20150813_091346So, recently I’ve started to muse on my qualities as both a human being and a father. Why do I react the way I do to certain stimuli? What is it that makes me feel a certain way? How much of my angst-ridden crap am I inadvertently passing to my daughter? Am I a good person? Do I want my daughter to be like me?

To the latter, yes; in some very important ways. I want her to enjoy being silly; I want her to dance around like a mentalist, sticking her tongue out, blowing raspberries and laughing herself into a collapse as much when she’s 50 as she does now. I want her to have conversations in languages that don’t exist with people who know what she isn’t talking about and can join in unfettered by social mores as much when she’s 50 as she does now. I want her to eventually like sprouts, preferably way before she’s 50. I want her to understand that licking the yoghurt out of the bowl instead of using a spoon is probably not the right thing to do when you’re at a dinner party when you’re 50 (but that she can carry on doing it at home when nobody’s looking). I want her to carry on dressing her teddy-bear up in women’s clothes even though he’s a he, and if she wants to still be doing that at 50, more power to her.

But in other ways, no. I don’t want her to carry around guilt, ever, for anything. I don’t want her to be the kind of person that loses old friends because she doesn’t take the time not to. I don’t want her to question who she is, or if she’s a good person, or to be scared of expressing what she’s feeling. I don’t want her to know the pain of loss.

But she will. I know that. It’s part of life. The only thing I can really do is to be there for her and fill her with faith that I will listen, understand, offer advice when asked, keep my mouth shut when not, and ultimately whatever else may happen, fill her soul and mind with the knowledge and the feeling that she is utterly loved, without conditions. That’s all I can do. And really that’s as much as I can do.

Oh, and of course remember the Tickling Tree and bring it up constantly in front of her friends.

A Bigger Pack.

20140614_190132I loved my life, I had it good – so much attention and so much affection. The two of them to look after me, to care for me and to make me feel secure and they did a mighty fine job of it.

We had been together for almost 7 years and things were just fine, there was peace, there was understanding and there was love.

Then along came these little ones, not babies for me to get used to and to grow with, but two little people who appeared one day from nowhere. I was used to guests, in fact I rather liked the guests as they usually gave me even more attention, but this time it was different, very different – these two were clearly here to stay.

They paid attention to me, but in a different way – not when I needed it, but when it suited them. Sometimes the attention could be unpleasant, it could be a bit too rough and on a few occasions – like the times I got locked in rooms/cupboards alone for long periods or the time I got pushed down the stairs – not nice at all.

They didn’t seem to like me getting the affection or the attention that I was used to and it felt like they were competing for it – and winning. It felt like they were trying to push me out.

Life at home had changed, the quiet relaxed atmosphere that I was comfortable with was replaced with lots of shouting and screaming. The harmony that I had lived under became chaos: more bodies, more noise, more stuff – SO much more stuff – the floors that were always clear suddenly became an obstacle course of shoes and coats and toys and books for me to navigate around and I got shouted at if I unavoidably stood on things or knocked things over.

Suddenly I got into trouble for doing things that I had always done, like running around excited or playing with the toys left for me on the floor.

Life got confusing and I found it easier to take myself away. I still needed their love, their attention, but I learnt that when their voices were raised and sounding distressed – when I wanted to go to them, to sooth them, to make them feel better – it was in fact best for me to go and hide. Otherwise the shouting was directed at me – and I didn’t understand why.

It’s been over three years since the little ones moved in and in fact they are not even that little anymore. Things are calming down, there is less shouting, less anger, less frustration, less despair – yes, at times I could sense despair and it is good to see that it has just about gone from our lives.

The attention I get has changed too, it’s clear to see that they have stopped seeing me as a threat and they seem to have learnt what I need and are more willing to give it. They want to play with me now, to run with me and sometimes just to sit with me – and that’s nice.

Life is different to how it was before they came, it is good again now. In fact I can see that life is better – better for the little ones who are settled and so clearly happier than when they first arrived, better for the big ones who have grown and changed as their life changed around them and consequently better for me.

It took some time, but now I know that it has all been worth it. Now I am not just a pampered pet, but a proper family dog.

I am one of a bigger pack, I know my place again and I’m enjoying that.

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’.