Friday, 27 June 2014

Forever for #WASO

"Something happens, and it stays happening and won't ever stop. Like us. Our family. Adoption."
- Mini

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Dad's having a tough time

The NC and I went to see our counsellor a while ago. It was our first joint session in a while. We talked about something quite difficult to our normal sessions...

Before we discovered our inability to conceive naturally, the NC and I had lighthearted discussions about what our future child would look like - curly like me? slim like him? And what skills they might have - musical like me? sporty like him?
Once we found out that we couldn't have children, we had to put aside those pictures and thoughts, and instead were given a tick list of attributes, abilities and disabilities to consider. Some we could cope with, some we felt we couldn't, some we needed guidance on, some we did a bit of research on, and in the end although we hadn't created a picture of our future child, we had established some things that we felt we would be able to deal with.
It sounds callous and heartless, because after all, if we had given birth, we would have coped with whatever illnesses or disabilities our child would have had, but this is the way it is in adoption - there is an element of choice, or at the very least elimination. But still, there is always an element of risk, more so than a birth child would bring because often family background is unknown, or chaotic circumstances have led to the removal of the child in the first place.

And now we find ourselves in a position where we are facing some of those things we ticked as 'couldn't cope with', or at least the NC is.

Connected to this is the frustration and anger that the NC feels towards Social Services and towards
himself. There are many things that weren't disclosed that could have affected our decision to adopt Mini. We'll never know, but for the NC those questions still linger, he's unable to move on and just accept what has been, and look forward.
And now, he feels trapped, unable to lead a 'normal' family life, because everything revolves around Mini. Even Dollop's birthday party was carefully thought about and booked to ensure that Mini would have a good time and would not disrupt everyone else, and he was the eldest there so could feel useful and important.

And of course there are thoughts about how our family and Mini are perceived. It's hard because, if we were parents to an obviously disabled child - physically disabled, a wheelchair user, or visually impaired, then people could see, would maybe understand, could accept the many doctors appointments and justified time off work. But with Mini, he doesn't have those obvious signs - he is emotionally disabled, but no-one can see that. And these appointments that we have - we'll they're with softies like therapists and counsellors - not *proper* medically trained people...aren't they?

Because of this, the NC feels under pressure at work, unjustified in taking time off when much needed, unable to commit to the same level as others - like not being able to travel overseas easily because we need some time to prepare Mini, not being able to cover the on-call shift at short notice, because that will mean having to change Mini's routine. Don't get me wrong, the NC has a great boss, and a lovely team but he can't help thinking that if they could just see Mini 'in action', they'd understand that bit more and realise that he's not just being bloody-minded by saying no to certain things - it's just that they have a massive impact on Mini and then in turn on the rest of us.

Way back, the NC correctly identified he'd struggle to cope with some of the things that Mini now displays, and now he's working really hard on trying to support Mini as best he possibly can, but with all that worry about work, he's not having the easiest time. I need to be emotionally available to the NC, but I'm not sure I can do that so well at the moment, so luckily we have Ada the counsellor, and for now she's helping us through.

We never expected this to be so hard, we'd engaged well in our home study and thought our heads, hearts and minds were ready to parent. But now, I really wish we'd done more to get our heads ready.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Lost Children of Trauma: A short film by The Open Nest


There is a great post on The Adoption Social that brings you some announcements from The Open Nest, so I'm not going to repeat it all here. But this video, commissioned by The Open Nest, created by Marry Waterson, and with content from the online Twitter community, needs to be seen.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Inspiring and awesome

Sarah from The Puffin Diaries and I have been at the Britmums Live blogging conference this weekend. It's a great couple of days full of keynote speakers, technical sessions on blogging, opportunities to meet brands, LOTS of meeting other bloggers/instagrammers/tweeters, and a fair bit of tea drinking (or wine for those who found the Lindeman Wines stand!).

Last year it was overwhelming. This year it was much more enjoyable and comfortable as we knew what to expect. I attended several sessions that were interesting and informative, a couple that were inspiring, but by far and away my favourite was a session called How to be an agent of change, and was run by Christine Mosler of Thinly Spread, Hayley Goleniowska from Downs Side Up, Lindsay Aitken from Lilies Are Like YouTuber and Camila Batmanghelidjh from Kids Company.

Wow.

It was so inspirational listening to these amazing women who have achieved so much. It just goes to show how powerful blogging and tweeting can be. There's not much to tell you here - just look at their sites to see what they've done, and what they support. For me this session was not about the 'how to's' of blogging, but made me feel more strongly about using social media for change, for the better and for support.

I'll leave you with a (rather dark) photograph of Sarah meeting and talking with Camila - a heroine of mine, I was too in awe to meet her, but feel so honoured to have listened to her speak.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

She did it, no he did it...

We live in a terrace of houses. For every four houses there is a shared alleyway between the middle two. We're one of those middle two so it runs alongside our living room, and then is separated from our yard by fencing...which sadly we lost some of in the storms earlier this year. The children now love the free access they have to the alleyway where they play, skip, search for special stones, race and use their imaginations.

Of course it's gated at the front, by a pretty tall gate that Mini can just reach to open, and he knows not to. But there is a 18inch space above it, which it appears is the perfect size space to boot a football through.

Why am I giving you such a detailed explanation of my house and outside area? Just read that last bit again 'the perfect size space to boot a football through'.
Yes, because that's what has happened, several times now. The trouble with this is that we live on a main road, a very main, very busy road. So far it's only gone into the road once, and luckily when there was no traffic, so no accident caused.

We've talked about the risks and ramifications of this happening again. We've banned football playing in the alleyway, but yet again, the ball went over the front gate yesterday.

"Mummy, mummy, Dollop kicked my ball over the gate".

So I retrieved it from next door's empty driveway. Removed the balls from the children, and tried for answers. He was adamant she'd done it, she was adamant he'd done it. Horns locked, that was the end of outside play. I stayed calm, and today when they asked for balls, I said 'no'. No ball playing until tomorrow at least, and definitely not until someone owned up and told the truth.

"Is that the good thing mummy? Telling the truth?" Mini asks.
"Yes of course, the truth is always the best thing". 
"I'm sorry mummy, I did it. I kicked it over" he easily and quickly admits.

Now at this point, ever the typical four year old Dollop pipes up "See I told you mummy, I didn't do it, it was him like I said yesterday, he kicked the ball over the gate and then he came and told you and he said it was me and I told you it wasn't but you didn't believe me you just made us stop, but I told you all along and next time you should listen".

Dollop distracted with dandelion hunting duties for the guinea pigs, I took the time to hug Mini and explain that he must have felt really worried about getting into trouble if he'd blamed it on his sister. I explained that I know accidents happen and I also know that he wouldn't have kicked it over on purpose. We had more hugs, and he relaxed.
We even chatted about how Dollop must have felt when she'd been blamed and it wasn't really her fault. And I pushed it even further, to explain to I felt frustrated when he told lies.

So this really long post is a very round about way of saying that Mini owned up. He told the truth (albeit after 24 hours) because he realised the consequence was not having his ball to play with anymore. It's taken us a long time for Mini to understand consequences, but I believe his growing maturity, settled feelings at school, and the work we've done is really starting to positively influence Mini and how he manages situations, and us too.
And I know this isn't necessarily an adoption specific issue, most children try to dodge blame for fear of trouble (I know I did), however I do believe that Mini's attachment issues, coercive nature, and heightened anxiety levels make these 'normal' issues more challenging. It's typical behaviour, but with knobs, bells and whistles on!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Love

Dollop's in bed. Mini is sitting with Dollop's guinea pig - Bo - having a cuddle on the sofa.

Jabbering away, as he does, Mini chatters about the guinea pigs - about April - his pig, and how much he loves them, and how cute baby guinea pigs would be. And then...

'I don't mean to hurt your feelings Bo, but I do love April more because she's my guinea pig'.

This is from a child who doesn't ever  appear to think about feelings, or how his words and actions affect other people. He just expressed care and concern for how Bo will feel, and expressed his love for April.


I'll remember this for a long time, as I'm reminded that Mini does think about feelings, he just struggles to express them most of the time.

Monday, 2 June 2014

A constant reminder?

Many of my adoptive parent friends and acquaintances report difficulties with their children when meeting new babies - whether that's family or friends, or even in passing.

For Mini we never noticed that - he met several children as babies - my God-daughter, her cousin, baby Whizz, friend's babies and of course Dollop. He's struggled with just one of those occasions, when he met our friend's new baby boy (who is actually 2 and a half now). But that was confusion about how this new little boy was connected to him, to us, and made a little more confusing by the NC being the Godfather of this new little boy - lets call him Pilot. After all, if you share the same father, does that make you brothers? Mini hadn't heard of the term 'Godfather' before so it was confusing, and we'd only recently been talking about Mini's birth sibling who had been adopted so there was lots of 'brother' talk going on.

Of course over the years, Mini has struggled with Dollop. Even on a daily basis now he has tantrums and meltdowns because he wants and needs the same things as she does, but is physically too big. Dollop particularly loves riding on the NC's shoulders, and although we do lark about and crawl around with the kids on our backs, it's not quite the same for Mini.
Dollop also likes being swung between our hands as we walk along, so does Mini, but he's too tall and too heavy for me to do it.

And there is the big one - the difference. He feels this acutely - thinks that she is somehow better in our eyes because she was born to us. He can't remember the things we did for him when he was young, and so he thinks she gets special treatment, and he thinks that's because we adopted him so he's not as special as her. It's really hard, and so amount of gentle or obvious reassuring seems to make any difference to Mini; he simply sees himself as less important and less lovable. We plough on though and try not to give either special treatment. We love them the same, we give them what they need when they need it - though sometimes that means they might not get the same thing as exactly the same time.

Because I've been there from the start with Dollop - right from even before she was born though I haven't missed anything. I've seen her firsts, I've met her needs, I've loved her forever.
With Mini, I missed so much. I didn't have the firsts, I didn't meet his needs, and well, loving him didn't come immediately; it took time. And, during that first year, he missed so much - yes he had a lovely foster carer, but he also had uncertainties, medical problems, lack of consistency, and deeper than that - he missed chances to emotionally and physically develop 'normally'.

Is he aware of that? Does he see that every time he looks at Dollop? We've thought all this time that he was jealous of her, jealous of the attention he sees us giving, and hyper-aware of the differences between them. But is it more than that? Does she make him think about all the things he missed as a baby? Does she remind him of all the things he didn't have?
Until Mini can talk about all of this without becoming angry and shutting down, all we can do is be curious and try to help them develop a good relationship as brother and sister.
But it feels like *everything* is so complex.