12 blogs under the christmas tree #12

20170102_170228A little more time.
My parcel under the tree would be – an extra 4 hours at the end of the day.

A gift to my partner, but one that I know I would benefit from too.

24 hours in a day is simply not enough, not enough to do everything you need to do as a parent AND to have time for yourself – and indeed time for your relationship.

We have quite a strict bedtime routine in our house and the boys are tucked up by 7.30/7.45 – which we have reluctantly stretched from 7.00/7.15 after constant complaints from our sons that NOBODY else at school goes to be so early.

I admit there is selfishness in tucking them up early as we feel that we need a little time for ourselves at the end of the day – however I am also a firm believer in early bedtime being good for the child. Our boys wake up when they are ready – it’s a very rare occasion that we have to wake them – reassuring us that they have had enough sleep and consequently they are never noticeably tired during the day.

However, regardless of our early to bed routine – which of course results in early mornings – the time that my partner and I have together is still limited as we ourselves are usually ready for bed by 10 – or worse still asleep on the sofa.

As a consequence we have time for little else of an evening other then to vegetate in front of rubbish TV.

And that’s were those extra 4 hrs would be put to such good use.

Time to properly unwind together, to enjoy each other’s company, to invite friends over, time to remind ourselves of what our relationship was like pre kids.

And dare I say – maybe even time to go out occasionally. Even if we have the will to go out we are usually so exhausted we just don’t have the strength nowadays and surely that exhaustion is mostly down to trying to squeeze everything into a 24 hr period.

So that would be my Christmas gift and I am pretty sure that my partner would relish every minute of it – just as I would with him.

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12 blogs under the Christmas tree #11

20121201_130647A Friend.

That would be my Christmas gift for under the tree – if there were no limits and if anything was possible, that is what I would buy our son.

A friend.

A child his own age who will understand him and forgive his many challenges, a child who will not judge and will not question the difficulties he has with other children”

A friend who he can rely on and who he can always trust will be there for him. A friend he feels secure with.

My Christmas gift would be for my son and it would be the friend he doesn’t have.

The friend we worry he may never have.

12 blogs under the Christmas tree #10

20161223_131101My one special present under the Christmas tree would be a mini, pocket sized version of our family therapist. I could then pull her out to consult at those moments when I’m a bit lost as to how to respond to our daughter’s more dysregulated moments, or am just in need a bit of a confidence boost. We’ve been so incredibly lucky to find her and to have had six months worth of Theraplay and family support sessions funded by the ASF. We certainly weren’t in what I would call a ‘struggling’ place, so I’m sure we wouldn’t have qualified for support pre the fund. We would have just kept on trucking on. But having our therapist come to work with us with her warmth, expertise, experience and support has been transformative for our family and to my confidence as a mum. Our daughter is bubbly, outgoing, very bright and seemingly coping with everything fine, so many of our non adoptive family and friends couldn’t see any issues – it was a case of ‘oh she’s fine, all kids do that’. But our therapist immediately spotted the challenges our daughter has with hyper vigilance, emotional regulation, control and being extra demanding of me, as her mum, having been let down by so many mum figures in her past. Talking to our therapist made me feel like I wasn’t going mad, there were some problems we could get help with and it was okay to find things difficult. The games we play seem so innocuous and often silly (you should see me with a foam soap ball on my nose!) but gently and subtly they are nudging all of us towards healthier ways of relating and allowing our daughter to truly and deeply accept the loving parenting we so much want to give her.

12 Blogs under the Christmas tree #9

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Under the Christmas tree this year is a new family! Let me explain. As a gay man family has always been a challenge. However, I would like to think I navigated it quite well, until I adopted. Forever family is key to who we are as a family and now my extended family are fighting with each other. I’m not even going to give that story space. But what I would put under the Christmas tree this year is a new extended family.

I’m pee’d off and I would happily un-wrap a new extended family who I could present to my boys as their new forever extended family. It’s difficult I know but it’s often heightened because it’s Christmas.

12 Blogs under the Christmas tree #8

20161223_131840If you could put one thing under the Christmas tree this year what would it be?

We are away for Christmas so we’ve brought some of the presents from home and the rest are at home waiting to be opened when we get back. Despite my best efforts for a low key event with few gifts and more family time we’ve still had the usual hoopla. It’s far too easy to get buried under piles of food, seasonal experiences and family days out. It’s the first Christmas we have officially been a family of 4. Last year we had a court date in December that we had hoped would finalise the adoption, but a tiny overlooked detail meant that the judge deferred the decision until January. It wasn’t what we had hoped for, but he was still with us and as far as we were concerned he was one of us. It just wasn’t official yet.

So this year he is spending his first proper Christmas with us. The first time he was only a few days old and his second was with his lovely foster family. They do not celebrate Christmas, but at his birth family’s request they took him to see Father Christmas and put up a tree for him. Then he was with us last year and we kept things simple with a meal at home and visited grandparents and of course spoiled him with presents galore. Now he’s big enough to sit up at the table all by himself. He eats yorkshire puddings, he loves sausages and we hope he will enjoy pulling crackers, wearing a paper hat and telling awful jokes as much as we do.

Since he came to us it’s been testing and trying and with both boys we have been challenged at times to what we felt was beyond our capability. Only other adopters really understand the anguish I feel when I wonder if we’ve done the right thing for both our children. The one who was already in our family who thought he wanted a brother until he turned up and he was walking and shouting and taking his toys and not wanting to be a younger sibling. The one who had already had a big move when he was only a few months old and who for at least a year didn’t trust us to not leave him behind whenever we visited another house.

When anyone asks what he’d like for his birthday or Christmas I struggle to think of anything. He has so many toys and clothes, he loves books, he came with plenty of building blocks. He already has a scooter, a trike and plenty of sports kit to play with. I’ve bought the boys a table football game as they seem to love it and it’s something I hope they will do together – other than fight and annoy each other that is.

Of all the things that I’d like be able to put under the tree for Baby Boy this year it would be his life story book. We have been so patient and are still waiting for anything that might fill in the gaps for us. Seeing the family who cared for him between his birth family and us is the closest we get to this. We meet up with his foster carers in early December and as they don’t celebrate Christmas it’s not as emotionally charged as it could be. It’s a chance to catch up and for them to see how he’s doing and for us to ask them about the things we still don’t know about him.

As time has progressed I feel I can ask more about how he was when he came to them. More than I could have coped with when he first came to us. That early period when he couldn’t settle at night and he would cry and miss them terribly. I felt as though they didn’t trust us to care for him and they didn’t want to let him go. In fact I’ve realised that because of his early experiences of neglect they wanted to be sure he was in a caring and loving family who would be able to support and nurture him.

If it weren’t for their kindness and devotion to caring for our little boy he wouldn’t have joined our family. Maybe we have to accept that the only life story we will have for now is the one that they are able to share with us.

All the while we are making our own life story with him. One in which he is very important.

12 Blogs under the Christmas tree #7

20161223_131548As I take stock as the year closes and assess where we are as a family, I feel acutely aware and quite sad about one very particular thing. I can see both our children have made big strides this year in terms of learning new skills – from “school stuff” like vocabulary, reading, writing and (possibly!) arithmetic to their chosen creative and sporting pursuits. But emotionally I feel, for our son, his reality has evolved very little.

I have to wonder whether – despite feeling overtrained, being professionally supported and having a small library of (albeit partly read) books – we are missing a trick in terms of how we are approaching this adoptive parenting thing – emotional wellbeing is paramount, but skills development in our case seems so much easier to achieve. And in the turbulence of our daily life, achieving some progress feels essential for our own sanity. Perhaps we are not allowing enough emotional space, but with space tends to come volatility, so we keep our time as filled and structured as possible. There lies the circle? Some food for thought in our home over the holidays…

Hence… If we could put one thing under the Christmas tree, it would be a superpower that enables us to access our son’s subconscious – so that we can pinpoint the emotional drivers of his behaviour and perhaps palpably help him to heal and move forward.

12 blogs under the Christmas tree #6

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If you could put one thing under the Christmas tree this year, what would it be?

I don’t have one thing to put under the Christmas tree… I have a few things. I can’t help but be excited for Christmas. I smile and nod when people say it’s for the kids…Raspberry to that! I love it even more that I have children, despite the challenges.

So under my tree I would put: –
· A big box of hugs for my children and husband. I can sometimes be a bit mean with my hugs being an avoidant adult myself.
· Love, love, Love I would buy it all up and fill not just the tree but the house. I apologise now if the shops have sold out of love
· Passion! I wear it as a badge and I would get a badge for each of my children. After all, I am from the Caribbean therefore can be a bit passionate.
· Finally, I would buy us all a watch which speeds up when the day is tough but slows down when the day is just right! Particularly when all the other gifts above are being well used….

Merry Christmas parents.