Thursday, 1 March 2012

Marathons and pacemakers


I’ve been doing lots of questioning today – of myself mostly following my blog post yesterday and some Twitter conversations that I’ve had today as a result of it.

It’s always been my belief that being honest with adopted children as early as possible is important. That it’s crucial they know they are adopted – none of those old-school attitudes about hiding it and pretending they’re your birth children.
My beliefs around this have been based on what our social worker told us, reading material we were given, the preparation course we attended – everything was geared to telling the child about their background as early as possible. The whole adoption process is a marathon, there is so much to do and learn, and a long process to endure. If your social worker advises something, and can back up their advice, then you believe it.

We were advised to put photos of birth parents in Mini’s room (even though he only ever met birth father at one hello/goodbye contact session) and that should also include the photograph of me, the NC and birth mother that was taken when we met her – this was supposed to show Mini that she was ‘giving her permission’ in a way, for him to be with us.

It appears that all this was wrong. Wrong for Mini, wrong for us.Those social workers don't talk to you about veering off this path they recommend - it's a one size fits all approach but it just doesn't work like that! 

We’ve always been really gentle in the approach we’ve taken with Mini. We’ve not hidden anything, but we’ve done our best to be age appropriate, and haven’t forced anything onto him (bar the photos in his room it would seem). His life story book has always been available for Mini, and he had looked at it infrequently, and he’s always asked to see his album from his foster family (although less so recently), but we don’t force him to look.
We’ve utilised conversations about animals being taken away from their parents to show that we don’t all live with our birth parents, and we’ve always looked at books that introduce the idea of different mummies – A Mother for Choco has been one of Mini’s favourites since he was quite small. But in all of that, we only introduced the concepts, never pinned it on him or compared with his life.
Having said that, he’s known from very young that there is a lady and a man who live not too far away, who were his parents but couldn’t look after him, so we became his parents instead.

My pregnancy with Dollop was a tricky situation. Knowing there was a baby in my tummy meant Mini wanted to know where he’d come from. Those natural questions emerge about being in tummies, and coming out of those tummies. We took the opportunity to explain that he’d come from a different tummy, but the lady couldn’t look after him, and alluded to the lady and man who live not too far away…

Breastfeeding bought more questions – did X feed him he wondered? From a bottle or from her boobies? And Mini wanted to know why X couldn’t look after him as a baby. Even at 3 and a half, he realised that babies mostly sleep, poo and feed, and he didn’t understand why X couldn’t meet those basic needs. We tried to avoid certain questions, tried to divert his attention, but there were many questions we carefully answered in a way so as to provide a vague answer.

Mini is a sensitive soul. He questions lots of things. Mini has worried lots that X will be missing him. To calm him, I’ve explained that I write to X every now and then to let her know that he is OK, and so my sensitive, caring Mini asked to help. How could I tell him no? So last letter he told me a few things that he wanted me to say. This time, I’ve not told him I’m writing, and won’t again until he asks.

But anyway, we thought we’d been gentle enough. We thought we’d taken it slow enough…clearly not. Now everything is being removed and will stay away until Mini is well and truly ready. We need to let him be the pacemaker, and let us know how fast or slow he wants to learn.
And now I feel like a brand new adopter all over again trying to learn about this new child that’s emerging and feel like I’ve failed Mini over these last 4 years by being honest with him.

12 comments:

  1. You have not failed! I think all us adopters have to find our way. We learnt the hard way that our children were not ready for the amount of information we gave them. The questions came in their own time and we have tried to deal with them honestly and openly. Our son now knows everything (he is 11) and has even sat and read through his file. It has been hard going at times as some of the information is shocking. But given time and understanding, it beds down. Have confidence!

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  2. Thanks Sally - I think the failure feeling is because the realisation is now hitting that we've brought some of this on ourselves. We could have done more earlier on to prevent the issues we're now having. We should have challenged those social workers...
    We're starting afresh now, and your tweets have been so helpful in helping me see that today x

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  3. Definitely not failure. We are all walking along an unknown path. They are going to have issues whichever way we go, and as I said, each story is so individual sometimes we just have to muddle through.
    On the flip side of the coin, I would like at least a couple of photos ready for when J asks - otherwise it seems 2 years of his life, for him, will be non-existent.

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    1. You're right it is unknown, I guess we can't be prepared for every single eventuality. I hope you manage to get some photos for J...I hope they exist somewhere within social services....

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  4. like to read that you feel you have failed. Children don't come with an instruction manuals and whether they are adopted, disabled or neither we don't always get it right. What's right one day may not be right the next, I know this too well! People professional or not will decide what's right on what they have learnt, read, been told or experienced. I believe you have to know the child before you can make a choice on what is the right or wrong way to go about things. What is important is that anything you have ever done has been with good intention and love. This is something he will come to understand. The only way you fail is when you give up loving and wanting to do the right thing. You are doing a wonderful thing and are parents with huge hearts this is why you never will fail x x x

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  5. Thanks Ronna....the feeling of failure comes, I think, from realising that we might have been able to prevent some of what we're now experiencing if we'd questioned and challenged our social worker. We'll carry on now, and at least we now how to move forward xx

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  6. Maybe you ought feedback to social worker how you feel so they can learn from it? You have not failed mini just done what you were told was best and yes one size does not fit all. Xx

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  7. I think that might come when I'm feeling a bit braver!

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  8. Hi, just found your blog and really enjoying it. I'm mum to a 5 yr old adopted at 14 months and his disabled elder brother.
    I have to say I always listen to what social workers say - then do what we think is best for our family! But we get it wrong - often!
    My boys are going through an 'adoption is boring' phase at the moment, they can't be bothered with it all. They've both had their questions in the past, and I'ms sure they will again. Both can be challenging at times.

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  9. I really appreciate your comment megs. I think Mini is at that 'adoption is boring' thing too...it describes his attitude perfectly! I notice you blog too...will have a look shortly :-)

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  10. I've just found your blog - we've only just finished the homestudy and are waiting to go to panel in June, but it's so helpful to read about your experiences - thank you. :)

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    1. Good luck at panel! I'd like to think our experiences are uncommon - there are lots of adopters who face similar issues, but there are probably more that don't (and they are the ones that keep quiet!) Even so, there is a great network of bloggers, tweeters, forumites, emailers, organisations etc that are certainly supporting and helping me. Keep in touch, and let us know how you get on :-)

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