Goo goo ga ga

lucyMy son is nearly 4 and we have had a pretty steady journey over the last 3 years as a family. We were delighted when he first played peek a boo with us – as all the books stated this was his first conversation with us. We were in, hooked with talking, babbling, singing and whatever noise he made we rejoiced with him.

Last week he completely turned the tables – we were having a normal day we had been swimming he was sleepy on the bus back. I made a pillow on my knee out of my scarf and he snuggled up and I stroked his hair. He looked straight into my eyes and began burbling like a baby. He called me Mamma which he has never done and seemed oddly very happy in this state. My reaction surprised me and I simply carried on stroking his hair. I adopted a lower, softer tone and replied back to him and he smiled from ear to ear.

I told my partner and now he has also done the same thing with her. We agreed to just go with it. We don’t ask him what he is saying we are going with the idea he will tell us if he needs anything.

Part of me thinks he has just gone through a massive growth spurt and has developed in all sorts of ways over the last month. We think that maybe he is letting himself catch up emotionally. Allowing himself to be the younger self he once was. Either way he is intent on communicating with us and I guess in whatever form that is we just have to go along with it.

 

 

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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.