If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Magical May

There is something magical about May, it's the time when I am drawn back to my childhood, to when I was a child whose only responsibilty was having fun. I fall back in love with the books I would have read seated in the dappled shade beneath the plum tree or pear tree in our back garden, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five, Anne of Green Gables, the Diddakoi and good old Nancy Drew. I can almost taste the homemade chocolate cake, homemade strawberry jam smothered on crusty bread and sugary orange squash.
It is this, I think, that encourages me to recreate those memories for my children, picnics at the beach, or the Secret Garden, barbecues, walks by the river and through bluebell and wild garlic woods.

This year is very different for us, child 1 has made her way through India, Vietnam, Cambodia and is now exploring Thailand, child 2 is working and studying, spending time with his friends. Leaving the two youngest to be entertained.

So we head for a walk to the Secret Garden, no 4 has just found his imagination, sometimes he is a pirate other times an astronaut. Today he found a stick which became a gun to shoot zombies, then a sword to kill them again when they came back to life. Yes I did check all the parent controls on Amazon, You Tube and Netflix when I got home, phew all parenting controls are in place!!! We hunted fairies, monsters and magical creatures in the woods, we studied the tiny still curled up leaves on the vivid fronds of the ferns that grow beneath the trees, we collected pine cones and picked pretty blossoms that had spiralled in the wind. Child 4 climbed trees, slid down muddy slopes and played hide and seek amongst the trees. We stood silently listening to the cacophony of bird song, chatter and calling. I had never noticed so many different sounds, then we chased bright blue dragon flies that dipped and dived above where we picnicked.

We have played cricket, football, piggy in the middle. We have laid down in the cool grass looking for shapes in the downy clouds that dawdle across the bright blue sky. We have chased our shadows and jumped from sunny spot to sunny spot where the sun finds gaps between the dense branches to highlight magical steps for us to follow.

We pick pungent wild garlic to add to our pasta for dinner and find tiny green wild strawberries clustering in brightly lit corners a taste of summer to come.

We have explored rock pools and skimmed stones. We have collected shells and fossils. We have journeyed across rocky beaches and cliff tops. Oh the picnics we have gorged. The ice creams we tried.

On a wet day we baked strawberry jam tray bakes and built a den under the table where we picnicked until the sun broke through the dense rain laden clouds letting us search for rainbows.

These are the moments where life slows right down, where we live not cursing the past or worrying about the future, this is where we live and love right now.


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Damage Control

 Damage Control.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference"

As a child I was taught this prayer and it's something that I have returned to as I have grown. That is until I adopted, now I cannot just accept the things I cannot change, I have to find a work around. Since adopting, working around is something to which I am becoming far more adept at. One of the trainers on a course I once attended said that those who take on some of the most damaged children in our society have to be a little eccentric we have to be able to think outside the box, we have to think on our feet very quickly, we have to accept when we get it wrong and repair ASAP. We need rhino thick hides and copious amounts of patience, not only with our charges but also with ourselves. Our social worker said that once on a visit, when one of our chickens tried to get in through the cat flap and we laughed and let the chicken in for some raisins then set her back outside, was the day she knew we would be OK, says it all.

This week at a Conscious Parenting Course I had a revelation,  I will not be able fix everything that goes wrong, I have to find a way of managing the fall out. Sometimes I don't need to even know what has happened I just need to let my son know that I know things can be hard, but no matter how hard they are I will be with him. I don't need to change the world to make it fit my little boy, I need to help my little boy change the way he views the world.
We spend so much time looking to fix things that can not be fixed, when sometimes we just need to not accept it, but work around it and move on.
Life is unfair and for our children it is particularly unfair, but that is how it is whether we like it or not. The establishment as it is, is not set up or funded to look after traumatised children whether it be social services, education or mental health services. Those in the front line aren't to blame, they have their jobs to do and do them they must, the majority to the best of their ability some going above and beyond and of course those that don't.
We all know that the systems in place are not really fit for service, we are all at some point frustrated by the lack of understanding shown.

There will always be ignorant people;( people who believe that once children are adopted they are fine; those that see them as damaged goods and those that don't care, so we need to be able to support our children.
We could storm into schools and social care offices all the time demanding that they support our children in the best way but that is exhausting. We have to have other ways of putting our children at the centre of what we do and I recognised this in the Conscious Parenting Course run by Richard Reddington, that I attended this week. An attendee was sharing a story about how her child was going to be in isolation that day. Your reaction was ours and the trainers but instead of allowing us to become caught up in the unfairness, he just said what you need to say after school today is

Wow, you had a tough day today, but you made it through and I am proud of you.

No condemnation of the school, the child or the situation, no condoning of the school or the situation, just being there in the moment with the child, accepting that it was a tough day and standing with them . Genius, wow I can make this work for my family.

This does not mean that I won't still be a voice for change to the establishment it just means I can't wait for it to change, I have to control the damage it is doing now.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Oh the places you will go

And so child 1 has left for her adventuring,  off she has flown to the vivid colours, sights, sounds and smells of India. Social media and WiFi access where ever you go means that contact is so very easy. A quick WhatsApp or Messenger with a photo attached means that we can see everything she is upto with just a quick click of a button. She has shared the room they are in, their meals and the rubbish left in the streets. She starts her golden triangle exploration tomorrow, starting at Agra, so no doubt there will be lots more pictures to see and lots of adventures to hear about. I am so very excited for her and yet so very wistful for those times when she needed me.

Our children arrive, some as tiny bundles, some toddling around and some quite grown up. None of them arrive with an instruction manual. And so we spend our days, weeks, years helping build, renovate and extend these,  our children's foundations. Our aim is to give our children roots and wings, except no one tells you what happens when they spread their wings to fly away. When they go, they unknowingly take a piece of our hearts with them and unaware of the gift they carry, they tend to not take care of it.
We are left on the peripheral watching, ready to step in to help when asked but otherwise left watching.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Slipping through my fingers

13 sleeps and child 1 flies off to India for the first stop on her first grown up adventure. We are filling our days with last minute visits to family to say goodbye, meals, coffee dates and shopping trips to spend as much time as possible with her before she heads off. At night when all is quiet and I am left alone with my thoughts  I am tangled up in a mix of emotions, pride in her achievements, excitement (maybe a touch of envy) for everything she is going to do and see, worry as she will be so far away and there are no guarantees of her safety and sorrow as this is the beginning of her leaving home.

I have and am encouraging all my children to be independent, to have a desire to see this wonderful world we inhabit, to look for adventure in their futures and would probably be a little disappointed if they didn't fly the nest, visiting exciting new places on their journeys. But, I have to say that I have been surprised by the mix and the depth of emotions child 1's travel plans have caused.
As for her siblings, Child 2, I think and hope will come into his own, he has for a few years now lived in child 1's shadow and will now have an opportunity to take his place as the oldest for a few months. Child 3 will miss her older sister I am sure but will, I hope take the change in her stride, no 4 however I fear, will view this change as another loss. In the hope of counter-acting this we are taking him with us to drop no1 to the airport so that he realises she has left on a trip, rather than gone off in the car and never returned, she is leaving her favourite childhood toy "Dolly" for him to look after until she returns and I have bought a scrap book for us to do, whilst she is away. We will print off two photos from her and her friends holiday Instagram and add them to the scrap book with some decorations and captions every week.

13 more sleeps and I am holding onto every moment of joy I can.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Melancholy Mother

Mother's Day brings such a mix of emotions these days, I want my mum to know she is loved and appreciated. She is my go to support, my rock, the person who gently reminds me to laugh at the antics of my children. As a mum I would love a proper day off, no washing, no cooking, no wading into arguments, just time for me to sit and be quiet to do what I want to do, not what I should do. But now four years into adoption there is another mother who intrudes my thoughts on Mother's Day. As yet it seem so to be only me who feels this interloper, child 4 is too little yet, but as he grows I wonder how he will manage these days. Will he be confused, angry or scared or will he just ignore the fact that his biological mother is out there somewhere.
How will I cope sharing the day with her, I am the one who reads with him, deals with the tears, the rages, the joy of achievements. Then I feel guilty, how does this young woman feel every year on Mother's Day, knowing her child is out there, being cared for by someone else, someone who reads to him, wipes his tears, calms his temper and shares the joys of all his achievement.

I know that I could be hard line about child 4's mum, as adoption is due to children having to be removed from their birth family because that is the best thing for them. The birth families are not, for whatever reasons, able to provide even the basic care for their children and mix in abuse and neglect there is absolutely nothing romantic in these adoption stories, they are not Annie, Anne of Green Gables or Harry Potter. But, when we met her, I saw a scared, vulnerable young woman unable to change her life for the sake of her young son. Her story is as much a tragedy as her son's, if not more so as she has lost everything, I have absolutely no idea how she gets through days like today, how would I cope. So I sit here tonight feeling melancholy.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

The Behaviour Book

Since his return to school in January. Child 4 has been struggling, I am not sure what or if there has been a trigger but I do know we had similar issues this time last year. When it comes down to it, we have to deal with his behaviours regardless of whether we know what the triggers are. As do the school.
Since January, I have been into school at least once a week. We have had fighting, temper tantrums, defiance and a little boy desperately trying to do the right thing but when met with obstacles just can't manage by himself. The school as a whole have been trying to support him but some staff are so caught up with procedure that they forget that there is a scared little boy just trying to do the best he can. The last straw for me this week was when child 4 in an emotional outburst told me that he was put in the behaviour book, that he is in the behaviour book everyday, he is the only one in his class that is in the behaviour book and that he is the naughtiest boy in the school.
I followed this up with an email to his teacher asking what the behaviour book was for and what was the expectation for children put in the behaviour book and what would happenif there wasn't a change in their behaviour.  Apparently, the behaviour book is required as part of the school behaviour policy and is to keep a record of behaviour. That sounds like procedure and policy running the show, not what a child needs to support them. At first I was really angry and upset but once calm decided that I needed to help the teacher focus on one single behaviour that she would like to change with the most we could help child 4 through to the end of the school year, when he would move to another class and another teacher. I have also assertively requested that if there is a need for a behaviour book that child 4 should not be aware of it at all.

The teachers biggest issue is child 4's constant interrupting and shouting across the room. I went out to my Twitter and NATP groups and asked them for any ideas to help. Today I went into school armed with a 5 minute sand timer and a list of ideas and word patterns. I am jut just hoping that if we can help with this one thing, just maybe everything else will fall into place. Thank you to my wonderful support groups.
Little reminders that you know he is there, thumbs up, squeezing his shoulder, lots of smiles.
Giving him something special to look after so he knows that you will come back. 
Teaching him to put his hand on your arm, you then put your hand on his so that he knows you are aware he is there and will help him once you have finished your conversation. 
Using a timer to help work independently for a short while, knowing when the time is up the teacher can return to help.
I'll be glad to check in with you in a couple of minutes, once I have seen you give it your best independent try.  
I can't change what has already happened in school, I can however help determine what happens next to do this I have to have a working relationship with those that work closest to child 4. They may not be able to fully understand why he behaves like he does, they may not want to but if we can come up with strategies that help then there is the reason to persevere.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

I don't care

"I don't care"
"That's sad"
"If I care, I will cry"
"It's fine to cry if you need too, sweetheart"

(I know I missed my chance, I should have said gosh you don't care, that must be so hard)

Last week brought our first major incident of the year. Late on Tuesday afternoon child 4's school phoned me at work to let me know that he had been involved in a fight at morning break, a fight where two members of staff had to seperate him and a 7 year old. Earlier that morning a complaint had been made by a parent accusing child 4 of pinning her child (the 7year old in the fight) to the ground and then strangling him after school on Monday. According to the teacher child 4 had, had a bad day. After the fight he had taken himself off to the quiet book area and stayed there to calm down, he had been content to stay  with one of the TA's at lunchtime reading and playing games but he hadn't learnt anything! I  think he had learnt a lot, just not academically!!!
I wasn't picking up that day and child 4 had already left with his Nanna and Grandad to go to their home until I finished work.
There had been no investigation into either incident just acceptance that number 4 had done exactly what he was accused of. Interesting as I later checked with the child minder who collects on a Monday who was completely perplexed, she wasn't aware of any after school incident.

I was glad that child 4 was with my parents, safe, warm and surrounded be people who loved him, it also meant that when I picked him up we could have a chat  on the drive home about his day, no eye contact, non confrontational and no way to escape. Child 4 seemed to have no idea what I was talking about regarding the incident on Monday night, but was happy to say that the other little boy had been mean to him, trying to punch and kick him which then led to the fight. He had told the head teacher everything. I pushed too hard and his I don't care tirade began.
When I recovered from my heart cracking, I could at least consider the insight his profound words gave me. Just not sure what I am to do with them yet.