As Elsa famously said, I’ve been learning more about ‘let(ting) it go’ these last few weeks. Let me explain a little bit more…..
Ever since Little Love came home we’ve worked hard to create a well structured predictable routine. We worked hard to have strong clear boundaries, and we worked hard to try to be consistent between us. I think it worked, and Little Love settled quite quickly. I think those things we worked hard to establish helped her feel safe. They helped her to know what to expect and when. She learnt that whichever one of us was in charge, she would be treated much the same. I think it helped us to settle into the job of parenting. I think the routine and structure helped us too.
I know that I am quite a strict parent, and I often have to tell myself to lower my expectations of her. She’s only 4, so I really should not expect her to behave perfectly the whole time. I know that I should try not to care too much about what other people think about how she (and us) behave, or how we interact with each other. It’s really none of their business, and they often don’t know anything about her background. I know that some other people think we should lighten up and chill out a little. To relax and not be so hard on her. I get where they’re coming from. I do feel that compared to say this time last year, I am so much more chilled and relaxed. I might not always show it, but I think it is slowly coming. It’s all a learning journey they we’ll be on forever…..
A few weeks ago we had a post adoption social worker come and see us, and we talked a lot about parenting Little Love. It initially felt like we were being told to ‘improve our parenting’, and I came away feeling really overwhelmed and like I didn’t know where to start. However, with a bit of reflection time I was able to see that it wasn’t that at all. She said we were doing a good job, and that it was the things that Little Love brought with her (e.g. attachment, sensory) that we needed some support with. We did also talk about ‘letting things go’. In this she meant that maybe it would help us to relax a little if we were able to let some behaviours go. To let Little Love regress a bit, and to parent her as you would a younger child. She said this might help some of those attachment and sensory areas where we were struggling. For example, ignoring some of the behaviours we would normally find annoying (e.g. eating the bubbles in the bath). Or letting her explore her world led by her sensory seeking needs. (eating with her hands instead of cutlery). She also suggested that if Little Love is doing something that winds us up, then we should try to distract her so that she doesn’t get the response she might be looking for, but we still connect and she gets some response. I tried this today. She was crying, so instead of telling her to stop, I tickled her, and she laughed. it totally defused the situation and stopped it escalating. Success!
This idea of letting go fits in quite well with the theory of non-violent resistance (NVR), I think anyway. Some of the idea around NVR is that a parent cannot possibly try to change their child’s whole behaviour. If you try to do this you’re seeing yourself up to fail. It instead suggests that it can be helpful to prioritise a few behaviours you most want to change, and it suggests serious behaviours first (e.g. hitting). The rest of the behaviours, including those ones that are not serious, but just simply wind you up (e.g. eating bath bubbles) you are meant to try to ignore & ‘let them go’. Once you’ve tackled all the high priority behaviours, you can move onto the lower priority ones, but these often spontaneously reduce as you start to connect better.
You can read more about NVR and connective parenting (here) In Sarah Fisher’s book. I’ve read it, and although we haven’t actually got round to naming or agreeing those high priority behaviours, just having a knowledge around the theory behind it has helped me. It’s helped me to be able to attempt to ignore some of those annoying behaviours. It’s actually helped me to relax a bit, and to not to feel I have to comment on or manage every bit of her being. It means I no longer feel like I’m telling her off every few minutes. I think it’s helped us connect a bit more. She hopefully feels less “got at’, and things feel much more relaxed. I definitley think things feel calmer here. Things escalate much less now, and we’ve not had quite as many tantrums because I’m not constantly telling her ‘no’ At times I feel that when I “let it go’, I’m loosing my control on the situation/behaviour. Letting go can be really hard, especially when you want to feel (or appear) in control. It’s harder when I’m tired or in a rush. It’s harder when the behaviour is relentlessly difficult. It’s harder when you feel you have judging eyes on you the whole time. It’s hard when despite letting go, it still ends with someone loosing it. It’s hard when your partner finds it more difficult to ‘let go’, and you feel like you end up arguing about how to parent your child.
In conclusion, I’m really glad I was brave enough to step back and ‘let it go’. It has really helped me and I do feel better connected to my daughter. It’s not been easy, but it has totally been worth it. Now, if we could finally get the additional help we need to compliment what we’re doing, that would be great too. But that’s for another day, and another post…..