Today I have been visited by two, yes two behavioural experts. I took advice never to turn down the offer of help hence the back to back. The first came through our health visitor who witnessed some show-stopping behaviour from the littlest one on a routine visit and immediately told me I could do with some help and made the referral. The second is the expert associated to our local authority who came on the request of our social worker who took the teary phone call two weeks ago as we fell into the pit that is now referred to as 'rock bottom'.
I was dubious to say the least but pleasantly surprised by the first who I connected with immediately. I expected it all to be star charts and other such nonsense which, as any adoptive parent knows, is as useful as a chocolate teapot. Instead I got really brilliant tips and hints some practical stuff (Stuart Little as an aid to prevent the daily attempts to massacre the family pets). She listened, didn't judge, smiled and nodded in all the right places and didn't seem to be spouting the same stuff to me that she does to all other parents. I was really impressed.
One of the difficult behaviours we discussed was the littlest ones' running. She does it at least once a week and she is literally gone! She calculates her moment, once when her brother had fallen down on a dog walk she made it the whole way home on her own, she is four. She picked up her bike on the way (we'd left it at the end of the lane where the fields start). Another when I was in a shop, she waited until I had my card in the machine to pay before making for the exit. Another time she left a park. On many occasions when picking up her brother and sister from school she will wait until I am mid how-was-your-day-hug already laden with lunchboxes, PE kit and book bags and then she will make for the gate. I try desperately hard not to shout like a mad woman but when her safety is compromised I have no choice.
A friend had suggested I got a wrist strap. Not to use but to have as a tool to remind her that she needed to stay close. I never expected to have to put it on, it was supposed to stay in my bag. The plan was simple, before going out to a potential flight spot (anywhere) I tell her that I have it with me and that if she goes out of sight it has to go on so that I can keep her safe. This to most 4 yr olds would be enough to keep them in sight, not wishing the embarrassment of a toddler taming device so I was really taken aback when she asked for it to go on immediately.
This was all well and good apart from the fact that I had inadvertently called the device 'The Strap' and told her if she went out of sight she'd have to 'have the strap on'. Yep, you guessed it, everywhere we go, she now says "Mummy, please may I have the strap on on?". Joy! Not only this but as soon as it is on she walks calmly, peacefully, big blue eyes looking up at me as passers by look at me with disdain probably cursing that dreadful mother who is physically restraining the perfectly well behaved tiddler, if only they knew.
There wasn't a magic answer to the flight dilemma today so we'll continue to strap ourselves together when we need to and hope that as she attaches to us over time, she'll feel less need to run. It's deep routed. At home, aged 2 she would finally get someones attention only when she fled, at speed out of the front door, you can't undue that in 13 weeks. I've spent so long pondering why and another answer could be that she is trying to recreate the huge adrenalin and cortisol rush that she so frequently felt at home in the early years and the calm that followed when she remained intact. Whatever it might be we'll keep trying to keep her safe, I'll keep up my own sprint training to keep up with her whilst trying to think of an alternative name for said piece of blue, durable material.