We are back ‘in the cut’. I am exhausted.
It started with a tough re-entry to school following the holidays because Angel did a silly thing with a friend and rubbed something off the blackboard in her class. The teacher asked who in the class had done it and her friend made her confess at break time. Confessing is anathema to Angel and something she would never do on her own accord and even though I’m sure the teacher was gently correcting, the anger, shame and self-loathing that followed are extreme.
I suggest our new anger expelling trick (suggested by the GBB course leaders) of punching through newspaper. This makes an extremely satisfying snap and you can make it harder by adding layers. Angel loves it, ‘More mummy, more!’ There are demands for Simon Says, cartwheels, jumping jacks, handstands, ‘More mummy, more.’ I can see how hard she is trying to dissipate her demons, just keep moving, moving, moving. Eventually I call time. It’s bedtime although it feels she could go on forever.
We pull out all the therapeutic kids books we have.
Me - Which one do you feel like most?
Angel - All of them, read them all!
Me - But is there one that is a bit more than the others?
Angel - Yes, guess which one?
I spend some time guessing until I get to Rosie Rudey.
Me - Why is it that one ? Because you want to run away?
Angel - Yes, run away from the school. Can I leave mum? Can I? I’m not going tomorrow!
I say I’ll text her teacher as I’m sure he has forgiven her and that she just needs to work on forgiving herself.
He texts back to say all ‘is fair and square’. I ask him to tread carefully with her and let her know she is forgiven and that everyone makes mistakes. I worry after that I didn’t send a clear enough message and that he probably has no idea the depths to which Angel has sunk.
It’s tough as on the face of it Angel’s reaction seems ridiculously over the top, but as I said to hubby, for Angel it was equivalent to the worst, most stressful day you've ever had at work, the one where you feel you never want to go back.
The next morning I have to facilitate every stage of getting Angel ready, like she is a toddler again. I joke about it with her, ‘You’re on a go-slow because you don’t want to go in aren’t you?’ ‘Yep,’ she says and we laugh, which is progress. I say I’m proud of her, I tell daddy she is doing really well, that she doesn't want to go in because she's feeling bad and scared but she is!
After she has left for school with daddy, I text the Senco. I explain what is going on and ask her to check in with Angel.
After school I ask, how was your day? ‘Terrible.’ There is more newspaper punching.
We read, ‘Listening With Your Heart’ (see previous post for book explanation). ‘I just can’t get rid of the red fish mummy, I'm trying but I can’t.’
Me - I know. It is especially hard for you because of your difficult start in life. I think the incident at school has triggered off some big feelings from when you were little. You have a right to be angry about what happened then, but I’m here to help.
Angel - I can’t hear that now mummy, I’m not listening.
She says it softly. I wish I could absorb her pain. If I could, I would carry it for her.
The next day she has an air of resignation, which makes me want to cry. She knows she has to go to school. I feel the sadness seeping out of her.
One of her friends, Lucy, also left the school at the end of last term. It was an unusual relationship because they didn't play in school but we are close with the family so they have a very familiar and comfortable bond. It’s a slow realisation that Lucy leaving is big for Angel. It was the same when Mary, (the previous Senco) left the term before. It was after that Angel's distress emerged. With Lucy, I hadn’t taken onboard the effect it would have because we will still see her regularly, but of course, it’s change coupled with loss, and this resonates deeply for Angel.
Lucy leaving and getting into trouble - a double whammy.
Following a chat with our adoption support group, I think perhaps I haven’t shone a bright enough light on the issue. I’ve said, ‘maybe some big feelings got triggered’ but I haven’t said, ‘maybe you feel like a bad person because you were taken away from your birth mum and dad and then had five moves before you landed with us and you think it's your fault.’ How do you even start that conversation?
There are two disabled men who live on our road. I know their names and say hello. Angel is a bit scared of them. I was trying to explain what the difference is between being mentally disabled and physically disabled after we pass one en route to the park when she says:
Angel - Mum, was I disabled when I was born?
Me - No, why do you think that?
Angel - I feel like I am disabled
My brain is going ten to the dozen. I’ve talked about her brain being wired a bit differently because of her difficult start in life, is that it? Maybe she’s getting disabled mixed up with dyslexia because we thought she might be dyslexic a few years ago.
Me - No, you are not disabled.
Angel - Was I going to be?
Me - No, never. We did think you might be dyslexic a few years ago and that is a type of disability but it just means that your brain works in a different way, not that you are less clever than anyone else.
She cycles off. I can feel it quivering in me, she thinks she was disabled and that’s why her birth parents didn’t keep her.
She’s edgy in the park. I can feel the tip of the meltdown. Angel, daddy and I are playing cricket. She won’t throw the ball properly, throws the bat a few times, climbs off the scaffolding polls. We roll with it…. lean in. This is life in the cut. Keep moving. I get tired just looking at her.
Finally, it happens on the way home. She has borrowed daddy’s bike. Daddy has a bad foot so needs to cycle rather than walk. I tell her she needs to give daddy his bike back.
Angel - I thought we were a team! You're both against me!
She is ranting and crying. She gives daddy his bike and runs into some bushes. It’s clear this is going to be long. I suggest to daddy that he goes home and gets the dinner on. I think it may be easier to manage her on my own now.
I crouch down where she is hidden in the bushes. her hands are wrapped around her knees and she is still crying.
Angel - Let me run away mummy, please let me go. I want to go.
Me - You want to run away?
Angel - YES!
Me - That must feel really bad.
Angel - YES!
Me - Where would you like to go?
Angel - Asha’s. I want to live with Asha. She is the only one who understands me.
Asha is her 28 year old cousin and we had seen her the previous night.
Me - You feel like Asha understands you?
Angel - Yes. She is the only one.
It is such a preposterous idea, that I can’t help saying:
Me - Do you think Asha could look after you?
Angel - Yes. Let me run away mummy, please!
I feel numb…. ground down. In the moment, I have to block my own feelings because it’s so painful just to bear witness to hers.
A passing dog suddenly barks at us, probably sensing something odd with a child crouched down in bushes. The dog has a strange clip with full fur at the front and shaved at the back. The owner calls him and apologises. Angel pokes her head out of the bush. I sense an opportunity. I ask the owner about the clip and the breed. He is a Portuguese water spaniel and the cut is for the breed as it helps when they are diving in deep water. She is a dog groomer and did it herself. Angel is listening. I say we need a dog groomer and she gives me her details. Angel emerges from the bush. ‘Come on,’ I say to Angel, ‘let's go home’. She goes to retreat back into the bush and the dog groomer clocks it. ‘ Do you want to walk with us?’ she says directly to Angel.
Angel comes out and we all walk together. I fucking love this woman! What a brilliant and intuitive human being. I wonder if she knows what a massive help she has been? I am saved.
Later, cuddling in front of the telly, Angel says she is sorry. ‘It's OK. We are good,’ I reply. Too soon for shining a light, I think, too soon.