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, 31 August 2014

A tough week.

To be expected I guess, but our return from holiday has opened a can of tantrumy worms for our youngest child. He has remembered how to throw, he has started biting, particularly child 2 and 3's bums - it's not funny he has left teeth marks! He has learnt to open all the stair gates except one, not that that has stopped him, he just wheels his buggy over and uses it as a ladder to climb over the gate.
He also refuses to go to bed and as he is now in a bed he can just climb out and make an escape.

What to do, we cannot shut him away in his room, shouting has no effect except to make things worse. He almost seems to enjoy the reaction he gets when he hurts someone.

I know from all the reading that I have done that this is all "normal" behaviour for many children in care but it doesn't mean that it is acceptable. I also know that much of what he is doing is "normal" toddler behaviour but it is just so excessive, everything is bigger, louder and harder.

We have to be able to adapt how we deal with him almost continuously. Constant supervision,well as  constant as possible, (I still have to feed everyone, do the washing and keep the bathrooms and kitchen clean enough to stop us from becoming ill) helps tremendously as I can pre-empt much of the physical stuff. Keeping him busy, involved and actively engaged is probably the best thing, although by the end of the day this can be exhausting and although I am desperate for adult company, motivating myself to find some is way down on my list of priorities plus the fact that he currently fights his bedtime routine means that it is too late to do anything by the time he has exhausted himself and fallen asleep.

It's back to school next week, which means a natural rhythm of routine builds and this will probably help. I think our child 4 needs routine and strong boundaries, of course routines have gone out of the window during the holidays and six weeks is a long time for a 2 year old. And a 44 year old!!

Being away means that at least I have returned home relaxed, calm and no longer exhausted, I hadn't realised how tired I must have been until we returned, I was working on auto pilot which isn't good enough when you have to be constantly pro-active and ready to anticipate what could happen next.

I sit here this morning with my morning cup of tea, off loading a little of my worries and fears and a call from the bathroom. Child 4 has used the potty! A celebration, cheers and claps from everyone. A little laughter and something normal helps to keep the worries away.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

No Matter What

Whilst away I read Sally Donovan's No Matter What, her story so far of adoption. It's a story of grief rage, perseverance, love and hope. For me it was really good to be able to read so of what is happening in our family, to normalize some of my feelings. The two children that Sally adopted have been so much more damaged than our child 4, especially her eldest and she has been unable to keep up any letterbox contact with her children's birth parents because of this and the way the mum was writing her letters. Our circumstances are very different, yet in so many ways the same.

I found it odd, there was me stretched out on a sun bed, enjoying the Spanish sun, the children were splashing in the pool, the heavily heated air was punctuated with screams and laughter and I am reading about neglect, attachment disorder and so much sorrow. Although the book finishes on a happy note, the story is no where near complete and checking out Sally's blog shows that adoption is a lifelong promise, just like that of having children, but adopted children come with so many additional needs. I am sure I was a little pensive, thoughtful after reading it, I needed time to take on board the feelings it had triggered. The best bit, I realised was the fact that it validated, corroborated how I felt. When people say to me that child 4's behaviour is just normal toddler behaviour, they are in a way right, after all he is a toddler, however often these behaviours are bigger and angrier, they are exacerbated by his history and the way we deal with them has to always be through love, calm and acceptance. Therapeutic parenting is the way we work, and therapeutic parenting is what we teach all those who have any impact on our families life. Not that we always get it right, of course we get cross, frustrated and upset and that is when I go to bed saying tomorrow is a new day, let's start again.

One of the others read it and she found it fascinating, infuriating and made her ask so many questions, I think everyone who knows us should read it, all educators and all those involved in child care of any form should read it. In fact anyone who is considering adoption or knows someone who is should read it. It will open your eyes and your hearts it will provide you with the empathy to try and support these children and their families.


Thursday, 21 August 2014


Travelling in a foreign country often means getting a little bit lost, or in our case quite a lot lost. Last time we were here it took us an hour to find our way out of Malaga airport and find the right road to the villa. Part of the problem is not being able to speak any Spanish then there is driving a different car on the other side of the road and not understanding how the road system works.

This time we flew out on the Friday night, we booked to stay into the Holiday inn overnight as we couldn't move into our villa until Saturday afternoon. Flying out a night earlier saved us nearly £1000 on our flights (there's a discussion for another day). As a party we flew together but of course had all hired cars from different car hire places, dependant on the type of car required. This meant that we would travel separately to the hotel. The Holiday Inn was chosen because of its proximity to the airport and when you looked on the map it looked very easy to find - 7 minutes from the airport. Yeah right!! After thirty minutes of driving I found the sat nav that was built into the car yippee, although we couldn't find the audio part we had to rely on my navigation of a sat nav system, we don't have one at home. Eventually, we pulled up on what looked like a piece of wasteland where the sat nav said that we had arrived at our destination - we had the Inn signage was not very good. We were not the only group in our party to have such difficulty.

I hate being lost, I find it stressful and scary, it's even worse when you are in foreign lands and you have little idea of the direction you need to travel. My husband doesn't handle it well either, which means that our journeys can be uncomfortable, sometimes filled with raised voices and vibes of anxiety. Not good for the children. One of the friends we are with told me that they never get lost they just take a wrong turn, turnaround and head back to where they came from to find the right road. I tried this when we accidentally took a turn to early on our way back from the Mercadona supermarket shop at the beginning of our holiday and ended up high in the olive trees. The children were concerned that we were lost and child 2 and 3 in particular became nervous and agitated ( we,their parents have to take responsibility for teaching them that.)  so instead of saying that we were lost we stopped and looked out behind us to see the view. It was amazing!  After looking our fill we turned around headed back to the junction and found our way back to the old mill that was to be our home for the next two weeks.

I have taken this to my heart, how we as parents react to difficult situations is what our children learn from. I want my children to strike out on their own, to explore their world and that means that occasionally they will lose their way. I want them to sometimes stop look back and enjoy the view, the moment, to make a memory and I want them to know that they can come back to where they have started from and try again.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Peace and war

Yesterday we had a long morning out, morning and lunch with NO children. One of the other couples we are holidaying with took us out to Alahambra. A beautiful Moorish palace that was taken over by Christianity and was the home to Charles V and his wife Isabella of Portugal. We wandered through the beautiful rooms and gardens, walking barefoot over cool marble, running fingers over the tiles that have been there for over 500 years. We gazed upon the intricate stucco-to arches that separate the rooms and wondered how the water that runs throughout is pumped up to then run back through. As the heat increased we followed the exit signs through the now modernised gardens to the Paradour hotel that was once a convent for lunch. We sat upon the shaded terrace with olives and ice cold water and beer and ate salad, pastille and loin of pork in the company of good friends. Not once did I hear the word mummy, I sat through the whole of my meal not having to pour any drinks but my own, not having to cut a meal up or take someone to the loo. Peace, civility and conversation.

We returned back to the villa, mid afternoon, to be told that the children had been really good company and no trouble at all.

Until this morning. Child 4 had a terrible night, instead of the waking and asking to come into our bed, we had crying and disturbed dreams, when he awoke this morning he was, well just angry. Particularly with me. When his daddy suggested a walk! he clung to me saying he didn't want to go but when his Dad a headed off to climb one of the olive tree laden hills he screamed for him, wailing that his daddy was lost.  He tantrumed angrily about anything and everything, his breakfast, his siblings, the DVD player, he became aggressive almost violent towards me, in fact his dad said he could hear him from the top of the hill he climbed.

His whole body language, facial expressions and mannerisms were full of rage all because we had left him with his siblings and some friends for 8 hours,

Emotional frailty, that has been me today.  Following the morning outburst I have felt on the back foot, this is the first time in public that he has behaved like this, I know exactly why he is angry it's because he doesn't feel safe, he was scared of being left behind. But that doesn't help when he is kicking off and you know that despite the support your friends offer, they quite probably don't get it. And even if they do you are scared they don't and you don't know how to explain or even share how you feel I'm case they offer platitudes such as oh it's normal terrible twos.

"Compared with many families, the future will be different for us. We will potentially always need support from experts in the adoption field, we will never be able to stand back from school, we will always be battling the misconception that children are robust and bounce back and what they can't remember won't affect them. We are always going to have to do that little bit extra." Sally Donovan

Friday, 15 August 2014

A little bit of letting go.

"For goodness sake, leave him with me, he will be fine and he has to learn that when you go, you always come back." Words of wisdom from my little sister. I avoid leaving child 4 with anyone except at nursery, not because I don't trust people but because I know that he is hard work and in truth I don't want him to worry. He does need to be with us but my sister is right he also has to learn that people come back, people keep their promises, people can love and be loved. He needs to experience what child 1,2 & 3 have all experienced, they know I will come home, they know that I will always be there to help them and they know that the love I have is unconditional as that is all they have ever experienced.

This holiday has really helped me with the letting go, just a little bit. I no longer hover or keep him close. Child 4 has the freedom to explore within the confines of our mill. He spends time with everyone chatting, investigating, especially the eating habits of ants - they are fascinating all the crumbs we drop tempt them out from their homes where they gather together to take their exciting, delicious finds home, child 4 has been so fascinated that yesterday he intentionally emptied the last crumbs from a crisp packet over the golf so he could watch what they did. Sorry got a bit sidetracked. Everyone here is so patient with him and obviously enjoy his company.  I have never been precious with my children, I have always understood and accepted that often someone else can help them achieve a success in something purely because they are not their parent, however with child 4 I have found this a little harder,  perhaps because he is still so new, one mum from the playground was very insightful, when I turned down her offer to have child 4 over to give me a break. She just laughed and said, well I guess I wouldn't let my six month old baby out of my sight.

Interestingly though I was surprised that when one of the other mums gradually introduced child 4 to the fun of the pool, he had refused to go in with me, there was no jealousy or concerns on my part, I was able to sit and watch him gradually become more confidant in the water, just a feeling of pride of watching my youngest son overcoming his fear and finding joy and laughter in this new experience. An experience of trust for both him and me.

It is so important for us parents to let our children go, they have to find their own way which means trying new things which inevitably means not necessarily achieving the desired results first time, just like learning to swim, which starts with paddling then using floats and armbands to striking out on your own. We cannot swim for them we can just teach them how to and if we can't we must find someone else who can. By letting them make their own choices, helping them to be brave enough to try, allowing them to make mistakes then helping them work out how to resolve those mistakes is the way we help them become the adults they can be. Child 4 and I are learning to let go a step at a time.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Me too

Child 4 struggles with changes to his routine, he likes to know that something's just stay them same. So when ever we have gone away he is an absolute nightmare at bedtimes. The first time I took the children away was for my nephews first holy communion in London. We stayed in a Travel Lodge and after a pizza dinner returned back to retire to our beds. Child 4 took a couple of hours to settle and then woke numerous times during the night, just to check, I think that we were still there. Then when we were in Devon last week he was just as bad at the bed and breakfast. The hardest part is the fact that we have family rooms so of course everyone has to stay awake listening to the yelling and crying or have their baby brother climbing from his travel cot and jumping on their beds like a little noisy "goblin"

He has never really liked going to bed and I have created my own version of the controlled crying that many parents use. As child 4 is adopted I avoid controlled crying, naughty steps and such like. The advice is to never make an adopted child feel any form of rejection, after all they have been rejected enough. However, all children need to learn that bedtime is bedtime and that some behaviours are unacceptable. I use the buggy as our version of the naughty step, sometimes child 4 has to be contained, and the buggy means that he can be contained but also stay with me. Bedtime is a little harder, I won't leave him to cry but once he is in bed I never get him out, I go in when he calls or cries, I cuddle him and talk quietly or read him a story but once he is in bed, he's in bed.
(It does make me laugh, you read all this stuff that says little ones stop a behaviour with two to three weeks if you are consistent, we are eleven months in and bedtime is still tough!!! Despite being consistent.)

Child 4 has never known real stability, he has always been moved on from one family environment to another and this is what I think causes him to behave this way, after all he can't tell us if he is scared that he is being sent some where else and he doesn't understand that he is now ours - forever. This unfortunately does not mean that it's is easier to deal with his behaviour, bedtimes for me are always the hardest part of parenting because by this time I am tired and frazzled.

I have been a little apprehensive about our Spain trip. We along with two other families have rented a beautiful old olive mill out in Spain, it's situated in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dusty hills covered in lines of dark green olive trees. The mill is made up of 4 apartments, a huge shared kitchen, a barbecue courtyard, a dining area, playroom and of course a pool. The teenage contingent have taken over the pad at the far side of our complex, with the rest of us around the pool. Obviously I have been concerned, firstly because we are the only ones with a very little one, everyone else's children are 14 and over, little ones are usually very noisy!! Secondly because of  his not going to bed. On Friday, I was working before we headed off to the airport and child 4 spent the afternoon checking with his daddy that he was coming too. He was really worried that he would be left behind, no doubt because he was always sent to respite foster care when his foster families went on holiday. I understand the need for foster families to have some quality time with their own children but for the foster child that is a tough environment to grow in.

In reality it has so far been fantastic, we have thrown away the routine, letting child 4 sleep when he needs too. So he has napped late in the afternoon and bedtime has been later, he still doesn't want to go to bed but his reactions are not so excessive, with there being so many people around he has permanent entertainment , there is always someone to play with him, hold him or feed him. We have had no major tantrums, not much throwing and very little hitting. Perhaps this holiday will help him believe that he is ours forever.

Five find a treasure island

We met up with my sister, my parents and aunt down in North Devon this week. Which meant we were definitely in for an adventure.

My sister had rented a cottage that was just a stones throw away from the river so after lunch I walked all the children the two, very long miles down to Watersmeet for a cream tea.  I love the river  it's just packed full of exciting exploring for children to do, the older ones climb the rocks trying to follow the river by rock hopping rather than following the path where as child 4 is happy to collect sticks and rocks to throw into the water. The weather held out for us, the sun streaming through the canopy of branches, dancing across the water making it glitter and shine.

About halfway into our walk we came across an island sitting in the middle of a large pool, the river eased off from its white waters and became still and inviting. Irresistible to the children who launched themselves into the water to swim to the island, where games of survival and treasure hunting were played.

Fascinating to watch even the older teenagers taking part, forgetting briefly about being cool to just enjoy being young.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

And out of the egg popped a tiny but very hungry caterpillar

I love sunny days and picnics, I love climbing trees, paddling in a stream and rolling down hills. I love picnics with food and children sprawled over picnic blankets, I love it when the sun plays peek a boo with white fluffy clouds or sends its warm tendrils through the leaves of tall trees to where we lie and sit in the dappled shade of its branches. This summer is definitely a memory making one. We have had sunny day after sunny day, picnic after picnic. We have met up with friends, where the older children have played man hunt and the younger ones have hidden themselves in the leafy branches of the trees that cascade to the ground. An impromptu game of rounders using child 4's foam pink football and an empty juice bottle even had me running around the trees screaming with joy when I beat the fielders back to home.

We have watched dragonflies swoop and swirl in the heat, snails enjoy a slither in the early morning dew, spiders spinning their amazing webs and of course caterpillars of all shapes, sizes and colours. On Wednesday we played and picnicked and then visited a crafty spot for children where they made caterpillars out of milk bottle lids and pipe cleaners, Spiders from egg boxes and pipe cleaners and bouncy frogs out of concertina'd paper.  All the children have come out for the picnics, building sibling relationships out of the bickering, arguing, games and laughter. I am positive that when they are grown and they tell their children of what they did in the summer holidays they will remember these heady days of old fashioned sun and fun