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.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014


I listened to an amazing lady on radio 4's Womans  Hour yesterday Avril Head who has 3 biological children, 2 adopted children and has fostered many others. I think it would be great to hear more of these stories, especially if it would highlight the positive aspects of adopting, especially for those who already have children.

I was struck though by Jane Garvey's question regarding resentment of birth children towards adopted children. "Do your birth children resent their adopted siblings?"  When we first informed close family about our decision to adopt, one member was very concerned about resentment. It's funny but you don't often hear about resentment when having another baby, rivalry and jealousy are often mentioned, but not so much resentment.
At  no point during any of our preparation for adoption, did I consider resentment as an issue. Jealousy, rivalry, yes but not resentment. I asked child 1 if she felt any resentment towards child 4, we had to look up its exact meaning before she was happy to answer.

to feel angry because you have been forced to accept someone or something that you do not likefeel bitterness or indignation at (a circumstance, action, or person)

The answer was categorically NO. Annoyed, cross, frustrated at times but no more than she does with her other siblings. Sometimes she wishes she was an only child but never any specific resentment to any of her brothers or sister. We both agreed that the word resent was actually quite aggressive, "forced" "bitterness" both quite strong and hard words and not ones we would use when discussing our children.

I think that our children have shown a huge capacity to love, they took child 4 in as a brother from day 1, they protect him when he needs looking after, but they are just as quick to let him know when he annoys them. 

We need to educate all around us about the positive aspects of adding another through adoption, if we can remove the fear of resentment may be more people would consider opening their hearts and homes to a child in need. We just need to trust in our capacity to love.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Are schools destroying creativity

A friend sent me a link to a TED talk this week by Sir Ken Robinson about how not only our education system, but many systems around the world are potentially destroying the creativity of the next generation. He talks about the increase of ADHD using a story about Gillian Lynne the amazing dancer who choreographed Cats and many other shows to warn us of the danger in expecting all our children to  learn the same way and if they can't we often look to labeling them with medical reasons as to why they cannot sit still and then medicating them to fit in with how society expects them to behave. He shares his concerns of how society looks at academia being the most important part of educating our children, with the more creative subjects such as art, music, drama and dance being seen as second class. In fact in one of his clips there is a picture of children on a conveyer belt being fed into a factory style school when they emerge they either head towards a large money box entitled GDP or the arts and a dustbin.

Throughout our adoption training, the speakers talked about how different adopted children are from birth children, how, because of their backgrounds they will need different parenting and different support throughout their formative years and potentially beyond. I don't think that this means we should be labelling these children in any way, they should be seen as children, just like my birth children. Yes they may have different behavioural issues and require different help at home and school but they need to have the same encouragement and expectations to be successful in what they choose to do.

 As a family we have a creative streak, our children all seem to gravitate to the stage, be it drama, dance, music or gymnastics. We encourage them to be who they want to be, to study what makes them happy, to enjoy what they do. I believe that it is their creativity that will help them find happiness throughout their lives, it may not earn them millions but life is not about money it's about living!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Too high an expectation perhaps

In many ways it's been a tough week and following the incident with the television, I have had to face  some difficult conclusions.

Throughout this whole adoption process, I have followed most of the advice dished out by the social services team, I have diligently kept everyone involved in the loop whether it be work, family or social services related. I have where possible gone with the flow.

Now, though is the time to make my mark, to have faith in myself, my parenting skills and my family.
I have completed all the courses expected of me so far, I have read everything suggested plus everything else I can find on adoption, conscious parenting, attachment and dyadic development (Dan hughes). I am a massive advocate of much of what I have learnt, building many of those new and different parenting ideas into our family, examples of which are no longer sending the children to their rooms when I am cross. I understand that sending an adopted child to their room could be seen as a rejection so now we use the " you will need to stay with me" plan. When the children come to me moaning about something that has happened I validate their complaint as Dan Hughes encourages before discussing how they could move forward. So when child 3, in particular, comes out of school saying " so and so is having a party, but hasn't invited me" instead of dismissing it, saying "oh dear, never mind"  I am more likely to start with "I would be sad too, if I wasn't invited to a party, why do you think that happened " invariably she will then share the reasons why, which could be because only three children could be invited or the year 4 girl was only inviting children in her year group and our child 3 is in the year below. Once she has talked this through with me she usually works it out for herself and is soon happily involved in something else.

What I am only now, a bit slow perhaps, realising, is that only I can say what is best for me and I will usually know what is best for my family and my family are certainly more than capable of articulating their feelings when they need to.  It may occasionally involve raised voices and door slamming but we are strong and loving enough to work through any issues and find a way forward, that way forward is often what is best for us all not just about one person. Compromise is something we fall back on a lot, but is that not what life is often about, after all if just one of us got their own way all the time that isn't good for anyone.

I am very aware of the, too high expectations, social services place on adopters and after the last week I have wondered if they are so focused on the needs of those children within their care that they forget about the needs of those who aren't. All children need and deserve a loving family, led by parent or parents who are there to support them no matter what. But children also need to forge their own paths, make their own mistakes and live their own lives. Of course they will get it wrong, of course they will do foolish things but that doesn't mean they need helicopter parenting all the time.

It is not the mistake that is necessarily what is important, it is what we do to put that mistake right that is.

Our child 4 is too young to understand that hitting a television could and did in this case break it. I have to take that one on the chin because he is my responsibility and I wasn't watching him. But, I know that it is impossible for me to watch him, every minute of every day so accidents will happen, I refuse to blame myself any more than I blame him, hopefully the one experience has fulfilled his curiosity and he won't do it again. I have weighed things in my favour of course by removing all possible TV breaking instruments and tools from the toy box and of course I try to keep a closer eye if he wanders off with a car or train in his hand. But like all children he is curious and very independent, so is likely to break things, fall off things or just get into trouble. Sometimes, hopefully usually we will be able to step in and prevent the majority but for those we don't  then we will just
have to help him deal with the consequences. Which actually is the same for all of our children, after
all at some point they will all be grown up, with families and careers of their own and I want them all growing up being responsible for their own happiness not relying on mum and dad to resolve everything for them

"The most important thing is to enjoy life - be happy - it is all that matters" Audrey Hepburn

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Big trouble in the ******* household

I entered the living room to collect child 3 for her breakfast, she was on her Ipod, so hadn't responded to my calls from the kitchen. The TV  was blaring but my baby girl was completely oblivious! IPods, IPads, DS' etc etc generally do that to a child, actually adults probably suffer the same fate too.  Child 4 was wandering around with naughty intent a green "groan" tube, you know one of those long tubes that makes groaning noises each time you turn it upside down, in his hand. Intent my foot, to late I notice that our TV screen is completely black with 4 beautiful tiny stars smashed into the top right corner with rainbow flares spinning out from each point. Yes child 4 had hit / smashed his tube into the LED flat screen at least four times!  You would be proud I didn't raise my voice, I just said oh dear you have broken the TV, confiscated the tube (probably permanently) and turned off the TV.  Of course his older siblings were not so generous with their comments.

From that moment he was either really naughty or really cuddly. You know what they say about children seeking attention and that any attention is better than none, well that is definitely what I experienced with my youngest all day today. He started throwing again, tantruming every time he couldn't do what he wanted, he resorted to smacking and shouting if things went wrong, then he asked for hugs and kisses, at one point when I was strapping him into his car seat I asked him for kiss and he just puckered up, then after kissing me said again, again again.  His day finished with him climbing into the bath fully clothed.

It wasn't until later when someone suggested that perhaps he was aware that he had done something really serious and was then pushing his boundaries to see what would happen that I began to consider this insight. Perhaps she was right, but from my perspective there is nothing he can do that would make me change my mind about him.  I am not saying that I won't ever get angry, of course I am likely to shout, I am bound to be disappointed and cross at some point but my love for all my children is completely unconditional.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The second adoption review

Yesterday we hosted our second adoption review, our social worker, child 4's social worker and the independent social worker called in to discuss how we were all settling down since the last review, this time we all sat in the living room so that child 4 could build his marble run and watch the marbles race following different pathways to reach the base.

Following the last set of  minutes that were taken we talked about how everything was going within the household. They could see how well settled child 4 is, he is very comfortable here with us, chattering and playing. He knows where his toys and books are and he certainly knows what he wants. I could say that child 3 is beginning to settle down, she doesn't shout at me so often now, in fact she has almost returned to the little girlie she was prior to child 4 arriving. She loves a cuddle in the morning and asks me to kiss her sandwiches before I put them into her lunch box.

The glass throwing has ceased, although that could be because I neurotically put them away these days.  He is still sleeping well, once we've got him off, he doesn't settle well in the evening any more, although to be fair it's getting a little easier. The mornings are still early, but he will watch the TV (Fi Fi in his speech) for a little while, which is a god send at 5.30 am when all you want to do is drink a hot, caffeine rich cup of tea.

Of course there are new issues, he can let himself into child 2 and 3's bedrooms so we now have hook and eye locks at the top of their doors - although our marvellous social worker has found us a spare stair gate. He pulls hair and loves to hit his siblings especially when he is getting tired. But he has also started to say sorry and kiss their hurts better. He now asks us for hugs and holds his arms up for a cuddle. He calls my daddy, when his daddy comes home from work. He snuggles on my lap to hear a story or watch In the Night Garden. He goes to find a story, knowing that it is my weakness, if any of the children ask for a story I just have to read them one. He has learned some nursery rhymes, his favourite at the moment is Sleeping bunnies. He gets everyone to lie on the carpet, pretending they are sleeping and them when I whisper "wake up bunnies" up they all hop, hop, hop! He holds my hand when we cross a road and sometimes he comes back when I call him.

He is growing and thriving and hopefully will be legally ours within the next 10 weeks. Yippee

Saturday, 11 January 2014

We are going on a bear hunt.

For a child who did not understand the pleasure of sharing a story when he first came to us, he certainly loves it now. "More, stowy, book and again" are frequently heard words in our home. A firm favourite with child 4, was and is still a huge favourite with his older siblings "Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen.  It is a wonderful story to share because we all know it word for word. The repetitive nature and rhythm of the words mean that we sing along night after night. The story can also be re enacted when we are out. With the weather being so wet lately has made it very easy to splash and splosh through puddles and squelch and squerch through the mud in the field down the road. We have learnt new words squish, squash, splat and sploosh.

And look its child 2, daddy with child 4 on his shoulders, child 3, child 4 and Dylan the dog. Me I must be home having an hours peace and quiet!!!!

Today it took the two of us an hour to make a 10 minute journey home after our mother and toddler group. child 4 must have explored every puddle, every mud bath, the piles of old brown leaves disintegrating along the stone walls and hedgerows. He collected sticks and used them to dig at the pools of mud waving globs of the sticky goo in the air, then laughing when they flew off the end and went splat on the path. For each step forward we must have taken at least two back. Many people walked by, many smiling at the antics of my little explorer, some stopped to chat, all saying how great it must be to be a toddler with all the time in the world to just look, prod and poke, to explore and enjoy the wonders that are literally at our feet.

Even knowing that I have washing, ironing, cleaning and dinner to make I can't help but enjoy these moments watching him learn how things work by just playing. He does not consider failure in his exploration, he is oblivious to what he is wearing or what he looks like, he is just enjoying the now. Me, I watch and I plan, how can we make swishy swishy grass? maybe we should let a corner of grass in our garden grow really, really tall. Would a bubble machine work as the swirling, whirling snowstorm,  could we build an obstacle course out of branches for the deep dark forest, so that we could stumble trip through it and what would make a narrow gloomy cave, the tippee tent stored in the attic or child 3's play house? We certainly have enough teddy bears to be the bear. A perfect idea for a late summer birthday party - even the food could have a bear theme, bear shaped sandwiches, cookies, crisps and cakes and honey filled delights. Or what about a trip to our favourite beach after a wet or stormy week, there we will find a grassy path leading us from the car park to the beach, a river leading to the sea, mud flats to carefully squelch through, woodland and briar patches on the cliff top,  and caves to explore. Hmmm what fun to be a child again.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Sheer determination

Bedtime has started to become a trial, a battle of wills in a way. For the last few days child 4 has made it quite clear that he does not want to go to bed, he tries procrastinating at story time, one more book, one last book, just one more book. Then when it finally is bedtime he says no and runs away to hide, well he runs away and covers his eyes, after all if he can't see me he must have disappeared.  Then we cuddle and sing lullabies whilst his musical caterpillar plays his tune. "Night night ****, sleep tight ****" But then he won't lie down and cuddle up with cow and Eeyore he stands holding onto the cot bars crying. According to much research adopted children shouldn't be left to cry, chances are they have been neglected in their past, left to cry until crying doesn't matter as it doesn't work, so for me as adoptive mum to leave child 4 crying is another rejection of him. However my sanity is fairly important too, so last night I kissed him goodnight, left the room, closed the door and hid in the kitchen with the kitchen timer set for 5 minutes. A very long 5 minutes later I slowly opened the door, to ..............silence. Whew, he had fallen asleep, the relief, was short lived. "Mum" child 2 called from the living room "who got child 4 up?"  Child 4 had decided that it categorically was not his bedtime, so he climbed out of his cot, opened his bedroom door walked down the hall opened the stairgate, closed it and went into the living room and sat on the sofa to watch TV. When I walked in he just looked at me as if to say "what"
He climbed out of his cot three times that night, until dad sat outside his door. Tonight was my turn he finally dropped off to sleep with fewer tears knowing I was just outside the door and didn't try to make an escape.

At the weekend we will move him into a bed! My baby is growing up and he is going to be very determined young man. We just need to ensure that all that determination is channelled onto good, exciting paths.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Self projecting pressure

On Friday I received a letter from my boss at work, just a gentle reminder that I had agreed to pop in to do what work call "keep in touch days" and could I call in before Tuesday to set some possible dates. I am very, very aware that the team are missing me, although one of the team has stepped upto my position whilest I've been off, no one has covered her job and with all companies working their staff to capacity during these difficult economic times, everyone at work already works really, really hard. Also I know from experience that taking time out of my job makes it really hard to pick up where I left, on my return. I took a year maternity leave after having child 3 and on my return so much had changed. Working 2 days a week makes it really hard to learn the new procedures and computer systems after all I have to work 5 weeks for me to have worked two 35 hour weeks.

I have kept work up to date with what is happening, my last contact was that I had a nursery place sorted for child 4 as of January and that once he was settled I could come in. I have always planned to return March time. Of course I don't know how he will settle, will he settle into a new routine with new people with ease or will he become clinging and worried. How will I handle having to leave him.

I am also very aware that social services would firstly prefer for me to take a year off work as adoption leave, but as I can only claim 6 months statutory adoption leave, financially taking a year is not really possible. They would also prefer for me to remain at home with child 4 for as long as possible, I don't think they really want him to start attending nursery yet, although family and child services have offered child 4 a free nursery place for upto 15 hours a week as he is still technically a looked after child.

So here I am feeling like I am stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, that I think is something many working mums have to live with, I often feel that whatever my choices are, someone is affected or suffers, so how do we choose? Returning to work too early could place child 4 at an emotional disadvantage but not returning to work in the next couple of months could potentially effect my "career" or my standing with my team, do they feel abandoned or left carrying my job whilst I am off?

What about ME, where do I fit in to this emotional turmoil? I could say that I am entitled to take a year out of work if that's what I want and if that's what is best for my family but returning in September will definitely be financially damaging to our family and a year out could be detrimental to my sanity, it's hard work looking after a two year old and it's hard learning new systems. Then there is the emotional side, how do I really feel about placing child 4 into nursery it's only 9am to 3pm two days a week, we've set it so that my husband can drop him in and pick him up so it's not like he will be left all day.

Am I in reality projecting all my concerns on to my work colleagues and my family. I am viewing myself as I may view others in a similar situation. What do I know, I know that work is important to me, I need something other than family life but I also know that I want to give my children the best possible start in life.

If someone asked me all these questions what would my answer be? Life is made up of hard and scary decisions, if child 4 doesn't settle into nursery life I may need to rethink but if he isn't given the opportunity to attend I won't know the answer.  So I guess I'll introduce him in the next couple of weeks and we will see what will be

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

An end, a beginning or?,

I have never really viewed New Year's Eve as the end or a new beginning, tonight as I write I know it's definitely not the end of a chapter or the beginning of one rather the continuation of a story and what a story.

Our social worker visited today and on leaving said that she had absolutely no concerns, child 4 has settled in with the family as if he has always been here. And I whole heartedly agree he is number 4 our youngest son and the baby brother. A dream fulfilled for me, a way of life altered, a family transformed and 99% for the better. I have watched my birth children's capacity for love overflow, I have seen how family members accept with truth and sincerity a new addition, without any prejudice and I have observed how a whole community have just been there, offering words of support or just a smile or a hand on my shoulder when managing 4 children is becoming a feat of extreme patience.

I will of course promise myself that this year I'll look after my vegetable patch better, will clean the house more often, be much more patient with the children and of course eat less chocolate but those could be weekly or even daily resolutions. Instead, I should just follow my dreams and ensure that all my children have the confidence to do the same.

2013 brought us child 4, child 3 became a junior, child 1 started her GCSE years. Child 1 has taken part in speech and drama exams and competitions achieving distinctions and a second place, child 2 is beginning to grow into a young adult and child 3 came second in her gymnastics competition. 2014  will be bringing the finalization, fingers, toes and eyes crossed of the adoption and child 4 will carry our surname, he will legally be ours, child 2 will be entering his teens , child 3 has her First  Holy Communion and we will be have been married for 16 years.

Just think if we hadn't taken that chance on marriage, hadn't risked more than one child, hadn't followed our dreams, where would we be today???