Random reflections on time.

Photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

The passage of time has always been uppermost in my mind during my ‘adoption journey’, perhaps inevitably given that my daughter was ‘old’ (in adoption-speak) when she came to live with me.

Right from the start I found myself paying attention to a series of milestones – one month, six months, one year, etc since she came to live with me. And always I have had in mind the big milestones: she has lived with me more than she lived in foster care, she has lived with me longer than she lived in her birth family, she has lived with me longer than the time spent in both the birth family and foster care (we’re not yet at that last one). To me these milestones reinforce the permanence of this particular family arrangement, with roots growing deeper as time moves on.

There are also physical ways of demonstrating this.

She likes to keep things, so with my support we’ve kept lots of mementos, favourite old books, favourite old clothes, favourite toys, all her stuffed animals (we have a lot of boxes in the loft!). I’ve got thousands of photos, many of which I’ve put into albums so that she has quick and easy access to them. It’s painful to contrast this with the few physical items she has from before – her other pasts – but it helps her to construct her more recent past.

To use another metaphor, water – our family experiences; her life at school, activities, and with friends; her past before her life with me – keeps flowing under the bridge and gathers in an ever deepening reservoir, in which the volume of water from her time before coming to live with me is ever so gradually being equalled by the time she has spent with me; one day there’ll be more water in the reservoir from after she came to live with me. And so when she dips into that reservoir for memories (‘when I was young’) they are increasingly memories from the more recent past. And it makes me giggle when they’re the normal sort of memories we all have: ‘why on earth did I wear that outfit to school?’ So I like to think it’s progress when the ‘past’ now can include embarrassment at a choice of clothing captured in a photograph.

8 and counting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe adopted two brothers who we knew to be part of a sibling group of 5 :

– The two of them.
– A baby sister who was born shortly after the boys had been taken into Care and who had already been adopted.
– An older half brother. Also taken into Care, but eventually placed with extended family (which means we can not have contact with him).
– The older sister who is 4 yrs older than our eldest.

Our boys and their older sister are very close. After being removed from their parents they spent almost 3 yrs together in the same foster placement so she had always been with them – until they were split to make adoption more viable and the boys came to us.

We were later to discover that in fact there was an additional, older half sister (paternal), as she lived with her mother she had nothing to do with social services or indeed us.

So our boys were in fact 2 of 6.

But not for long.

We later got news of a new baby brother from mum. The baby was immediately taken into Care and is now with new adopted parents.

So it was then 2 of 7.

However, that was just as short lived as apparently dad is about to become a father again too. It is assumed that the baby will stay with him and his new partner.

So it will be 2 of 8 – for now anyway. Both mum and dad have plenty of baby producing years ahead of them.

It doesn’t necessarily impact on us directly, however it does complicate things around Contact and it does require quite a lot of explaining to our sons.

Explanations as to how the siblings/half siblings fit into their lives, explanations as to why they all live where they live, explanations as to why half siblings on dad’s side get to stay with him when our boys couldn’t and most difficult of all explanations as to why mum keeps having babies if she is unable to look after them.

In addition, justification as to why there are half siblings that they do not see at all and are not part of their lives in any way – not even letter box contact.

We knew that we were not simply adopting two stand alone children, but we had not really considered that things could get quite so complicated or that we were taking on quite so much. We are very pro Contact and had agreed to twice yearly meet ups with the siblings and their adopted families as well as with their foster parents (who have such a big and important part of their lives). We are now tied to 7 different families, 4 of which meet for Contact, but who knows if and when any of the three siblings we do not have contact with will become more involved in the future.

We are thrilled to be maintaining relationships where we can, however a selfish side of us wants to scream ‘enough is enough’, there are some complications already and it feels as though they could continue to be added to our lives for quite some time.

We are fortunate so far that the families involved in Contact all get along very well. We may not have that much in common, but there is clearly respect and consideration for each other and thankfully it is all quite harmonious, however we are only too aware that may not be the case with any new people coming into our ‘extended family’.

 

A moment to cherish.

IMG_1144Our daughter has not been with us for very long and my first conversation with her happened unexpectedly on Christmas Day.
It had been a great day with all the usual shenanigans; the 5:30am 4 year old alarm clock, the frenzy of present un wrapping and seeing my son finally pedal a bicycle; I genuinely thought it couldn’t get any better. So when my daughter woke up unexpectedly about 9pm, I just decided to lie down with her, reflect on the day and soothe her through her teething discomfort. She is still getting to know us, so when she picked up the edge of a sheet and put it over her head and we started playing peep o I was in awe. This is such a great milestone for her and she gave me this gift when I least expected it. I realise that miracles happen all the time, we just need to take the time to allow them to happen, but this last Christmas is one I will always remember and cherish with all my heart.

We Are Family Blog 2015 in review!

Here it is! Everything you ever wanted to know about the blog in 2015!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

I Feel Left Out

20140826_170439It’s the first time I really haven’t been able to figure out a way to give her what she yearns for and needs.
She came home from school a bit quiet and sad and when probed about why, just kept saying “I don’t want to tell you, I don’t want to tell you”.
Eventually it tumbled out of her that she wants a sister.
I assumed it was because of Anna and Elsa who she loves with a passion but no.. it was more real than that. Several of her cousins and friends have new little siblings and the phrase that she kept coming back to was “I feel left out.”
I felt heartbroken for her.
How do you tell a child desperate for siblings that she actually has four of them but she can’t see and touch and play with them?
I tried to explain that if there were more children at home, she would get less time with me, and that we are lucky we get to play and snuggle so much together but it didn’t convince her and it was a wake up call for me.
There are some things I just can’t fix or sort out for her, even though I desperately want to.  I also need to work out a way to start talking more about her  absent siblings in a way that won’t make all this worse.
She has great friends and lots of cousins to play with and is generally a very happy little bunny; but it hurts that I can’t provide this one thing for her.

A letter to the foster families

20160107_223618We always thought there were four in this new forever family. That was until recently when we realised that in fact there are considerably more. Mum, Dad, Pumpkin, Rhubarb and then you, their foster families who looked after them while they waited for us.

Ever since placement we have accommodated a number of views which centred on the idea that staying in touch with you, where possible, was in the best interest of the children. Therefore, within six months we agreed to direct contact. We were always a little wary but went along with it as you were all so loving and caring to Pumpkin and Rhubarb. We indulged the not so helpful cuddling and kissing. We ignored the slight hints of criticisms that were so clearly directed at us as the new forever parents not being good enough. We even rolled our eyes but held our tongues when Social Services were criticised, who are only trying to do their job, after all. All because it’s the right thing for Pumpkin and Rhubarb; they need to know people don’t just disappear.

In truth what should really have happened was that you took on a different role if you truly wished to remain visible to us and the children, one of family friends rather than once-upon-a-time parents, otherwise it’s just too confusing. But of course this didn’t happen, and now Mum and I are in the awful position of being made to feel like the bad guys if we just say no to you when you want to visit more often than we feel is appropriate.

You would like to see more of us – or least of Pumpkin and Rhubarb – but it’s not helpful; particularly for Pumpkin at this time. It is also not great for the parents in the room. We don’t even see their forever Aunty more than once a year. Your agenda is so clear – to retain a constant, pseudo-parental role in their lives – and no one can see this but us. Having said that, we will be forever grateful for everything you did for Pumpkin and Rhubarb. You will always be part of their life and story but now it’s time to show your love in a different way by giving them the permission and the time and space to continue growing into the beautiful pumpkin and rhubarb we all know and want them to be. And also to give us the respect and time and space we need to ensure that happens in the environment we choose; when we feel ready, we will be in touch, be assured.

Sincerely yours,

Forever Mum and Dad parents to Pumpkin and Rhubarb

Twelve blogs of Christmas #12: Twelve Christmas moments I won’t forget in a hurry.

DSC_4361My uncle’s thoughtful present to our daughter. A set of eight children’s CDs containing no less than 134 plinkety plonkety songs, performed on what sounds like a Bontempi organ and sung in the shrillest voice imaginable. I cannot get them out of my head or CD player.

An extra special gift for me (The giver shall remain nameless..) A top, sized 18 – 20 (I am a 12) with additional information reading “EXTRA LARGE” in case I was in any doubt.

A special doggy treat. Catching a friend’s dog weeing into one of our old fashioned radiators, right into all those little bends and twists of the immoveable metal cave nooks and crannies.

 The joy of the chase. Misplacing my mobile phone and trying to listen out for it’s vibration over the din of Justin’s House Christmas panto, and a loop of 134 plinkety plonkety children’s songs; all the while kneeling onto thousands of tiny little sharp pine needles stuck in the rug and and holding the sofa up to peek under there.

Our Daughter’s Joy. Watching our daughter try out her bike for the very first time and her expression of sheer concentration and wonder.

Boxing Day. Having guests cancel Boxing day visit due to sudden unforeseen circumstances, and getting to spend the entire day together as a family on the sofa, playing games and watching films with a fire lit. – Perfect.

Being able to fully realise how blessed and lucky I am. Sometimes I can’t access these feelings. This year I felt so much joy.

missing people. Thinking about two dear friends who sadly didn’t make it to see Christmas this year, then thinking of the same friends’ families and loved ones, and how hard this time of year will have been for them.

Missing more people. Seeing my husband really miss his father (as he always does at this time of year) and feeling helpless.

Miracles. Being present to see my dad finally get up and join us for a couple of hours at Christmas, after spending 5 days practically comatose in bed recovering from radio therapy.

My new red handbag – best Christmas present. Ever.

Cooking my first Christmas lunch ever. Turkey with all the trimmings, pigs in blankets etc, Christmas pudding  and it was for 14 people. It was much easier than I thought.