Playground

Photo by lili Gooch

Photo by lili Gooch

If you had not screamed at my partner in the school playground, he could have explained.

If you had not embarrassed him in front of the school staff, the other parents and in front of the children – most especially our sons, he could have reassured you that we are aware of the problems, that we are dealing with them, that the school is involved, that we have a therapist for our son – that we are doing everything we can.

If your anger had not caught him by surprise he could have reasoned that our son’s past and the trauma he has suffered means that things are different for us, for him. He would have told you that our little boy is not a ‘bad’ child, that he is in fact a sweet and loving and thoughtful little boy who doesn’t look for trouble, but that he doesn’t know how to respond to confrontation which he always feels threatened by. He would have told you that his experiences have left him with self esteem issues and that his anger is a self defence mechanism.

If you had not verbally attacked my partner and shocked him with your aggression he could have told you that our son responded to provocation by your daughter – who is simply not as pure and guilt free as you like to think. He would have said that this is not an excuse, but that it is a reality.

If you had given him a chance, he would have apologised regardless, because we know that our son’s issues are not your issues, we know that it doesn’t make it right for him to upset your daughter.

If you had allowed him time to catch his breath and to think about his response it would have been more measured, more reasoned and it would have felt less confrontational, but you didn’t – you assumed and you attacked and you were unnecessarily aggressive and no matter how upset you were this was unacceptable.

We realise that people don’t know, that they have no way of understanding or appreciating our difficulties and that’s fine – but at least give us a chance to inform you and to help you understand.

Is that too much to ask for?

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Things I want you to know dear daughter.

20160618_154814Dear daughter,

I’m writing a letter to you to be read when you’re a little older.

I’m writing it now before I forget all of the emotions and events that whirl past me at a hundred miles an hour as I attempt to mother you to the best of my abilities.

Hopefully writing will become  regular thing from me to you but for now, this is what I want you to know.

First and foremost, I love you. I will love you forever. You are the light of my life and the reason I get up in the morning. You are literally the sun and the moon and the stars to me. My world. Corny as it sounds, I still get a shiver of unbelievable joy when I am away from you and remember I will be returning to you soon; The realisation that you are my daughter is like Christmas  come early every single time. Imagine having joy like that on tap! – This is your gift to me.

You came to us as a baby and were so uniquely yourself – even then. You didn’t even cry as we took you on the five hour journey away from the only person you’d ever known and loved. You simply sat in the back of the car, twiddling the same piece of hair you’ve always twiddled and singing along to your teddy bear’s songs. Your expression was open and curious and I wondered what was going on deep inside of you where I couldn’t see.

It’s important to me that you understand we did not go into the adoption process needing to fill a void left by childlessness.

No.

Your father and I simply (and naively at the time) thought that because we got along well together and seemed to have a lot of joy in our lives, that it would be a good thing to share that joy, and this led us naturally to look into adoption. The assessment process was lengthy and somewhat odd. Sadly some of it taught us that when we were truthful about various things – i.e. not feeling a need to grieve not having our own biological children – we were not believed.

But it was true.

We truly just wanted to explore sharing our fun and joy, but could have quite easily gone on living the life we had… taking lots of grown up holidays, drinking a bit too much, going out a bit too much and generally enjoying a fulfilled childless adult life. You’ll understand this bit a bit more when you’re older.

Then we were matched with you, a cheeky 8 month old baby smiling out of a coloured A4 printout in a pair of checked dungarees and we said ‘YES’! …and you blew that old life out to of the water… In a good way.

I’ve still got that original print out with the social worker’s scribbled “Yes” and the date across it – bizarrely my birthday.

In my humble opinion, it’s virtually impossible to describe an experience fully to someone who has never had that experience themselves; so we are all in the dark to a certain extent about things until we experience them first hand for ourselves; and that was what it was like for me becoming  your parent. People tried to tell me how it would be, but I hadnt experienced it for myself so was blissfully unaware.  I didn’t even know I had it in me to feel the way you made me feel… it was like being electrocuted with love and I’ve been plugged in ever since. Seriously, that’s what it’s like!

I know you will have questions and that there will be things you need to explore around your history; I’ll support you as much as I can as and when that happens, but please try not to let it wholly define who you are.

Yes – I know it’s important, and a really big part of who you are, but you are also so much more than just your history. You are also your present and will be your future, and are growing into such an amazing little person.

I want to warn you that people will all react differently and sometimes nosily to the fact that you’re adopted, and that you’ll have to try and develop a thick skin to deal with some of it. You might also have to fight hard to hold on to your own version of things because society will have all sorts of ideas about you.

Yes, I know there is trauma lurking around the details of your birth – and you have every right to explore this and what it means – but that is not the whole story of you. We have always celebrated how our family came together. To us it is wonderful, a miracle even that we found each other and that we now get to love each other every single day. This is a triumph, despite everything that went before. A triumph for all of us.

Sadly not everyone will see it this way. Some people will insist on only seeing the tragedy in it and I wish I could save you from these views but I can’t. Even now at 4 years old a friend has already freaked you by informing you that adoption is ‘a very sad thing because it means being taken away from your home and your mummy and daddy’, leading you to worry you might be taken away from me; something that had never crossed your mind before.

But my darling daughter, I want to tell you that adoption is not a ‘sad thing’ it is a wonderful thingBecause without it we would not be together, and we would not be filled up with the love we share for one another. We would not have our morning times when you climb into my bed and slip your little legs over mine, your hand winding up through my hair as you whisper ‘It’s morning time, get up Mummy!’ or the swimming pool sessions when we race up and down the pool, you riding me around the shallows with your feet stuck through the arms of my costume saying ‘faster faster!’. Or the bicycle rides where I go full throttle over the grassy bits in the park so that you get bounced around in the trailer laughing your head off. We have a brilliant time and truly there is no one I would rather spend time with. No one.

We are so proud of you and who you are becoming. My parents used to say this to me too when I was growing up and I didn’t really understand what they meant until you came into my life, but it is truly wonderful and an absolute privilege getting to watch you grow from a little bundle into a bright, beautiful articulate person. Maybe you’ll get to experience this joy for yourself one day – the wonder of parenthood, but if you don’t – and this is important  – if that doesn’t happen, it also doesn’t matter; because just as our lives were rich and glorious before you came along, there are just as many joys and discoveries out there waiting to be experienced by you. And here we come to the cliche – but it’s true – please understand that you can be anything you want in this world.

I wish you as much joy, love and happiness as you have brought to me throughout your life.

You are simply, truly amazing, and I will love you with all of my heart forever.

Your Mummy xxxxxxx

Positive, Positive, Positive.

IMG_0681-1I have been blogging for a while now and reading back over the blogs that I have written I realise that I have somewhat focused on the negatives that we are experiencing ,and thinking about that I guess it’s not too difficult to see why this is so.

I have found writing the blogs to be quite therapeutic and it’s the challenges that we are faced with in our parenting that I have needed to get out of my system and to deal with in my writing. I realise that it is this stuff that we seem to focus on and consequently it can feel like we are always either dealing with it directly or else analysing it and discussing it and trying to work out how we should/could be coping with it better.

However, it feels that all this negativity in my blogs – and indeed in most of the blogs of other adopters, who are no doubt blogging for the same reasons – needs to be addressed, as in fact our lives since our sons moved in is full of so much positivity that I feel I have somewhat mis represented our experience, and in a broader sense the experience of adoption in general.

This is especially so with regards to one of our two sons who has been wonderfully uncomplicated and actually very easy to parent. He just seemed to settle into our lives with incredible ease, no drama and apparently no cause for concern – which is of course exactly the opposite of what we are told to expect.

He is an amazingly resilient soul and seems to have been effected very little by his traumatic start in life, he may well be storing up his problems and we will have to deal with them further down the road, but as time goes on and we get to know him better we are less sure that is going to be so.

Since the day he moved in he has been a delight to have around, he is smart and loving and polite and just very well behaved, he is popular at school with his teachers, his many friends and also with the parents of friends who are always so complimentary after play dates.

Of course he is not perfect and he does challenge us in his own way, but we do strongly believe that it has nothing to do with his past and is no more than you would expect from any child. He can be very strong willed and at times he is frustratingly over confident and stubborn, which manifests itself as him believing that he is never wrong and he is certainly not afraid to express that – which can be hugely annoying, but seeing as I’m a bit like that myself I’m sure many would say that it is Karma and I am just getting what I deserve.

One of his biggest and best qualities is his ability to make friends, he is inclusive and very fair in his play and other children immediately respond to this. His younger brother can be very difficult (and consequently is the subject of most of my blogs) and he struggles hugely with friendships and indeed he provokes his big brother pretty much constantly, this is mostly dealt with with quite grown up reserve and even if it does result in retaliation from our oldest it never gets too out of hand.

I also think that only presenting the negatives of our younger son – who is most certainly challenging and can stretch our patience to breaking point and beyond – is misrepresenting a reality as he is also sweet and charming and loving, he has moments of such tenderness and gentleness and he can be a total joy too and we are no less thrilled by his presence in our world than his brother’s.

They came into our lives and stole our hearts within seconds and regardless of any difficulties we face there is not a single day that has gone by when we have not rejoiced at how lucky we are to have been brought together and how perfect the fit is.

We are a family and it’s a family full of love, laughter, fun and so, so many positives.

As all parents know it can be tough, but my goodness our lives are so much richer in so many ways since ours sons moved in and made us the family that we are and it is very evident that the positives outweigh the negatives in every way possible.

I hope that in this blog, that message is loud and clear.

Just Her

7A65C10A-761D-4661-84A0-2E9EAD37C988I can remember reading Sally Donovan’s blog ‘Fake mummy’ and loving it.

I totally identified with it and it reminded me of my fortune cookie mantra just fake it till you make it, and that’s exactly what I do. I Force feed myself with trips to soft play hell, and weekends rammed with kids parties.

Kids parties are a breeding ground for insane, extreme and completely crazy behaviours at the best of times – not just from the kids but from anyone within a hundred mile radius – but it was pure embarrassment that drove my wife and I home after the last fiasco.

We were both asked at different points in the evening by the same person how old our daughter is, and we both gave different, inaccurate answers.  Somehow we just couldn’t get it together and she probably thought we stole her.

In retrospect we realised that we were remembering her at the age she was when we were introduced to her, but 5 months have  flown by since then and we hadn’t added this on.

To complete the scenario, the same lady had also asked us when her birthday was and when I gave her the month, I saw her mentally calculate the age, realise we had given it wrong the first time, then choose not to correct us. She was simply too polite to tell us that we the parents were half a year out. What parent makes these mistakes? It’s embarrassing, and from now on, we plan to arm ourselves with relevant facts and figures before leaving the house in the hope we can quell any suspicion that she is in fact stolen.

So here we are, 2nd child adopted and well into the initial settling in period.

I had thought it was just about safe to venture out to some groups and join the rest of the community, but I had completely forgotten what it feels like to be the new kid/Mum on the block.

The dry mouth. The stumbling over the birth date, and the histrionics that fly so effortlessly from other mums mouths but not mine.

I managed 6 groups in total then gave up.

The last one we went to completely threw me. My daughter and I had arrived in the middle of winter, wrapped up in a cazillion layers, and overheating as soon as we entered the threshold of the venue.

A dozen NCTers in full throttle greeted us. Breast feeding, cooing and swaddling new borns with near perfect post pregnancy weight loss.

Then there was me.

I looked like the Michelin mum carrying a screaming, overheated baby. A baby who on paper is in my care, but from whom there is no invisible strand of golden bond linking up to me the mother. No bond. No relationship. No eye contact.

There is nothing visible to demonstrate we are mother and daughter and it feels like a tragic comedy. If I could have stopped crying internally I would have laughed because to say it out loud it sounds hilarious.

What am I doing?” I silently wonder as I wait for the 45 minutes of the session to slowly tick by.

It does not feel good. It is raw but you know what – it’s real. It’s real life and it’s my life.

Then I realise that this moment is pivotal and my whole head does a u turn.

Parenting adopted children is a completely different kettle of fish and I was unwise to believe otherwise.

I was foolish to dupe myself into believing that I could fit in when actually it’s really like putting a square peg in a round hole. It won’t bloody fit. I don’t fit. We don’t fit. We are not in sync and she doesn’t even look at me when I call her name. Ahhh the agony of it, but then the empowering realisation: I DON’T NEED TO DO THIS ANYMORE! And I made a decision there and then.

I went private and brought the teachers to me and my new daughter.

We now have shiatsu, massage and yoga weekly sessions in our home and it’s a whole lot better. My daughter is relaxed and confident in familiar surroundings and the therapists have built up a fantastic rapport with both of us.

We are still in very early stages but at 5 months in, my girl is definitely my girl. She is smart, sassy and very funny.

I have learnt a very humbling lesson of late, loving her and exactly her in this moment.

Not what we want her to be, not what we expect her to be, not what the red book dictates.

Just her.

I look at her, and I love her in that moment. Now, I can feel the warmth of the invisible strand of golden joy pulling us, binding us together. Fully.