A Banana, 3 Clementines, a bowl of grapes and 4 Kiwis

AlthougOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAh we both eat fish and seafood my partner and I have now spent more of our lives not eating meat than eating it. Nowadays it is less ‘freaky’ than way-back-when and we are challenged less and less about our choice.

However, since our two sons moved in the challenging has reared its head once again, with a number of friends and family questioning our choice as to how we feed the boys.

We had of course discussed it ourselves before they arrived and had reached a conclusion quite easily. Becoming a parent didn’t change any of the reasons – and there are plenty – that we gave up meat, but we did recognise that chances were the children would come to us as meat eaters. We understood that needed to be maintained throughout transition and until they had settled into their new lives, as much familiarity as possible to their old lives being an essential part of helping them settle.

However, as feeding them meat would not be something we are comfortable with we turned to the many ‘fake’ meat products out there – which we ate very little of previously – so that we were able to prepare meals that they were familiar with and indeed requested.

We never told the boys that the ‘meat’ was not real and not knowing the difference they were wonderfully oblivious. However, we respected that they were old enough to have an opinion of their own and we had no intention of forcing our beliefs onto them, consequently when eating outside of the house they were free to eat whatever, so at school, in restaurants and at family and friends they eat meat aplenty.

For a whole year they were totally unaware that we were not eating meat, but once we felt they had settled enough and that it would not be any kind of issue we explained the situation and said that they could choose to stop eating meat from now on if they wished.

Immediately the older son made it very clear that he loved meat and would continue to eat it, however his brother was less sure, which we think has a lot to do with his greater need to ‘fit in’ with his new parents. He has – in theory – decided not to eat it, but in practice struggles and with regularity he ‘forgets’ his decision when meat is on offer.

He has quite an unusual relationship with food, which we know stems back to them being left unfed and hungry in the birth family. The foster parents told us of the need to liquidize every meal for a number of weeks to stop him from gorging himself and immediately throwing up. They explained that the older sister had told them that when they were hungry she would try to find food in the cupboards and share it, but being the youngest he missed out to his older siblings and usually ate less or indeed nothing.

Neither of our sons talk much about life in the birth family, but lack of food is one thing that is mentioned occasionally and which has clearly left its mark. On them and indeed now on us, as it generate a huge sadness and anger in us to think of our sons being left without food for days at a time.

It is only recently – after more than two years with us and almost 5 years in Care – we are seeing our youngest turn down food or leave something on a plate. Initially he would eat everything – and wonderfully anything – put in front of him. In fact we were forced to rethink a decision quite early on: we always had a bowl of fruit on the table and told the boys that it was there for them to eat and instead of sweets and dessert they could have as much fruit as they liked.

Watching out youngest finish a large dinner shortly after they moved in and then devour A banana, 3 clementine, a bowl of grapes and 4 kiwis for desert, made us realise that he still didn’t have an awareness of when he was ‘full’ and consequently the ability to stop eating, we had to step in and stop him before he threw up.

He isn’t greedy as such, he just eats very well and needs to be told when enough is enough. In the early days he always asked for more, but we see less and less of that and he has always accepted a ‘no’ when asking for seconds or thirds at meal times or treats throughout the day.

We feel that he has moved on, but the effects of his past are just below the surface and I guess the survival instinct of storing food when it’s available for times when it’s not, still kicks in when allowed.

In fact if anything it is now us the parents who have to learn and to hold back, there is a huge desire to compensate for their past and to give them whatever food they want, whenever they want it. We make sure they eat healthily – fresh, home cooked meals daily – and that they get lots of exercise, so its easy to justify the larger portions and sugary treats between meals, even though we know they are not needed or more importantly not good for them.

Mostly we do manage to control ourselves, but it’s difficult. Saying no to children we love so much and want to give ‘the world’ to is tough at the best of times, saying no to children we know have suffered and missed out so greatly in their early lives I think is even tougher.

However, to be good parents we need to do what we know is right for them and not what makes us feel good about ourselves, which is what giving in to them would really be all about.

As for eating meat, as much as we would love them to give up we would never try to push them in that direction, it has to come from them and who knows, maybe one day it will.

In their lives having enough food at each meal is what is relevant and trust me that will never be an issue in our house.

Follow up: A birth mum shares her thoughts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecent posts about sibling and birth family contact have proved to be quite emotive for many of our readers; and one in particular prompted a birth mum to get in touch to share her own thoughts and experiences of direct contact which we thought deserved to be heard.

“I am a birth mom and I can’t say that I agree that its “always adoptive families” that “action, chase, fight for the best outcome of the child”. The agency I went through has done a lot to help and has a strong desire to help in whatever way they can for all three parties involved. Also, I have reached out, expressed feelings, respected the wishes of the adoptive parents and I have been rejected. It is true that every family is different. I have so much respect for you and other families that try to maintain contact with birth parents for the benefit of your child.” 

 

And here is the original post as it was published on April 10th 2015.

Any Advice Gratefully Accepted

Having read the recent blog about sibling contact I thought I’d write asking if anyone has had any problems with direct birth parent contact. I know that to most this may seem like a strange ‘problem’ to have but here goes…

When I adopted my daughter I agreed to annual direct contact with her birth father. I didn’t want her to hit teenage years with all the possible angst that that can entail and ask why I wouldn’t let her see him when there was no reason for me doing so other than ‘I didnt want to share you’. Had I not been a single adopter and had it been her birth mother who wanted contact maybe I would have felt differently, who knows. Anyhow for one reason or another we fell through the cracks last year and contact was not arranged. I tried unsuccessfully to contact social services leaving voicemails but no one returned my calls. I finally heard from them saying they would chase it up and get back to me but they haven’t and now another year has almost gone by.
I guess what I’d like to ask is whether anyone else has experienced this and also if any of you know whether it is my responsibility to be chasing up contact. I’m also worried that a gap of two years (spanning ages three to five) will make seeing him harder for my little one.
Any advice gratefully accepted.

Me Time

wpid-20141211_190239.jpgI’m afraid this idea is a direct steal from The Adoption Social, but it’s such a good one that I’ve pilfered it for our own site…

How many of us out there are feel run off our feet?

The day to day grind of  parenting (and working) can be tough. Just yesterday I crumpled under the strain of a barrage of words from my three year old at bedtime about why she “wasn’t at all tired, needed to come back downstairs and would be doing so as soon as I left the room. Wanted some chocolate… no wait a minute A LOLLY! Really need a lolly! Why not? It’s not fair.. Can’t possibly stay under the covers because they are too hot and suddenly need a wee wee, no a pooh.. Quickly it wants to come out NOW!” (Then after going to bathroom and assembling Peppa pig toilet training seat etc and placing the daughter apon it) “Actually I don’t need the toilet but I am cold now. Why did you let my legs get cold mummy? I need my scooter and Peppa Pig socks and hat on and I need to come downstairs”. Thirty minutes and three books later and finally she’s asleep. Phew!

I  personally find it incredibly hard to break the habit of just ploughing on with whatever needs to be done next without taking time to think what would really benefit and nurture myself. After the bedtime chaos I should probably relax or do some yoga but I can hear the red wine and TV remote calling my name, plus there’s still all the washing up to do and the dog to be walked.  How to get some proper healthy Me Time into my day? and why does it seem so difficult?

One solution put forward by a writer on the Adoption Social was a challenge to her readers to Set aside 30 minutes each day just for yourself, every day and feel the benefit.

What a marvellous idea!  So the purpose of this blog is twofold. Firstly, if you already manage to organise yourself some daily Me Time – how do you do it and what do you do? Please be generous and share your tips with the rest of us. And if like me you cannot seem to find a minute when something doesn’t need to be done around the house, let’s take on the challenge and try to find 30 minutes a day just for ourselves.

Personally I am going to start by trying to get back into the meditation practise I used to find so helpful.

What about you?

 

I’m your baby, mummy

fillipo lippi V&CRecently, our son’s foster mum was visiting with her son. A much-loved, plum and delicious boy of six months. We all hunched over the little miracle, admiring his being. I thought it a lovely moment and added: ‘When you were this little you lived with Rosa, my friend.’ My 3 year-old looked me in the eye and corrected me:

‘I am your baby, mummy. I was with you.’

‘Yes, my darling, you are my baby. And when you were very little you lived with Rosa.’

But he would not hear it. ‘No, mummy. No, mummy, I am your baby.’

He maintained shaking his head. He stood up and repeated the words. ‘I am your baby!!’

Rosa turned to me, speaking softly she said: ‘This is all so complicated. Perhaps we better leave it for now.’

We did. But his stance stayed with me.

A few days later, I brought the subject up again. I took out a book of photos from his life with Rosa and her family, and we sat down on the floor of his room. We flicked through the pictures, something he normally loves. But this time he got angry with me.

‘No!, Mummy. I am your baby!’

‘Yes, my darling, you are my baby. And I love you very much. This is just pictures of the time when you lived with Rosa.’

He stood up and put both his hands over my mouth shouting: ‘I AM YOUR BABY!’

I closed the book, and hugged him close.

‘Of course you are.’ I whispered into his neck and kissed him. ‘You will always be my baby.’

I left it at that. I felt him relaxed in my arms.

Hmmm.

My husband and I discussed these incidents at length and agreed we both needed to throw a few more pebbles in this little pond of his. So far he has shown no interest what so ever in his life story book. So we haven’t forced it. That said we have never shied away from his background either. We are quite open about the fact he is adopted. To him and to the world at large. But perhaps we hadn’t spoken with him about his early life lately, we wondered, in a way that made it accessible to him.

There have been other times when I’ve been surprised at his urge to be born by me. From very early on in his life with us. At no more than 18 months, he wanted to come out of my tummy. We played it over and over. Him hiding under my nightie and popping out into his bed. But the time with Rosa and her little boy was the first time he had voiced the need to be my baby so strongly. Of course it is a great sign of his attachment to me, and I guess to my husband and our little family unit of three. ‘Mummy, Daddy, Digger. Mummy, Daddy, Digger.’ as he likes to chant endlessly. But I was taken aback by the strength of his feeling. And perhaps a little fear of denial.

We left the subject for a while. Placed the book of baby photos within reach so he could look at them if he felt like it. He didn’t.

A couple of weeks later we happened to be in an area I know his birth mother used to live and work. We were walking down the street hand in hand.

‘When I come to this area I often think of your birth mother. She used to live here, you know.’

Long silence. He didn’t look up, but his attention to my words was clear.

‘Would you like me to say you her name out loud?’

He nodded without looking at me. I said her name aloud. Our eyes met and we smiled.

‘This can be our little secret: we both think of her when we come here.’ I suggested.

He nodded again and smiled.

Not long after his foster mum came round again, and somehow we’ve managed to wiggle his early life with her into the fabric of the day. Just little things like: ‘When you used to live with me, you looooved ice cream too. You’ve always loved ice cream. Especially chocolate! You got so messy! You got it all over your face! And your clothes!’

I feel we are back on track. Integrating the stories and details of his first year into the every growing tapestry that is his life.

Until the next time we need to do some adjusting.

Flowers

photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

I previously wrote a blog about the break down of the long term foster placement and guardianship of our sons older sister, I ended by saying that we hoped that the the new placement the sister had been moved to was a good one and would offer her the security she so deserves.

Thankfully that appears to be so, it does seem like a good placement and the new foster carers are committed and seem to be giving her the family life she needs and indeed some of the security that has been lacking in her life recently.

Most importantly she just seems happy.

She is a sweet child who has spent much of her life caring for others and as a result is thoughtful and selfless. She has had it tough all her life and being 4 years older than our oldest was more aware of the neglect and the consequences of that while in the birth family. At the age of 5/6 she was attempting to ‘mother’ our boys, stepping in where birth mum was failing.

What we have now discovered is that the almost 5 years she spent with the previous foster carers were not as positive as we had thought and in fact we have really had to reevaluate our reaction to the break down of that placement.

We were aware that the carers were very strict and lacked pastoral parenting skills, but it seems that the situation for the sister was anything but ideal, we have been told that she was made to do most of the housework and ironing as well as various other chores, apparently time was dedicated for this before and after school everyday and most of Saturday and if this is true it strikes us as being quite inappropriate.

Again we question where social services were throughout this, but now she has moved from that placement and seems happy I feel we should all be looking to the future.

So things are good – or certainly looking so. However we are concerned about the effect the break down of the placement has had on the sister. Yet again she has had parents who have failed here, yet again the family she thought was for life has proven not to be so, yet again she has been thrown into the unknown.

She is aware that – all going well – the new placement will only be until she is 18 as the new carers are not offering guardianship and as yet we do not see any suggestion that they will remain ‘family’ beyond that.

We have been really concerned for her and when we finally met for contact – after a year of not being able to – we asked how she was doing and if she felt settled and happy, she was her usual cheery self and said that she was pleased to be where she was and that life was OK, we asked if there was anything that bothers her or that she had concerns about and her response shocked and saddened us as she opened up and expressed her concerns for being alone after she turns 18.

We assured her that her fears were unfounded and that she was loved by all of us and that we would always be there for her as she was our family. We hope that we offered some kind of reassurance, but somehow we are not convinced as it was evident just how alone she felt.

Her exact words will always stay with us:
‘I don’t mind never being adopted I know it’s difficult for somebody to take a child of my age and that’s OK, the only thing that really bothers me is when I think of the future and not being in a family it upsets me to think that if I was to die there would be nobody to bring flowers to my grave.

She is 12.

Ask the 8 year old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been processed and passed by the adoption panel for two children and as first time parents we really hadn’t even consider taking on any more. We originally saw the details of our sons – where it was stipulated that they had to be placed together – with no reference to other siblings.

Of course when their full CPR came through their siblings and half siblings were included, as indeed were details of the close relationship the boys had with their older sister. It was explained to us that as they had not found an adoptive placement for the three together, the sister had been asked if she would like to stay with the foster parents in long term fostering, freeing up her brothers for adoption together.

She was just 8 at the time and she was being asked if she wanted to stay in the home she had known for – at that point – over 2 yrs with people who cared for her and offered her the only real security she had ever really known – at the expense of staying with her brothers. Or to continue to wait for… well, the totally unknown.

She obviously chose to stay.

Good news for social services, who’s life just got a lot easier as placing a 4 and 5 yr old together – although not easy – is a whole lot easier than when there is a third aged 8.

Good news for the boys as it gave then a better chance of finding a forever family,

And of course good news for us.

It seems the only one with not such good news is the 8yr old who’s decision made it all possible. She will never be adopted and technically at 18 (although at the time it was still 16) be ‘family less’.

The foster parents were caring, but quite elderly (60&70) and very old school, they were very strict and although great for short term fostering they seemed to have little understanding of the ‘pastoral’ care looked after children so require.

We were aware of this and if I am to be brutally honest I have to admit that we chose to ignore it. We had already been building an attachment to our future sons and didn’t want to complicate matters, anyway surely Social services knows what’s best.

Also, if we decided not to proceed because of the sister, that would not result in the three being kept together, but in social services finding other parents for the boys. The boys who were already starting to feel like our sons.

Regular contact between the three and also their baby sister – born after they had all been taken into Care – was arranged twice yearly with both sisters and their families. It was tough at first for our boys, but it did mean we maintained contact with their foster carers who they were very attached to.

Although not perfect, all was fine until 2 yrs later when the foster parents declare that they are giving up the sister because ‘she has become too much to deal with’. They site various episodes, but basically it boils down to an understandably troubled 12 year old defying their ultra strict regime.

We are angry. Angry at social services for not addressing what was clearly a problematic situation before the inevitable, angry at the foster parents for not respecting the commitment they made and angry at ourselves for sitting back doing nothing while it suited us and also now, not being able to take on the older sister because we just don’t feel ready or able.

In addition we are angry for all the children, the sister for the horribly raw deal she got and for our sons and their baby sister who experience yet another family breakdown.

The sister has now been moved to another long term placement and is apparently settling. There has been no contact now for almost a year and the boys are missing her terribly, it should resume soon.

We have said that we want more contact and that we want to take the sister away with us when we holiday, but we have no legal connection with her and social services have no reason to acknowledge us – and they don’t. They have ignored our letters of complaint and so far our requests to be involved in the child’s life.

To us that is a mystery, but no doubt they have their reasons.

Let’s just hope the new long term foster placement the sister in now in will prove to be the happy home she so deserves

Any Advice Gratefully Accepted

Having read theImage 1 recent blog about sibling contact I thought I’d write asking if anyone has had any problems with direct birth parent contact. I know that to most this may seem like a strange ‘problem’ to have but here goes…
When I adopted my daughter I agreed to annual direct contact with her birth father. I didn’t want her to hit teenage years with all the possible angst that that can entail and ask why I wouldn’t let her see him when there was no reason for me doing so other than ‘I didnt want to share you’. Had I not been a single adopter and had it been her birth mother who wanted contact maybe I would have felt differently, who knows. Anyhow for one reason or another we fell through the cracks last year and contact was not arranged. I tried unsuccessfully to contact social services leaving voicemails but no one returned my calls. I finally heard from them saying they would chase it up and get back to me but they haven’t and now another year has almost gone by.
I guess what I’d like to ask is whether anyone else has experienced this and also if any of you know whether it is my responsibility to be chasing up contact. I’m also worried that a gap of two years (spanning ages three to five) will make seeing him harder for my little one.
Any advice gratefully accepted.

Photo taken by Lili Gooch