Tuesday 15 October 2013

Starting The Big School Rollercoaster Ride

We are nearing the end of the first half term of Big School and it has been a bumpy ride - not as bumpy as I thought it could have been. Yes, we have had some regression - some easier to cope with than others and others that have taken their emotional toll on us both.

PJ has a survival tool bag with several resources that she uses, when she is overwhelmed.
I have a growing therapeutic mummy bag which I use when she is overwhelmed.
Sometimes, though, we seem to have both thrown our toys out of our bags and are both just left somewhat overwhelmed.
Sometimes, the rolls of the roller coaster ride have caught me unawares and sent me twisting and turning and reeling.

At other times, I have helped to steer the roller coaster around and we have made great rolls and reached great heights and mastered the twists and turns with our arms held high, almost cheering along with great exhilaration and joy.
The first few weeks we had tears and screams of seemingly pure frustration, along with carefree and determined bouncing on and off furniture - the sofa - and the bed, some wet pants and some hitting and kicking along with some more possessive behaviour towards the cat.
PJ has also struggled with saying good bye to me in the mornings.
And she has struggled to say goodbye to me at night.
We have also had some fabulous triumphs, where regression has not been anywhere to where we regressed to last year when she first came to me and some regressive behaviours have not reared their heads at all.

School have begun to see some of these behaviours, but for the most part, she has been holding it together all day and then letting it all out at night and at the weekends.
Sometimes it ain't pretty.

I still find the aggressive hitting and kicking the hardest to cope with and to manage, calmly, successfully and consistently but each time it is lessening it's ferocity and the strength of it's grip is lessening in intensity and time.

The last few weekends calm has once again been restored to the sofa and she is once again sitting watching her beloved CBeebies, rather than bouncing on and off the sofa repeatedly.
The last week she is more settled in her sleep and we have once again begun closing the gap from 8.30pm - 9pm bouncing on and off the bed and hitting and kicking, to currently being calm and settled around 7pm - 7.30pm and sleep has returned from waking at 6.30am to now 7.30am.
We still have some way to go before we see calm of our night time routine to be once again restored as it was before we started Big School.
She is still really struggling and therefore reacting at the point when she knows I am about to go downstairs at night.

On the plus side, she has made friends, been to several whole class parties and coped really well, joined in a whole school assembly and recited the class poem really well.
On the plus side, she loves her school dinners and seems to be enjoying learning her letters and sounds and counting.
On the plus side, we have left on time everyday, dressed (almost always in socks and shoes too)  and most days we have even managed to brush our hair.
On the plus side, I have managed to leave her with the comfort of staff and her transitional toy, to arrive at work on time too.
On the plus side she beams when I pick her up and runs out to me from the classroom door, shouting Mummy and hugging me - sometimes, much louder than the other children greeting their Mummies.
The smile and hug is a winner.
Every time.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Imagine My Surprise

Imagine my surprise when  PJ came running out of the classroom at the end of her first week in big school ( Reception class) with a huge gold sticker on her chest and carrying a somewhat chewed but still intact, certificate!
She had been awarded this star award - for trying so hard at listening!
A Super Star indeed!
Very proud Mummy and delighted!
Well done PJ
( I really wasn't expecting it - especially not in her first full week of full days!)

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Messy Snow Joke Summer Fun

We have been continuing to have fun and develop PJ's sensory needs in our play activities - the latest fun we have had has been with shaving foam - ideas for summer snow can be found at growing a jeweled rose - we danced in it, squidged it, added food colouring and watched new colours transform it, we froze some and made summer snow and did the same - and then, before not too long, PJ added her favourite activity - pouring - more and more water until, finally, it was just watery liquid to be poured and poured.

Saturday 14 September 2013

First Week at Big School

Fantastic start, so far!
Hooray for Big School!
We have got out the door, this last week on time and proudly wearing the uniform.
She has carried and cuddled her toy that has a special job, to remind her that mummy will be back soon and once, we have left this precious transitional toy, in school!
The teacher returned it, safely to us at tea time!
How lovely was that!
This last week we have stayed for school dinners and yes, there has been the evidence of what PJ has been eating firmly imprinted on the new school uniform top!
We have had a few meltdowns, a few tears and a few loud and ear piercing screams of frustration, I suspect, over this last week - but on the whole, it has all gone exceptionally well and better than any of us could have anticipated.
Transition and change is such a big thing and potential trigger for many behaviours, patterns and responses to rear their ugly heads once again - wet pants, clinging onto me, tears, bouncing on and off furniture and being restless and excitable and tired are all a small price to pay for the joy she seems to have for big school and the big smiles that greet me when she sees me when I pick her up at the end of the day!
So far we have done half days at big school.
Next week, she will do full days!
I haven't told her that bit yet.
Or, that she will be going to big school and then big, big school, for many years still to come.
Some things can wait.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Preparing for Our First Day at Big School

Last year PJ talked about going to Big School, as she had had her pre-school boosters, so assumed that when she came to me that she would go straight to Big School but she has had another year of Nursery to do before she has actually started Big School.
And now, the time has come.
Big School Day.
Months of preparation, talking with professionals who have supported PJ and I this last year and lots of discussions with her new school.
I have purchased a million sets of school uniform, washed and labelled everything to within an inch of it's life and then a few weeks ago, we shopped for Big School shoes.
I booked an appointment - early in the day so the shop was quiet for a fitting - which really helped ease the experience for me and PJ and - probably - the assistant too!
For PJ, we have eased the idea of leaving Nursery and going to Big School.
PJ struggles with change and it is therefore likely she will regress with such a big move to school.
Indeed, after the 2nd visit to Big School, I noticed some signs of regression: disturbed sleep, tears, tantrums, wet pants.
I chatted with PJ lots and read books on starting school. We drove by her new school several times and stuck photos of her new school and her teachers in her special photo album.
I arranged with her class teacher, that we would continue sending in spare sets of clothes - just in case - and that she would bring in photos of PJ and I to help maintain a sense of connectedness. I spoke to her class teacher about PJ continuing to bring in her transitional object - who has a special job - to remind PJ that Mummy will be back soon.
The school had arranged for all the children to visit the school twice.
The Nursery also arranged for the small group of them all going to the same school to go and visit another time together.
I also then arranged for PJ and I to do a quiet walk through the school at the beginning of this week, before term started, just a few days before PJ was due to start school. This really helped, as we could see the playground, see her coat peg, remind her of where the toilets were, meet the teacher and teacher assistant again, see the gate where we would walk as we wouldn't be going through the main school reception area entrance on the first day of Big School - and this change could throw her - and we did all this in our new Big School uniform - as a practise - it all really helped pave the way for the big transition ahead.
Perhaps the most significant preparation has been the discussions around reassuring PJ. After the second visit to big school, I noticed a regression. I had a hunch and went with it - a nagging thought - what if PJ thinks that a move to big school also means a move to another new Mummy?
I said to PJ - You do realise that when you go to Big School, I will still be your Mummy, you are not going to another new Mummy. I am your Mummy now.
Oh, she said.
I fought back the tears and added: I will take you to big school and I will pick you up. You will still live here in our house with our cat, Smudge.
Oh, she said.
You see, just a short year ago, PJ had said goodbye to her Nursery and then had said goodbye to her foster carers and then come to live with me, her new Mummy. A short while later we started another new nursery.
Now, just a short year later, we talk about leaving Nursery and going to Big School.
PJ, had filled in the missing gaps and made the assumption that a more to big school must mean a move to a new mummy - after all, a year ago, it all meant just that.
This year, though, the move to Big School, is just that.
A move to Big School.
The preparation has been quite a process.
Ready or not, Our First Day at Big School has finally come.

It went really well.

Sunday 1 September 2013

New Starts - Big School et al

This week marks the end of an era and the start of a new one.
PJ will have finished her first year with me - yes - a whole year since placement - and the end of her Nursery years - and the start of BIG SCHOOL.
School transition here we come!
I have mixed feelings - for her - how will she cope with yet another change - and how will she settle with big changes and challenges of going from a key worker ratio of 1 to 6 and into a class of 1 to 30 - and how will she progress or will she regress?
I have mixed feelings - for her teachers - how will they cope with her - how will they help her to settle, to reassure her and set good boundaries in place for her to feel secure and also to help her to rise to the challenge to learn and for her to learn well - how will they take on board all that has been said and written in preparation for her to transfer to big school about her background and complex needs and still see the vibrant and yet vulnerable child?
I have mixed feelings - how will I cope with losing her - a year at home with PJ has gone so fast and there is this sense that I am losing her, irrational I know, but it is there -how will I cope with going back to work as my adoption leave is coming to an end and I will be returning to work - how will I juggle our new and changing work life balance and still retain and maintain some fun and quality time at home with PJ and I together?
Anyone else have my rambling thoughts, worries and concerns with the start of going to big school or returning to work?

Friday 30 August 2013

Safe Spaces #WASO

This is my safe space.
Sometimes I share it with friends.
Sometimes I share the baking and eating with PJ
Either way - cake is my sanctuary.
My safe space.