This blog is a bit of a tribute to someone who transformed our attachment. I don’t think it was the music therapy that did it; I think it was the
I’ll call her Jill. Jill taught us how to play. Not piano or guitar, but how to let go of our inhibitions, interact and enjoy our time. And she taught me a
lot about love. The love that she gave to my son, the patience, the commitment,
the belief, were unwavering, deep and real.
I would trawl him there, every
Friday for two years. For the first year, this meant enduring a non-stop
barrage of wind-ups and low-level abuse all morning, and I would arrive feeling
little more than animosity toward him. I look back in astonishment at myself
offering (asking) to ‘sit out’ of sessions, or taking in a coffee to keep
myself awake. I was a mess. A tired, beaten up, discouraged mess. Jill never, ever
offered me anything but empathy. Even while the focus was always on my son, she recognised my needs and feelings too. There was no judgement (which we adopters become
so used to). No impatience, no ‘Why don’t you do this? Or ‘All kids do that!’ In the gentle surrounds of her respect and empathy, I was able to trust,
to learn from her and to bond with my child.
My son, as we confirmed when we watched back the videos, was
completely confused by therapy at first. A room full of instruments and toys
with him in control of two adults seemed (and was) new and bizarre. Seeing
this, from early on, I told him what therapy was and why we went. I wanted that
confusion to end so that he could access the therapy. Bear in mind that he was
four when we started going! Another huge challenge in his short life. But he
rose to it. He now knew that we were going there to help his heart stop hurting.
And now, he started to access this therapy in amazing ways. He played in
metaphor, bringing us along and casting us out of games and songs in ways that
we adults began to read together. We could tease out themes, challenging him in
non-threatening ways to dare to change his patterns of trust and attachment.
Once, in the middle of a particularly tempestuous ‘game’, he
commanded me to die. I had to lie down, still and dead and not move. And he
began to cry. He cried and cried over my dead body, stroking my hair and
mumbling, ‘Mummy.’ He wouldn’t let me ‘un-die’ for ages but at last I had to –
I couldn’t bear it anymore. I held him and he let me take his pain and comfort
him for the first time. The music therapist played the piano while he sobbed
and clung on. We understood that this little boy was playing out his trauma, re-experiencing
the primal wound.
Jill was masterful at knowing when to steer us and when to
leave us ‘alone.’ She played music that echoed our feelings. We knew that we were
in the safest, most understanding place imaginable. And, having been with him to experience his
unbearable pain, the bond between my son and I began. This was where we began
to talk about our ‘special glue’ – nothing could stop us being together, no
matter where we went or what happened. This was where we admitted to needing and
trusting one another.
Going to music became a wonderful morning together for us.
We would enjoy the train, go for cake and coffee and arrive at music. Miraculous
when you consider how challenging feelings could be in that space – Jill let my
son play, but every session was emotionally charged. My son told me several
times that he was scared of going because his ‘heart might break again’. We
could never have carried on if it hadn’t been for Jill. The way she remembered
every detail of what my son and I had said the week before. The way she set out
the room exactly as he had left it. The way she added in little extras, such as
squirrel puppets when he said he liked squirrels, or blankets to be wrapped up
tight in when it all got too much, or the way she would look deep into his eyes
with real, unconditional positive regard. Jill never had an off day, she was
never late, she never forgot anything. And this respect, this highest of regard,
was what helped my son to understand his value and understand that he could,
indeed, be loved and cherished.
The final video, in contrast to the first, showed a boy
standing on a huge drum, draped in a ‘cloak’ and singing the Lion King theme at
the top of his voice. Triumphant.
When I tuck him into bed these days, I say that he’s my
treasure. He doesn’t argue any more, or insist that he’s rubbish. He likes it. He
hugs and kisses me. He looks into my eyes. He says he loves me. We recharge our
glue, if we’ve had a difficult day. This is a complete transformation and it is
because of music therapy or, actually, Jill.