The Confession

Today mum from our Monday blog,  Life on the Frontline, has a confession to make.

I had a really bad dream the night before. My husband was responsible for packing our suitcases before we came home and I spent the rest of our journey home, by Concorde, it’s a dream remember, anxious that he had not packed everything. A bad control freak dream, I know.

confessionThe next day and the last day of our holiday, I started packing early. Sorting the washing into piles, still folding it all, like you do and searching all corners for things we might forget. No cupboards or drawers left unsearched. That’s how I found them. A discarded pair of  undies, in the cupboard under the sink. I immediately, instinctively, pulled the small pair of underpants to my noise. The acrid smell of urine caused my nose to crinkle, extending my nostrils into the cotton. I pulled away quickly but not fast enough to prevent the smell of young boys wee being indelibly placed on my nose. I breathed hard and realised it really was there to stay. I rushed back to my own room to scrub my face and remove the offending smell.

Not long later I confronted Tall, “Why? I need you to be honest with me”

“I thought you would be cross”

I would be proud of you for your honesty, now I’m really cross because you tried to be deceitful.”

I didn’t shout, I didn’t lose it, but I was hugely disappointed and the law was dealt.

The law of our house is, if you are found with wet pants when playing computer games and did not respond to it, or not be honest about it, then computer time is removed.

He sulked, majorly and I felt bad inside, hurt and mean.

I worry about this boy who is now eleven and has the capacity to still wet himself.

My law comes from the heart; I do not want anyone in school to smell what I smelled. I know how harsh the high school can be. I’m trying to teach him to look after himself.

But if I’m honest it runs deeper.

Tonight I confessed to my husband, “I find it hard to trust him”.

It took a lot to say it, but I’ve been thinking it for ages.

The wet pants are not really the soul of this tale; they are insignificant, they were just another straw on the camel’s back. Another moment where I just felt let down by his in ability to tell me what is going on his life. I’m here to help, not to judge, I’m the one who will not be nasty or use name calling. I’ve proved that to him time and time again. So why can’t he do it?

I project us into all sorts of future situations, where he doesn’t truthfully tell me where he’s going or what he’s doing. I run silly worry rings around myself with the major concerns I have. Stealing, smoking, sex, drugs and alcohol all features in my fears.

I understand that as children become teenagers they require more privacy and trust from their parents but for other families this is born from a time when the child has relied on the parent and has been honest and open with them throughout. We just never seem to be able to reach this point with Tall. I constantly feel like he’s trying to get one over on me.

He pretends to be asleep when I check on him at night. I know he’s not.

He pretends to eat all his lunch, and then I find it squished in his school bag.

He told us he was kept behind at school to be praised for his hard work, when really he’d was in trouble and receiving an internal exclusion.

He tells me he likes certain foods when I know he doesn’t.

He tells me he’s done something and then I find out he hasn’t.

There are so many situations that I feel I don’t trust him over and I know he knows it. He knows it and I know that this affects his self esteem.

I try so hard to make him feel confident, praising him, encouraging him, showing him affection, sharing fun moments with him. But every time he acts in a deceitful way, my heart breaks and he knows the disappointment I feel.

I know I have to get over this and move forward for us both and I suppose recognising that there is a problem is the first step. I’ll keep on trying to support him making the right choices and maybe, like many other things, we will move forward eventually.

7 thoughts on “The Confession

  1. Debbie

    I was there with you and the pants. Our daughter used to hide them around her room and at one time put them all in the bin, well at least she dealt with them. We ended up having the agreement by the age of 8 that if wet go change and put straight in washer, no conversation necessary. She didn’t of course but there was a boy in her class who had other toilet issues in class, no more detail needed and the children were awfull to him. After countless conversations with her to the point of just put them in the washer and say nothing, not like she did, she stopped doing it. I think she herself realised one day another child would say something. Now aged11 nearly 12 she’s doing it again, embarrassed by normal womanly marks, no periods as yet though and hiding pants causing arguments because I’m not finding them in the wash. Found a dirty pair in school bag last night, I despair. As an adult who was still wetting at night as a teen I have fully empathised with her, ruled out medical, she sleeps 10 hours dry! She has books on the body, lessons on what’s going on physically but just can’t let go of something so personal. I’m not going to judge I’m a mother of 3 !! Just put them in the wash, is that a lot to ask rather than world war 3 breaking out when I try to look when there’s none left? Any help????

    Reply
  2. Nicola Miller of The Millers Tale

    All of the examples you quote centre upon your boy trying to present an ideal self to you- the person he thinks you want him to be. The tell is your comment that ‘your heart breaks and he knows the disappointment I feel’. That is a heavy burden for a child to bear. The feeling of silent disappointment and let down emanating from a parent can feel brooding, it can make a child from a tough background feel that they cannot trust you because there is always the watchfulness in case one day your disappointment boils over or builds up. They cannot and will not trust that you won’t one day lose control because your feelings, to him, may not come across as ones that you deal with well.

    Can you try to reframe these sins of omission (or lies pr deception, whatever term you choose) as attempts to not deceive you but attempts of a small child to measure up to standards that might be a little high? Standards that (because of his background) you are seeing a little differently?

    I’m a bit uneasy about the pretending to be asleep incident and the way in which you are reframing it as a lack of him being truthful and ‘trying to get one over on you’. I doubt in this case he is. He is just not asleep, that’s all, and pretends to be because he likely thinks this is what you expect and that to find him awake would trouble you., It is also possible that he feels safe in his bed, it is his space and your checking on him is actually something that feels invasive to him. He should, after all, have the freedom to fall asleep when he wants and needs to, once in bed.

    Or what would happen if when you checked on him, suspected him to be pretending to be asleep and instead of just closing the door, you said ‘goodnight Tall’- that acknowledges that you know he is awake and doesn’t feed into a silent complicitness over his pretence and your appearing to collude with it.

    I tihnk you need to find a way to lighten up about these very normal events. If he was biologically yours (as you kind of allude to) these would be less loaded with foreboding about their possible future implications. Apart from the wetting (which he must have felt so ashamed of, especially being pre pubertal), they are all common in the most well adjusted kids. The fact that he didn’t effectively dispose of his wet underpants shows he does want you to know and help. If he really wanted to hide this from you, he’d have thrown them out far away from home.

    Good luck and I hope you don’t think my comments are too harsh. I understand how hard this must be and I wish your family well.

    Reply
  3. Vicki

    I think you’re looking for support and validation of your own feelings here, rather than judgements or advice on how to handle things.
    I don’t know you, or your son, or his background. I know none of the circumstances surrounding this and other instances of his deceit.
    But I do know that I have felt this from my own son – he’s been here a long time now and the frustration I feel that he still can’t trust me is – at times – overwhelming. And at times, I feel betrayed – I put SO much into our relationship, I work so hard at being the parent he needs, and yet, still, he will lie as much over the little things as the big. That’s my confession!

    You’re not alone in your feelings. Nor is your son. I send you hugs and strength xx

    Reply
  4. RachelB

    From everything I’ve read and heard and known from our family, lying is incredibly common amongst our traumatised children. It often drives me crazy. However, I’ve found there is help out there.

    Holly Van Gulden explains lying as normal behaviour for a young child that can persist with traumatised children – http://www.helponechild.org/pdf/Holly%20Booklet.pdf. If you haven’t come across him, you might find Bryan Post helpful. He does a great video on how to deal with lying – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHlJEr4ebM0. When I can manage to take his suggestions, I’ve found they really work. His point is that traumatised children lie crazily and convincingly because their very survival depends on it – they’re full of fear in that moment that the awful thing is going to happen to them if they don’t lie.

    Humour helps. Young Acorn had a habit of weeing on the bathroom floor. We tried anger, we tried ignoring. Still the endless acrid pong. Then one day, faced with the wee, I tried gentle and told Acorn he wasn’t going to get into trouble for weeing on the floor. He then said ‘It was an accident. I tried to wee in the toilet but I missed.’ It was so utterly absurd that I couldn’t stop giggling. We cleaned it up together and it happens much more rarely. In fact, when that telltale niff hits my nose, my reaction is now to ask Acorn what’s up – he uses it as a signal that something’s wrong.

    For me, the truth is that I can’t trust my son. But I’ve realised I can separate love and trust. This seemed counterintuitive at first, as I always assumed the first tenet of love was trust. Not necessarily, I’ve found. My son struggles to trust me. Given his past history, that’s not surprising and lying can be a way of trying to control when the world seems treacherous and unsafe.

    He used to lie all the time about small and big things, for all sorts of reasons, from not wanting to get into trouble through wishful thinking to sometimes really not knowing what the truth is. He still lies a lot, but it’s gradually getting better. It becomes a virtuous circle. When I can accept the lies and the behaviour he’s lying about as him trying to protect himself, I’m much less disappointed, so Acorn feels safer to tell the truth.

    Good luck. It is such a hard slog, but you’re not alone.

    love

    Rachel

    Reply
  5. Meggy

    I know where you are coming from. I can’t advise, just empathise. xx
    My younger son who is 8 has very similar issues. He wets in a corner of his bedroom. He lies consistently, so much that I don’t trust anything he says, and I constantly have to check up on him. He knows I don’t trust him, it doesn’t do much for our relationship.
    I wish I had a solution. He behaves badly at school, and is always in trouble. But he is a gorgeous, affectionate little boy and can be great company. I am torn apart some days. I see masses of potential in him, and I see him throwing it away.
    I know kids lie. But not all the time. I know kids have accidents. But not all the time. It is heartbreaking. I am struggling to be positive to him, and keep trying to catch him doing something right so I can praise him. But it seems to get harder and harder as he grows older.
    I hope things improve for you and Tall.
    My boy Tigs has been referred to CAMHS because the school feel he has ADHD. I’m worried about what treatment he will be given; school obviously just want him made more manageable, so will probably be keen for him to be medicated, but I don’t see that as the right route for him. ( my eldest boy is ADHD and ASD and is on medication, but what’s right for one kid may be wrong for another. ) It is hard isn’t it.

    Reply
  6. FaerieLily

    Very much relate to this post. My 9 year old claims his favourite song is ‘Wicked Games’ by Gemma Haynes, because it’s my favourite song at the moment. Because he’s trying to please me and he wants me to like him. I know full well he much prefer’s Bruno Mars. I try and let him know that I love him as he is, unconditionally, that I love the new things he introduces to my life through his own interests. (I’m sure knowing all of 1Ds names will come in handy eventually!)

    Pants are hidden in drawers with clean clothes, behind the sofa/bed/chair or, in the bin – no matter how many times I say ‘It’s ok. Come and find me if you need help. It must be uncomfortable to sit in wet/dirty pants. Lets sort this out together’. And yes, he pretends to be asleep when I look in on him before I go to bed. Regardless, I give him a peck on the cheek and say ‘I love you, see you in the morning’. If he’s asleep, it doesn’t bother him. If he’s awake, he’ll hear the message, and he knows I’m not ‘cross’ with him for being awake. I let him know in the morning, I’m not checking to see if he’s asleep. I’m making sure he’s comfortable. (I’m also making sure he’s there, as he’s done a few disappearing acts out the front door at 2am!)

    On good days, I can see that this all points to his lack of trust in me. And I remember Bryan’s Post advice on dealing with lying and say ‘I’m sorry you didn’t trust me to let me know you needed help’ when faced with another pair of pooey pants. I can find the humour in his tall tales about why there is a pile of poo on the lounge floor, and we can turn it into a competition to see who can turn it into the most outlandish story. (‘A giant fish grew wings and flew out of the sea and burped it up. It’s not poo. It’s the sediments from the bottom of the ocean’. Brilliant. Can you help me clean up the ocean please? There’s no ‘blame’. He would deny it anyway, and I don’t want to get reeled into that argument about. That’s a hook I don’t want to be on the end of.)

    I /accept/ everything he says, I wonder aloud about it, but it doesn’t mean I ever have to /believe/ it. I don’t actually believe anything he says. None of it. At all.

    I can’t say whether it ‘works’. The lying still continues. But it helps me to feel better about the lying. It enables me to change my response to it – sometimes.

    On bad days when it’s been one thing, followed by another, and another, dealt with on three hours sleep, the disappointment must seep out of me and he must sense that. I think it’s ok to be honest about it, and to own it. You are not alone. And you recognise what is happening. Sending you much strength and patience – few of us are born with the bucketfuls we need to cope with re-parenting adopted children.

    Link to Bryan Post if it helps. http://postinstitute.com/new-home-page-2/

    Reply
    1. RachelB

      I’m beginning to see a couple of themes here.

      Firstly, what is it about poo and wee? We went through a truly horrendous phase a year or two ago when Acorn became utterly terrified of having a bowel movement. We went through hours of him screaming and running round the flat, then soiling himself in desperation. Thank goodness that seems to have passed, although we still have weeing on the floor sometimes. Acorn also has a phobia about being sick (either him or someone else – it can get pretty extreme). I wonder if it’s something to do with getting rid of yucky stuff from the body. We’ve had a lot of conversations about bodily functions being normal and useful, which has helped – I’ve overheard Acorn on the loo calming himself down by saying ‘It’s alright. It’s just my body getting rid of what I don’t need.”

      The other thing I can relate to is the pretending to like what the parent likes. Acorn does that a lot, especially about food. It’s maddening sometimes. I’ll cook him what I think is his favourite, only to find it, days later, mouldering under a plant pot. Again, we’ve had many discussions about how it’s wonderful that we all have different tastes and wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all liked the same things.

      Thanks, FaerieLily, for reminding me of that useful phrase ‘I wonder…’ It’s a great one for testing out what’s going on without putting thoughts/ideas into Acorn’s head.

      Reply

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