Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Why we don't always talk about the good bits...

It's sometimes hard to think about the best bits, because when you're in the middle of a good period, everything is a 'best bit'. I guess I only really write when things are tough, because that's when I need support, or have something I want to get off my chest. And that's quite normal in all sorts of scenarios and situations, not just adoptive parenting.

You may have noticed that I've stopped blogging as much on The Boy's Behaviour and that is really for the reason above. Things have been going well, and I don't really feel the need to shout about it too much, I'm just getting on and enjoying a relatively calm family life, but also I'm having to work bloody hard to maintain that calm family life and so have less time to write than I used to.

I do know though that if you're considering adoption, or are in the early days of a placement, then reading blogs like mine can be scary and depressing. You want to hear about the good bits, the family times, and the reasons why you should continue with adoption. And equally, if you're in the middle of a shit time with your own adoptive family, then reading about good times *can* give encouragement. I have of course, written positive posts before. In the darkest times, recording those little moments of goodness did help, but I do want to try and share a few more of the best bits now we're starting to have more of them...and hopefully I can bank them, and they'll see us through some of the tougher times that come and go.

So this post is for #thebestbits week on The Adoption Social and I'll be linking up (like old times) to Memory Box.

Last week I took Mini to the theatre for a special Mummy/Mini date for his first ever musical - Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat to be precise.
He loves music, and I love Joseph, so when the opportunity came up to get tickets - good tickets at that - I jumped at it.
I was nervous I must admit, we were only a handful of rows from the front so it was going to be loud and I was concerned that it might be too much for him. He was nervous because he was sitting on an aisle seat and was worried people might knock him as they went past.

But...

We had a fantastic time. It wasn't the same as those times I saw it at the London Palladium as a child, but it was good nevertheless and Mini LOVED it. He has a great memory for song, and was singing them on the way home, and even whilst he brushed his teeth. (And that's another thing, he actually brushed his teeth without question or argument!).
His #bestbit? At the end, some of the cast came out into the audience and danced to the Joseph Megamix, and because Mini was sitting by the aisle, he got a high five from one of the brothers. He declared that he had the best seat in the house after that!

Next time he wants to take Daddy, and he's definitely up for more theatre shows with Mummy too.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Homework: should he? shouldn't he?

So we're back into the swings of things now with school. Mini is still getting on well, although homework still proves to be a struggle...

I get how he feels, I really do. He doesn't want to do his homework because there are other fun things to do at home. He worries about doing certain homework - usually handwriting projects because he is ashamed of his handwriting and worries it will be wrong/unreadable. Sometimes he gets so stressed out that it makes me stressed out and I have to walk away...usually before I get cross, but sometimes after which isn't helpful. The thing is - he's capable, and with a little support from us and from school, he can do it - and very well at that.

I *know* a lot of the time the shame thing is the biggest factor. He really does worry about his writing, not helped by his substitute teacher telling him that his writing was too big, then ridiculously tiny and she couldn't read it, rather than giving him some practical help like lined paper! (Why do they still give them plain paper to write on? Surely lines would help keep it neat and the right size?!).

The trouble is, he's also an 8 year old boy, and so we go back to that 'all children do that' thing. Typically 8 year old boys don't enjoy doing their homework. And, as I said before, I understand why he feels like that too and I know there is an element of that with Mini. But this is the line that the teacher understands, this is an explanation that makes her feel comfortable, this is what she sees in lots of the boys in her class, and all the classes she's taught before that. She admits that not all 8 year old boys are like this, but because it's typical behaviour, she sees that over and above any other explanation.
Which means the way it's dealt with is the way that she feels comfortable with too - firmness is the key. If he doesn't do it at home, he misses out on breaktime/lunchtime (the rest time he needs to chill and de-stress) to do it at school. Just like all the other 8 year old boys that don't do their homework.

I find it very frustrating. Part of me says 'sod it, we'll just allow him to avoid doing homework because it's so stressful for him' but the other part of me says, 'I don't want him missing out on vital de-stressing time during school, so he'd best get it done at home, even if meltdowns occur'. And undoubtedly, he does better at school if he's doing his homework at home to support his learning.

For now, we're being careful about the time of day that Mini does his homework - how full his tummy is when he does it, whether there are distractions etc, but I think next school year, this is going to have to be tackled with school, and we're going to have to find strategies that work.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sharing experiences of CPV

CPV or Child to Parent Violence has been the focus of a week long theme on The Adoption Social. It's one of those subjects that isn't easy to talk about; a sore point - because who really wants to admit that their child hits them?

I've always been open about the violence that goes on in our home, I've written about it here before, on my Facebook page, and I think most of our friends and family know that the NC and I are on the receiving end of physical violence occasionally (though they might not know to what extent).
My personal view is that it's nothing to be ashamed of, it isn't my fault and I can't expect help and support unless I speak about it. But that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

Other people find it harder to speak about, and I understand their reticence - will they be judged? Why should they speak out? What support can they expect? And to be honest, is there really anything that can be done? And I know that in those moments, those raw moments of anger, fear, shame, embarrassment, shock, even hate, that CPV is impossible to talk about, or even think about. In those moments, all I've been able to do is exist. Sometimes it takes an hour or two, others several days to be able to think about an incident, make any vague sort of sense out of it, and move on. And that's just me, let alone Mini and all that he's feeling or felt during it all. He's still too young to be able to reflect on it after.

The newly launched Adoption Support Fund is there to access and perhaps it could pay for courses in non-violent resistance techniques, or DDP, or even private companies who can support and teach techniques to both children and their parents. But with doubts over how long the ASF will last, with no confirmed sources of funding after this initial wave runs out, relying on the ASF to provide continual and professional parenting development could be dangerous and short-sighted. And in these early days, it appears to be hard to access anyway with some adoptive parents reporting difficulties in receiving that initial assessment, a postcode lottery some might say. In fact, our own local authority has so far taken 4 weeks to tell us that they are unable to offer us the (statutory) assessment at the moment because of restructuring within the department. Well what a bloody brilliant time to restructure?! Not very well planned hey? So we don't know when we'll be able to move forward or how long it will take. And of course, there's the uncertainty over whether funding will be forthcoming, so we have to think about saving for private therapy/training rather than moving to a bigger house where we can improve safety and space.

So why should adoptive parents speak up about their CPV experiences?
Well, as The Adoption Social's work this week proves, speaking up means others can (even if virtually) support you, empathise with you, share techniques with you. Our Twitter chat this week attracted a fair few participants, and many more lurkers watching the conversation and we know it made people feel less alone. People who had intended to just watch felt compelled to join in, and even those who had CPV issues going on right there and then, still came and said their piece when they could.

There are perhaps some issues around language, and some express discomfort over this. However, discussing CPV is fairly new and whilst we all figure out how to talk about it, it will take time for language and terminology to be defined and refined, and re-refined. But that is, again, another reason to talk about it, let's make it part of normal adoption support type conversation, let's figure out how we want to speak about it and present that to Government, post adoption support teams, social workers and those that support us. Let us tell them what happens, and open up the conversations.

If we all speak up, they can't not listen. They can't disbelieve in it.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

After-school activities

The school the children are at now, well, for a start is smaller. It's in a village, it's got a PTA/HSA, the staff are approachable (for the most part), and it's just so much nicer than Mini's old school. I was friendly with a couple of mums at old school, but at new school we have our own facebook group to chat in, we've had several meet-ups in the school holidays and regularly meet for coffee. It's closer to my expectations of being mum of a school age child.

We really feel part of the school community, and at Dollop approaches her final term of Reception, I'm not filled with worry and dread about her moving up, and I'm hopeful that the current Year 4 teacher - a man - will remain in Year 4 so Mini will experience a male teacher...and helpful that he idolises Mr B already.

So this week, tomorrow in fact, both children will be attending a movie night after school tomorrow. It's something that the HSA regularly organise, and for a nominal sum the children can watch a movie with their friends, have a drink and a snack, and us parents get an extra hour and a half to ourselves before having the pick the kids up.

I'm telling you all this, not to give hints on fundraising for your own child's school (although, it does seem to be a good earner for our HSA), but to show you how far Mini has come since moving school. Apart from the fact that old school never did anything extra or fun like this, he just never would have felt comfortable being there beyond school hours. And honestly, I wouldn't have felt comfortable leaving him there after school hours.

I often look back and can't really see how things have changed all that much. The challenges are see there - less frequently but more violently, but it's the little things like this that really do show how things have moved on for us as a family.