We Are Family


Is It Me, Or...?

Is It Me, Or...? - Brian Gordillo 546025 Unsplash

At half term, I decided to put one of my kids in clubs while the other had 1:1 time with me. The elder went first and all was well, as I had expected. After a day away from his brother, with whom he is locked in war, he felt nourished, attended to, happy. I had been able to let him make more choices than usual and he really rose to that. 

The youngest, however, presented me with a very different day out. 

Usually, he is delighted to have a bit of time with me and is a delight to be with. But not on this day. It was such hard work that I honestly felt like running away by the end. However, as I write this I wonder, how can I explain what he was doing and saying without you thinking I’m making something out of nothing?

How can I explain that when he refused to spend time looking at any animal at the zoo he’d asked to visit, I knew he was sabotaging our relationship. That sounds mad, right?

How can I explain that when he ran off and hid, then proceeded to just forget about me and play with other kids for 20 minutes, it was not just excitement and kids playing, it was a finger up to mummy.

And if I then explain that in the car, instead of finding his singing and babble funny or charming, I experienced it as an assault, it’s starting to sound really bad.

Even reading this back, I can’t quite believe that my interpretations were right, but they WERE. The intricacies of a relationship that has, let’s face it, some pretty vast grey areas, sometimes can’t be put into words. There is just a feeling, zip-wiring along a nerve in your head, that makes you know that something isn’t right, something is loaded, there’s a message.

My instinct tells me that my little boy was telling me that I was giving him too much. A whole day out without having to compete with his brother? A day where he could choose to do anything he liked? A day that was all about telling him he was special? Too much, Mum. I want it, but I have to somehow, subtly, spoil it.

I spent that day reminding myself again and again about how unspecial that child must feel all the time, so that I didn’t lose the plot as he sent in zip wire after zip wire of conflict, insecurity and mistrust to run amok in my head, just as they were in his.

Well, what was I expecting, a healthy child who could just have fun? I’m glad he besieged me with his stuff, because he was quite right that I needed a reminder.

That night, I sat him on my lap after the millionth wind-up attempt and said, ‘I know this day has been full of good stuff… but also, it’s been very difficult and tiring for you. It’s time for a lovely sleep, and back to normal tomorrow.” And we had zero resistance to that, which is just as well - my fuse is only so long!


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  • Steven

    Know this feeling so well. Great post.

  • Michelle

    Your interpretations were completely right. I know the feeling.
    And our kids love us for being understanding at bedtime after a hard day.
    I think adopted siblings bodies are wired to compete for attention, love, choices and when they can have it all for themseleves it makes them feel weird as they often think they are not worth the time.
    He knows you are an amazing mum and over time of doing this lovely thing you started his feelings will change to those of 'I am worth this'

  • JM

    Facing the fire in this household too. V helpful to read this today x

  • CF

    Gosh I know this all too well! It's passive aggressive but these dear souls are locked in these behaviour patterns and it messes with your head. My son's behaviour has changed with the help of psychotherapy through the ASF. It has had such a powerful impact that I'll be organising it for his younger brother too. It's also very helpful having a professional name these behaviours. I loved your thinking behind the day - I'd like to try it but I'll be prepared - thanks for the tip and for sharing.

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