A letter to the makers of Inside Out

20160929_235344Dear makers of Inside Out,
I just wanted to write and thank you for what I consider to be one of the best films ever made.

To explain, I have found being an adoptive Mum, at times, an extremely difficult and highly charged emotional experience. It is made more difficult by the fact that much of what I am feeling is very difficult to properly break down and understand. For me, your film articulated a lot of these feelings in such simple terms. I found myself in tears from early in the film when the yellow balls (representing happy memories) as core memories for the central character ‘Riley’ throughout her early childhood lead to her being able to build a really strong and positive sense of self-identity. In contrast my girls, without doubt, have early core memories which are blue (representing sadness) and so have had to build their early sense of self upon experiences which are sad and/or frightening. And just like Joy later in the film I can’t change that early sadness for them, I can’t remove it, it is something which is a part of them and which I have to help them to weave positively into their identity.

For one of my girls in particular who is regularly ‘driven’ by Anger, the film has helped her to start understanding that there are in fact a number of different feelings, that she can name them and that we all have them. She seemed genuinely surprised to hear that I have ‘Fear’ in my head and that I get worried about things. I asked her if she ever worries about anything and she said yes, that she worries about her sister going away. My daughter is 3. We have always thought that she was very anxious about transitions having moved carers 3 times by the time she was 18 months old but it had never occurred to us that she thought that her sister, the one constant, could maybe leave as well.

The film also gave us an easy segue into discussing birth Mum and Dad because at the very beginning of the film Riley is born and first sees her parents looking down happily at her. Happily for us we do know that this happened for our girls and were able to say this – so much nicer to have a visual depiction of it than just trying to explain verbally ‘your birth Mum and Dad loved you very much when you were born’.

And happily for me your film provided me personally with one of the best moments of my life. I was talking with the girls about which one of the little ‘people’ they thought was most like each of them and finally which one was most like me. I asked because I feel like I spend much of my time telling them off, being grumpy and tired so from that aspect I fully expected them to choose ‘anger’, or alternatively because I wear glasses and have a bob I thought they may plump for ‘sadness’. They shocked me by choosing Joy.

With love,
A grateful, re-motivated parent

Realistically high expectations.

20160701_114148I started a Blog a while ago suggesting that adoptive parents needed to have realistic expectations of their children’s school and especially of the child’s teacher. Our children are (usually) 1 in a class of 30 and expecting the teacher to ‘get them’ and to cater for their specific needs is of course a tough ask – especially when we parents can often struggle on a one to one basis at home.

Something stopped me completing the blog and now it is evident why that was so… I was wrong! Which sadly in our case has resulted in us failing to protect our son and failing to do right by him.

Our son displays much of the typical behaviour resulting from trauma that we are told to expect – which can ONLY be controlled through therapeutic parenting/teaching. In his first two years at this school his teachers understood this and did a great job of making him feel secure and valued, however his teacher last year clearly didn’t ‘get it’ at all and this has resulted in a terrible year for our son and as a result of that it has been a very problematic and indeed stressful one for us.

A couple of months into the year we became aware of issues in class and we went into the school to discuss the situation, we attempted to point out our son’s history and his needs, but we were shut down by the new assistant head with ‘of course we know how to deal with adoptive children, we have plenty of experience and in fact we have about a dozen adopted children in the School at the moment’.

We accepted this at face value, as adoptive parents we often feel that we are ‘one step behind’ and we thought that it was perfectly reasonable to assume that professionals in a professional environment would be better equipped than us.

Yet it is now clear to see that these were hollow words and worse still that we were accepting them from the wrong person.

For 6 plus hours a day our children are sent to school and left in the care of another adult – this is likely to be as much time (or indeed for some – more time) than they spend awake with us the parents during a 24hr period – this is huge and the importance of this relationship in their lives can not be underestimated. It is imperative that we make sure that the teacher – and indeed any teachers assistants – caring for our child know their needs and know exactly how to deal with them.

Regardless of what the school thinks it knows or how good an understanding it feels it has, it is the direct relationship with the teacher that is most relevant and it is OUR responsibility to make sure that they do indeed understand and have the skills to cope.

My thinking that we should make allowances for the difficulties that teachers no doubt face – although empathetic – was naive and on reflection very foolish. They have a responsibility for our children and they have a need to ensure that our children are being treated appropriately.

Quite simply our son was not, his teacher failed him, the school failed him and we failed him too for not being on top of the situation.

Now we know better and this new year will be different, we have regular meetings with his new teacher and we have made her very aware of his needs and how to deal with him, in addition we have furnished her with books and handouts that we feel will help her in her understanding.

Sadly it is evident that quite a bit of damage has been done and we can see that our son’s relationship with the school, the teachers and in a broader sense adults in general has been badly affected. Great efforts now need to be made to address the issues – and the resulting challenging behaviour – that the year has brought about in him and we are making sure that his teacher is very much part of that process.

Ask the Kids #13

boy-1298788_1280Our only daughter, (8 y.o.) took this questionnaire very seriously and replied in full and long sentences on my recorder, so I’ve cut her replies down just for informative purposes.
I asked her about myself and her daddy (who wasn’t present) and it’s obvious from her replies who is disciplining and teaching more; and who is more mucking about. ☺ Also I think because he was not around, her answers about him were more cheeky.

About mummy
1.What is something I always say to you? -You want me start listening to you.
2. What colour are my eyes? -Greyish / bluish
3. What makes me happy? -Me, making you laugh, when I tickling you.
4. What makes me sad? -Me, when I am not listening to you.
5. What is my hair like? -Long, silky.
6. How do I make you laugh? -Saying random things or exclamations in foreign language. (She means when I pronounce English words incorrectly /make them up or swear in a foreign language.)
7. What do you think I was like as a child? -Playful and also helpful. (See, it`s working! She believes it!)
8. How old am I? – 47
9. How tall am I? –like 2 feet tall…? (No idea what is it and where it come from. We use cm and m system at home and I am sure I am much taller)
10.What is my favourite thing to do? -To help me to learn staff from school.
11. What do I do when you’re not around? -Clean house. (Great! She doesn`t know about TV!)
12. What am I really good at? -Doing things, which I don`t know how to do and teaching me that.
13. What is something I’m not good at? -Sometimes you not good at walking in my room when its messy and you stepping on my little toys.
14. What do I do for a job? -Work from home as a business woman.
15. What is my favourite food? -Salmon and oysters. (Right about salmon, wrong about oysters. Probably, she meant I love to eat food, which daddy and her would never eat)
16. What do you enjoy doing with me? -Playing.

About daddy
1. What is something I always say to you? -Copying my words
2. What colour are my eyes? -Blue
3. What makes me happy? -When I let you kiss, squeeze and hug me
4. What makes me sad? – When I hurt you
5. What is my hair like? -Short, greasy and grey
6. How do I make you laugh? -When you start laughing yourself
7. What do you think I was like as a child? -Very playful with your sisters
8. How old am I? –at the moment you are 57
9. How tall am I? –3 feet tall (wrong, he is taller but right about he is taller than me)
10.What is my favourite thing to do? -Tip me around and shake me
11. What do I do when you’re not around? -Work at your office
12. What am I really good at? -Picking me up and put on your shoulders
13. What is something I’m not good at? -At stopping on time when I told you to stop
14. What do I do for a job? -Working in business
15. What is my favourite food?- Fish and chips
16. What do you enjoy doing with me? –Playing and being silly

My heart swells.

photo-1470394056006-130bc90c012bMy heart breaks when I think of their past, when I think of them suffering, of them left uncared for, for every day that they went hungry and for each cry that went unanswered.

It breaks for the unfair start that they had in life and for the fact that I was not there for them – to care for MY sons and to protect them as a parent should.

Do those feelings ever go, do they – can they – ever leave an adoptive parent?

Will I one day be able to let go of their past and focus only on the positive that is their life today and on what the future has to offer?

They now have the unconditional love and care that they should have always had, they have protection, they have security and they have hope. They have come a long way and are different little boys to the ones who first joined us, but they are still the same children, they still carry their past within them and they always will.

And it feels like I will too.

However, it most certainly doesn’t dominate, as mostly my heart now swells.

It swells with pride for the amazing little boys who call me Daddy. It swells with each smile and with each achievement – no matter how small – and most of all it swells with love: pure, unadulterated and total love.

My heart swells for my sons and the joy that it brings is what I focus on and what I now live for.