Monday, 30 December 2013

Bye Bye 2013 - it wasn't all bad...

I'm sat here doing a bit of post Christmas analysis. We're very lucky, and have had probably our best Christmas ever in terms of Mini and his enjoyment of the season. We had a very quiet Christmas with just Christmas Day with family at my sister in laws, although all the weekends leading up to Christmas were packed full! We had our elves here, we visited friends and family, we spent time in A&E, we saw a pantomime, we went to see Santa, we had family visit us, we went to parties, we roasted chestnuts, we built gingerbread houses and we went to Church.

Since the big day we've spent most of our time at home, building Lego, playing Yahtzee, doing puzzles, making airbrushed pictures, teaching Dollop how to use her Mobigo console, changing batteries, painting nails, putting sparkly gems in hair and just relaxing.

In the last 7 days, we've had one semi-meltdown (from Mini at least, there have been rather a lot more tantrums than that from Dollop). That's a new record. I can't recall the last time we had such a long period of regulation and normality. It feels to the NC and I that perhaps Mini has undergone a period of maturity, and he's certainly going through another physical growth spurt...perhaps they go hand in hand? He's been happy, affectionate, helpful, fun, polite, great company and has been a pleasure to have around. We've found a nice mix of playtime, chores and relaxation. It's all just going well!

Don't get me wrong, we had a few wobbly moments including a couple on Christmas day but cuddles were enough to soothe them away.

We've also had a few 'I'm bored' or 'What can I do?' moments, but in all fairness I think that's because he's been a little overwhelmed by all the presents and at his age I'm sure I reacted the same way.

But I won't get complacent because I know these times (although shorter in the past) have been before, and disappeared quickly. After all, we have more anticipation and excitement on it's way as the new school term the new school, and Mini's birthday is in early January. Then the end of the month is the anniversary of Mini moving in (and another anniversary too), and no matter how quiet we are about that, he can sense it's not the easiest time.

Anyway, now we're about to begin a new year and I am more hopeful this year than I have been in the past - hopeful that I can fight some of my demons, and that we can get more help and support for Mini, and that we can move forward as a family. For now, goodbye 2013 you weren't the worse year we've had but let's hope things are better next year, see you on the other side!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Thank you and Merry Christmas

The stockings are hung. The presents are wrapped. Letters to Santa have been written and sent.
And now my children are happily watching Christmas movies, doing Christmas crafts and later will help me make some mince pies.

Without you reading The Boy's Behaviour, commenting, and sharing, I wouldn't have the support, friends, and sanity that I now have. I am comforted by your comments at times when comfort is hard to find, and although I wouldn't wish some of these challenges on anyone - I feel supported by knowing I'm not alone, and I'm able to tell my son that he's not the only one who is struggling, there are many children out there who feel similar, and many adult adoptees too.

It means a lot to have so many people reading - this year I reached 100,000 page views, which I think is pretty good for a blog that's not even 2 yet, on a subject that is quite specific and doesn't necessarily appeal to the masses! So please do keep reading and sharing - let other people know that adoption isn't as straightforward as it sounds, love is not all you need, and not all children do 'that'.

All that I need to say now is Merry Christmas, may you have a gentle and safe time, and all best wishes for the New Year, may 2014 be calm and peaceful xx

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Time to be together

As you might have read, we take part in the whole Elf on the Shelf 'thing'. One of the great things about our elves is that they often leave activities for Mini and Dollop, and sometimes those activities need some supervision, and others are just fun to do together. So, here's was Saturday afternoon's activity...

Mini's amazing snowy chalet

Dollop's sweetie covered house

The NC helped Dollop, and I 'helped' Mini...turns out he's pretty good with a piping bag. Oh, and after all that fun, I 'decorated' Mini's face with the leftover icing - he looks quite cute with a moustache!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Our first family Christingle

Have I told you that Mini's now a Beaver? He joined earlier this year when we first considered moving schools as a way of creating and maintaining a group of friends that would still be there when he had to say bye to old school friends, and perhaps before he'd established a new group of friends. And not only that, Mini wanted to do something outside of school - the choice was trampolining club or Beavers...
This weekend was the Beaver's district Christingle service, with 4 Beavers units attending. Not only was it the first time the children had ever attended a church service, but it was my first Christingle too. The vicar was great, the service didn't last too long, and it was beautiful when they turned the lights out....

I'm linking this up to #MemoryBox over on The Adoption Social.

Monday, 16 December 2013

I'm wearing too many clothes

I've written newsy posts recently - you all know that Mini has left school now and starts at a new school soon.

Today I'm going to share my feelings with you because quite honestly they've been a bit up and down recently and only two or three people really know about it. Truth is, there are a number of people who are relatively close to us, but they're all too busy (or at least that how it feels) and I don't want to bother them with my (possibly irrational) dear reader, you're getting lumbered with the job instead!
And not only that, I tend to hide away and duck down when I'm feeling low. If I start cancelling plans, it's usually because I'm either ill or feeling low. They're the times I need the most support, but have a tendency to shut myself away and find it pretty much impossible to ask for help. A few people know this and are good at pulling me out, and to them I'm grateful.

I recently went to a large event, in a place that I'm very familiar and comfortable with, I might even go so far as to say it's one of my favourite places to be especially at this time of year. I'd only met one other person before, but 'talked' online to lots of others, and count them as my friends.

I came away feeling scared, wobbly, physically sick, tearful and alone. My husband and kids came to pick me up, but I felt disconnected from them. I didn't know who I was because this type of event was the sort of thing I used to do all the time with work, yet I had no confidence this time, and felt like I was there as a fake. I'd lost my identity. More than that, I just felt totally confused and lost. At times I was standing in a room full of hundreds of people, but had never felt so alone. I stood outside for some air, with people pushing past doing their Christmas shopping, and instead of enjoying a bit of a break from family life I felt panicky, small and vulnerable. A nervous breakdown perhaps? I don't know.

And now, a month later, I'm still feeling just as unsure of myself. And worse, unsure of my relationship with the NC, with my kids, of everything. It's been a really difficult time, and I'm grateful to the NC who is really the only person who knows the extent of my feelings and is still putting up with me. Mini is about to go through one of the biggest changes in his life and I feel like I'm the only one supporting him...everyone else is going about their lives - even those people who are really important to him, and I'm the one whose trying to hold it together for him, whilst inside I don't even know who I am anymore.

It kind of feels like all the different roles that I have are an item of clothing - mummy, wife, friend, daughter, website host, in-law, aunty, blogger, trustee, Godmother, cook, cleaner, taxi driver, and sometimes I can wear lots of those things and feel OK, but other times I have to wear them all and it gets too hot and I get panicky and nothing fits properly, and I just want to hide in the shower and wish them all away. Trouble is, I'm not sure who I'd find underneath all of those clothes these days...

When they're all out at school and work, I sit home and cry. I cry for all the things I've done and don't anymore, I cry for all the things that I miss, I cry for all the things that I don't have. And when I'm not crying, I'd like to say I'm doing all the mundane things that stay at home mums do, but in all honesty I'm struggling to even flick a duster around, so instead I sit and paint my nails - because people who have nicely manicured nails aren't struggling are they? Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for all that I have, but I'm clearly going through a big grieving process right now...

And here comes the big admission. I'm jealous. Jealous of all those mums who *seem* to have it easier than me, jealous of people who get more support than me, jealous of people who have their mums close by. Jealousy is an ugly thing, but I can't help how I feel at the moment.

Do you know where the real me is these days? Can you tell her to come on home because I miss her...and if you know any of the other bits of me, can you just give those bits a hug every now and then. x

Guest post: To be, or not to be, Santa by Last Mother

Over on The Adoption Social, we recently ran a special Secret Santa for bloggers where instead of giving little presents, the idea was that we'd give the gift of a blog post. 14 bloggers signed up and this weekend, those gifts have been dropping into inboxes not only across the UK, but even internationally. This week we hope to see those guest posts popping up on some of our favourite adoption blogs.

Mini was the one who picked names from two bowls to establish who would be writing for who, and I was pleased when he picked Last Mother to write for The Boy's Behaviour. Here's the guest post she sent for me...

To be, or not to be, Santa…

…That is the controversial question! Most of the people reading this
will live in either the UK or the US. That is, countries with a Christian culture, big on Christmas and also nowadays, big on SANTA. And oh, how debated Santa has become! We all start planning Christmas early, and making decisions about what is going to happen, but suddenly, our decision to either ‘Be Santa’ and leave our children presents but pretend good old Saint Nick did it instead, or ‘Not to be Santa’ and tell our children that Father Christmas does not in fact, exist, is a decision that we will be JUDGED for.

“Lying to your children is WRONG, always. You are tricking them, they will be devastated when they find out their parents are liars”

“How could you be so cruel as to DEPRIVE your children of the magic of Christmas? Santa is lovely harmless fun, and you are taking away something wonderful from them”

The strength of the feeling sometimes expressed, is the kind of passion you’d expect to see in an argument about whether it’s okay to smack children with a hairbrush - not an argument about exactly how we choose to give our beloved children gifts on one day of the year.

As you might now be able to tell, I personally have no strong feelings about what is ‘best’ (indeed, I do not believe there is an objective ‘best thing to do’), and am slightly bemused about why the choices of some parents on this matter, are such a problem to other parents.

So you ask, what do I personally do? What did I do with my now adult and older teenage children? Well – I’ve done it both ways.

Here are my experiences with Santa, which are what has led me to take the view I do today:

Firstly, our own feelings are often strongly linked to our own childhoods and upbringings. I can tell you that we had Santa in our home. We had a small stocking each, with nuts and oranges and a few gifts inside. I remember Santa as something lovely and fun and exciting. Christmas itself was a wholly fun and exciting time. Why? Well, it was a nice extension of my whole childhood, which was stable, secure and in which I felt loved, safe, cared for and calm. My general feelings about life and my family were amplified at this lovely time of year. More fun, more security, more safety, more family, it was all good. Surprises were fun, because I knew that they were always so. Well, apart from surprise dentist and doctors’ visits ;)

This left me with a desire to make Christmas as wonderful for my children as it had been for me. And because Santa was a component of my wonderful childhood Christmases, why would it not be a component of my future children’s Christmases? I always assumed I would do Santa, and the idea that I would not pretend to be Santa while my kids were young enough to believe – well, it would not even have occurred to me.

When I was first approved to adopt, I had an age range of 3-12. Unusually large, and it left things wide open Christmas wise, given that if I adopted a 12 year old, Santa wouldn’t be a part of Christmas anyway simply because of their age. But I was sure that if I adopted a young child, I would do Santa. And an exciting thought it was to my young and honestly na├»ve adult self! As it happened, most of the children I considered were in the upper half of my age range, and eventually I was chosen for my eldest daughter (I call her Rhea online) and brought her to live with me, when she was 10.

She already knew Santa didn’t exist, so I never had to make that decision. But I did have to confront my assumptions about a family Christmas nonetheless. Rhea didn’t think Christmas was fun, exciting, happy or something to look forward to. It was uncertain, confusing and scary; a reminder of awful things. Everything could and surely would go wrong for her. And so I changed my plans and adapted to a new kind of Christmas. A low key, just-the-two-of-us kind of Christmas, with little traditions and no uncertainties or surprises.

Then in 2004 I adopted my second daughter, “Kestrel”. She was 7 when I met her, and had her 8th birthday during our introductions. She had a mild learning disability and was very emotionally and socially delayed. In addition to that, every year of her life as far as I know, Santa had actually come to her, and left some presents, no matter how few or what they were. There was something and she was told that Santa brought them. And so, I finally had a child who believed that Santa came at Christmas. That was surely a good thing, no? Well…no.

Who is Santa? What does a child understand Santa as? Ask a child, and they will probably tell you that Santa is a man, who wears red and says ‘ho ho ho’ and drives a sleigh (etc etc), and who comes to your home at Christmas, sneaks into your bedroom (or maybe your lounge) and leaves you nice presents.

Now ask yourself this - what does it mean to a child, the idea of a man coming into your bedroom at night?

For most children, well they’d think ‘uh….oh, Santa does that!’ But there’s a group of children who wouldn’t think of Santa, because a man sneaking into your room at night means something else entirely.

And there lay my new Santa problem. Kestrel believed that Santa was real and that he was a present giver, yes, but she was also terrified and scared of Santa coming. As well as finding Christmas scary, uncertain, over stimulating and confusing in general. So what could I do?

I did the one thing I would never have foreseen myself doing pre-children. I told my daughter “Santa isn’t real”.  It’s an adult you live with, just pretending. It’s me. Your mum, giving you presents because I love you and you deserve nice things. This house is a man-free, Santa free zone.

I had become one of those terrible parents who so cruelly “deprive” their children of the “magic” of…oh no wait, I was a good mum who was doing what she thought best for her daughter.

And here’s what I’ve learnt from my Santa-less Christmases with my daughters:

That Christmas is not less magic without Santa after all. That Santa is not what Christmas is all about, and is not the most important thing to happen on Christmas Day. And that Santa is not a good idea for some children. It’s as simple as that. 

In 2007, I adopted my son, “Parrot”, who is Kestrel’s biological half-brother and who was 23 months old when he came home. And Parrot has always had Santa. He has come running into my room on Christmas morning, and said “Mummy, Santa’s been! Look at my presents!” and nearly cried with excitement.

Here’s what I’ve learnt from being Santa to Parrot:

That Santa is fun and good for some children. A way to try and teach the power of imagination and fun, which is something Parrot has shad difficulties with. An aid in developmental skills, basically. And fun for me, too!

Overall, what I’ve found from my own parenting experience, is that we all do what we think is best for our own children, and that whichever way we choose we are usually committed to giving our children as good a Christmas as possible.

To be, or not to be, Santa? It’s up to you – and this mother supports you either way, because she thinks that at the end of the day, it doesn’t make a difference. It’s not about cruelty, love, lying, truth, magic, deprivation or doing-it-in-an-exact-way. It’s about doing what you think is best for your individual child. And in the grand scheme of things, if your child can look back at Christmases with you and think good things about what you did – that’s what matters. 

Merry Christmas, readers :-)

And a very Merry Christmas, and many thanks to Last Mother for writing this Secret Santa guest post.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Last days at school

Mini is leaving his school this week. Next week he starts having transition sessions at his new school. He's nervous, I'm nervous but we're talking about it, and listening to his feelings and empathising with him and he also seems quietly excited too. We're certainly not seeing the wetting that's our normal anxiety indicator.

I really feel for Mini at the moment. Moving school is scary. But he's asking lots of questions and we're doing our best to find the answers for him. I was able to share that I was also leaving behind the mum friends that I'd made in the playground, and that I wouldn't know any of the mums at the new school - so I knew how he felt about leaving his friends and making new ones. I reminded him that he still has his Beaver friends, and we made a pact that I'd try to chat to some of the new mums, and he'd try to talk to some new classmates and we'd chat about who seems nice and not! It might not be the 'right' way to do things, but it made him feel happier.

Mini's also missing out on his school play which is happening next week - he is disappointed, but we'd always felt that doing it 3 days in a row would be too much anyway, and this way he doesn't have to go back and forth between schools for transition sessions.

Poor little guy also missed out on his school disco this week. It's traditionally been a Year 2 privilege, and it's always been free. But this year it was opened up to Year 1 as well, and there was a charge for tickets. 3 days after the invitation, Mini was going to take his money in, but all the tickets had been sold. Again, he was disappointed, but luckily has his Beavers disco and party tonight.

And school is still stressing him out - yesterday he came out telling me that they were doing a special showing of the school play today and the Head teacher had told them photos would be taken. He knows he's not allowed in any school photos and was highly stressed at the very thought of it. Unfortunately the teacher who was covering his class yesterday afternoon knew nothing of it, nor did the TA, so to appease and calm him I had to send a note in today making it clear he wasn't to be included in photos.

So his last day at school is tomorrow, which also happens to be 'Wear a Christmas jumper' day AND the school Christmas fayre. It's going to be mayhem, but hopefully good mayhem, and we can look forward instead of fearful dread every day.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

New school!


We had disappointing news recently when our application to a new school was rejected. It was kind of expected - they had no spaces, but we'd hoped that their governors would make one for Mini.

So I viewed another school and I'm happy that they will support us, listen to us, and more importantly, suit Mini. It's a primary school so from Year R - Year 6, rather than his current infant school which is Year R to Year 2, but despite the bigger age range there are fewer pupils and much much more space.

And today we got confirmation that Mini has been accepted and can start before or on 16th December. In reality he'll start transition sessions soon and then start on 7th January.

And, he seems OK with the idea so watch this space for more updates!

I'm linking this post upto #MemoryBox on The Adoption Social because this is something we've been working towards for a while, and I'm so pleased it's finally happening!