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.