Teaching the Teachers

October 11th, 2016

We’re in the 5th week of school already and it’s been an absolutely rollercoaster.

The first two weeks were brilliant. Half days only and then, wollop, in to the full week of full days from week three. The first full day ended in disaster. So did the second day. And the third, fourth and fifth. By the first weekend after a full week of school I was a wreck, never mind Pickle!

The second week wasn’t any better and, by Wednesday pick up, I was on the verge of having one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had. Pickle has been hitting, pursuing, pinching, poking. I felt uncomfortable about it because I didn’t think, for a moment, it was her instigating it and I was worried that she wasn’t being taken care of. I stepped in pretty quickly and talked to the teacher about strategies, I’d told her some of the history to try and gain some empathy and understanding and I’d sent them a 56 page document about adoption, trauma, anxiety, starting school and how adopted children cope differently and present their feelings differently. The school, as of now, are slowly catching on. But it’s taken a while and, regrettably, I now feel I didn’t do enough to make them understand before she started. The trouble is you don’t want to have to go in to things in such detail if there’s no need for it.

You want your child to be treated the same and you don’t want them singled out as different. But, you know what, they are. Fundamentally they are different and they need to be treated differently. Our children are fragile and vulnerable. Not in a way that means they can’t look after themselves and they’re not independent. But they’re vulnerable to other situations and feelings that other children may never ever experience. Our children are special. They’ve fight hard to survive. They’ve fight hard to overcome their fears and learned to love and be close to people again. That can all be undone in a heartbeat if you don’t have the people, who are with your children for 7 hours a day, onboard, on side and totally on the same page as you, the mother, father, adopter, expert.

School will not damage my daughter.

The “sunshine” board

October 10th, 2016

Otherwise known, by me, as “The Humiliation Board”.

I hate it. It’s a sun at the top and a dark black cloud at the bottom with varying degrees of grey cloud between and the children, if they’re deemed to have done something “naughty” their photo (yes, not just their written name) gets placed further and further down the board. Public humiliation and shame. No positive incentive. Just punishment. For fidgeting. Not listening. Not being quiet. You know, those “punishable by death” crimes we’re all guilty of. These 4 year olds are being punished for being just that, FOUR YEARS OLD!

Pickle, in the first full week got put down the cloud system and, eventually, got sent out to the deputy heads class to “observe good behaviour”. Another form of humiliation in my opinion. And these children are 4 years older so, to me, it’s utterly useless.

One Sunday evening pickle had a meltdown.. She was screaming that she hated birth mother and birth father. She said that nobody loved her when she was a baby and that nobody cared about her. I tried to reassure her that they did because she was with a foster family. But that doesn’t always work so I just held her as close as I could and promised I wouldn’t go away.

I went in to school the next day and told them they weren’t to use the board and they weren’t to send her out at all that day. I’m not sure if they took that on board but it had to be said.

This sunshine board, and the other punitive goings on in this school, basically feeds that child’s image of not being worthy which then feeds in to the feelings of “that’s why I was left behind” or “that’s why nobody loved me, it’s my fault’.

Pickle just needs to feel protected and safe.

School Fast Arriving

September 2nd, 2016

In 4 days time Pickle starts school. She’s been with us 3 years. Where did that time go?

She is the most amazing child I’ve ever known. But, of course, I’m biased.

In the time since I last wrote we’ve moved house, she’s started and finished a brand new nursery. She’s made lots of friends who she’s going to school with and she can do things like get herself dressed, brush her teeth, copy writing her name, count to 20 and much more. Not that she chooses to do any of those things willingly but at least I know she can do them.

At the same time she’s regressed several times. She goes back to wanting to be a baby because she wants that time back, but with us. She wants lots of botbots, snuggles in her blanket, talks baby talk, crawls, you name it she’s wanting to do it. As long as it’s to do with being a baby.

She looks at baby photos and feels sad because we’re not in them and she knows we’re not behind the camera.

She draws on walls, takes my make-up and puts it all over her face, gets up to other mischief and we think it’s for the attention even though she gets tons of attention anyway. It’s negative attention she craves. Why? Maybe she’s trying to prove she’s not worth it. Maybe she likes feeling sad and being told off. That’s why, my gut feeling, is not to tell her off. Not that I don’t tell her off. Some days I just lose my temper like everybody else. But sometimes I just feel really sad that she seems to want that negative attention instead of all the positive attention we try and give her all the time.

Maybe I look in to it too deeply. But as an adopter that’s what you do. I try not to in some situations but, you know what, I’d rather over analyse and there actually be nothing wrong than think “what the hell, she’s just………*fill in the gap* and then find out there’s something really fundamental going on and I’ve dismissed it as nothing which would make her feel even more rejected.

Everything an adopted child goes through sticks with them. Forever. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that it needs to be recognised. There’s no point in thinking it saying “aaah it’s been 3 years now, she’s settled, everything’s fine” because that’s dismissive. Sometimes I forget Pickle isn’t actually “from” us. But, again, that’s lovely. She is, after all, our daughter. But you never truly forget because that’s disrespectful to her history. Her story. Who she is.

We’ve lived the last year having the most wonderful time ever and, also having the worst times ever. Just like any other parent on this planet. But, in this scenario, it is different. It is important. And it is a very real struggle to get things right. For her. Which is what I want to do all the time.

And now I’ve got to let her go. I’ve got to allow somebody else to take care of my daughter. I don’t care about her being taken care of physically or academically because that’s going to happen. It’s the emotional and psychological well being I’m concerned about. I’ve spent three years nurturing, protecting, listening, waiting, being “there”, supporting, encouraging, loving, guiding and caring and I don’t want that to be undone with one wrong word or phrase or question. I know it’ll happen. It’s no where near a perfect system. I’m dreading it really. But I’ll just have to position myself so that I can catch her if she falls and be her cushion.

Just like I’ve done before and will do time and time again.

 

Memories in drawings

September 2nd, 2016

This is so significant that I have to write about it.

A while ago I had the idea to get Pickle to draw out here memories and feelings. With no prompting she would draw bits and bobs that meant a lot but it was taking a lot of questioning to draw it out of her how she was feeling and what she was thinking. Until the last couple of weeks.

About 2 weeks ago she picked up her pencil crayon and drew herself, as a baby. Just a squiggly round blob to you and me but most definitely herself because she said “that’s me”. She then picked up a dozen crayons all together, gripped them tightly and drew, frantically, up and down the page ask over the drawing of herself. I asked what the lines were. Her reply: “all the people around laughing, I didn’t like it”. I wrote this down at the side of the picture as a note to remind myself (not Pickle as she can’t read yet) and then she was gone, off playing and so the moment was also gone.

Tonight, two weeks later, my mum, her Nanny, was sat looking at the picture and Pickle came up to her to see what she was looking at. My Mum showed her and Pickle said “that’s everybody laughing at me” then suddenly jumped up, ran to get a pencil and said “I must draw mummy. Mummy came to fetch me”.

My daughter remembers. She remembers feelings. She remembers situations. Babies feel. Babies know and are aware.

The foster family she came from was very very busy. They laughed a lot. They just “got on with it”. Maybe our daughter remembers that because she was scared, alone, small and frightened and they all laughed. Not at her. But still they laughed. She was alone in that sense. There was no sensitivity. There was no calmness. People just hustled and bustled around her like everything was okay. Everything’s fine. She’ll be fine.

One day, in the middle of intros, the foster mum told us that her grown up Son used to walk in and shout out “how’s the druggy baby”? And then scoop her up. I remember feeling shocked and saddened at the time. Did they think that was funny. Funny enough to actually do it. Funny enough laugh about it. And, oddly, funny enough to tell us about it! Now, knowing how much my daughter remembers, I feel angry. Really angry.

But at least she knows I came, in the end, to get her.

 

Ofsted Letter

December 28th, 2015

This is the email I sent to Ofsted after they failed, miserably, to support my daughter.

I immediately took her out after the appalling parents evening that I experienced and the total arrogance of the staff. It then took me two months to be able to sit calmly and write out my experience for them to consider investigating. I have omitted dates and names for anonymity reasons.

 

To whoever it may concern,

I am writing to you to inform you of circumstances which have arisen, within the nursery setting my daughter was in that have concerned me greatly and left me feeling extremely anxious about the education system. My daughter is 3 and a half, adopted (at 15 months old) and started at this preschool in September.

She was going on a Monday and Tuesday morning and for a full day on a Friday. She was excited, independent, confident and, above all, really wanted to go. Only 3 months later she’s become nervous, anxious, doesn’t want me to leave her and was coming out of the preschool more upset as the weeks went on.

I became acutely aware of problems when I attended an AGM meeting which was paired with a parents evening where we could look at our children’s scrapbooks. These issues escalated severely when the preschool manager, my daughter’s key worker and I had a meeting about, what I thought would be, supporting Rosie, my daughter.

However, instead of leaving the meeting feeling that my daughter was supported I left feeling like my daughter had been attacked, vilified, labelled and, quite frankly, not at all understood.

I was looking through my daughter’s scrapbook when I read, what can only be described as, a negative entry. The entry read:

“***** found it very difficult to follow routines with the other children. At carpet time she wanted to stand not sit. We did lots of action songs and dancing + moving which she joined in some of. At snack time she had to be reminded to sit when eating and not walk about with food. At lunch time again she was reminded to sit while eating. She often had to be reminded to keep her hands to herself as on the carpet she was stroking other children’s hair, pushing them with her feet, touching their faces. At lunch time she pushes her plate away and picks up other children’s food. We are trying to reinforce by saying “come and join your friends at the carpet, sit down so we can all see” and using her name to reinforce that the instruction is for her. At the carpet at the end of the day she was very keen to get star of the day saying “me me”.

This entry was written in October and when I read it it was November. This means that at least 2 weeks had passed since they wrote this and hadn’t once brought any of this up with me so I could support ***** and help them to understand what was happening.

I do not have a problem with being told about my daughter’s behaviour because I want to be able to talk about it with her and support her. What I don’t expect is a nursery to withhold information that, became very clear, they think is an issue. On the same evening I had a conversation with the key worker who described my daughter as “defiant”. Her exact words were “we had a defiant day last week”. (Please note, “last week”. Why was this not mentioned at the time?)

I felt, immediately, that a negative tone was being taken so I responded by saying that **** is, certainly, strong willed and that I thought it a good characteristic to have. The key workers reply was that she felt she wished she could say to my daughter “pick your battles *****”. I was a little shocked as I don’t believe any child of 3 and a half can “pick their battles”. Isn’t that the adult’s responsibility, let alone an adult’s understanding?

On the day I attended the meeting about what had been written I certainly wasn’t expecting what I received, which was 45 minutes of negativity and labelling of a child thinly veiled by false concern for my “vulnerable” daughter.

Several “issues” were raised in this meeting by both the manager and the key worker and I will list them here:

  • She’s spiteful, manipulative, taunting and defiant
  • She can’t sit down to eat
  • She stands at story time
  • She says sorry and doesn’t mean it
  • She strokes other children’s hair which is deemed as “inappropriate behaviour”  
  • She takes her shoes off
  • She goes to sleep on a Friday (they said she can’t because of health and safety)
  • She’s not capable of making friendships  
  •  They want to implement “early intervention”
  •  And the wanted someone to come in and observe her

I would like to take each point in turn.

The first being about her being spiteful, manipulative, taunting and defiant:

This was hurtful and upsetting. My daughter isn’t any of these things. She’s 3 and a half. She’s not perfect and plays up but that’s all 3 and a half year olds. I can’t believe that any child care professional would even think of calling a 3 and a half year old all those things which are, effectively, adult interpretations of different behaviours. If they haven’t the capacity to deal with certain behaviours may I suggest that some new training is needed.

She can’t sit down to eat and she stands up at story time:

She can sit down to eat. We eat out a lot and we sit at the table at home. She is able to sit down for approximately half an hour which, according to statistics, is much longer than the average 3 and a half year old. I suggest they may not be able to handle all different types of children and if my daughter needed more direction and instruction and understanding then maybe they should have given her that. But, again, why was this not mentioned before? As for not sitting down during story time? I don’t see the problem here. I really don’t. But it was brought up in the meeting and made in to an issue.

She says sorry and doesn’t mean it:

I found this truly offensive. They added that “she just says it and there’s nothing behind it”. My daughter, at 3 and a half, has more empathy than any other child of that age I’ve ever seen. Maybe she got so fed up with being told off for what she deemed as not important things (standing at story time and taking her shoes off) that she started placating them. My daughter, when she says sorry, really does mean it when it matters. And a very good example of that occurred at the preschool. I had picked her up on a Friday and she came out looking totally dejected. I asked what was the matter and she burst in to tears as I picked her up. She was sobbing as she tried to explain but she didn’t quite have the right vocabulary to describe properly what had happened. All weekend she talked about it and got upset so I decided to speak to one of the staff on Monday when I dropped her off. It transpired that she had ripped another little boys paper star and had been shouted at and told off (and I would have supported the preschool in this) but the member of staff who had done it than informed me that Pickle had then apologised all day, over and over and over again. She kept leaving what she was doing and going up to this particular member of staff and saying sorry. When we’d arrived in the morning and this member of staff had seen Pickle and said hello the relief in my daughter’s face was so clear. If that’s a little girl who says sorry and doesn’t mean it I’m not sure what they expect of children when they have said sorry. It is clear to me that Pickle’s apology wasn’t accepted and she was left, all weekend, worrying about it. I don’t think that’s fair.

She strokes other children’s hair and it’s “inappropriate behaviour”:

This comment made me feel sick. It has sexual connotations and I am not happy about the use of language. They contradicted themselves several times in the same conversation with this comment. They said it was inappropriate, yet said that they have a “kind hands policy”. I do believe that Pickle has never hit, kicked, pinched, bitten, punched or scratched another child at preschool. Yet her stroking of hair using “kind hands” is classed as inappropriate. I pointed out that she is 3 and a half yet they still insisted that it was “inappropriate”. For me it was the “keep your hands to yourself” comment that I felt uncomfortable with. I don’t think it’s a nice way to speak to a child and they need the patience to keep up with the positive language. It doesn’t take much effort to say to a child “I don’t think X is enjoying that, let’s go and play/sit over here” or “X doesn’t seem to be enjoying that, why don’t you stroke your own hair”. Much more positive.

She takes her shoes off and goes to sleep on a Friday afternoon:

I’m not even going to bother commenting on this non-issue.

She’s incapable of making friendships:

I felt this was a terrible thing to say about a 3 and a half year old. My daughter has got friends outside preschool who she talks about and looks forward to seeing. She plays with them and enjoys their company. I may suggest she didn’t like anyone at this preschool because she is still talking, months later, about a boy who took her pillow pet, a girl who hit her, a girl who wasn’t nice to her. I will suggest here that she felt unprotected and left alone. There is another negative entry in her scrapbook that states “enjoyed imaginative play *but* solitary only”. The use of the word “but” bothers me. Again, it’s language that’s so important because I think it says more about the author than it does about the subject. So what if a 3 and a half year old wants to play on their own?

They want to implement early intervention and get someone in to observe her:

This last comment made me feel like Pickle had become somewhat of an experiment for them. All the things they had described her as sound to me, and every single person I’ve spoken with since (friends with children, teachers, doctors and our social worker) like a perfectly normal, tenacious, adventurous, strong willed, lively and excitable 3 and a half year old. I believe that they forgot she was a 3 and a half year old and saw her only from the viewpoint of being an adopted child. They were looking for issues. I can back this statement up by something that happened a few weeks previously on arriving one morning.

The key worker, took me to one side (in the main room while registration was happening I might add) and asked me if Pickle had any food issues in her history because she “gobbles her food like she’s not going to get fed again”. I felt sick when she said it but out of shock I simply said she hadn’t.

On leaving I felt angry that, not only had she brought this up in the main room where anybody could have overheard but, she had brought it up at all in the way she did. What she should have done is had a quiet word with me in private and told me what happens at lunch and asked me about it. The assumption to ask about Pickle’s history was irrelevant. As an adopter you have to be acutely aware of ANY triggers your children may have and I would have spoken to them even before Pickle had started nursery about it. As it happens she hasn’t and she does it from time to time but I told her that when she brought it up. I felt, at the time, they were looking at her as the “adopted child with possible issue” and were scrutinising for the wrong reasons.

At the end of that meeting, after all that had been said they then added that I “shouldn’t concentrate on the negatives but on the positives”. But there hadn’t been any positives. They made me feel like Pickle is the only 3 and a half year old to ever display these behaviours.

I would also like to bring up a further concern that I noted throughout the weeks of taking Pickle to this preschool. The registration process, being one of the most significant and important.

They have a system whereby a table is laid with all the children’s names on cards. The children are meant to find their own names and pass it to the member of staff on registration duty. Without fail, Pickle was almost certainly dismissed every time. On only a couple of occasions was she really congratulated on finding her name. The trouble started when my daughter, tired of being ignored, started picking up the wrong name and passing it to the teacher on duty. And again, without fail, the member of staff on duty would take the card and then carry on talking to whoever they were talking with so I would have to tell them that Pickle had given them the wrong name. They never ever spotted it without me pointing it out. The person mainly guilty of this was the manager. Is registration not a legal requirement to know who’s there? If it wasn’t for me pointing out the wrong name had been given to them by my daughter they wouldn’t have known.

I also feel it important to inform you that I had a meeting with our social worker about what has happened. I was left feeling extremely anxious after attending the AGM/parents evening and I felt my only option on leaving was to phone our support worker immediately the next day. As an adopter you worry all the time anyway and this left me feeling shocked, isolated and anxious. My social worker was appalled by the entries in Pickle’s scrapbook, stating that she felt them to be highly inappropriate. If they were really that concerned they should have informed me immediately. It was our social worker who noted the date between it having been written and the date I was left to read it and find out.

This raises my main concern about the whole experience. If they felt Pickle’s behaviour needed ‘observation” or that they “couldn’t cope with her” or that the issues raised were really problematic for them then why did they not inform me at the time?

What I find most shocking is that we had also moved house the week before so there had been disruption in our house for several weeks while we packed things up. The last time Pickle moved house was to come and live with us and she left behind the only people she’d ever known. We worked really hard at making her feel safe and secure and that we weren’t going to leave her. The preschool knew we were moving and they knew I was continuing to take Pickle there so that there was familiarity and consistency to her daily life. I had explained to them the reasoning for this yet I believe they completely misinterpreted Pickle’s behaviour as “naughty/defiant/manipulative” instead of seeing her as a very frightened little girl who was anxious, scared and worried that her world was going to change again.

I really wanted to work with this preschool to get things right for my daughter but, in all honesty, I felt like a burden to them and that they really didn’t have much time for me or for Pickle. They even mentioned, in the meeting, that she was “difficult to cope with on a Friday because she’s like a whirlwind” and that she “needed one on one” and they said they “didn’t have the staff or resources for that”.

When I wrote to them to tell the Pickle wouldn’t be returning and my reasons for taking her out of their preschool I received a reply that I felt was not genuine. They stated that “Pickle is a wonderful and bright girl who will be greatly missed”. I did not feel this at all in the meeting. I felt she was a burden to them and that they didn’t like her. I felt isolated and I felt they didn’t know, or indeed want to know, my daughter.

I have waited until now to get in touch with you because I felt I needed time to carefully consider my complaint and contemplate on what has happened and how it has affected us as a family and how it’s affected Pickle. We are always very careful not to cause her anxiety but we are always honest with her. When asked how she felt about nursery she said she felt “sad”. And when I asked her if she liked anyone at nursery she said “mummy”. I asked her what she meant as I obviously wasn’t with her at nursery and she told me she “didn’t want me to leave her, ever, at nursery”. She also started to complain about having her nappy changed and my Mum, my Dad and myself experienced Pickle become very wary about having her nappy changed and being scared we were going to hurt her. She would pull away and cry “don’t hurt me”. I’m not suggesting that anything particular happened but I am suggesting that they may have been a little rough and uncaring. After two weeks of not being at the preschool Pickle became happier and more relaxed with no issues about having her nappy changed. What she has been left with is an anxiety about going to a preschool/nursery setting where she thinks I’m going to leave her.

Fortunately we have now found a wonderful nursery who seem to have managed to undo some of the damage which was done to my daughter’s confidence. Just two weeks after starting she is positive, happy, relaxed and secure at her new nursery. They have been incredible in their knowledge of attachment and what children are and are not capable of and what the individual children need. They have been incredibly supportive and their communication skills are excellent. Unfortunately Pickle is still having bad dreams about her “old nursery” and talks several times a week about not wanting to go back to “the old horrible nursery” with the “disgusting people”. She has added recently that they were “horrible for taking her comforter away from her” and this is something that I had suspected but hadn’t been sure about. This toy is incredibly important to Pickle as it gives her immediate security in stressful situations. To learn that this was such an issue that it is still bothering her now, two months on, is appalling, along with everything else that is bothering her about what she experienced.

While I want you to to take everything I have written in to account I think the key points are as follows:

  •  Their inappropriate use of language when describing someone’s child (ie spiteful, manipulative, defiant and taunting)
  •  Their total lack of communication until any issues have become so large in their eyes they feel they have no choice but to have a big meeting about it with a parent who hasn’t got a clue what’s been happening. There was no warning.
  •  The lack of concentration at registration. The dismissive nature in which my daughter was dealt with. And the safety issues regarding not knowing that a child has given them the wrong name.
  •  Their view of adoption. This is my opinion only but I do feel she was being viewed differently but not in a positive, helpful or caring way. She was being viewed as a “problem child”.

Thank you for your time in reading this and I hope that you take care to investigate all my concerns.

Regards

And I never heard from them again. Appalling. 

 

Nursery Nightmare

November 16th, 2015

What’s bothering me? I’m confused, angry, my mind is whirring and I can’t relax.

I’ve had my first “parents evening” at nursery. It has left me feeling deflated, sad, scared and anxious. Their interpretation of her “behaviour” is classed as “defiant”, “whirlwind” and that she encroaches on other children’s personal space and that she’s told to “keep her hands to herself” and “doesn’t sit down to eat her lunch”.

I was shocked reading it and felt a cold chill down my spine. Deflating inside and starting to feel the sadness that would follow me home, getting heavier as the night wore on, I tried to articulate the evening to Daddy P but I couldn’t. All I could say was that I felt sad.

24 hours later and I’m a little closer to understanding why I feel like I do because I’ve spoken to a friend and my mum and dad as well as Daddy P and our social worker (It’s the first time I’ve called the adoption agency for help since the AO came through, that’s how confused and upset I am) and they’re all angry.

You see, our daughter is 3 and a half. Yes she chews pencils, while looking at us, to check our reactions. But is that defiant? No, it’s pushing the boundaries.It’s normal! 

Yes she gets up and down constantly while she’s eating her meals and we’re trying to nip that in the bud but, really, is that a huge issue? No. It’s normal!

And yes, she strokes people’s hair and hugs them and touches them. Is she being violent? No. Is she being aggressive? No. Is she being tactile and loving and caring and kind and gentle? Yes. It’s normal!

So why say to a 3 and a half year old “keep your hands to yourself” when what they should be saying is “some people don’t like to be touched, come on why don’t we play over here?”. Yet when discussing this with the nursery teacher she said “we know she’s being kind and loving, it’s not that we want to knock out of her”. And it’s at this moment in time I’ve remembered that being said. It always amazes me how much you don’t hear at the time it’s said because it’s so shocking and unexpected but you take it in all the same because, somewhere along the way, you’re going to have to face the fact that it’s simply not good enough.

My 3 and a half year old daughter is not defiant. She is not a whirlwind. She is not violent and aggressive. She is a fun, loving, determined, strong willed individual and I’m glad she is. She went through hell as a baby. She’s fought for her life to be here and where she is today. She’s absolutely brilliant and nobody is going to knock anything out of my daughter, ever! I’m angry. I’m still not thinking clearly enough because I’m so confused and baffled by what happened last night at the meeting. But what I am clear on is that I have got to protect my daughter from ignorant and lazy “professionals” and I need to make sure they don’t do any more damage to my strong, beautiful, kind, caring, brave, confident and charismatic daughter who wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her fighting spirit.

Fuck the people who don’t understand and don’t “get it”. I know our daughter. I know what’s best for her and I’m going to make damn sure I’m listened to.

 

Life Goes On

June 21st, 2015

I thought I’d take a minute or two to climb off the rollercoaster that we’ve been riding for the last 22 months

Twenty two months. That’s nearly two years! How on earth did that happen? Yet in that 22 months we, as a little family unit, have gone from strength to strength.

My daughter is simply amazing. She’s feisty yet fun, confident and strong, independent but wants me there and, above all, she’s happy. Not all the time. Granted, she’s a three year old who takes everything the wrong way and has a flip out at the merest of mentions of bedtime/having to go out/in/having to stay sitting/having to get up. You get the picture. Normality right?

Except it’s really not for us on a deeper level. Yes, we treat our daughter exactly how I always expected to treat a child, with huge amounts of love, respect for them, discipline and with consistent, non faltering boundaries in place. Yet there is always going to be a deeper level of understanding that needs to be there for our daughter. She is wise and knowing beyond her years. She swings from being a three year old who’s incredibly in touch with her own and others feelings to wanting to be a baby and be babied. I can hear the shouts from here of “but that’s “normal”” and of course it is. But for our daughter it’s so important that we listen to those cues because she was never babied as a baby by us. She still needs that, to fill in that missing link to us.

She’s now three and she sometimes chooses to act like a baby. To the point where she even “waah’s” like one while being cradled by one of us. I can see it in her eyes. She wants to be grown up on one level but on another she just can’t get enough of what she missed out on in those first early months. And that’s with being in a caring foster placement. How do these families and children cope when they’ve suffered abuse and neglect on top of the lack of comfort and love that all children should get as babies.

I’m not perfect. I get it wrong sometimes. At the moment I feel like I’m constantly apologising for shouting and snapping and getting cross. Fortunately, because we make sure we do say sorry when we’re in the wrong she does accept our apologies and then it works the other way. She says sorry too. But it’s bloody hard. At the moment I’m exhausted just from continually being aware of everything and keeping an eye on the situation.

Several people have asked me recently if she’s settled. And, of course, she is. Very. And our attachment is phenomenal. But that’s because I was determined at the start to do it our way and only have us look after her and pick her up, comfort her and care for her. Yet, only today, I took her swimming and an over enthusiastic mother came over to us and started getting all excited because Pickle can swim so encouraged her to swim with her away from me. And she went. Pickle left me and swam with a complete stranger. I kept incredibly close and didn’t let me out of her sights. And this woman wasn’t about to abduct her. That’s not my worry (well ok, of course that worries me but where’s she going to take her in a swimming pool!) my worry is why does she find it so easy to go off with someone she’s never ever met in her life? Is it that she trusts everyone? Because that’s not good. Is it because she was in a foster family that ran their life like piccadilly circus and everyone and anyone would pick my daughter up and that’s stayed with her? Is it ingrained in her that “everyone is ok and I can trust them” because of that situation she was in for 15 months? A lot of people have (dared) to say to my face “but she won’t remember, she was too young”. Anybody who has adopted will understand my complete irritation (and anger) towards this attitude. I wonder whether the people saying it wouldn’t be affected by being taken away from, not just one but, two “mothers” and then placed with a third. Even at 15 months old you remember the feeling of being taken away I’m sure of it. And my daughter displays signs of this all the time and now she verbalises it as well. “Don’t leave me mummy” and “mummy gone” and “baby gone”. And everything she plays with, be it toys, food, stones, twigs, you name it, becomes a mummy and a baby and the baby always loses the mummy and becomes sad and then they’re reunited and baby becomes happy again. Every. Single. Time. Now let those people tell me that children don’t know.

I decided a while ago that I would stop trying to explain to people the intricacies of adoption and what legacies it leaves behind and the damage and the effects of it are. I gave up because people don’t want to know and they don’t believe it. I learned not long ago that people hear it as a competition, “my child is more special than yours” and I get told when talking about certain behaviours and worries that “that’s not just pickle, all children are like that/feel that/do that”. But I know differently and I understand that others don’t get it. So I learned to keep my mouth shut. Now, when people ask if she’s settled, I simply say “Yeah, she’s doing great”. I only open up to the people who understand and get the whole picture, not just the bits they want to get.

Even close friends and family find it difficult to grasp that pickle is still adopted. People forget. And although it’s important for us to live life without constantly reminding Pickle of adoption there is a huge importance to us all remembering.

Having said all that she’s doing really really well. We have a superb relationship where, actually, even if we’re snapping at each other (ie I shout stop it and she screams at the top of her lungs back at me) we are actually laughing about it within seconds. She screamed in my face the other night because I wouldn’t let her do something (putting her crappy plastic pink princess clippy cloppy shoes on in bed) and she sat up and screamed a belter an inch away from my face. I burst out laughing and she followed within a split second and then we couldn’t stop. We were literally rolling on her bed in hysterics and she kept recreating it and then we’d start again! You don’t manage that with a shaky relationship. It was brilliant. I’m so proud of her and how she handles everything. I just hope she continues to gain more and more strength to be the strong woman I just know she’s going to be.

And, with that, I’m going to leave now and get back on the rollercoaster of life. Erm, actually, I’m going to go to bed first

Letterbox

January 14th, 2015

And just as we start to realise we have reached “normal” we have a reminder that things aren’t and never ever can be.

What am I talking about? Letterbox of course. The piece of A4 paper that drops on the doormat once a year that seems to slice through the freshly formed scab on the wound of the adoption process for all involved, parent and child, and reminds you that your child or children aren’t actually yours.

Let me clarify what I mean quickly before anyone gets offended. Of course your child or children are yours. Of course you are their mummy and/or Daddy. Of course we will be bringing Pickle up knowing she is adopted, being fully aware who her birth family are and having the choice to want to meet them later in life. Even more so I personally am gutted that her siblings still live with the birth family, for several reasons. But two of the most important are that Pickle may feel that she was rejected when the others weren’t. And secondly that we can’t have contact with them, for Pickle to get to know as she grows up. That upsets me more than anything. If her siblings were adopted as well I know for a fact that we’d be attempting to meet up with them a couple of times a year so they can form a relationship.

But instead we are left with writing them a letter once a year which, in fact, has to be written to her birth grandmother and birth aunt who has them. So the letters don’t even go directly to the people we feel deserve contact with Pickle. For good reason, of course, as they’re all under 18. But it still leaves me feeling bereft for Pickle and wondering, probably correctly, if you letters are being dealt with in the right manner.

Another thing that baffles me is that, as adopters, we have to pick a month to send a letter and stick to it. We get reminders and, I fear, if we don’t do it we will get reprimanded like naughty children who’ve forgotten to hand in an essay by the deadline and threatened with several detentions with no thought of the possible reasons behind the lack of written work. The birth family, on the other hand, can send a reply back whenever they want, if at all. They get the choice. It really is a great example of one rule for one and another rule for someone else. We get to watch the letterbox in nervous anticipation all year. That’s such a great way to live our lives.

I simply feel that Letterbox is the local authorities way of appeasing birth families and has nothing to do with the children at all. Very recently someone (a fellow adopter) said to me “if you don’t do it your child may end up resenting you”. The brainwashed statement was shockingly clear. I feel that letterbox is used as a kind of emotional blackmail towards adopters with the intention of making us feel we’ll be adding to the trauma and damage to our children by not doing it. Screw the fact that you, as the child’s parent, feel they don’t deserve it.

To put it more bluntly it makes me feel like a glorified, long term childminder. I’m keeping Pickle’s family informed of her progress through life before she finally goes back to them. Well, I’m sorrynotsorry but I feel birth mum lost that right the moment she decided to take drugs throughout her pregnancy with my beautiful daughter. And yes, she’s my daughter. In our first “practice” letter I was made to change the sentence “proud to call her our daughter” to “proud to call ourselves her parents”. So we can’t even be proud that she is our daughter because it’ll apparently “upset the birth family”.

From another angle, my own mum is adopted and she doesn’t see any positive value in Letterbox either. In her words “my mother would have just written the same lies in the letters as she told me when I met her later on”. To that end it would have made no difference. And to know that her adoptive parents were writing to her (awful) birth mother would have felt like a betrayal.

There’s another example of this brainwashing that seems to occur. The number of adopters with older children who I hear saying they actively encourage their children to allow them to continue to write to birth family even when a child has told them they no longer want them to scares me. If Pickle says to me she doesn’t want us to write to them I won’t be trying to convince her these people deserve to know about her life. It’s her choice. Why would anyone want to actively encourage a child to continue to inform their abusers of their lives when they’ve made it clear they don’t want to. It’s bad enough doing it behind the child’s back when they’re too young to understand. But to continue afterwards is a betrayal. And the number of adopters who tell me that when that letter arrives their children go in to full meltdown mode for a good period of time. It unsettles them. Upsets them. Disturbs them. How can children feel settled when a letter arrives once, twice and sometimes three times a year reminding them that they’re not with their birth family. How do we know that it doesn’t make the children feel that their family isn’t permanent?

Of course, for some children and adopters it will work. But I feel it’s a minority that it will truly work for. One size definitely does not fit all but in this case the adoption authorities seem to have the warped sense that it does.

As I have said before, Pickle will know she’s adopted. We have talked to her about it from the moment she moved in at 15 months old. And we use the language of adoption all the time. Her life story book is out for her to access at any time she likes. And we talk to her about it. But to have to write to people who’ve let her down in a way nobody who isn’t adopted will understand is  heart wrenching and I hate it.

We will do it. Every year. Until Pickle tells us otherwise. But I categorically say right here and now I don’t agree with it at all.

Letterbox for everyone is a flaw in adoption that needs to be addressed.

Normality

January 12th, 2015

I can’t quite believe it’s been three months since I wrote something on my blog. Time has flown by.

A lot has happened in that time. We’ve had our second Christmas (it only seems like a couple of months since the first one!) Certain individuals continue to make life difficult but I’m learning to try and ignore. Pickle met her aunt and cousin for the first time since they live a very long way away which proved to be very successful but was also very testing of all that we’d put in to our attachment. On one hand we wanted her to feel comfortable with my sister but on the other we wanted her to be wary as she’d never met them before. As it happened the whole situation was and felt very “normal”. There was certainly no rushing in to their arms. Tick. There was no extreme wariness. Tick. And she was comfortable in their presence but still needed me there. Tick. I feel we’ve reached a stage where Pickle feels comfortable with people if she sees I’m comfortable with them which is how it should be.

As I write this I’m ill in bed and have been all day. Pickle has reveled in it because it’s meant a day in bed for her too, watching what she wants on the ipad and drinking bottles of milk all day while I’ve dozed on and off all day. She’s currently lying sideways under the duvet with her feet on me. If you’d have asked me if we’d ever have got to this point several months ago I wouldn’t have put money on it that’s for sure. I still felt like I had to be the “all doing, all singing, all dancing” mummy that I felt I’d got to be when Pickle first arrived. But I now feel I can doze while she plays and poddles around while I’m poorly. The fact she has chosen to be with me all day, in bed, beside me is blissful.

I feel like we’ve actually reached “normal”. I feel like we’ve arrived.

All By Myself

October 14th, 2014

I am sitting in a cafe having a toasted tea cake and a juice on my own.

Yep, you heard that correctly. On. My. Own. Nobody with me not even a child. We’ve come a long long long way in the last 14 months. I can’t quite believe that so much time had passed by and quite how quickly it has flown. I can barely remember the acute anxiety I felt for the majority of the time at the start of this journey together as a new family. The unreal dream like state I was in for months while we were both off work together with our beautiful daughter. The questioning I did every second of every hour of every day in those early days. Is she crying because she’s frightened or because she’s hungry and tired? Is she not cuddling me because she’s not attaching or because she’s two? Is she running off because she’s too independent for her age and unattached or because she’s two? Questions racing through my mind day in day out, worries coursing through me night after night as I tried to get to sleep.

I know I hid it well. I look at photos of myself at the time and I honestly feel like I’m looking at someone I don’t know. Because I know how acutely stressed I felt when those pictures were taken I can’t believe I’m looking at me. People close to us have even said they didn’t have a clue what I felt like. I hid it well. I just wanted to get it so right at the time. I wanted my daughter to feel loved, wanted, cared for, safe, secure, warm, close and nurtured. I think (hope) we achieved that by sticking rigidly (with little help from a few people who I felt refused to “get it”) to a routine which involved only the three of us together for most of the time. It’s paid off. Our beautiful daughter is confident, independent, feisty, fun, funny and definitely knows her own mind which is what I always wanted for my child, particularly a daughter.

While I enjoy a sit down in a cafe on my own she is at her grandma and grandads having a lovely time baking and watching movies. This is a huge step for me more than her. I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t relaxed. But I’m getting there. But I realised, with a clarity that hit me a few months ago, it is because I love her so much I would do anything for her and I want to treasure every single minute I can with her. I don’t need nor want to “fob” her off to anyone else. I enjoy her and we have great times.

But for now I will enjoy a quiet toasted tea cake.