She isn’t the same, her story is one of fear, neglect, terror and trauma. Her story is not the same as any other child in her class, in fact her story is not the same as any other child in her school, not even her sisters, so how can she be ‘the same’!
Baby girl wasn’t bought in to this world surrounded by love and hope, she was bought in to this world surround by chaos and fear. Even before she took her very first breath she was being subjected to emotional and physical abuse, from what should have been the safety of the womb she was already being abused, neglected, damaged. Her veins already being filled with cortisol levels that only you and I experience in times of sheer terror. Her neural pathways being damaged beyond repair as her development changed its path in order to prepare its self for the fear that awaited her outside of the womb.
And then she was born, into an environment of fear, violence and neglect. I don’t just mean dirty clothes and a broken crib. I mean no one soothed her when she cried, no one checked her nappy was clean/dry, no one fed her when she was hungry, no one kept her safe, no one gazed lovingly in to her eyes so no one made her feel loved, worthy and cared for. Instead her view of the world around her was that it was an unsafe and unpredictable place, but it was home and all she knew.
Then she was taken, taken from the violence, the neglect, the emotional abuse, taken from everything she’d ever known, everything that was ‘normal’ to her. Against her will and out of her control she was sent with only 1 of her many siblings, to live with someone else. Too young to understand, to scared to reason with.
Now this foster carer loved her, and nurtured her and showed her that the world was in fact a wonderful place and that she could trust the people around her to take care of her and meet her needs. She showered her in love, affection and helped her to grow both emotionally and physically. Baby girl learnt that when she expressed her needs, they would be met, she no longer had to feel frightened, she no longer had to feel hunger and she started to feel loved and worthy.
And then, just as she was starting to get used to this new lovely life, she was sent away again, still without the ability to make sense of why. Sent away by herself to live with 2 of her other sisters, 2 sisters that she barely knew.
Now this foster carer was different, once described by a social worker to me as the ‘belt and braces’ kind. She was the kind that fed and watered baby girl and only saw her as an income. So baby girls view of the world once again changed. Again she’d been taken, against her will and out of her control. Her views changed once more, ‘she was bad, no one wanted her and that’s why they kept sending her away. She couldn’t trust the grown ups around her to be in control any longer’. She tried really hard to keep this grown up happy, and she tried really hard to get her sisters to like her, because if she didn’t then she feared she’d be taken once again. She didn’t really like this new life, but it was out of her control so she regressed, she kept her self safe by becoming compliant, making no demands and taking care of herself just like she’d learnt to as a baby.
And then just as she got used to this new life, she was taken once more. Once again out of her control. This time she was taken away from everything, nothing was familiar, the sounds and the smells that she’d gown up around all went away. She was sent to live with some new people a very very long way away. The house smelt different, the air outside smelt different, there were new unfamiliar sounds and even the voices of the people around her sounded different. Other than the 2 sisters she barely knew, nothing was familiar. She’d been adopted.
Baby girls development is not the same of a typical child, she has not experienced the same things as a typical child, her neural pathways have developed differently so her brain does not work in the same way as a typical child. Her instincts, and impulses are different, she doesn’t yet understand cause and effect and consequences for a child that has lived like this have very little effect, she doesn’t care if you take her toys away, she never had any as a baby anyway. She won’t even try to earn the stars on your reward chart because she already knows she’s bad, in fact she’ll show you just how bad she is as soon as you get out that reward chart. She doesn’t always hear what you say because her ears are busy listening for danger, she doesn’t always make rational choices because inside she feels chaotic. In fact sometimes she feels so chaotic inside that the only way she can make herself feel normal, is to create chaos on the outside too.
I often describe baby girl as having a tornado of chaos inside her, she has a need for control and a fear of change. Is it any wonder, really?!
So on Tuesday when her teacher informs me that her behavioural expectations for baby girl are the same expectations that she holds for her peers, I have to try and find a way of explaining why this is unreasonable.