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.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Sealed with a x

During the summer Child 2 had a long holiday, finishing at the end of June he was away from college until the beginning of September. Boredom and new friends meant that he was hanging around at our local skateboard park, which here, is where kids have the opportunity to learn to smoke, try drugs and learn to shoplift. Of course not all the kids take this opportunity but group peer pressure is a powerful aphrodisiac.
Although, we hated it there isn't much you can do with a child, well really, an almost a man, 17 year old. I guess that we could have tried to stop him from hanging out there, but I didn't want him to end up lying to us. I am positive that our attempting to ban the skate board park would not have stopped child 2 for heading there he would have snuck out or just lied.

At first I struggled with what was happening, so as usual I started to investigate how we could keep child 2 safe but still allowing him the freedom to hang out, make mistakes and have fun.
Then one day I remembered an article I read about giving teenagers an exit plan if they ever found themselves in a situation that they are not happy with.


Basically, all the teenager has to do is text their parent, guardian, responsible adult an X. The adult then telephones to say that they need to collect said teenager due to a family issue. They find out where the teenager is and then goes to collect them. This provides the child with a get out that will not lead to any ridicule or loss of face from his friends. The hardest part, but probably the most important part is the fact that the teenager doesn't have to explain anything, there is no judgment from us as parents as the whole idea is to build and keep trust. Obviously, if this becomes a regular occurrence then there would need to be discussions but for a one off it does mean that our son would always have a way of being safe.

Not long after we set this plan with Child 2 he gravitated away from the skate board park. He now has a part-time job, he is back at college and has new friends and a girlfriend. For now life is a little calmer but the X text will be something we will carry on supporting.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

A come back

It's been about six months since I have written my blog, life just got a bit tricky and mega busy. In fact it was so manic that I started to re-evaluate how I do things. There was an urgent need for me to prioritise the important bits of my life. Sadly, this was really hard as it was the extra stuff that I had to look at. My term as a school governor came to an end on 31st August and I have not re-signed up, I have stepped away from many of my volunteering roles at the church and within school. I had been asked about being involved in a new peer mentoring scheme being set up by the Adoption team in our County but for the moment have had to say no. My priority at the moment has to be my family first, friends second and work third. (Work pays for the extras and with one now at uni the extras are quite important). Hopefully, this means a little bit more "me" time!

In reality it was the governor stuff I was struggling with. Being chair of governors and having a son that was "that child" made for constant conflict. His teacher just didn't get it. She expected him to be compliant and when he wasn't, would shout at him or worse try to man handle him. I was, between January and Easter being called into school at least weekly. The calls to work, became so frequent that I had to ask my boss to ask the school if it was an emergency before he called me away from a customer. Seriously being interrupted at work because my child had called the teacher Stinky, or because he had hit someone because they were picking on someone else was becoming, frankly ridiculous. It felt to me like the teacher, honestly did not know how to manage him. She was very rule and policy  driven, which many parents of children in/from care understand just does not work.   This meant that he had no respect for her and in fact I think for a time was scared because he didn't know what was expected from him. He would try really hard to do the right thing but when this went wrong, instead of congratulating him for trying to do the right thing he would have to write in the Behaviour book what he had done wrong. Eventually, I managed to have the behaviour book removed. What did work was completing his work in another class if he was not working to his potential or being disruptive. Child 4's teacher saw this as a punishment, he however loved it and would often when returning to his class ask the other teacher if he could come back soon. I think his class teacher was horrified when I said so long as he was happily completing his work I didn't mind which class he was  in. In fact some of his favourite times have been sitting in the head teachers office doing his writing whilst she worked. In fact he has an amazing relationship with the Head which was the saving grace for the Spring term.

We are praying that this year will be better, although it's much to early to tell. Child 4 is in a new class with a much more relaxed teacher. She taught in an inner city school for 5 years so should be able to take child 4's worst behaviours in her stride. He loves her already and seems to be making fabulous progress, we will find out more at parents evening later this month.

So hopefully life will allow me to write more now.

Speak soon ........

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.