Category Archives: Parenting

Aversion Therapy

aversion

I wrote this post once already, but the evil internet ate it up and it disappeared without a trace, so instead of the beautifully crafted original post, you’ll have to make do with what I can cobble back together from my memory.

A few weeks ago, my mother and brother came to visit us from that London, and on the Saturday they wanted to go to the cinema and the only thing that seemed remotely worth watching was Bridget Jones’ Baby, so we went to see that.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

Well this isn’t a review. In a nutshell, it’s a perfectly good and funny film (although I have to say it scandalised my mother! I forgot how rude and sweary Bridget Jones was!) But it is a stupidly inappropriate film for anybody who has recently had any kind of baby loss! I should have realised that, but I guess I felt ok – until the part in the film where Bridget goes for her (first) ultrasound scan, from which point, I was a complete wreck. I managed to contain my emotion outwardly until I got home and promptly locked myself in the bathroom and bawled my eyes out.

I told my little tale of woe to my Recurrent Miscarriage group, and lots of people said they wouldn’t even consider going to see it, one lady wanted to see but couldn’t face it and another watched it like I did and had a good cry afterwards, but she said she was glad she watched it anyway. I wish I hadn’t seen it.

On another note (but somehow related – I couldn’t tell you how my train of thought connected the two), I decided to take a proper break from facebook (it’s all baby photos and happy boasting announcements that make me want to vomit – maybe that’s the connection) and I noticed that an old friend, somebody I had known for years and with whom I had shared life’s traumas and troubles over and over – not just mine, but hers (she was evicted at the same time we were, she has a child with a chronic health condition that took ages to diagnose, as I do etc) had unfriended and blocked me, and not only on facebook but on Twitter as well (all my accounts!)

I was really ticked off because it seemed so petty. But apparently we had had what amounted to a fundamental disagreement.

I don’t actually remember exactly what she had posted but it was something along the lines that Trans people being allowed to choose the appropriate toilet for themselves was an outrage to public decency and a danger to all God-fearing girls.  As I recall, I tried to explain to her that being Trans was a little bit more complex than she probably realised. But she was so determined that she was right that she started making very unkind and wrongheaded personal judgments about one of my children (who happens to identify as Trans) and obviously that was not acceptable. I presume that she deleted me as soon as she realised I wasn’t prepared to let her do that.

Whatever.

Well. I’m prepared to say “good riddance” – that sort of ignorant attitude is not really what I want to surround myself (or my children) with.

But it hurts, to be judged, and to be summarily cut off in that way. And of course it worries me that these kind of attitudes are so prevalent, and I hope that my children can be safe and un-persecuted, whatever their personal choices that don’t hurt anybody else.

So just for the record I thought I would clarify some points about being Trans. I hope I’m not misrepresenting anybody, this is just my take on it all, as a parent.

  1. Being Trans – having gender dysphoria – is not a sin.
  2. Being Trans – identifying with a gender other than your birth gender – is not the same thing as being attracted to or having sexual relations with another person of the same birth gender. That can be the case, but it’s a separate issue. Still not a sin, even if you’re conservative enough to believe that all same-gender relations are inevitably sinful, with no exceptions.
  3. Being Trans does not automatically mean having a sex-change. (And frankly, having a sex-change is not necessarily a sin either!) ed.: I’m wondering what circumstances would make it a sin, actually?!
  4. Being Trans inevitably includes a range of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, fear and confusion. Please don’t add to it. Just be kind! Always.
  5. Being Trans is often seen in teenagers associated with Asperger’s Syndrome (in my own child’s case, gender just does not quite ‘compute’, and the whole idea of any kind of sex is disgusting). Not a sin.
  6. Trans people are not known for violence. The argument that allowing M to F Trans people use female toilets would lead to more rape or attacks on female children would seem to be deeply flawed on so many levels, and wholly without basis. The kind of people who desire to make those sorts of attacks are going to do it anyway, regardless of the law.
  7. Gender identity and sexuality are actually a little bit complex. Not the simple black and white, fixed boxes you might assume. It’s not just a matter of physical gender – it’s genetics, it’s hormones, it’s mental, it’s culture. It’s complicated. Take a step back before you jump in and condemn.
  8. And finally, who the (((bleep))) are you to judge? Get that plank out of your eye, people!

That is all.

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Up-rising against DKA

My son was repeatedly mis-diagnosed over a period of several years (from age 3-9).

Approximately one year later (aged 10 in 2012) after moving house to a different health authority, my son was rushed into hospital severely dehydrated and in DKA – Diabetic keto-acidosis – a life-threatening complication of Type1 Diabetes that is wholly preventable if addressed quickly enough.

When my son got ill, I had not trusted my instinct as I had been repeatedly told it was not Diabetes.

I had been told that I was imagining his symptoms and that I was a hypochondriac mother. (Munchausens by proxy was strongly implied but not mentioned by name.) Our GP at the time told me not to come back, and that if I did they would have to deal with me!

This mistreatment devastated my confidence, and nearly cost my son his life.

It seems very unlikely indeed that I ‘imagined’ Diabetes and then he got it.

But a mother’s instinct was completely mocked and discounted.

He only just made it through the night after diagnosis, but thankfully he made it through and recovered after a week in hospital.

I now strongly believe that my son’s Type1 developed slowly along the lines of LADA (LADA stands for Latent Auto-immune Diabetes in Adults, which is Slow Onset of Type1 Diabetes – atypical for children, I know, but not unheard of) and I now know that, although initial urine tests seemed to be negative, a blood test would have detected antibodies years before the full-blown disease manifested itself. Blood sugar could have been tested. Neither blood tests were done.

Far too many children are ending up in DKA after missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of Type1 Diabetes. Far too many children are dying because DKA is missed and left untreated.

Here is a reminder of the typical ‘Four T’ symptoms of Type1 Diabetes:

• Toilet – needing to go to the toilet much more often
• Thinner – unexplained weight loss
• Tiredness – unusual tiredness
• Thirst – excessive thirst

And a couple of atypical symptoms:

• Tummy – stomach-ache after eating
• Thickened skin – this is an atypical symptom which I noticed only because my son’s skin was rougher than his siblings, but both of these symptoms have been mentioned by other families of children with Type1.

We only had two of the typical symptoms – toilet and thirst, so don’t wait until you see all the symptoms to act.

Above all, trust your instincts, educate yourself, and if you suspect Diabetes don’t allow yourself to be fobbed off by arrogant and uncaring doctors. Know your rights. Get a second opinion if necessary, and don’t stop fighting until you know your child is safe.

She-Devil

It’s official, my neighbour is the She-Devil. Every morning, I am woken up by her shouting and screaming at her crying, screaming kids, until bedtime.

It’s really upsetting, to me and my children, we have got to the point where we can’t go in the garden or even have the windows open when they are home.

I believe she is a single mum. The only interaction I have had with her is her shouting in my face.

I’m afraid I’m really struggling to feel sympathy for her, and as for praying for my enemies, I’m struggling to pray anything nice!

I have tried setting a good example, speaking softly and kindly to my children in her hearing (before being in the garden just got too inpleasant) and smiling and being friendly when I saw her, but it just seems to make her madder.

It’s actually really getting me down. How would you deal with this?

Quiet Down, Cobwebs

For two weeks, we had the non-stop noise of hammering every day as next door had their carpets fitted. The noise stressed me out but I couldn’t help feeling angry and jealous that whoever the people were had the ready cash to afford carpets and curtains before they moved in.

The new neighbours moved in last weekend, and I hadn’t seen them, but I had heard their little children laughing and screaming (which was endearing and irritating by turns) and their mother constantly shouting at them (which was upsetting).

I spent the week thinking how youth is wasted on the young and how so many young mothers wish the time away, not realising how short a season it is. I also found an old diary from 2004 (something my hoarding tendencies won’t allow me to part with) and thinking about what we were doing when our children were young.

We have also had visitors every day this week – a dear friend whom I love, but who has had a very different experience to mine. We are the same age, but she married late and her children are all little. She spent the whole time telling me how lucky I am to live by the sea. True. But depression can’t appreciate that, and I wasn’t able to communicate that to her. If you’ve never been there yourself, it’s hard to comprehend how depression draws a veil of grey over the sunniest day.

Last night as we arrived home, the next door neighbour was knocking on the door. I expected she was coming to introduce herself, but instead, she said:

“Your kids keep waking my kids up!”

“Oh, ok” said I.

“I wasn’t going to say anything but it keeps happening. Your kids keep running up and down the stairs” she said, angrily (presumably it had just happened)

“Oh, ok. Nice to meet you” I replied.

I went in and told my sleepy children to try to be more careful on our un-carpeted stairs. I’m pretty sure nobody has been running up and down, but they do get a bit stompy when they’re tired.

That was the last straw really.

Instead of crying, I went in and stuffed my face with (vegan) comfort food (banana, non-dairy chocolate spread & peanut butter in tortilla breads). Several of them.

I went up and checked my blood pressure, which is horrendously high (tablets notwithstanding). I’m a little bit frightened I will just drop dead, and I’m really not ready to do that. Not THAT depressed.

I will leave you with a poem that has been going around in my head this week.

“Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Memories of Lidingö

This is probably a bit random and disjointed. It’s largely taken from a series of tweets that I posted, so apologies for anybody who has already seen most of it. Apologies also that there are no photos – I have some, I just can’t figure out how to get them into WordPress.

Earlier in the week, I was unable to sleep. I was worried about the whole business of eviction in general and specifically about meeting with the housing association the next day. As I was tossing and turning, a memory came to me which reminded me that this is actually our third experience of eviction.

Last time, it was quite a different experience – the landlord decided that he wanted to move in to the house we were renting, but because we had only been there a few months, we hadn’t unpacked everything.

I had unpacked too much, but most of it was still in boxes and some of it was still in storage. So although it was unpleasant, I don’t remember it completely flooring me. Somehow, we just got on with it. It didn’t even occur to us to apply for emergency housing because at the time we still had our own house that we were renting out back home.

The first time we were evicted, we were in Sweden. We were renting a tvåa apartment – that is, a two room apartment (one bedroom, one living room) in Hjorthagen in Stockholm.

We were only given one month’s notice to get out, due to the whole apartment block being refurbished.

I had finished my course (Scandinavian Studies) at Stockholm University as part of my degree from UCL in London – the reason we were there in the first place – and since we had felt quite homesick, and it was so hard to survive there on one income, we decided to move back to the UK.

I don’t know what we were thinking. Can you imagine what it is to organise an international move inside of a month?!

To complicate things, Husband’s employer refused to let him go.

I don’t know what the laws surrounding housing or employment are in Sweden. Now, it seems to me that both these demands were unreasonable. Surely one month isn’t sufficient notice of eviction, and it surely isn’t acceptable for an employer to refuse to accept a month’s notice to leave a job! But that was what happened, and not knowing any better, we just did what we were told.

Somehow we packed our stuff, cleared our apartment, bought a big trailer to fit all our furniture and shipped it  all back (actually took it ourselves), with our car, to my mother-in-law’s house and then we flew back to Stockholm.

We had found and arranged a temporary sub-let of a tvåa apartment on Lidingö – the beautiful, big island outside of Stockholm. We were there for around six weeks, and it ought to have been a pretty fabulous summer holiday, except for the fact that I was too stressed to enjoy it.

lidingömap

I remember buying bread (I’m not sure why that’s such a vivid memory) and I remember that the little local library was ‘sommarstängd’ (closed for the summer) the whole time we were there. I had forgotten until I started thinking about it, but the main library in Lidingö Centrum stayed open, and I remember getting the bus there with my son several times.

I have a vivid memory of being on the bus to Stockholm one time when my son needed the potty, and I just had to get it out for him there and then! His dagis (short for ‘daghem’, day home, meaning nursery or kindergarten) hadn’t been willing to potty train him at all, so I had decided it was time and that I would get him trained before the end of the summer. I don’t recall whether or not I was successful. I suppose I must have been.

We had to walk past the library every day to get to the little supermarket and the beach. I remember there were dozens of flying ants all around the pathway through the woods to the library, and that they fascinated my little boy but gave me nightmares, playing to my fears of being powerless I suppose.

I remember spending a lot of time at the tvättstuga – the ‘washing cottage’ which is a communal laundry centre that apartment buildings have. This apartment complex was much more modern than the one that we had lived in all year in Hjorthagen. There, you only needed a key to get into the building (and it seemed to be left open during the day) but on Lidingö you needed two sets of keys just to get into the tvättstuga.

I also remember with envy the fantastic torkskåp clothes driers. You can’t get them in the UK, which is such a shame because, in my opinion, they are much more efficient than tumble driers and since you hang the clothes up to dry inside the cupboard, they come out in a much better condition. Perhaps one day I will be in a position to import one! 🙂

The landlady was a divorced American vegetarian, Sunny I think her name was, with a son named Attila, which is obviously memorable. She was taking her son to the States for the summer, and our enforced holiday perfectly coincided with hers. I have a vague feeling that we may have left meat in her freezer, and I worried for ages that I might have left the toys out, or left the back door unlocked. That’s the sort of thing stress does to you. If you’re reading this, Atilla’s mom, I apologise. Thank-you for letting us use your lovely apartment.

I also remember a fellow Englishman coming to visit and cooking spaghetti bolognese for us! Mike? He was a friend of a friend (Marie Åberg – whatever happened to you?!) that I had met at the Swedish Church in London. Neither of us were religious at the time, but it is a great place to connect with Swedish people when you’re learning the language.

I remember that, on the last day before we went home, Husband was late coming home from work. I remember being super stressed and irritable and worried about making our connections the next day.

While we were waiting for him, we went to the play park behind the apartment building. I remember having a conversation with another foreign mum. I can’t remember whether she was British or American, but she said that she had lived in Holland before moving to Sweden. I asked her how she had found Holland and how it differed from Sweden.

She answered that she found that Swedes were not at all service-orientated. She explained that there was no ‘the customer is always right’ philosophy. Whereas in Holland, or the US or even in the UK to a lesser extent, people will go out of the way to ensure that the customer was happy and would return for more business, but in Sweden, people dealing with the public all seemed a bit grumpy and unhelpful. I confess I had also found that somewhat to be the case myself. I had also found that you get a completely different attitude depending on whether you spoke English or Swedish, but that’s for another post I guess.

I remember that, while we were on Lidingö, Husband caught the ferry to work rather than the bus through Lidingö Centrum and into Stockholm. That was pretty cool actually. I miss the ferry. Cornwall definitely doesn’t have enough ferry boats. Ferry boats are my favourite. After hovercraft. (That shows my age a bit there!)

The last week we were there, my son lost a little ‘kramkanin’, a soft cuddly rabbit. We lost it somewhere in Stockholm, so we had to go back and retrace or steps but we never found it. He had had it since we first went to Sweden when he was 20 months. In fact, I think it was something he had had since he was a little baby and that it was a gift from Grandma. When we left Sweden, he was 3 and a half. So I had gone out to Sweden with a baby, an d was coming home with a big (little) boy.

That little kram-kanin represented him and his lost ‘babyhood’ somehow. I think I was more distressed and emotional than he was. I may have made up the word ‘kramkanin’ by the way. I remember trying to explain to the ferry staff that we had lost this little teddy rabbit, and they looked at me like I was nuts. So I suspect that ‘kramkanin’ probably isn’t a real Swedish word! 🙂

All of that happened 17 years ago now. But it is all very fresh in my mind now. I hadn’t even thought about Lidingö for ages up til now.

It is funny thinking of living so close to the seaside then, since we live by the sea now (although not close enough to walk there). The weather that summer was fabulous if I can trust my memory and I think we went there almost every day.

It was quite a nice beach although I don’t really remember whether it was sandy or stony. Stony, probably. I remember that the great big Silja car ferries came past between Stockholm and Lidingö on their way to Finland, and that as they did they caused a huge rippling wave to crash onto the beach, and that it made all the children scream with delight.

I remember finding an injured bird on the way home from the beach one day, and that all the people I asked to help with it refused, saying that “Things just die. It’s the natural way of things.” I didn’t dare take it back to the apartment as there were lots of cats around, so I just left it. But I remember being a little shocked and stung to find that people could be so hard. Or maybe I’m just a softie?

Anyway, the stress of being evicted and unsettled after Sweden began ten years of insomnia for me. I eventually managed to get on top of the problem but I know I am prone to sleeplessness. I really don’t want to start it up again so I try to be quite strict about bedtimes, and if I can’t sleep I try to avoid getting up and going downstairs.

But now we are so unsettled again I think I may need to learn some kind of meditation techniques or something to protect myself.

We saw the Housing Association yesterday and it all seemed positive in the morning. They pretty much said that the house was ours.

But in the afternoon, there was a flurry of calls from the Housing Association and the Council querying the fact that we used to have a house, and we used to have money a few years ago and now we don’t.

It seems as though they think that we are somehow scamming them or have done this to ourselves on purpose. Because, you know, losing your house and job to rent somebody else’s place is *such* an attractive and tempting prospect. (Really?)

And then to top it all, I finally got a call back from the Adoption Agency this morning, three weeks after telling them that we were having to move house. They have decided to take us off their books and close our file, and they told us that, if we want to go ahead and adopt, we will need to contact them again in a year’s time.

Realistically, having waited all this time after all these losses, I think I am just exhausted physically and emotionally. I also think I will just be too old (45) in a year’s time. Unless my health improves drastically (as opposed to worsening due to stress and disappointment), I don’t think I will have the ability to take on another child, and especially not a deeply traumatised one as I know is inevitable with adoption from foster care. So that is probably the end of our adoption journey, unless God intervenes with blessing and favour, of which – despite everything we have been through – I always remain hopeful.

 

 

 

Parenting Choices

Over Christmas, I had what almost amounted to an argument with a very old friend, on facebook (of course). I could rant and rave how facebook is the spawn of the devil and brings out the worst in everybody – which it does, but that isn’t the point I’m wanting to make this time.

Our almost argument was essentially over parenting styles.

Another, even older friend had re-posted a photo of a monkey with words along the lines of “I can’t wait until the monkeys go back to school (and I pity their teachers)”. Personally, I found the whole sentiment sad (what an indictment on society that mothers can’t spend two weeks’ holiday with their children without wishing them away) and bordering on offensive. (Perhaps I’m easily offended – maybe that’s the topic for another post…)

I re-posted it with words to the effect that “I find this really quite sad and offensive, and if you feel like this, I feel sorry for you.”

I had several mothers chime in with comments agreeing with me, and a couple from abroad who mentioned that the UK seems to be a very anti-child culture and the openness with which mothers speak so negatively about their children, even in front of their children, is really quite shocking.

My friend, however, posted a snarky comment to say that she did feel that way, and that it was quite normal for ‘normal’ parents to feel that way, and if I thought she was a bad parent, it was my problem.

Hmm.

I had never to my knowledge suggested that she was a bad parent or had made bad choices, so I suspect that there is a little bit of a conscience-prick (or cognitive dissonance?) happening to make her feel defensive, but here is the thing. We made very different and opposite choices.

We both have children with special needs. We both have a child with ADHD and very difficult behaviour. My friend sent her child to school and encountered enormous difficulties including suspensions and permanent exclusions, psychiatrists, CAMHS and medications, and getting the help she needed involved an enormous amount of fighting against the system to force the system to address the problem so that he could cope with the system. Actually I admire her tenacity and determination. It is not so much my friend’s parenting or parenting choices that I dislike so much as the system itself.

The choices I made involved avoiding the system altogether.

Special needs were not the initial reason that made us choose to home educate (my eldest son’s special needs were of a quite different nature) but by the time our third child came to ‘school age’ it was obvious that there was no way he could be squeezed into the box that the system required.

When his behaviour started to become difficult to manage, we did try to deal with GPs and CAMHS, but without success. But since he was home educated, I concluded, as I had done with my eldest (who has suspected Asperger’s but for whom we also failed to obtain a diagnosis or a Statement), that we would just continue to find solutions at home. For the most part, I believe that was the right decision for the children and learning at home has been a much calmer and better choice.

There is a ‘but’ though.

For me though, for my health and sanity, home education has possibly not been the best choice. It certainly hasn’t been the easiest choice. I have no doubt whatsoever that the stress level has contributed to my overall ill health and in as far as adrenal exhaustion may play a part in ME, I think that stress has broken me. Really. I am certainly not the person I was  – either physically or mentally / emotionally – as I was when I started out on this journey just over 15 years ago.

So my choice has come at a rather high price.

I have wondered seriously whether I am well enough to go forward with our plan to adopt. Right now, I do not feel that I am, and that feeling of failure just adds to my overall state of mind. My Plan A, to have more children, failed spectacularly, but now I wonder if my Plan B will fail. I don’t have a Plan C. Just be sad indefinitely?

However, would I do it again, even knowing what I know about how hard it is? Yes, I would. For my children’s sake, I would. I am glad I did. Would I home educate an adopted child? I have to say, despite everything that I know now, that I absolutely would.

From my observation, school for the most well-adjusted children is tough and often comes at the price of impacting the child’s personality and character negatively. For adopted children, who have already been through trauma, loss and worse, it has the potential to be downright abusive and even in the best cases seems to add another layer of trauma which inevitably adds to their overall difficulties.

Please don’t get me wrong. This is not intended to be a judgement on parents – especially adoptive parents – who choose school. I’m only looking from the outside, and I know that I don’t fully understand the special stresses that come with adopting a traumatised child. Home education is not the norm, and for most people, it can seem like an extreme solution. It involves one partner giving up their job, or a very difficult financial struggle. There is no ‘respite’ from home education, and I wouldn’t even suggest anybody try it unless they have a very supportive husband or extended support network. You will need a break, you will need support, and you will need a very strong sense of humour to be able to laugh when life and the state of the house is just so awful it’s ridiculous.

But for me, from a list of imperfect possible choices, home education seems to be the least bad, least damaging option, especially for children with special needs.