Archive for the ‘Adoption extra’s’ Category

Memories in drawings

Friday, 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

Monday, 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. 

 

Friends

Friday, March 7th, 2014

When we were going through home study we had to do an eco tree. 

This is like a family tree but is a support system who you will (hopefully) rely on for support, be it practical, emotional or physical, when you’re child moves in. This may well be the same as your family tree but, unless your family is double the size of the waltons, you’re going to need some friends on there too. I started to do this task thinking it would be easy. I got half way through the task and it got harder. It really makes you analyse your friendships.

The reason I thought I’d find it easy was because we’ve got lots of really good friends who we’ve had some really good times with and who just popped in to my head very easily when thinking about our “support” network. But, of course, we’re not talking about who will be best to go out with for a good meal and wine or for a hike up the hills with a pub lunch to boot. No, it suddenly becomes about something much more serious, much more important.

We had to think about who’d really be there for us emotionally. Who we could count on to, and could practically, drop everything if there was an emergency. And who would pick up the phone at 2am when our daughter woke in the night and we didn’t know what to do.

My head was spinning by the time we’d analysed all our friendships and the eco map looked quite different to what I imagined. But here’s the thing. If I was to re do it now it would look completely different. Friends have drifted away. Other friends have come to the fore. And other friends have been forged through our experience of adoption.

When our SW suggested that friends drift away when you have children I scoffed and said that I wouldn’t let the happen. But, of course, it has. For a long time I grieved for these friends. But recently I’ve found myself being rather thankful for the new friendships which have blossomed through our experience.

Some of the closest friends I have now are ones I’ve found through our adoption journey. But also some existing friends who we didn’t see that much of have really stepped up and are just “there”. We may still not see them that much but if I picked up the phone and said that I really needed a coffee and cake they’d be there like a shot (probably with the mention of cake) It’s been overwhelmingly lovely (friends who have stepped up) and upsetting (the ones disappearing) but I’m beginning to accept that friendships don’t stand still, they change, disappear and grow stronger.

You just might be surprised at which friendships do what. 

Grandparents and Other People (part 2)

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

I wrote about this subject before we even knew about Pickle, but what I wrote back then hasn’t changed

In fact, I’m quite proud of the fact that I “got it” so totally and utterly at that time. But hey, it’s because I listen. And, it’s because we needed to listen and we needed to get it. For any child moving in to your lives, this is so fundamentally important that I thought I’d jot down what I feel now about other people getting it, understanding it, listening and respecting everything an adopter says. In fact, I’d go as far to say that this would and should apply to anybody in relation to any child.

I was told a story the other day by a friend. She’s got 2 boys, by birth. When she had her first boy she was at her Mother in laws house. She was cradling and rocking her baby who was crying. Her Mother in law walked over to this young, new, vulnerable mother and took her baby off her and proceeded to comfort this baby while telling him “my baby”.

I’m going to pause for a moment so the ones of you that are sane and right in the head can gather yourselves to get your breath from reading about this utterly selfish and disrespectful act. For the ones of you that are thinking “what’s wrong with that” you need a good dose of education about attachment and a big kick up the arse quite frankly! How dare that grandmother behave in such a selfish way! Who did she think she was? What gave her the notion that she had a right to do that to a new mother?

Now, imagine you’ve adopted a child, a child who has to learn who their parents are. They have to learn that they go to those parents, for everything. Love, security, safety, comfort, warmth, milk, food, nappy changing, cuddles. Birth children don’t have to “learn” in that sense because (unless people keep grabbing that baby away) they will have received all that care from the parents for a long long time before they start being picked up, comforted and looked after by other people. Those attachments to the parents are in place, firm, secure, solid, tight. But if your child is 15 months old when you meet, those attachments aren’t there, they don’t exist, nothing. It doesn’t help when your 15 month old appears to be doing ok. Everyone seems to think that once a child moves in, everything is done, complete, everyone lives happily ever after, the end! But it’s not like that and it has to be kept in mind that these children, no matter what their age, have been ripped from the only life they’ve known (or twice or three times removed) and its a huge task to make those children feel secure and safe, loved and nurtured.

It’s also a huge task to help these children to understand who their parents are, their primary carers. It all may appear like its going really well from the outside and, for us, it is, but the situation still needs a lot of work. We, and everyone else, still need to be mindful of the situation as it stands. We are only 5 months in and it feels like people have forgotten we are still on a journey. I’ve had people pick my daughter up when I’ve asked them not to. I’ve had people carry her off, away from me so I’m left feeling like a spare part wanting to carry my own daughter (thank you very much) and I’ve had people comfort her when she’s upset which is the biggest “no no” you can do with a child who is building their attachments with his or her new parents. When people have done those things I can tell you now it rips me apart. What’s funny (not ha ha!) is how people react. Their first response or question is usually “but was she [your daughter] ok/comfortable/happy when she was picked up/carried away from you?” [by someone shes met twice!] And my response is always “yes”…..but THAT’S THE POINT!!!!

Our daughter came from a very large and very busy foster family where anyone and everyone would walk in, pick her up, play with her, feed her and comfort her when she got upset, fell and hurt herself or just needed a cuddle. If we allowed anybody and everybody to pick her up, carry her away from us, comfort her or even just pick her up and hold her in front of us, where is the difference in her life? How will she ever work out that we are her parents?  The other people in an adopters life HAVE to listen to the adopters. You have to respect what they say and you have to follow their guidelines on how to behave. You have to be patient. It may be months and months before you can even pick the child up. Do not get offended or defensive about it because that will not help the adopters. Be understanding to what a huge lifestyle change these people have had and be kind and thoughtful always. And don’t put the adopters in the awkward position of either having to come across as rude and risking offence (can I have my daughter back please?) or just letting you do what the hell you want  (because they don’t want to offend you) for your own gratification of cuddling a child….who will cuddle anyone!!!!! Stop and think about how your actions are offending and upsetting the adopters who are new parents.

These words of advice apply to everyone. Friends, family, even the grandparents. They are all fundamentally, and for reasons of understanding the situation, “just other people” for a little while. Adopters are a different breed. They have not adopted to give you a grandchild/niece/nephew. Please respect that and never claim “ownership”.

Encourage the relationship between the new parents and the child. Don’t ever ever encourage your own relationship with the child over that of the parent. So if the child runs to you for comfort, by all means show empathy, support, love and kindess as you normally would but, with an arm around the child, encourage them to go to mummy or daddy. Quite often I will get asked “but what if you’re in another room, you wouldn’t want me to just ignore the child if they’re hurt/upset?” And I say of course not, but that’s just taking it to the extreme. We’re not asking you to become robots with no feelings for the child. We’re asking you to respect us, as the parents. So if they get upset and we’re out the room then you’d comfort the child while at the same time bringing them to us while telling the child that you are “finding mummy/daddy”. It’s not that hard.

The same goes for picking a child up and walking away with them. I had a scenario where a friend did this to me and, as always, my daughter was fine/happy/laughing. But, again, that’s the point. We were 4 months in to placement and my daughter had met this person 4 times. That’s not an awful lot of times. So, no, it wasn’t at all right that she was swept up and carried off by my friend who I’d had plenty of conversations with about what not to do which made me realise just how difficult it is for people to get it and to listen and take it in.

It IS hard. It IS unusual. And it may not feel right to anyone else. But it is right and I wish that people would listen. I often get the comment that “but it’s not normal” applied to everything I say. It’s not normal for grandparents not to comfort an upset grandchild. It’s not normal for friends not to pick your child up and carry them away to “give you some space”. It’s not normal for a child not to be allowed to run off at a playgroup without you staying so close you become a helicopter parent. And everyone is right, absolutely and totally right.

But this isn’t a “normal” situation and people need to remember that. 

Things to remember;
  • Listen to the adopters and take everything in. In fact, get them to write you a list of “do’s and don’ts” if that will help.
  • Do not pick the child up without first being told that it’s ok to do so. You can interact with a child without having to pick them up. Get down to their level on the floor or sit on a chair.
  • Do not comfort the child, under any circumstances, if the adopter is there. If the adopter is out the room comfort the child while at the same time going to find mummy or daddy.
  • Do not interfere with the adopter parenting the child.
  • Talk to the adopters. One of the things we really struggle with is that whenever we are with other people they forget we are there and we end up not being talked to.
  • Stop asking when you can take the child out on your own. You can’t. For a very long time.
  • In fact, put quite simply, step back and allow the adopters as much space and time as they require to settle in as a new family. This isn’t about anyone else other than the new parents and the child. Be respectful of that, always.

 

 

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Social Media

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

In the social media age we live in now it’s all to easy to forget what life was like before it. 

I recently thought about how the people on there are supportive and how I don’t quite know what I’d have done without them through this process. But there is another side to social media that we all seem to forget from time to time and need to keep reminding ourselves of, particularly through adoption. It’s so important to remember that not everyone on social media is who they say they are. I have to say, maybe rather gullibly, that I do believe that a large majority of people I followed on twitter are who they say they are. I’d built up a relationship up with a lot of these people and they are (mainly) fellow adopters who just ‘get it’. That’s why the support is so invaluable.

The same goes for facebook and, of course, you know everyone on facebook personally anyway. But there are still risks attached to facebook. You put a photo up there, 40 friends ‘like’ that photo and all their friends potentially see that photo which can then lead in to hundreds of people you don’t know seeing your photo. Now think about putting a photo of your child up on facebook, your adopted child. 40 friends like it. They have 100 friends each. If they all see it that’s potentially 4000 people who have viewed that photo. How do you know that in that number of people that there isn’t somebody who will put 2+2 together and know who your child is and then work out who you are. It sounds paranoid and over the top but I’d rather be safe & secure than risk my daughters, or our, safety and protect our identities.

For this reason we took some decisions and put things in place to make our social media life as safe and secure as possible without losing out on being a part of it and continuing to gain support from friends, family and twitter;
Twitter:
1. Never use your real name, your location or post photos of yourself or your child.
2. If you do want to post photos use identity protecting ones, backs of heads only and no identifying landmarks, uniforms, road names in the background.
3. Pick an online name for your child and use it all the time. We chose Pickle thanks to one of my twitter buddies and everyone loves it!
Facebook:
1. Make your security settings as tight as possible. We deleted all profile and cover photos which identified us as these albums are always open to the public.
2. Change your surname. It’s only facebook after all, you don’t need to use your real surname. It’s highly unlikely that the birth family will find out your surname but human error and mistakes do occur and it has happened. And they will know your first names. If they then find out your surname they’d only have to tap it in to facebook search and you may be found.
3. Never, ever post photos. We made this decision for 3 reasons. The first being identity risk. The second being that we don’t think it’s fair for any child to have their photo splashed all over the internet anyway. How would you feel if, when you turned old enough to understand, there were hundreds of photos of you on the internet that you had no control over at the time. And thirdly, for that very reason, we feel that Pickle is far too special to go on a “flash in the pan”, fickle, shallow place such as facebook.
4. Don’t use the child’s real name in status’s. Again, we made the decision to carry the name we’d picked for twitter on to our facebook. All our friends “got it” immediately and started doing the same. They even call her that in real life sometimes!

All of the above works a treat. It makes you feel safe, secure and more relaxed in this social media frenzy! By all means do what you like with photos and names etc The above is just advice but is good for everyone, not just adopters. And all our friends totally love Pickles full made up name, it’s very cute, but of course, I can’t tell you what it is……

Well, I could but I’d have to kill you afterwards ;) 

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

Feeling Damaged

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Consider this “perfect” scenario;

Your 18 month old wakes up every morning happy, bright, calm and cheery. She plays with her toys in her cot, she chatters, sings, kisses her teddies and sometimes will even just sit there quietly looking around. I bet you’re thinking “oh my god, what a joy! How lucky am I as a parent to have a child like that”

Now, consider this;

I’m an adoptive parent who has had, for the last 12 months, attachment theories, negative behavioural situations and all sorts of horror stories crammed so deep in to my brain that I can’t push them to one side.

I don’t wake up feeling “lucky” that I can lie in bed reading or catch 30 more minutes sleep. I wake up nervous, anxious, scared, worried that I’m damaging her forever by leaving her in her cot, petrified that I’m ruining all the hard work we’ve put in to achieving the attachments that are so obviously there when you look closely enough through the worry.

People say listen to your instincts. I have none left. The adoption process has destroyed, albeit temporarily, those instincts because every time something happens or doesn’t happen my instincts are in overdrive about every little thing! I feel like a loony and I feel like a wreck. I never wanted to be a parent who was over protective, over thinking, over analysing because it winds me up when other people are like that. But the adoption process, more specifically the stuff you learn through it, really does hinder that “natural” ability to parent. It’s exhausting. And not in the “I’m a parent I never stop” way. It’s the mental exhaustion of over thinking, over analysing and not being able to switch off that SW/psychotherapist voice in your head……ever! I’m sure, in time, I will ease up on myself and, as my husband keeps telling me to do, give myself a break. But for now I’m trying to concentrate, very very hard on separating my natural and good instincts to the “learned, adoption, psychotherapy” instincts which are proving to be more damaging than anything else.

In the middle of all this worry, this morning, I happened to stub my toe really hard and, being a complete wuss, I shouted “ow!” and sat on the floor to rub my foot. Within seconds my 18 month old daughter had walked over to me, offered a kiss (which I gladly accepted) and bent down to rub my throbbing toe.

Now, what was I saying I was worrying about? 
© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

Pets and adoption

Friday, September 20th, 2013

I was originally going to write about our cat much earlier on but decided not to because it became too much of a rant.

It was mostly about how our SW having a huge (badly hidden) issue with him (and all cats) She’d had an experience with her baby & the kittens she took on at the same time (?!?!) Not a bad one [experience] I hasten to add, just something that she over-reacted to and it has resulted in a skewed view of the relationship between cats and babies/children from over 30 years ago. Interestingly, our daughters SW’s didn’t have an issue with our cat and, of course, we made it abundantly clear that we wouldn’t do anything to put our LO in danger where our cat was concerned.

Now I’ve covered that aspect, I want to cover something much more important and much more relevant. It’s something that became very clear to us over the first week after or LO moved in and we think it’s really important to make clear how we think that animals should be viewed as a positive, not only for the child but also for the adopters.

Putting it bluntly our wonderful cat has kept us sane. And we failed him for the first few days. Fortunately we picked up on how he was feeling very quickly and put things in place to try and nip it in the bud. We were encouraged (told) to “possibly” shut him downstairs at night, even though he sleeps with us, on our bed, every single night. We didn’t do this, we would never have done this unless it was absolutely necessary (eg if our LO didn’t like her door closed and screamed if we tried!) but it hasn’t been necessary because our daughter sleeps with her door shut and she also doesn’t wake in the night (yet!) so there’s no “risk” of our cat “being shut in there with her”. And anyway, we would check he wasn’t going in and check before we came out. It’s quite simple really, but was made to sound so complicated. Anyway, I digress (again! – I’m good at that!)

We realised after about 3 days that he wasn’t himself. He’s a very calm, placid cat anyway but he’d gone to the extreme and just wasn’t reacting to us normally. He’d become depressed. Even though we were giving him attention he felt like he’d lost his home and his security and it was horrendous to witness. So, we were then on a mission to settle him down and welcome him back in. The irony of this was that we gave him more space.

When our daughter first moved in we encouraged her to say  hello to him quite a lot. We stopped doing that. She’s not scared of him which is lovely so it’s not like we’ve got to get her over any fear (our cat looks like the FC’s cat so that helps!) so we don’t need to encourage her that way. We then created a space for him that he could get in to but she couldn’t. We’re lucky enough to have a conservatory which is his domain anyway (he’s an indoor cat and that’s his “outside”) so we pushed the door closed enough for him to get through (he’d better not put on any weight!) but not enough for LO to squeeze through.

We’d also made the mistake of changing his cat litter so we got some of the stuff we’d been using and put a layer of that on top which helped. We did this because he went to the toilet on the, now aptly named, splat mat and near the front door. This is both territorial and stress/depression related. Think, for a moment: children who can’t verbally communicate cry to let you know something’s wrong. Animals don’t have anything that they can do apart from go to the toilet in the wrong place. You have to read your animals, they have feelings too and feel anxious, stressed and depressed in times of change and this was a big change. We didn’t shout at him or tell him off, we’ve never done that with our pets, there’s no point, it just makes them wary of you. We just felt really bad for him and I cried. We had to do something for him. So we were hoping that these simple changes and a simple plan would help him come to terms with the change in his life.

The other thing we did was give him treats when our daughter was really close. So she would sit on one of our knees and we would call him to get some treats. This has worked, well, like a treat!! It means he’s associating her with nice things, good things. And I can happily tell you that, after just 1 day of these changes, he is the happy cat we knew before. He’s more confident and happy (and mardy, which is a great sign!) and is coming in to the room more and sitting watching our daughter. Still from a distance, but again that’s a good thing.

And finally, as I cuddled him this morning (he still gets his ten minutes all to himself every morning!) I said to my husband that I felt he’d kept us sane through this change in life. He’s been the constant in our lives. He’s the one that greeted us after every day of the intro’s when we didn’t have time to see anyone else. He was the one that woke with us and went to bed with us every day after our daughter moved in. He was the one who sat on the sofa, between us, purring contently after our daughter had gone to bed each night. I’m certain that, if we had shut him out of normality, out of our every day routine and out of our room (where he sleeps like a log every night) he’d have gone mad, he’d have slowly got so depressed and I don’t think any loyal companion deserves that kind of treatment. And we would have been just as depressed. He’s been our rock in the solitariness of intro’s and moving in week, and for that, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Love you Jack! X

Tips for pets and adoption;
* Give your animal a space of their own. Somewhere he/she can get in to but the child definitely can’t
* Give treats while the child is near or sitting on your knee. This will help your animal associate nice things with the child
* Don’t change anything at all. Don’t make the mistake that we did and use a different brand of cat litter. Keep everything, absolutely, as it always has been.
* Remember to play with your cat/dog etc I sat in bed one night and heard my husband playing with our cat who was racing around so fast that I could almost feel the house vibrating. It was a joyous noise! He was happy again.

* Remember to give your animal attention but not over the top. Just keep it normal. If you give too much attention (more than normal) they will think something is wrong.

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

 

Musings at 2 weeks

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

We have reached the 2 weeks mark and yet it feels like a lifetime!

Pickle has met both sets of grandparents, a family friend and my lifelong friend, who she met today. That was utterly lovely. We had a gorgeous photo taken (by my husband) of us with our girls (her twin boys were having a wild party in the living room and we sneaked in to the “quiet” kitchen!) and it’s those little things that mean so much in this bizarre world of adoption.

Speaking of the strange world of adoption I just wanted to touch upon a few things in this post.

Emotional vulnerability; I have realised, over the last 2 weeks, that I am actually quite vulnerable at the moment. Not to the point where it’s detrimental to me, but it’s become apparent that I need a sense of emotional support from certain people around me even if we can’t see them yet. There’s nothing like a lovely text message out the blue from a friend who’s just asking how things are going. Even though you can’t see a lot of people to start with it’s so important that those relationships continue. It can be a very isolating place having a child but not more so when you adopt. Imagine coming home from hospital with your new baby and being told, in no uncertain terms by the midwife that you mustn’t see anyone for days, that you can’t go visiting people in their houses to get out and to make your world so small that only a couple of people can venture in to it. You are totally cut off from people and, even later on, you feel like you can’t see lots of people. It’s a very lonely place. One of those texts from a friend led me to arrange a cuppa with her 2 days later because I was so desperate for some time out, which leads me (quite nicely) in to the second thing I want to talk about.

Time out; When you adopt you are on this huge journey to become a parent so consciously that, when it actually happens, you get very confused as to why you suddenly realise you feel bored, irritated, like you don’t want to do it any more. Why would you feel like that if you’d worked so hard to get where you are. We should feel lucky, right? We should feel blessed and excited and amazed at every little thing they do. But we don’t. We like her a lot, but not when she screams (blood curdling, high pitched, ear bleeding screams) because she’s not getting what she wants. We love her, but not a deep, meaningful, solid, unconditional love yet. How can we? That would be weird? Yet we can feel that growing, day by day. The bond is getting stronger, the attachment to each other is growing, the love is steadily getting more real and the liking her is definitely enabling us to zone out the screams and the whining. It all takes time, we’re not super human, we can only do our best and we need to remember to take care of ourselves if we’re going to take care of these children properly. Today I did just that. I went to a friends house for a cuppa for an hour, like I used to, on my own and had a damn good catch up, chat & laugh. It was good to get away. Get away from the house. Get away from Pickle. Get away from my lovely husband who has done nothing wrong…..apart from keep moving the high chair, not shutting wardrobe doors, not picking his dirty clothes up blah blah blah! You see? That’s why I needed time out. To keep picking up on these stupid little things isn’t helpful, fair or kind and so off out I went. I ended up going to costa coffee for a large soya hot chocolate on my own after visiting my friend and it was bliss. I was me again! Which leads me quite nicely again to my third topic.

Similarities to birth parents; Adoption is very different to having birth children. I’m going to get that out there right now so there’s absolutely no confusion. Anyone who wants to argue that it’s the same let me save you the trouble. It’s not, there will always be an added layer (or several) for adopters and adopted children. However, today I have taken great comfort in the conversations I have had with the 2 friends I saw today. One had her 3 children naturally. One had her twins by IVF. And my daughter is adopted. All 6 children are aged between 16 months to 4 years old. I’d say that was a pretty balanced view of things. And, you know what? We all feel exactly the same. We all have, and have had, the same worries and experiences. Whether that was from what the health visitor told my friends, or the SW’s telling us. We’re told not to see anyone for a few weeks. My friends said they were told this, not to our extreme but they were still told not to overdo the visitors (I suspect that’s more to do with the parents having time out though rather than anything to do with the newborn baby)

We are told we can’t allow people to hold our child for a long time. Our friends were told the same. My friends get irritated with their children for screaming & whining. They wonder why they do it. They wake up sometimes thinking “what the hell have we done”. They sometimes want to be on their own and not be with their child 24/7. They want to be ‘them’ again. And that’s how we feel. I’m only just beginning to realise that it’s ok to feel like that because, actually, it’s bloody normal and my friends have felt the same, whichever way they have become parents. And, you know what, that’s ok. It’s ok to feel like I don’t want to do it any more. It’s ok to want to get out the house, away from my much wanted daughter. It’s ok to get snippy with my husband for moving the high chair 2 inches! (I know it’s not really but he can take it for a bit!) And it’s ok to let people know that’s how I feel because I’m not the only one.

Now, when can I book my next solo costa visit!!!!

 

 

 

© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

Thera-play

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

It wasn’t until our social worker pointed it out that we realised that we’d naturally been using thera-play with our daughter from the moment we met her

Thera-play is, quite simply, little games that you play with your child to help with bonding and attachment between you. It really should be taught more to all parents but it’s concentrated mainly on adopted children to help those attachment issues which may (or may not) be very apparent because of their backgrounds and history.

Anyway, we realised very quickly that our daughter was bonding with us (but still going back to the FC if she was very upset which was reassuring for us as well as her) and we now know why. Firstly we were using lots of eye contact all the time. We are people who do that anyway, but with her we were doing it almost constantly – which felt intense at some points but also very natural. In the first ten minutes of meeting her, she came up to us and stared up at me, in my eyes, for about ten minutes! It was amazing! She obviously recognised us from the photos the FC had shown her every day in the 2 weeks running up to meeting her. It was magic!

Then there were the games we played in the following 5 days with her which is where the bonding, with both of us, really showed. All very simple;

Passing game: We just passed an object, any object, between us. I would tell her to pass it to Daddy and she would do it and he said thank you. He would then pass it back to her (while saying thank you for her) and then he would tell her to pass it to me and I would do the same. Hours of fun and it really worked! The trust was building and she found it funny, and very serious at times!

Peek-a-boo: This was brilliant because she’d go to one end of the sofa and one of us would go to the other and she’d either peek under, over or around the side of it. This resulted in LOTS of eye contact! And then I shout “go and get him, quick, quick, quick” and she crawls really fast to the other end of the sofa where her Daddy is and laughs and giggles while looking at him upside down!

Row Row: This is her favourite thing ever! The classic “Row Row Row Your Boat” but the most amazing thing is that she instigates it. I remember the first time she did it. The FC started singing it when she was on my knee. She started rocking slightly but decided that she needed more leverage, looked down at my hands, picked each one up, held on for dear life and started rowing……like mad!!!!! Now she’s taught us how she likes to do the “row row” we do it all the time and she loves it! It’s a really recognisable tune to her as well so when I started playing it on the piano she started to do the actions….unfortunately I can’t play and hold hands at the same time so that made for an interesting “row row”!

We’ve found that all of this has helped hugely with how we’ve gained her trust and how comfortable she feels around us. It also helps as distraction techniques when she’s a bit upset about anything. And she adores music, she either wiggles or just ‘conducts’ with her hand. Either way it takes her mind off being upset.

But, I have to say, the bracelets still win hands down! 
© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved

 

Bagpuss and the Bracelets

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

I’ve realised, in the last few days, how significant and important the little things are

They’ve been instrumental in what we’re doing with our daughter and how it’s helping our attachment and bonding development.

The first is Bagpuss. Good old Bagpuss. Actually, admittedly, a last minute decision by my husband to take Bagpuss along to meet our daughter for the first time. I’m so glad we did that now because it’s become a very significant thing in her life. I think mainly because of the colour, bright pink of course, but it’s good for us that she likes it because that’s stayed with her the entire time we’ve known her up to now. It stays at the FC’s and it’s come with her to ours so it acts as a constant. She has it in the car when we’ve taken her out and she actively asks for it, albeit with a squeak and a flapping of the fingers [I want] but that’s what she wants. It’s a connection between us that’s proving to be invaluable.

The second thing is my bracelets. They’re nothing special and I didn’t decide to wear them until the 3rd day of introductions after my meltdown. I just decided that they might be a real interest to her because they’re bright turquoise and very simple, round beads. I did have 3 until she snapped one (and she looked really shocked!) but 2 is enough because we can still share. These have been so instrumental in our bonding with her. She loves them! She puts them on herself, she lets me put them on her, she lets my husband put them on her. She takes them off, jangles them, chucks them when she’s frustrated, passes them back to us both (and immediately wants them back) and they even come in extremely handy when we’re changing her nappy because they distract her and she plays with them while I’m changing her. So I make sure I wear them every day now and they’ve become like a security blanket for me too.

The bracelets have been the hero in all this! 
© www.hoopsandhurdles.co.uk 2013 All Rights Reserved