Finding an anchor in the mayhem

This guest blog was written by a couple who adopted a toddler. Their son is now 18.

Every night, no matter what had happened in the day or what was still to come overnight, we came together in the big room for Song 2.

Two minutes of just pure fun and dancing which whilst it lasted was probably the only time in the day that we could all be together in the same room without chaos ensuing. The dogs came too and as our son was really little and was mostly being carried they also joined in by jumping up at him as part of the fun.

We all shouted out various versions of the lyrics once the initial whoohoo yell was done with. We had our heads shaved by a jumbo jet every night and it was the best time of the day. 

Otherwise our household had become a battleground as our son continued to live out his past trauma. He could hardly bear to have a mother as he had been given up too many times before. He couldn’t understand the reasons why he had been moved from what he saw as safety and security.

The last move from foster care had been particularly damaging to him. He had thought he was part of their family even though other children had come and gone.

‘The 1000 yard stare’ is a photo of an unknown marine taken by Don McCullin during the Vietnam War. Senses are overloaded by prolonged exposure to fear and trauma. A typical Tour of Duty in Vietnam lasted one year.

There is some video footage at that time where he is playing at sweeping the floor and then every 20 seconds or so he stops and looks lost for a few seconds and then starts again. Rinse and repeat.

Classic dissociation.

She’ll shock, PTSD, 1000 years stare…when dealing with children, it’s called ‘dissociation’ or ‘dead eyes’. The child simply goes ‘somewhere else’, because the here and now is just too awful.

I never saw it happening at the time until I watched the video and saw just how hard his life was, and how his mind was constantly working to give him an escape from what had been done to him and for him. It was all traumatic for him even if was supposedly in his best interests. No one likes being out of control, and for a toddler it’s truly terrifying.

But if we fast forward more than a decade our son is now at college and has friends, a girlfriend and is talking about what he can do as a job.

He even has a small starter job he can work at around his college days. I’m certain those two minutes a day kept us together as a family when it was all so hard. Even though he was very young our son has memories of those two minutes of Song 2 each day.

It was an anchor to hold onto in all the mayhem.

Anchors help ships survive storms. That’s the end of my nautical knowledge.

Everyone needs a Song 2 in their life every day. Those two minutes of fun a day can save a family.

It certainly saved ours.

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Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

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