a group of our older children know differently).

Remembering our conversations from the ‘Team Around the Child’ meetings, she remained firm, ignored the outburst and allowed him to make his under 10-second dash….to the toilets!

There, he resolutely locked himself away…for the best part of 4 hours!

I wish this were an exaggeration.

However, the four-hour sit-in did stretch over lunch hour and those of you who know Pickle personally, will be far from stunned to hear that he broke from this steadfast protest to feed his forever-famished face.

Stuffed to the gills, he then stubbornly went back to his self-locked sanctuary!

What his protest was about, nobody was quite sure.

One thing is certain, Pickle has bat-like senses when it comes to rumblings of restlessness in the ranks. Even the most minor of changes can still elicit seemingly irrational and extreme behaviours.

When I arrived back from visiting my mother-in-law, we lay together on the “Bladder Bag” (Pickle’s word for the Buddha Bag. Call me cruel but I haven’t corrected him) and talked about what had happened.

After much coaxing, he opened up by saying, “I don’t like it when you go away, Mummy. When you go away I think you’re going to die. And I’m scared our love will end.”

Suppose, both he and I had better get used to many more privy protests!


16 Jun

7 a.m. and the bottles of Rosey in my belly basement started to rattle with despair and morbid dread, but I maintained poise and was the epitome of fake inner calmness.

“These trousers are scruffy. I look like an idiot. Everybody is going to laugh at me”.

The brand-new school trousers bought to replace the hole-ridden pair that have been flapping around his ankles for the past few months were scapegoated in this morning’s rather baffling outburst.

Pickle had woken up in a grump. Nothing was going to be right today.

His ever-growing defiance in the face of my often overly dogmatic ideals is becoming a challenge and a half!

It was literally a trouser-duel-at-dawn!!

The shiny new, downtrodden trousers, which were so looking forward to their debut playground outing, were simply cast aside with rude disdain while the tattered and worn pair cackled their victory with their large mouth-like holes.

The trousers were off the hook. Of course, they were. They weren’t going to steal all the glory. This wasn’t about the trousers; this was a Pickle morning. Albeit a more prodigious one!

The trouser rumpus, turned into a breakfast rumpus, turned into a teeth-brushing rumpus. You get the idea!

So after Pickle’s preferred approach of choosing to sit on the top step of the stairs screaming, “I don’t want to go to school. School is boring. I would rather have a punishment than go to school’, and after refusing breakfast, refusing to clean his teeth, refusing to put his shoes on, Gherkin and I hopped gaily into the car, birds tweeting around our heads, with a sullen Pickle dragging his shoeless feet behind us.

As the engine started and we set off down the road, Pickle chirped, “I want to brush my teeth”. Well, rats and blimin’ bastardry!!!

Rightly or wrongly, I ignored his request and drove off to school. Explaining that the time had passed in which he could change that particular behaviour but that he could still put his shoes on as a way of rectifying things. However, his recalcitrant nature re-emerged and again he flatly refused to cooperate.

Outside school, there was no way he was getting out of the car. If I wanted him out of the car, I would have to “get the headteacher”. Oh throw me a challenge, please!

Needless to say he got out of the car – without the need for the headteacher -, still shoeless, but now wailing that I was horrid and mean, and that he hated me. I flashed a sublime rictus grin at the passing mother with her perfectly behaved, merrily skipping children and slowly walked towards the school entrance, shoes in hand.

After a few paces, he called me back. The switch had rocked back for a fleeting moment, he put on his shoes as his watery eyeballs leaked down his cheeks.

Once in school, the fist-clenching, growling and head-thumping began. Sadly, that is how I had to leave him….

…with a cuddle, an ‘I Love You’ and in the capable and patient hands of one of his favourite teaching assistants.

And I was left exhausted and wondering…..who exactly wears the trousers around here?

Hug in a Mug

3 Mar

Sipping hot chocolate after a major meltdown, Pickle quietly whispered, “Mummy, sometimes I feel like I’m a really bad person.”

The anger had dissipated, the frustration eased. But the sadness in those words felt like a hand clenching and strangling my stomach. My heart sank. I wanted to have my own meltdown at that very moment.

“I get so angry. I don’t know why. I feel like I’m bad, a really bad person. It makes me want to kill myself”.

For an emotionally immature (not-so-)little man, sometimes I’m in awe of his heightened emotional intelligence. His paradoxical nature baffles, intrigues and saddens me.

We have had a rough few weeks. There have been (too many) difficulties at school. Primarily down to complacency, poor management and inadequate training. Mistakes have been made but after much steam blasting from my ears and many lip-wobbling discussions, plans and strategies* are being put in place and internal issues are being addressed.

“You’re not a bad person. We just have some hard stuff to deal with and together, we’ll make it easier. We need to have to a little bit of patience and buckets of determination”.

“Do you know, Mummy, you’re my happy person?”

We still have a long way to go but, for now, life seems that little bit better with hot chocolate.


*Blog to come

Still Pickled

6 Nov

You may (or may not) have noticed that I have been mentally constipated for the best part of 2 years.

I had been unable to find a laxative to unbung my usual verbosity. It simply dried up.

The urge to run-n-tell has been within me but, in all honesty, I’ve been struggling to form a cohesive blog.

Bah, enough of the scatology. Basically I’ve been crap. Shit, there I go again. Oops and again!

In a nutshell, Things were going well, Pickle was jogging forwards at a sloth’s pace. I started putting more into my work, I got me a shiny new office and a shiny new colleague and I started to feel like a shiny new me. Not just the adoptive mum, with the adopted kid. It felt good, taking time away to focus directly on Pickle’s challenges, proactively tackling them and not simply focusing on the negative thoughts lounging around in my head. I felt like a better parent.

So much has happened over the last 2 years, it difficult to know how or where to begin. There’s no point in going over those past months since life as an adoptive parent is pretty much a haze at the best of times. I will start from the here and now and just type whatever guff spews from my fingertips and hope it makes some semblance of sense. Forgive the lack of coherence until I get back into the blogosphere stride.

Pickle is now in a year 3 pupil. A junior.

New teacher. New classroom. New building. New rules. New expectations. New anxieties. And with these, of course, new behaviours.

Some of his previous behaviours flicker now and then, but on a much lower heat, and they simmer for half the time. Rarely boiling over with the fervid zeal they used to.

His new behaviours have been, at times, rather extreme and, let’s say, different. More short-lived, yet more aggressive. More reasoned, yet more manipulating. More intelligent, yet more desperate. And worst of all, they’ve involved self-harming.

Sitting back, watching your child hurt himself, bang his head against brick wall, thump his own head, cause purposeful friction burns on his knuckles, scratch himself until he bleeds, all while maintaining a neutral expression is possibly one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever had to do. Stressful to say the least.

There comes a point where imbibing the super-human powers found at the bottom of a ‘Cardi bottle simply aren’t enough to turn me into the virago I was hoping.

Time for expert intervention.

First port of call: school. We have called in his new teacher and the SENCO. We have drawn up a CAF and established a Team Around the Child. The first couple of meetings have been promising.

We have had a speech and language assessment. All fine. We have had a referral to parenting support, which was deemed unnecessary due to the progress he has made with us and the techniques and startegies that we already have in place. We have see the paediatrician, who diagnosed “attachment disorder manifesting itself in anxiety and impulsive behaviour”. We have seen family support worker who, as well as being on the academic case to gain as much school intervention as possible, has engaged in play therapy focusing on anger management.

Our final referral, the one I’m dreading, is for CAMHS. We’ve yet to hear back. With the recent negative press in relation to our mental health services and the generally poor feedback from adoptive parents tangled in the CAMHS web, I’m feeling rather unenthusiastic and sceptical.

But since Pickle has fought – and continues to fight – so hard to gain some control over his emotions and behaviours. I will fight even harder to gain him the very best support.

Silent Sunday

15 Jul


14 Jul

7 more school days until the end of term.

“Whoop whoop”, shriek the small things. “Oh, for the L o v e  of  G o d”, shriek I.

7 more school days until I lose my sanity to the unavoidable repeating of the same phrases over and over again, like some oversized demented parrot.

7 more school days until I morph into a human spider, scurrying to the glut of importunate demands thrown at me from every conceivable angle.

After the somewhat disastrous previous holidays back in May, which saw us on a one-way ticket to Meltdownville, I have decided to take a more proactive stance this time around.

I aim to prevent any displays of excited anger and avoid drawing the attention of the mordant masses by completely kowtowing to my little urchins in pursuit of The Easy Life. I have a solid vision of what I wish to accomplish: peace, harmony and general survival.

So, to ensure I don’t suffer at the hands of two small destructive gremlins and find myself strung to an oscillating ceiling fan, I launched myself into a Jacuzzi of Bacardi, with a pen, a diary and the National Trust’s What’s On Guide.

I have planned to fill as many days as possible with as many exhausting activities as possible, rather than stress my cerebral synapses one iota.

It’s the fight or flight response, and although my kids know how to use the microwave and a tin opener, I’m thinking flight probably isn’t the best option when it comes to a 5 year old and a 10 year old.

So fight I shall.

I’m going to burst my bubbles of selfish escape: put down my books, put away my phone, close my laptop and overindulge my kids in time with me. I’m attempting to be going to be FUN MUM EXTRAORDINAIRE for 6 WHOLE WEEKS.

Plenty of outdoor activities. Plenty of fresh air. As much time away from the house as possible in a bid to prevent tedium and the bad behaviour it spawns, which in turn means both kids have a modicum chance of returning to school with all limbs intact and fully functioning.

Obviously, the rain is bound to come and piddle on my parade. If Mother Nature’s pelvic floor lets her – and me – down, you may have to come and retrieve my mutilated body from the blender, and reaffix the dismembered limbs that my charming little soldiers have ripped from each other.

*Bummer. Suddenly realises urgent need for rainy-day contingency plan.

In the meantime, I still have a few empty spaces on my calendar, so if you’d like me to come over and drink your coffee/tea/Bacardi, while my gremlins disable the brakes on your car, short-circuit your electrics, and set fire to your pets, give me a call and I’ll pencil you in.

OR, better still.

If you would like to provide lodgings my über-feral children for a few days – in the name of friendship – that would also work for me.


What are your plans? Are the hols filling you with the same imminent dread, or are you loving the thought of not having to force a fake-cheery morning grin on the school run for the next 6 weeks?


5 Jul

It’s the end of week 4 of pretty much faultless behaviour. *finds penny, picks it up *bites foot off next door’s rabbit.

My elusive absence from the Blogosphere is down to the fact that things have actually been going incredibly well. I KNOOOOOW. Crazy!! So I have been sitting here. Not breathing. Not moving. Not eating. (Have been drinking).

It’s like I’m existing in some kind of space-time continuum. Dare I say: It’s like I’m living a NORMAL life. One where birds twitter around my head, and the smell of freshly baking bread emanates from the oven. That IS normal, right? That’s what y’all have been doing while I have been drowning in the rolling waves of insanity, right?

Yup! It’s the end of week 4 of NO tantrums, NO shouting, NO explicitly aggressive behaviour. Quite frankly, it’s weird. Weird in a good way. But weird all the same.

Feeling slightly awkward with my new NORMAL life, the odd movements I have been making have involved the clenching of shoulders and furrowing of brow. In pure anticipation of the sharp shards of the eggshells puncturing my feet. But nope! Nada! Zilch! My feet are still pretty and scar-free.

Even my own natural captious demeanour hasn’t evoked so much as a grouchy retort or a spade-sized foot-in-the-face.

A couple of weekends ago, we made a snap decision to go and see the foster carers. It was a fantastic day. I no longer felt that I was an interloper, looking in on my own son’s life. All his attachments to them as parental figures seem to have dissolved. As much as he was pleased to see them, he was equally happy to leave and come home. It signified a huge breakthrough.

However, the following day at school did result in Pickle’s fist meeting a small child’s face. Several times. A minor glitch. *lifts rugs, sweeps glitch under.

Pickle seems to have suddenly developed an ability to listen and understand. But more importantly, I’ve been able to reason with him, to talk about his frustrations and he, in turn, has been able to get on top of his anger before lobbing his usual verbal hand grenades.

This more composed behaviour has meant that I’ve been able to spend more time on his learning. From being ‘behind’ in his reading, he has made some great forward strides and, according to his recent school report, “is now meeting expectations”.

Above and beyond his academic development, the words that really puffed my chest out were: “Pickle is a lovely little boy, who is always happy and smiling. He is very kind and has shown a caring aspect to his personality when he has helped other children who have hurt themselves or lost a toy”.

Minor as that may seem, that’s progress!


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