The small boy charges at me with arms outstretched…what will it be this time? A shower of fists raining down on my legs, my arms, my stomach, my arms? Nails clawing and scratching my wrists and hands? Fingers to pinch and twist my skin? Or is he coming to grab me to better aim his kicks at my legs and shins. Or possibly its my all time favourite…is he heading for the spit in the face? Every muscle in my body tenses for the assault, whatever it may be. My brain whirrs for the ‘correct’ or ‘therapeutic’ response…but nine times out of ten it just simply draws a blank.
The rages come out of nowhere. What used to be a normal conversation or request suddenly spirals out of control to a place I cannot fathom. I can simply say, ‘its time to brush your teeth’ or ‘what story would you like?’ or ‘no, sorry I didnt see that red car’ and suddenly the world is crashing down around us.
Objects that were once toys, items of cutlery, cushions, pads of paper and colouring pens – things that made our home comforting or fun – are now weapons waiting to be lobbed or kicked at me in the middle of his rage.
In the quieter moments he sits and stares at the TV, a wild vacant look in his eyes. I get hissed or growled at like he has retreated to some deep animalistic state…but I’ll take that for the quiet and a break from his shouting.
I am exhausted from trying to avoid certain tones of voice, lines of questioning, phrases, saying ‘no’ – anything that might just trigger the next tantrum. He wont let me close enough to ‘wonder’ with him. He just agrees with anything I say to shut me up. At one point he physically turns over in bed to block me out and end the conversation. He is also clearly exhausted. Unknown to him he is being sent to bed early and his sleep comes within minutes rather than him singing or talking himself to sleep as usual.
But the night brings no real peace for either of us. I wake to hear him crying and whimpering in his sleep. He tells me that I left him, he called and called but I didn’t come…why didnt I come? And I tell him that its just a dream, I havent left him – see I am right here. But the truth is, it feels like he has left me…something has taken over him and am fearful my lovely boy will never come back.
There is of course the advice, given in love and out of concern – ‘You should put your foot down, you can’t allow him to hurt you. If he is behaving like this now, what is he going to be like when he is 15?’ I smile and nod and despair.
In the end, I do the opposite. I give him what would be seen in some peoples eyes as a ‘reward’, a ‘treat’. His emotions are so out of control that when I tell him what we are going to do he tries to bite me on the arm.
But that time, just me and him, somehow allows the connection to be remade. My outstretched hand is offered and thankfully he takes it and allows me to reach him. That night we talk again…this time he finds the words to tell me all the things that are worrying him. Things that to you, me or even a child who has always known safety and security, might seem silly things to cause this level of fear and anger. I offer him my assurances of unconditional love…and tell him what I will do to try to help.
This morning the small boy charges at me with arms outstretched…my body tenses, my brain whirrs…but this time his arms wrap around my legs in a giant hug.
This is a description of the last four days in my home. It feels like a hell of a lot longer. Peace today seems to have descended – my boy appears to be back. What we went through felt like hell…and it was only four days. I realise the place my boy descends to when he is scared is a place some children live in the whole time. There are some adopters who post regularly about their childrens struggles and I don’t often reply. Not because I don’t want to, but simply because I don’t have the words to say. I can’t say I know what they go through because I don’t. I might get a tiny snapshot like this, once in a while, but I do appreciate it is nothing like living it 24/7 for years relentlessly with little or no support. I write this not for sympathy as I realise my situation doesnt even compare…(at the moment, I am not naive enough not wonder if there might be a day my boy cannot be reached and he descends to that place forever). It is written simply with a greater appreciation of the love and dedication those adopters have for their children – you are incredible.