I think I’ve been taking the wrong approach with big sis. I’ve been encouraging her independence and life skills, thinking along the lines of being as equipped as possible for when she goes back to Nan. But I don’t think that’s the way to go. When I think about it, she’s been in care for close to a year and a half, and in that time has not lived with anyone who has loved her. So in essence she’s really still five, barely six, inside and I think some of the behaviours I’ve been seeing are her asking me to make her feel completely looked after. So I’m going to try babying her a little. Loving on the five year old inside and making her feel protected and safe. I’ll run her showers for her and sit and chat while she washes her hair. I’ll make her breakfast in the morning and help her put her clothes on. I’ll play uno (card games she loves) until my brain is leaking out my ears and stop worrying so much that she doesn’t have independent play just yet. Independence can wait a few months, I think I forgot about felt safety. I’ll let you know how I go.
Man, give me toddlers over seven year olds any day! She’s currently flipping out whenever she gets in even the slightest bit of trouble or gets corrected about anything. For instance tonight I asked her to ask before she gets up from the table at dinner time to go and get a drink or whatever because it’s bad table manners to jump up and down like a yoyo. Instant sulk. When I said ‘I’m really not interesting in sulking I’m going to go and do something else, hurry up and finish your dinner’ she proceeded to flip out about how I’m so mean, she’s always getting into trouble for doing nothing (she gets told off like once every two days!), and she’s going to ring cs on me for being so mean. At which point I said she’s very welcome to tomorrow morning, but for now she can go to bed, because I won’t be spoken to with such disrespect.
Ugh. It’s doing my head in. At first I started out sympathising with her upset, comforting her and trying to help her understand that getting in trouble is just part of life (without backing down on the fact that whatever she did was not ok), but now a few weeks in I’m wondering if maybe I need to draw and line and say that having a tantrum when you get in trouble is not ok and I’m not going to engage when she’s behaving like that. It’s so difficult to work out where I should be comforting and where I should be ignoring…
I’ve got the boys again for the weekend (hooray! soaking up my cuddles big time) and I think it’s great for big sis. She is always much more emotional when they are around, which is unsurprising considering all the trauma she’s been through since she was taken into care (which from what I can see so far is more than she experienced when she was with her family, but that’s probably a post for another time…), and so small things are more likely to cause her to have a meltdown. But I think at this stage of our relationship this is probably a good thing as it helps that breaking through process. For example, today she got stroppy when I said she could have some noodles if she shared them with her brothers. She banged things angrily and raised her voice. Anyway, long story short, when she received her consequence for her little outburst (noodles were taken off the menu) she flipped out. Almost an hour of screaming, flailing, leg kicking, lying on the floor tantruming. It was good. No, I actually mean that is was good. Good for her to have the chance to have it out. To scream and cry for her mum, to be excessively and voluminously unhappy and to have nothing bad happen to her, to be comforted, to know that she can lose it and I’ll still care for her and that she is safe. She doesn’t realise it herself, but clearly her upset was about a whole lot more than not being able to have a packet of noodles. I’m looking forward to the chance to be able to talk it out with her tomorrow, hopefully when the boys are asleep.
After she had calmed down, she sought me out, practically crawled into my lap to have a cuddle and a sob, then got herself some crumpets to eat instead and carried on with her afternoon.
Ahh honeymoon, I think you may be coming to a close. Judging from the tantrum (well her version, which is to collapse on the floor and sob) over shoes this morning, and the rather insolent behaviour this afternoon I think we might be about the enter the zone of actual parenting.
It’s a brave new world for me, and I feel a little under equipped. With little kids it tends to be ‘MY WORD IS LAW!!!!!!’ Mwahahahahaha, so to speak… But with older kids it’s definitely more give and take, mutual respect and knowing which moments are the one you put your foot down about. Do I jump on the little things so we know where we stand when we get to the big things, or do I let those go and focus on what really matters?
She’s a fairly reserved little person, so disrespect and disobedience tend to be more subtle, by omission, rather than comission. Leaving her with that wonderful proclamation “I wasn’t doing anything!!!”
Miss my babies to whom I just said “Sit in time out!”!!!!!!!!!!!!
I still haven’t come up with a better blog name, oh well.
So far Big Sister is settling in fabulously. Of course, a week and a half in we’re no doubt still in the honeymoon phase, but so far she is polite and lovely, with enough cheek to know that she’s got a bit of firecracker in there somewhere. She’s coming out of her shell and is now seeking affection and enjoying cuddles and attention. We’ve had one or two meltdowns, but nothing serious, and mostly can be put down to the emotions of moving to a whole new world for the third or forth time since she’s been in care (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Considering the totally crap last year and a half she has had she is remarkably well adjusted. Probably the most noticeable area that needs work (aside from educationally, but she’s really starting to catch up on) is her ability to do imaginative play. I’ve got to have the only seven year old in the world who chucks a wobbly because I say she’s not allowed to do maths, she needs to go and play with her dolls…
They are so damn narrow minded!
I’ve been keeping in contact with Nan and helping out here and there as she adjust to the huge task of looking after two small and very active children. This is even more important because Nan isn’t allowed to leave the kids with pretty much anyone in her network of support (her daughters etc).
Nan and I were being on the discrete side of things, but cs found out that she has my number and we talk to each other.
I quote “If she’s asking for help it’s a sign that she is not coping”
If she’s asking for help it’s a sign that she knows her limitations and is utilising all the resources available to her to give herself the best chance of succeeding. It’s not like she’s dropping the kids off to me and going on a bender. I’ve looked after the kids twice. Once while she did the groceries, and once after swimming lessons so she could catch up on housework.
I may have white lied and said I hadn’t really helped at all. CW then said it was about my safety, especially if the kids had to come back to me. I hate hate hate that I have zero control in this situation. If I didn’t have big sister I would be tempted to tell them fully the amount of contact I’m having with them and if they have a problem that I’m happy to step down as a carer. That way I would just be a family friend and cs wouldn’t be allowed to have a say in what contact I had. And if the kids came back into care I could just take them as a kinship placement. It kills me that there is no thinking outside the box.
I probably shouldn’t tell them that I let big sister talk to her mum on the phone…
Hold on to your seats, things are changing again.
Big sister (7) is moving in.
I’ll come up with a better name and fill you all in as soon as I stop deep breathing and running around like a headless chicken.