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 May 2015

Making memories.

For Eva. I thought you may enjoy this one. I know that sometimes there is so, so much negativity surrounding adoption especially via Twitter, I guess that's because Twitter is where many of us go when life is tough, but it isn't always like that.

Watching the clouds drift lazily above the canopy of the rose pink blossom laden arms of the ancient gnarled tree beneath which I lie, their shapes and hues of white and grey lull me into a daydream, the sun caresses my face with his warmth as he peeks out reminding me that spring is slowly disappearing into summer. The wind murmurs to me, whispering of memories waiting to be made and my children are laughing and whooping in delight with their cousins as they play amongst the blossom heavy trees, climbing into their waiting branches to search their world for adventures,  clambouring up hillsides and sliding down dusty pathways and hiding amongst ever green bushes.

A famous five day out once again. We have been to the park, then off to find the soft downy grey cyganets and the yellow and brown fluffy duckerlings as child 4 calls them, then we stroll and dance into the magic of the  Secret Garden for a picnic. I lie here thinking nostalgically of Anne of Green Gables or rather her children playing in their Rainbow Valley, Walter would be making up stories while Jem would be playing the hero. The twins would be getting into scrapes, little brown boy Shirley would be hiding away and Rilla my Rilla would be desperately trying to keep up. The Merediths of course, would be close by sharing games and secrets. I sometimes think that my love for these stories is that I could disappear into them as a child, you hear of people saying how back in the day they would be off out after breakfast and not home until tea time. Exploring and playing in the sun from Spring until winter came, perhaps that was what I was looking for but the only way for it to happen was through the tales in a book.

And so I lie here today, wishing that, my children could live the life of the Blythe and Meredith children playing together, learning life lessons together, enjoying being outside with the sun on their faces, enjoying those moments in childhood without a care in the world. No trauma, no attachment issues, no social media. Just laughter and joy.

Then, I realise, in actual fact that is exactly what they are doing, maybe not with the independence of those children in my favourite books but still, I am lying here day dreaming I am not watching what the children are up to, it is very unlikely that I will know exactly unless someone is hurt. They are enjoying their own Rainbow Valley moment and perhaps I should just carry on enjoying my day dreaming, whilst I have the chance. I can dream, as I am sure Anne did, about what amazing adventures lie ahead for my children or I can worry about the tribulations that life brings. Instead I will doze quietly and enjoy the knowledge that they are making beautiful and happy memories today.

“Anne smiled and sighed. The seasons that seemed so long to Baby Rilla were beginning to pass all too quickly  for her. Another summer was ended, lighted out of life by the ageless gold of Lombardy torches. Soon...all too soon...the children of Ingleside would be children no longer. But they were still hers...hers to welcome when they came home at night...hers to fill life with wonder and delight...hers to love and cheer and scold...a little.” 
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Ingleside

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Violent, Aggressive, Naughty?????

Thanks to the Adoption Social there has been much talk about child to parent violence (CVP) this week. Although I had heard about it I haven't really come into real contact with it or probably even realised the exhausting effect it has on those affected by it.

I wouldn't say that we have experienced anything like the agression some families suffer. Our child 4 has occasional and sometimes not so occasional bursts of fury. He is 3 and has the strength when full of rage to throw a chair, even when tantruming he can aim his fork, cup of milk, toy car or trains at who he feels is the perpetrator of his anguish and hit them with it, usually slap bang in the middle of a forehead, leaving bruises and bumps. These rages have concerned me enough to contact our social worker to find out about training for restraining him, it won't be long and I won't be able to manage as I have been, because he will be too strong. She suggested to try wrapping him in a duvet for the short term as that will protect him and the restrainer for now and she would look into courses, they exist but there is a definite resistance about wanting parents to learn these methods. 

To me is seems that a lot of the issue about CVP seems to be a lack of understanding from the outside world and a not wanting to believe that it is happening by those who should know better. You only have to read the Twitter responses to programmes like My Violent Child and Born Naughty? to see so many people full of judgement about how a family deals with behaviour issues of their children. Parenting is never easy,but for those of us dealing with traumatised children it is even more complicated.

For us we started down this adoption road armed with books about attachment theory, knowledge learned at therapeutic parenting courses providing us with some expertise about why traumatised children behave the way they do, however there is a definite lack in exactly how to deal with those behaviours. Therapeutic parenting is definitely the way forward but most of us struggle with it and often have to stop and think about how to deal with a new behaviour in a therapeutic way as it is not natural. I doubt many of us were raised therapeutically so we are constantly thinking on our feet, not ideal when sometimes you feel like you are living in a war zone. There is no time to stop and think when a metal toy is flying through the air at you!

My understanding is, that so much of the care for traumatised children is still in its infancy, we have a much better understanding of why but there just hasn't been the research into what to do or what works. This means that when we look for support, firstly we have to find someone who believes us and then we do, we realise that that either the support doesn't exist, isn't available in our area or there is no funding.  It is so hard to talk about the behaviours in the first place so to have people not believe us or to offer us worthless advice or inappropriate comparisons to their child's behaviour means that often we hide away trying to deal with it on our own  and that helps no one least of the child that is the centre of the situation.

I have found that I have had to be massively proactive with ensuring support and understanding for child 4 and his siblings, so I follow fellow adopters, educational psychologists, adoption groups and similar support groups on Twitter (the place where every day someone tweets-have you seen/read/watched or tried this) I learned about The Yellow Kite and Louise Bomber, Braveheart Education and was introduced by Al Coates To WASO, The Adoption Social all via Twitter. I read as much as I can - Dan Hughes, Sally Donovan, Educating Ruby and Helen Bonnick. I involve myself in anything to do with attachment and am lucky enough to be attending the Attachment and Trauma Aware Schools Conference at Bath Spa University next month. 

The hardest thing I have to do though is talk about my concerns and talk about them without becoming emotional. I have to educate family, friends, schools and clubs and that is really hard, there are those I don't bother with but those who are willing to listen and at least believe the difficulties we face, I share what I can and I listen to their responses, sometimes they are right!!

Following all the discussions this week I will take on board, wade through, learn form all those who have experienced parenting adopted children and use that to parent my children, hopefully by learning from their successes and failures we will be able to help child 4 manage his anger better and so prevent escalations in the future. I will sign up for Theraplay - I am really lucky our adoption social worker is studying Theraplay and needs a "guinea pig" for her training and has asked if child 4 and I will take part. YES a free intro to Theraplay. A friend has found a yoga class specifically for adopted children and their parents to help with attachment and teach strategies to self regulate I am booked in for the next batch of sessions and another friend has emailed details about a local forest school for under 5's with tree climbing, tyre swings, fire pits and bread ovens. All perfect for child 4. Maybe, just maybe we can prevent our child reverting to survival mode when he is scared or anxious or maybe we will be able to provide strategies to help him contain his anger so that is doesn't escalate into a full blown, uncontrollable whirl wind. I don't know if all the pre-empting will help, what I do know is that there is a lot more support especially via social media now, more than ever before so I will always have someone to talk/tweet too. Which is much more than adopters before me. 

If anyone out there is struggling please ask for help, WASO -the adoption social have been collating stacks of support info it's all on their site. We are out there and we can at least be on the end of a Twitter feed.

Bravehearted Education

The Yellow Kite

The adoption social

Educating Ruby

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The opposite to STANDARD.........

I have had many interesting conversations this week about SATs and GCSE's. Child 3 is currently sitting mock SAT exams, she is 9 and in year 4, she will not actually sit her SATs until 2017 and child 1 has just started her GCSEs. Both girls are coping with the exam pressures really well, just the occasional meltdown, the odd slamming door and a few tears.

It's conversations with the parents that has highlighted to me how pressurised some of our children can become. One mum asked me how my child 3 was coping, as her daughter had been collapsing in to tears every afternoon after school saying that she had failed and would be moved down. This little girl is in primary school, surely the sitting of mock SATs is just to prepare them for how exams work. I am sure that the results will be studied, after all Ofsted look at how children perform year on year now, pupils are expected to to make progress through two national curriculum levels between the end of KS1 and the end of KS2, so for example if you child achieved a 2A at KS1 they should achieve 4A at KS2. Child 3's SATs will indicate to her teacher if she is on track to achieve her expected progress or if additional support is required to help her during the interim. This will I am sure be fed back to me via parents evening or school reports. I hope that she is doing as well as expected but not all children learn in the same way and sometimes they just plateau.

As a parent I cannot change the education system, I could home school but do not believe that would be an ideal solution for my children and definitely not for myself. Of course voting during an election means that at least I can vote for a party that I believe have the best interests of my child at the heart of their education manifesto but there is, as the 7th May showed no guarantee that will mean the party I voted for would win.

So, what to do? Child 1 has a plan for her future, she wants to travel, work with children and tread the theatre boards. Her next step is to study Drama, Dance, History of Art and English of Literature at A level to do this she needs 5 GCSEs, maths, English and 3 others, as her love is drama and dance she will no doubt achieve the grades required. She doesn't need A* grades, C grades will ensure her of her place and so my aim is to support her take that place. I want her to just do her best, not to push her to achieve those A* grades that seem to be so sought after in schools today.  Our child 1 has always struggled academically, her strengths lie in the more creative subjects, she has always been streamed in the lower sets and we have not, even when she was achieving top of the class, pushed for an upward move. For her self esteem consistently achieving the top grades in her class was much better than moving up a set and then being middle of the pack or worse bottom of the class.

It seems that our education system is created to fulfil the needs of those academic children aiming for A*, by testing children we are highlighting success and failure - how will children and parents cope with that at 4 years old. Parents can easily be pushed into the adding extra support by using Kumon and tutors, feeling that they are letting their children down if they don't. Especially if teachers are pushing for academic success measured by standardised tests, these tests are how their performance is measured and managed so that is where teachers focus will lie. But how does that enable our children to be happy, after all if you asked the majority of parents what they wanted for their children, I don't believe that their answer would be "to be academically brilliant" I think that most like me want their children to be happy, well rounded, have friends and a partner and to be independent. Obviously passing exams can  help to find a job and working means financial independence, everything else is about who they are not what they have achieved by completing a standardised test.

Perhaps the clue is in the wording standardised - to cause (something)to conform to a standard. To make consistent, make uniform, to make comparable.

In truth I don't want a standardised child, I want an exceptional, unconventional, extraordinary, unorthodox and different child! Don't you??

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Together Forever

I have just read a post from Alex Chase's "Beyond the Picket Fence Dream" entitled Better Together and boy did it hit home.


Two years ago I wrote a similar blog, which now sits in my draft list as it caused so much upset with a couple of individuals. We too were told by One of them that adoption would lead to the destruction of our family and the ruin of our three older children. Now, nearly two years in I can say that yes adoption did cause issues within our family but not quite what they expected.

For our family unit the addition of another child by means of adoption has changed the fabric of who we are, it is definitely not the easiest way to add a child, a sibling, grandchild or nephew but the saying sometimes the right path is not the easiest is very true and for us adoption is the right path. When I watch my children I see my four children together, a unit, yeah, they argue and fight, but they are also so much better for having to see and experience life as they never would have, but for adoption.

Those of us that live in stable families full of love and security will never experience and therefore not really understand the effects of neglect, poverty and abuse. As a family we have seen some of the fallout and with that comes compassion, understanding and love.

Everyone, who has come into contact with our child 4 has learnt a little about adoption and the need for understanding not only for the children that come from care but how we as a society could probably do more to help prevent children being removed in the first place. After all adoption is the last resort for birth families and it would be better for everyone if there was a safe and healthy way for all children to remain within their birth families.

For us yes adoption did lead to a family division but it has also led to family bonding and a bond so strong that I sometimes have to do a double take. The gains for us far, far outweigh any troubles.

And I like Alex can now accept that there is the odd person out there that sees our adoption as a foolish, selfish endeavour that risks our birth children's happiness, knowing that I see our life so differently.

 I am only sad that they are missing out on everything that we have gained.