An open letter to all the professionals involved in our family life,
In 2009 we adopted 2 children aged 5 and 6 from a background of physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect. In October, following a few years of increasingly difficult to manage behaviours (violence/ stealing/ lying/ self-harm etc.) we asked for respite for the first time. So now social services have re-entered our lives. One child took an overdose in August so we also have CAMHS. Our post adoption support service became therapeutically based a couple of years ago, so we have a therapist supporting one of our children (our other child refuses to go). We are both in therapy as individuals to keep afloat. We have friends meeting with us on a regular basis just to try to give our marriage a chance against the daily onslaught of traumatised behaviours that we encounter. This week, we get to meet with an ‘adolescent support team’ who will no doubt tell us what else we’re getting wrong. I’m sorry; we’ve never had adolescents before. Let alone adolescents whose inner world is so utterly fractured. We know we’re getting things wrong.
But how hard would it be to hear, in a unified voice, all you ‘support’ services saying what we actually need to hear, rather than a sense of social services just checking off a risk assessment checklist to see if we have the emotional capacity to parent our kids (because we asked for respite)?
How hard would it be for someone to believe in and say the things we really need to hear? Things like ‘It’s so hard to do what you do – well done for doing it.’
Or ‘I know you’ve read every piece of therapeutic literature on parenting adoptive kids and have tried so hard to put it into practice – everyday. I think you’re doing an incredible job.’
Or ‘ We know you’ve read Winnicott and want so much to be more than ‘good enough’ and you’ve read Erickson and we want to help you re-establish self-control in you and your kids and you ooze Dan Hughes because you know you want to resist the brain changes that happen to long term carers of traumatised children. Even with your mistakes and humanity, you are more than good enough and we want to help you with the things that are still hard for you.’
Or ‘Who knows how much harder it would have been for your kids if they hadn’t had adoptive parents who spend all their waking moments wishing they could get it more right – your kids are really lucky to have you.’
Or ‘I know that some days your kids do things that make it hard for you to get out of bed. And that’s not because you’re useless parents, it’s because of the abuse that happened before they ever met you. I am proud of you for choosing to keep getting up.’
Or ‘I can’t believe that it has taken till now for the proverbial whatsit to hit the fan. You must have really been putting some effort into parenting. I am glad that there are parents like you in the world.’
Or ‘Who else chooses to stay in a role which involves undeserved daily abuse? We don’t have to – if anyone abuses us, we get to walk away and they get in trouble. You are amazing to love kids who abuse you because you represent someone else.’
Or ‘How hard it must be to know you represent someone else and to know that one day your kids may choose to abandon you for that someone else. How strong you are to keep on loving them regardless.’
Or ‘I know that you choose to lie down at night and tell your child you love them, even though that day they hit and kicked you or verbally abused you. I know that you choose to remember that they had to do it to you to test if the world was safe. I know that you want so much for them to believe that the world is safe that you overcome every emotion in your body to go into their room at night and hold them.’
Or ‘I hear that you cry at night, not just for yourself but because, even after all this abuse, you wish your kids could trust in just one relationship. I’m here to support you too.’
Or ‘I know that you hate the mistakes that you make. I know that you hate the fact that you had to ask for respite. I know that you hate the fact that that request has brought more judgement on you than you can bear right now but that you are choosing to stand up under it and continue anyway. I don’t want to be part for that judgement – I want to do the job I signed up to do which was to genuinely help parents like you.’
How hard would it be?
I tell my kids that if I go for a walk with someone and it starts to rain, then I stop to put up an umbrella. I don’t do it because I want the walk to stop, but because I want the walk to continue. When I ‘stopped’ to ask for respite, it was because I wanted the walk to continue but I needed some resources to make that happen. I don’t think the umbrella shop should make me feel bad for asking for an umbrella. It’s not particularly helpful to be handed a small umbrella that only covers my kids. (And if you hand the umbrella straight to my kids then they’ll almost certainly refuse to carry it themselves.) I have yet to find a shop that sells big golf umbrellas. I don’t want critical comment on how I’ve been walking up to now. (I’ll be criticising myself for walking into this storm anyway.)
If you have suggestions on a better route to help me, then let me know; but please put up an umbrella first so we can be dry while we look at your map.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading. It’s genuinely good to know I’m not the only person who goes above and beyond. Because it’s the only way our kids stand a chance in this world. Maybe you’ve gone above and beyond in other ways that support my kids that I don’t know about. Thank you for that too. I hope that when you’ve finished ticking your boxes, that you’ll believe that I also go above and beyond the things that you write down about me. Every day.