I hate being this boring but if I could write a letter to all those wonderful, non-adopter mums, neighbours, friends and family it would definitely include the following 10 points:
- I know she looks normal, but please check with me before telling her she is invited to a wonderful surprise party for your angel: For one, she is likely to let the cat out the bag – she can do complex maths, but has poor executive functioning – she won’t mean to spoil the surprise. Then there is the surprise itself. Yes, yes I know everyone likes surprises – but not her. She likes order, balance and structure. You won’t have to deal with the anxiety it brings up.
- Please don’t say, “Surely she is ready for a sleep over by now?” in earshot…. think of the shame she will feel when I say no, or when everyone works out she doesn’t know how to sleep without a bedtime ritual and being physically told it’s time to sleep now.
- I know she is a pleasure to feed, but please stop. I bring a snack after school that meets her sensory needs. Please don’t feel sorry for her because she has a carrot or is crunching on an apple – I know your sausage or cake is yummy. But it doesn’t help our journey home.
- Does it really matter if she sometimes picks up food with her hands? It usually only happens when she is distracted and that distraction can be purely an internal battle she is dealing with. So, as her brain is flooded with hormones, the ability to remember to pick up those utensils goes right out or her head. She isn’t being rude or defiant.
- While I am mentioning chewing, please remember you aren’t responsible for buying, washing or mending her clothes. So don’t worry about her chewing on the collars. If you see this happen, please help her to regulate and feel safe. Then the chewing will stop. And if it doesn’t – as I said, you aren’t responsible for her clothes. That’s my job.
- Please don’t correct her when she doesn’t instantly say please, thank you or sorry. She learnt when to say these things in a traumatic first home; a horrendous second home and an abysmal third home. All in order to keep herself safe. In this home she is learning to say them when she means them.
- Sometimes for no understandable reason she needs to twirl, jump or run – if it’s safe, what’s the problem?
- The body remembers what the mind sometimes forgets. So please do not show displeasure or distress if she pulls away from you. She will read this as displeasure in her, in her very core. While I mention touching, be aware I will never tell her to kiss or hug you. That’s her choice and it’s her personal space to make decisions about.
- If she is stable enough to have a sleep over with you, let it be her choice to talk to me. If she refuses, it isn’t because she is mean; it’s her way of coping. Don’t take this away from her and she never ever has to say she loves me. I don’t need her words. She will show me when she can.
- Please, please, please don’t tell me she has been a good girl while she has been with you. I know it looks like it makes her happy and she smiles, but when I put her to bed she always mentions she is relieved that you thought she was good … what she doesn’t say out loud but what she thinks is … maybe I can stay.
Plus an additional one that popped into my mind…
Please do not tell my amazing, witty, intelligent nine year old she is lucky to have come to me when she was six. I will not protect you if she shouts in your face, “ Lucky? But what about those other six years? Where was my luck then?!”
I know your intentions are good so please don’t be insulted that I have pointed these out. I welcome your support with wide arms and am blessed to have you in my corner as I raise my rebel girl. If you want to help, please follow my roadmap. My lens on parenting has had to shift to meet my munchkin’s lens of her past reality. These things may change over time but, you know what, they may not – and that is for me to be anxious about, not you and definitely not her! But please join me on this roller-coaster!