Archive for the ‘Adoption diary’ Category

Teaching the Teachers

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

Friday, 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.

 

Nursery Nightmare

Monday, 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

Sunday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

 

Just Another Day

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

As the celebration day at court looms on the horizon our lives seem to be a muddle of every day “ordinary”

Some may say they’d be bored. Some may say it makes them stressed. For us it’s the ordinariness that we’ve worked and waited so long for. The getting up in the morning to shouts of “Muuuummeeeeee” from the next bedroom. The “NO” that’s shouted every two seconds (at the moment) in response to just about any request. The trial of trying to get teeth brushed while trying to remain calm and patient. The tantrums and screams because cbbies isn’t on. And the mess, everywhere, all the damn time.

But it’s also the cuddles in the morning. The trips in to town, a lot of the time now without the buggy, with an independent and confident little girl who knows her own mind. It’s the walk up to the park for a morning with friends. It’s the military precision preparation we have to live by when we now go out but which makes life unbelievably easier than if we forget something. It’s the little things which are, in fact, huge milestones which other parents I’ve spoken to seem to take for granted. Learning to talk, learning to say “Mummy” and know she’s talking about me. We’ve taught her so much and I’m bursting with pride that she takes as much as she does in. She can even repeat the entire alphabet back at me, each letter spoken with determination. She’s 2. She says all sorts of words now.  Book, balk (walk), pieow(pillow), house, cat, paw paw, at (hat), shoooo (shoe), beebees (cbbies), botbot (bottle), cheeeeeeeeeeese (when having a photo taken)

She’s learned names. She knows her left from her right. She is learning words using phonetics… and she’s good at it! She loves having her hair cut. She loves choosing clothes and shoes. She loves bangles and hair accessories. She’s got an amazing sense of humour and makes us laugh every single day. She knows what she wants, when she wants it and how.

If this is ordinary I’m gonna take it!

Reciprocal Love

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

It’s been a while since I wrote anything. Mainly because I’ve been concentrating on the amazing relationship I have going with my beautiful daughter

I went to work today. As is usual now, on a Thursday, the three of us drove to Daddy P’s work to drop him off, then me and Pickle drove to my mum and dads where I sit and have a cup of tea and a piece of toast and get her settled in with her botbot, beebees, blanket, pillow and Nanny & PaPa sitting on the sofa. Bliss!

I then go to work with a kiss and a cuddle that keeps me going all day knowing she’s having a wonderful and cosy day with my mum and dad.

We’ve been telling her we love her now for a long long time. We feel it so we tell her. We use makaton sign language, as we have done from the start (please, thank you, sorry) so we tell her we love her at the same time as signing and she loves it. We always get a little giggle and smile when we say it to her. It’s lovely.

But today we were both blown away.

I’d picked Daddy P up, we’d then gone to pick Pickle up and had a cuppa with the folks. When we got up to leave and she gave PaPa and Nanny a big cuddle and kiss each and even managed a “thank you for having me” (sank ooo sa ain ee) for them and a “night night” (nanigh) which got my mum and dad smiling.

But it was what happened in the car afterwards which blew us out the water. I’d strapped her in and got in the front and Daddy P turned to tell Pickle he loved her and I followed suit. She did the usual of smiling, giggling and looking coy….. but then she took her bottle out of her mouth, pointed to herself in the chest and then to us. “I love you”

I could have cried. Instead we just beamed and said thank you darling, thank you so much and we love you so much too. She is such a special girl. And I love how she says I love you while doing the makaton….

“See sii suuuu” (I love you)