Bubble is an 8 year old bundle of agitated energy. She’s our little warrior, who puts on a brave face every school day, and heads into the same old routines with a determined, if slightly surprised attitude. Fleetingly she’s brilliantly funny, a comic genius. These moments are gems. They are as if the angry skies that have been thundering for hours, stop momentarily, and a chink of glorious sunshine powers through. She has moments of inspiration in which the heavy burden of trauma seems to dissipate, and her brain is able to process clearly. Then the leaden skies return and obscure the brilliant shimmering gleaming thing that we have witnessed.
Most days it’s Groundhog Day in our home. By the time we manage to get out of the door on a school morning, there will have been repeated early morning thunderous rampages to the toilet, arguments about who will get downstairs first, battles over breakfast, fights over getting into the bathroom, lies about whether teeth have been cleaned, shrieking over getting hair into a bobble, huffing and puffing over whose turn it is to dry dishes, 10 minutes to tie up shoes, and then decide on boots instead, whilst instructing Squeak in the finer arts of tying a scarf, and skirmishes over who gets to open the front door.
Once we are out of the door there will inevitably be forgotten book bags, loud surprise at where the car is parked, clashes over who opens the car door, repeated slamming of said door, conflict over fastening seat belts, rivalries about whether we have passed a police car or ambulance, protestations that nobody has told Bubble what the same old school timetable promises today, hostility over who gets out of the car first, and refusals to say goodbye to Squeak.
Bubble is angry and fearful. This kid is operating from her limbic brain most of the time. She’s ready to fight. She’s ready for flight. She lashes out. She jumps at sudden noises. She’s constantly jiffling, picking, scratching, stamping, slamming doors, running. And when she isn’t, it’s because she’s disassociated.
Bubble has huge issues of control which erupt around boundary setting, sharing, any slight change in routines, and food. Bubble simply does not appear to believe that she will get what she needs from us. After 3 and a half years with us, she still thinks that parents are dangerous, that she is bad, and that the only way to be safe is to be in control of everything and everyone. Sometimes this emerges as rage, but most of the time it is low level, grindingly annoying stuff. She gives us filthy looks, huffs and puffs when asked to do anything, or even just asked anything at all, about her day, about how she is feeling. She tells us ‘it’s not fair’, ignores us, rolls her eyes Kevin style at attempts to communicate with her, makes vigorous and loud attempts to do anything other than what she needs to be doing at any particular moment, and constantly interrupts when Squeak is talking.
Given Bubble’s trauma history this is not surprising. Generally we deal with it fairly well I think, and strive to keep away from reward-punishment responses. In the 3.5 years Bubble has been living with us, we have sought support time and again. Last year she had a Psychology assessment, which recommended DDP therapy. We’re still waiting for the therapy to start. OH and I have met with the therapist, but the sessions with Bubble don’t start until next month. Three and a half years it has taken to get to this point. Three and a half years. It’s not for lack of trying. We’re not expecting therapy to produce miracles. If there is even a slight shift in attachment that would be great. We’re also awaiting an appointment with a Consultant who specialises in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
What I do not understand is why we, as a society, knowing the effects of trauma and abuse, allow this sort of wait to happen. There is a mountain of research on the effects on children of abuse, neglect, and domestic violence. Yet social services, health and education bodies seem content to pander to the government’s agenda of proving their worth through the gathering of statistics, and wallow in risk-averse, cumbersome procedures, rather than focus on what children actually need right now. Individual workers in any of these sectors have only limited powers and ability to influence positive outcomes for traumatised children, and the lack of strong leadership means they struggle on individually until they crumble. As adoptive parents we are left feeling grateful if one of the professionals ‘gets it’, when all professionals should get it and be supported by their organisations to be positive and pro-active in their approaches to traumatised children.
Bubble deserves better. All children deserve better. Perhaps we as adoptive parents need to form a national independent pressure group to demand timely, positive support for our children. Perhaps it is time for us to bubble collectively.