Parenting is hard work.


I underestimated how hard parenting is.​

​I love my child dearly and parenting him has turned out to be both more wonderful and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined but also much much harder than I ever thought.

It’s hard, testing work and it’s difficult to navigate.

One of this things I feel most stupid about in retrospect is just how hard it is to put and keep boundaries in place. I always looked at parents who didn’t bother with them and thought they must have a screw loose, because from the outside it looked like much harder work letting their children run rings, demanding whatever they want.

I naively imagined it was a simple as putting a rule/boundary in place and then simply sticking to it so everyone knows where they stand and harmony would abound right?

Wrong!

​Turns out they do this stuff anyway! – the demanding, the procrastinating, the “that’s so unfair”.

They have a relentless energy and drive to push and keep pushing for hours on end; and it is our job to either crumble and give in (and in so doing get five minutes peace..) or to hold fast and keep that boundary in place – hopefully from a place of calmness… (yeah right!)

It truly is a test of stamina. Why did nobody tell me?

So it’s actually a lot easier to not do this work and I realise now why some parents do occasionally cave in, because some days we just don’t have the strength in us.

We just do the best we can.

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Change

We sense a change.

A small change, but a real change and – fingers crossed – a fundamental change. Although of course we could be wrong – we certainly have been before.

We think we are seeing signs that our younger son’s anger and the screaming and shouting that are a consequence of that anger are being controlled. They are still there, still part of our lives, but it’s somehow feeling different. There now seems to be a desire from him that was clearly not there before, a desire to bring our ‘battles’ to an end. It’s clearly a struggle, but a struggle that maybe he is winning. Slowly, gradually he seems to be taking control.

The anger came as a shock when he first moved in and we were initially quite overwhelmed, but we have got used to it, used to watching it build and watching it take control of him. We could see how he was incapable of dealing with it – of letting it go, but now we feel sure we are seeing a difference. Without doubt we still have a long way to go as the change is small, but it does feel significant, it finally feels that we are heading in the right direction.

Maybe it’s just a little maturity, he is no longer the 4 year old that came to us, but 7 – and a very important 1/2 – and that has to make a difference, no? Things have been improving over the 2 years 8 months he has been with us – gradually – but until now that has been down to the fact that we have slowly learnt how to handle him and his clearly specific needs. We learnt how to stop fighting the anger, how to calm down a situation that initially we were just making worse. I guess we learnt ‘pastoral care’, learnt to do first hand what we were taught at Prep’ course that we would need to do. We learnt how to stop making our reprimanding feel like a threat to him and to the stability we were building, how to reassure him of our love while still making our point that he had done wrong or that his behaviour was unacceptable. It wasn’t / isn’t easy and of course we are sometimes just too angry, tired or frustrated to keep calm and to be the parent he needs, but we immediately pay the price for that and we make a mental note of our failing and the need to be better, stronger and calmer next time.

I guess the small change that we feel we are witnessing feels so significant because we were worried it might never come, we were concerned that the so-very-angry little boy would become a very angry big boy, teenager and ‘out of control’ man and that the anger would always be a part of our lives. Maybe that was somewhat irrational, but in the moment it felt anything but. Now I guess we can hope that it will not be so and we can look to the future as being a little easier, a little brighter. Let’s hope that is the case. We have never allowed the anger to dominate our lives, our family, but the thought of living without is a very promising one. For us, but most of all for him, our little boy.

What the Actual?

​As an adult and in some adult company, I see no problem with Anglo-Saxon vernacular; to me “swear” words are an expressive aid. I have been told that in my company, some of my friends say they swear more than they ever do outside of it, in some cases not at all except with me, and that I swear a lot. I don’t do it in front of children, nor my mother, nor my mother-in-law and would never have done it in front of my Dad, but all at a subconscious level, as if the deeper recesses of my brain block off access to those expletives automatically in particular company. Although my Mum says “feck” in an Irish accent and claims it’s not the same at all.

But nevertheless I don’t baulk in most instances. What does the F word bring to the table that other f-words don’t? Why is it more expressive in context and accenting than “flipping” or “freaking”? And why therefore is it unacceptable to me to hear a child swearing?

I once told off a Dad at a football match for swearing in front of his 7-year-old son and told them both off even more when his son aimed the swearing at me… And had the audacity to tell the Dad off and to say “Look what you’ve taught your son to do – how proud you must be.” And surprisingly got away without a split lip for my trouble.

And when my child came home from school and told me that one of her friends had said the F-word, not expressed in that way, but spelt out for me, phonetically correct if not actually correct, I was shocked and appalled. But struggled to explain why. What was it about that set of sounds coming from my child’s mouth? And also how did my child know, it seemed instinctively, that word was a no-no? It’s just and F and a U and a C and a K all strung together, just like a C and an A and a K and an E, no? Once I had told her that it’s not “nice” to use that word and we shouldn’t use it, she asked me why and I had nothing.

Anyone?

What Positives Adoption Has Brought To Our Lives


Of course there are negatives – unexpected worries, stresses and difficulties that we have to deal with everyday, but this blog is just about the positives – which thankfully dominate our lives and put the negatives into perspectives.

The positives –

Our Sons (obviously): Two amazing little boys who have become our world. Two pure soles who have filled up our lives and who’s resilience and joy surprise us everyday.

Love: So very much love. From the moment we met our sons and were overcome by a level of emotion that neither my partner and I had experienced or could have anticipated, to a love today that has flourished and amazingly continues to grow even more intense with each passing day.

Happiness: They have brought a happiness that is beyond anything that we have experienced previously, a happiness that is pure and complete.

Pride: They have filled our hearts with pride. Pride for what they do, pride for what they say and pride for them for being just exactly who they are.

Laughter: Children have a wonderful perspective on life and their innocence and naivety is charming and often very, very funny. We laugh at them, we laugh with them and most importantly we laugh as a family – everyday

Contentment: Being a family has made my life more complete and has filled me with a level of contentment that I could never have imagined.

Perspective: Children help us to see what is truly important in life, they make us realise that ‘they’ are more important than anything! More important than money, more important than ‘stuff’ and most significantly more important than ourselves.

Re evaluation: Adopting our sons has made us stand back and look at the life we were living – the long hours at work, the partying, the constant attempts to please oneself – and it has made us realise that what we have now is more than we ever had or could ever have achieved.

Friends: Adoption has brought us many new friends, friends from inside the warm and welcoming world of adoption as well as friends from the lives of our sons, from school, from clubs, from their friendships.

And quite clearly adoption has brought us a great degree of smugness – for which I make no apologies.

Photo courtesy of
unsplash-logoAnnie Theby

A Thicker Skin

In Sleeping Beauty the King and Queen invite all the fairies in the kingdom (except one of course with disastrous consequences..) to bestow gifts of beauty and character apon their new daughter the princess Aurora and whenever I read it it strikes me they massively missed the point.
None of that stuff matters.. they should have given her a thicker skin.
People with thicker skins seem to sail through life
and it’s the one thing I wish I could give to my daughter.
She comes home form school mortified that people have even noticed her.
She won’t have her photo taken and we’re not allowed to praise her or say she looks pretty because the attention – good or bad – is simply too much. At home we can work around this but school it’s out of my hands.
To a lesser degree I know how she feels. If I had had a thicker skin I would have sailed through the numerous school and location changes we endured as a family when I was little. Instead I have painful stark memories of standing in new classrooms surrounded by staring people I didn’t know and I remember feeling raw and exposed.
In one of our moves, I was forced to leave a small village school with only 30 pupils in total (and a cherished best friend) to be taken 200 miles away and thrown in to an inner city school of 1000. I can distinctly remember my legs almost buckling under me as I walked in on my first day and the scrutinising expressions on the other children’s faces.
I still wince at the memory.
Compare this with what most of our children have gone through and it’s a drop in the ocean – each and every one of their numerous losses and changes having stripped another layer of security and sense of self from them making it just that bit harder to face all the challenges that growing up brings.

I wish I could give them all thicker skins.

Letter Box Contact.

Yearly letter box contact has been agreed and we diligently get the boys to write Christmas cards for birth Mummy and Daddy – regardless of indifference from our oldest and huge resistance from his younger brother – in addition we put pen to paper and write a letter updating them on the boys past year.

This has taken place three times so far, but sadly the boys have received nothing from either Mum or Dad – who are no longer together.

I understand that the situation must be tough for them both and I appreciate that it could be easier for them to try to erase the past and to get on with their lives. However, we hope that social services have explained the importance of this contact for the boys and for us as a family and that they are constantly encouraging both Mum and Dad to be doing the right thing and put their feelings to one side for the sake of the children. If that is happening then it’s clearly not getting any results, but actually I wonder if it is at all, after all this is the agency who have supplied very little information of ours sons past and have failed to get a photo of either birth parent regardless of many requests from us.

Of course all correspondence must go through social services and it is checked for anything inappropriate or upsetting to any party. Awareness of this ensures that we give extra consideration to what we say and how we express it, consequently we were most surprised to have our most recent letter returned to us.

We had written two things which social services had an issue with. Firstly we wrote that the boys were looking forward to meeting their new baby brother when contact was finalised for the baby to join the twice a year contact that was already set up for various siblings. Apparently the term ‘looking forward’ was deemed to be inappropriate, we have been told that as having the new baby removed from birth Mum would be a traumatic experience anything ‘positive’ in relationship to that would be hurtful and disrespectful.

Secondly, we have been told that our comment that out youngest was ‘still struggling to come to terms with the changes in his life’ and that we were dealing with difficult behaviour as a consequence was insensitive as it could be seen as judging them and commenting negatively on their failures at parenting.

Really?

I responded saying that we have absolutely no animosity toward birth Mum and Dad – in fact maybe surprisingly quite the reverse – and that we would never attack them in any way in what we wrote. I went on to say that being open and honest is an essential part of adoption and that I was confused that we were being asked to edit out truth and to ‘sugar coat’ reality.

They stood by their original criticism and insisted that the letter was edited at it is not acceptable in its original format.

This has angered me as yet again as an adopter I feel that we are the ones expected to ‘make it work’ for everybody else. I have often felt that social workers expect too much from us and have been frustrated in the past at being judged unfairly and being expected to tow-the-line regardless’ of us clearly disagreeing.

Maybe I’m just being a bit over sensitive and a bit touchy, but you know even if that was the case I think we have a right to be occasionally and wouldn’t it be nice for social services to respect that and acknowledge that?

As an adopter I don’t expect any kind of gratitude – in fact it embarrasses me to even consider that – but I do expect respect. Not for adopting, but for being a parent of a ‘troubled’ child or children and everything that comes along with that. In addition most of us have relationships – put under pressure since the children moved in, work to prioritise, homes to run, finances to juggle, we have to deal with schools, child minders, play dates, friends, illnesses… the list is endless. Yet on top of that social services expect US to put the feeling of the birth parents over our own and to ‘Pussy foot’ around reality – a reality that we have to deal with and live with every minute of every day.

There was a time when I was angry at the birth parents – for the neglect, for the resulting damage and for the lack of any responsibility, but I am long over that and now I am not even angry at the fact that they fail to write or send a card once a year, in fact in a perverse way I am just grateful for them giving the chance for us to be the family that we are – a family that feels like it was meant to be.

Yet I feel that social services are threatening that ‘harmony’, the resentment and anger at the birth parents that I felt Initially could indeed return and not because of anything that they have done (or not done), but because of – what I feel is – a huge injustice and imbalance from social services.

Surely that would be bad for ALL concerned

P.S. it’s somewhat ironic and very frustrating that the letter to us pointing out our supposed lack of consideration towards the birth parents was sent a month AFTER Christmas, apparently our correspondence which was sent to social services two months early had sat forgotten about on a desk. If only social services could show the same consideration and respect that they expect of us.

Gold Tooth.

A greasy winter’s day a couple of years ago I was walking down the street, as you do, pushing a newly arrived Jack in his buggy and my goddaughter by my side. My little brand new family and hers were heading off for some half term shenanigans.
The three of us were walking a little away from the rest of the group. Sophie was deep into a riff about volcanoes and Pompeii. She’d recently done a project on both in school. She was excited and detailed in her explanation using her whole body to show me how lava breaks up through the earth’s crust. I asked questions and was quite taken with her passion (she is usually a quiet and at times slightly withdrawn girl). She went into more detail and kept talking. I was able to give her my undivided attention as my little bug was sleeping soundly in his buggy. We were having a good moment. I was thoroughly enjoying it and her, when suddenly a man stepped out in front of us and said STOP! He looked homeless, unkempt and he smelled of alcohol and bodily fluids. I pulled Sophie close and tried to push past him.
He blocked our way again.
‘No! Just stop for a moment.’
I felt threatened. I held Sophie’s hand and swung the buggy a bit so I could see Jack. Alert and scared. Could he have recognised Jack? A birth dad? A relative perhaps? My brain was working fast.
‘I don’t want to harm you. I don’t want anything.’ he said. ‘I just want to say something.’
‘Okay…’
‘You’ve cracked it!’
‘Excuse me? Cracked what?’ I looked around.
‘You’ve cracked it! Life! Motherhood! It’s beautiful. How you talk to your daughter. How she is so alive. And your son… I just thought you should know. I’ve followed you for a little while. That’s all. I’ll leave you alone now. Have a good day.’
And then he smiled. A big gold tooth blinked in the winter sun.
I was perplexed.
‘But …’ I started. ‘This is my goddaughter and …’
‘It doesn’t matter. It’s beautiful. Enjoy it.’
I smiled back. I had nearly waffled on about how neither were actually mine. How I didn’t feel I knew the first thing about motherhood or life for that matter. I’d nearly made that excuse about my son not being mine. I was so fresh to it all. But it was true that the moment was bliss. And he felt it too.
He shifted a lot in me that day. It’s still shifting. Some of it is about prejudice. I had reacted so strongly to his smell and looks. I had felt really scared. And I wanted to run away from him. But he could have been Jack’s birth family. I can’t ever really run from that. It was an ever timely reminder that it is up to me as Jack’s mum to build that bridge to his past, as part of his present and future. I owe to both of us to move out of my comfort zone to explore it. The man with the gold tooth gave me a precious gift that day. Amongst other that both children – in very different ways of course – are also mine.