I lost count of the number the training I took part to during the adoption process and some more not long ago for our fostering assessment. A multitude of classroom training, books and online courses, to cover all the topics we could think about: attachment, autism, FASD. first aid, child development, recognising trauma, neglect & abuse, domestic violence… Any parenting problem you are having right now, I probably had some form of training about it.

Even so, lately each day sees me unprepared, confused, tired, puzzled, and most of all, questioning myself.

Life with Holly, out foster girl, is not easy. We have come a long way over the last month, and I’m glad I’ve found it in me the strength to carry on even when all seemed to be lost. Now the days are definitely much brighter and hopeful, but still incredibly challenging.

Holly is unpredictable at the best of times, and all the training in the world is of no help in trying to decipher this young girl and to make sense of her erratic behaviour.

One day she rejects me and just wants to deal with my husband Diego. She won’t hold my hand when outside the house, she won’t let me change her nappy, or let me console her when she falls, she won’t even listen to me when I talk. Since Day one, Holly has been more prone to let Diego get closer to her, but I thought that time would have changed that. It’s hard to keep loving someone who doesn’t want you close, doesn’t show affection, doesn’t hug you, doesn’t let you kiss them. I worry I will dry out of love for her, and that I might start to keep her at a distance, although not on purpose of course.

On other days she is jealous of my son Ben. She would hurt him in any way she can, just to attract my attention. Sometimes she hits him, scratches him, shouts at him. Some other times she bullies him and tells him horrible things. Who knew a child so young could be so malicious? I know her behaviour is dictated by her own fears, but I feel as I’m failing in protecting my son. When our 2 and a half years old foster daughter tells my 3 years old adopted son “she is not your mum, she is only mine” pointing at me, what do you suggest I do? How can I make everyone feeling safe and secure? The more Holly tells Ben I’m not his mum, the more Ben feels threatened and anxious, and the more I lose control over the situation.

Some other days she is angry. Angry at me for not being her mum. Angry at me because I give her boundaries and rules to follow. Angry at me because I don’t give in to her when she screams and hits. So many times I wonder if she even knows the reason igniting her anger. I want to ask her how she feels, how I can help her to feel better, why she behaves like she does, but she cannot tell me. Will I loose my patience next time she takes off her shoes and throws them at me while I’m driving? Will I loose my cool at the next unprovoked attack? Maybe that’s all she knows, violence has been part of her world after all, and no good would come from me reacting to it.

And then there are some days in which all she wants is to please me. I think I can hear in her voice a plea for help when she tells me “I want to be good for you”. But she still doesn’t behave that way. I’m inclined to think it’s something she really wants, but she doesn’t know how to go about it. At times she tells me she wants to be alone with me, but as soon as we are left alone she leave the room and she won’t spend time with me. Was been quite something she needed to be when she was living at home? Is that what she thinks being good means?

I’m just struggling. I’m struggling to understand the reasons behind the conflicted behaviours of this little girl. I’m struggling to help her settling down, to make her happy, to give her what she needs. I’m struggling to give her the best of me.

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