Amongst adopters it is a well-known fact that Adoptive Parenting or Therapeutic Parenting requires a truck load of resilience. You need to be at the peak of your game, have a full quota of patience and the ability to dig deep to overcome whatever challenges might be thrown at you on any given day. I would argue that any parenting requires resilience, but adopted charges do tend to need the supercharged version.
It is unfortunate therefore, that, being human and in this case a woman, I cannot maintain this level of resilience. It’s my hormones’ fault. There are certain days within my monthly cycle that I am a little less than serene. For ‘less than serene’ read ‘completely ragey’. Think furious before you’ve even got up. Think highly irritable to the point of being annoyed by your husband’s breathing. Think too hot, too achey, too hungry. Think totally uncomfortable for no obvious reason and mega grumpy. Think extremely short-tempered and pretty much devoid of resilience. This is how I feel when alone so interacting with others in a civilised manner is pretty difficult. It’s an actual affliction and very much not my usual character.
The way forward on such days is to take things as easy as possible – let Little Bear run off steam in the park, let him play on the Ipad more than I really think is appropriate, let him watch a lot of TV, or even better, let somebody else look after him. And make sure I eat plenty.
However, a BIG problem arises if I’m having an aforementioned bad day, I’m on parenting duty and Little Bear is experiencing poor resilience too….
Little Bear had generally low resilience when we first met him. If he couldn’t do a task IMMEDIATELY he became furious and would not try again. I can remember trying to engage him with Duplo but because he couldn’t get the man to sit in the bus in the first second of trying, the Duplo was kicked/ thrown and that was the end of that. Over time, his general level of resilience has developed though and he can now persevere pretty well with toys and tasks such as dressing. However, a bit like me, the stars need to be in alignment and various factors need to be in place for Little Bear to have his full quota of resilience:
- He needs to have had a good 12 hours sleep
- He needs to have eaten well. A hungry bear is a grumpy bear, a full of sugar bear is a wild bear
- He needs to have had his daily movement. A constipated bear is also a grumpy bear.
- He needs to have had enough exercise and sensory input, without having been tipped into over-stimulated territory
- He needs to be feeling well and not under the weather.
Too great a variance in any of these factors = poor resilience. Mostly we know him well enough now that we can tweak things for him to keep everything at an optimum level. However, sometimes circumstances are out of our control.
One day last week, Little Bear just could not get to sleep. The reason became apparent when, at 8pm, a good hour after he should have been asleep, he needed a poo (I’m sorry for the oversharing but you know people poo. And they have monthly cycles). Evidently the change to bowel routine affected his ability to get to sleep afterwards and it was far too late for him when he did eventually settle.
The next morning I woke having one of THOSE days and over-tired, over hungry and bowel all to pot, Little Bear was too. DISASTER.
Evidently, because he was feeling rubbish, Little Bear upped the ante with his behaviour, forgot how to listen and didn’t do anything he was told. In my delicate state I had no patience whatsoever and was quick to rebuke, slow to employ therapeutic strategies and lost my temper several times (something which I can usually go weeks without doing). Little Bear had very low resilience and could not cope with being told off (especially in a shouty way) so his behaviour spiralled.
Somehow we made it to the end of the day without me causing him any physical harm and although when I tried to repair the situation at bedtime by stroking his head, he told me to “get off” I was mainly just relieved that the day was finally over.
Later on, I washed my hair, put on fresh pyjamas, made a cup of tea, watched house programmes and ate an elicit Yorkie (I usually try to avoid sugar to improve the hormone situation but desperate times call for chocolate) and thankfully began to feel more like my usual self.
Resilience is paramount in everything running smoothly. That’s why Self Care is so crucial to us and developing our children’s resilience is such an important part of preparing them for real life. Parenting with resilience at a low ebb is painful, unpleasant and guilt-inducing. I don’t recommend it.
Thankfully I am lucky to have a fabulous husband and support network who will unquestioningly give me a break if I ask. I am also thankful that days such as these are few and far between and getting fewer as I become more experienced at remaining calm no matter what – this is definitely a skill and one that can be honed with practise. But you do need a full quota of resilience behind you. And we need to allow ourselves the acceptance that there will be days when we get it wrong, when our parenting is less than good enough, when we do shout and do not act Nurtured Heart at all. We are human. And tomorrow is another day.