We met up with friends last night at a camp site. Our foster daughter was excited about seeing other children and, within what seemed like a split second, had whipped herself into a frenzy, screaming, jumping around, getting very physical.
One of the side effects of having an attachment disorder can be this inability to self regulate. So, Rose was completely unaware that her behaviour was coming across to everyone as bizarre, erratic or annoying. She couldn’t calm down, and she reverted to toddler behaviour, depsite being a teenager. Pushing, smacking, shouting in faces, careening around the camp site like a rogue catherine wheel.
I ignored it for a while. I find ignoring is a pretty good first reaction. Sometimes Rose is able to wear herself out. I thought after twenty cartwheels she might be reaching a plateau.
Rose went into a tent with a group pf other friends and the tent started shaking with their antics. There was a fair amount of screeching, then there were tears, from another child.
Cassie came out of the tent holding her arm, ran to her mum and said that Rose had pulled her arm and hurt her. Rose immediately flew out of the tent and into our car, where she hid.
Then I had a choice. I could aplogise to Cassie and leave the camp site on a sour note. Or I could efectively use gentle persuasion to get Rose to face up to her actions. To apologise. Anyone caring for a child with attachment disorder will probably recognise Rose’s behaviours. Lack of regulation or self calming, poor impulse control, leading to hitting/smacking/pushing. And then, when things escalate and the child finds themself in trouble, they are overwhelmed by shame. The old fears and distrust slide back into place, and the child feels completely alone, with no guarantee of being loved again once they accept responsibility for their actions.
I took the trickier route.
I managed to encourage Rose out of the car after several minutes. She stood a long way away from Cassie, pulled her hair over her face and looked at the ground.
‘Rose, you need to say sorry,’ I explained gently.
‘Sorry,’ she spat, not looking anywhere but the ground.
‘You need to come closer, look at Cassie and tell her what you’re saying sorry for.’ I continued, still smiling, still gentle. All eyes on me and Rose.
‘Already done it,’ she threw back.
‘Come here please and let Cassie know that you mean it.’
After a few minutes of digging her toes into the mud and not moving, Rose begrudgingly sloped a bit closer, showing her fury by the dark look on her face.
‘Sorry,’ she said again, a bit less aggressively, but still staring at the ground.
‘For what?’ I asked.
‘Hurting your arm,’ Rose almost whispered. Hair covering her face, she turned, super slowly away and went to sit in the car. No goodbyes when we left, no attempt at rejoining her group of friends. She gave me dark looks all the way home, showing me with every inch of her body and face that she hated me at that moment.
Later, at home, as I said goodnight to Rose she turned her shoulder to me and told me I was ‘stupid’.
The following morning , Rose bounced out of bed, bright as a sun beam, no thoughts of the following day, no feelings of needing to make any reparation.
Yet another feature of attachment disorders, this cutting off from emotions and difficult situations.
‘That didn’t happen, and I don’t need to make it right.’