So Damn Stupid

Photo by Lili Gooch

Up early, well before the alarm. Good, there is never enough time in a day.

Quick shower (it’s so much easier to do this before the boys wake up), dress, make coffee, sort out laundry, put on washing machine, empty… damn, we forgot to put the dishwasher on last night.

Let dog out, wash dog’s bowl, feed her and clean up her mess in the garden.

Second mug of coffee, computer ‘on’. Hopefully a full hour or so of work before the boys wake.

Hear partner getting up, he showers, dresses and comes downstairs. Clanking from the kitchen, too much clanking – the youngest is woken up.

Footsteps as he gets up and leaves his bedroom – they stop at his brother’s door ??? ‘Get out of my room and leave me alone’ I hear screamed moments later. Really? 5.50 am and they are already fighting.

I stop work – nowhere near finished.

Youngest comes downstairs, nothing more than a frown to my ‘good morning’. He has ‘that’ look in his eyes, it’s going to be be of those mornings.

Clearly he has not slept well, he is grumpy, he is defiant and as the morning unfolds he challenges everything and he pushes the boundaries as far as he can.

Partner has prepared breakfast and laid the table, he puts the bins out and sorts out the recycling, he then takes the dog for a walk, checking messages and emails as he goes.

I get the boys school clothes ready and make their beds. I tidy the house from top to bottom as I make my way back to the kitchen. I empty the washing machine, start dryer and unload dishwasher – why use the ‘quick wash’ function when it never does the job, half the items are put back in.

Breakfast is finished and I clean the kitchen and reload the dishwasher.

I set out homework and the boys sit down with me, it becomes clear that the youngest will not engage. He is simply not listening and is continuously distracting and antagonising his brother, the brother is taking the bait and is fighting back. I start to lose my temper and raise my voice – even though I know it will only make things worse.

I’m feeling disrespected and I can feel my anger rising – think therapeutic parenting, think therapeutic parenting I remind myself. It’s not working, I snap and immediately regret it as the youngest visibly closes in on himself. I leave the room before I make the situation worse.

Partner leaves for work after we have discussed what we are doing that evening and what needs picking up for tonight’s dinner. ‘Stay calm’ he says as he walks out the door, which of course just makes me more angry.

My phone bleeps, my first work message of the day. I realise I forgot to plug the phone in last night and I have to search the whole house for the power cable, I discover the oldest has charged MY iPad with it in his room – where screens are not allowed!?!?

I attempt to get back to my work on the computer, but the boys constant bickering makes it impossible.

I let them have screen time (mostly for my sake) and at last there is some calm. I rush through my work to get it finished and prepare what I need for the day.

Teeth cleaned and they are dressed for school. School work collected and bags filled, sports kit cobbled together – where the hell are the big one’s trainers? Shoes on.

The youngest one’s mood is not improving the slightest, everything he says is full of attitude and just on the edge of rudeness (or is it over the edge, but I just don’t have time to admit that?), it is taking every bit of effort from me not to lose it.

At the last minute I realise that I haven’t unloaded the dryer. Damn – not dry, the whole wash is going to be creased to hell by the time I get home tonight unless I take it out and hang it out all over the kitchen. That’s always a good look – and now we are running late and both boys are nagging me about it.

I very briskly walk them to school and the boys fight the entire way. The youngest walks off immediately we reach the play ground and he barely looks back as I shout ‘I love you, have a nice day’, so much for our usual goodbye kiss.

I get my first business call of the day as I am walking away from school, which is actually quite useful as it helps me avoid eye contact with other parents who I don’t have time for. I have to rush to make my first appointment, I am not looking forward to what I am sure will be a hectic day at work.

11am my phone rings, I pick it up and my heart skips a beat – it’s the school. I’m surprised as they haven’t called for well over 5 months now. I answer and I am told that the youngest is ‘not having a good day today’, he has been difficult and disruptive and they are concerned that it seems to be escalating and could get out of hand (as it has many times in the past), they wanted to make me aware of the situation in case I needed to come in. Just what I need today I think, I really thought that they had this under control.

I say that he had been in a difficult mood that morning and that he had been quite challenging. I start to say that he had gone to bed a little late yesterday and was up early, he was probably (not that it excuses his behaviour) a little tired because we had…

and then – and only then – the realisation.

…because we had Contact yesterday.

Contact with his other siblings, the brothers and sisters he doesn’t live with, the brothers and sisters he sees just twice a year, the brothers and sisters he misses so very much.

The ones who remind him of his past life, who highlight the differences between him and his peers. The ones who make him feel vulnerable in his new family – who make him feel like his new life could be temporary after all and that he could be moved on at any moment like each of them have been and just like he was twice before his 5th birthday.

How could I have been SO damn stupid!

Of course he is unsettled, of course he is being difficult and challenging us, challenging the school, challenging the world – of course, of course, of course.

He always is after contact and who can blame him for that? All morning he had been crying out for our love, for our reassurance and for our understanding – in the only way he knows how.

How on earth could I have missed it?

Letter Box Contact

Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com.

Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com.

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 traumatised 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 pussyfoot 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 suppose 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 always show the same consideration and respect that they expect of us.

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’.

 

We Are Family Blog 2015 in review!

Here it is! Everything you ever wanted to know about the blog in 2015!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Follow up: A birth mum shares her thoughts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecent posts about sibling and birth family contact have proved to be quite emotive for many of our readers; and one in particular prompted a birth mum to get in touch to share her own thoughts and experiences of direct contact which we thought deserved to be heard.

“I am a birth mom and I can’t say that I agree that its “always adoptive families” that “action, chase, fight for the best outcome of the child”. The agency I went through has done a lot to help and has a strong desire to help in whatever way they can for all three parties involved. Also, I have reached out, expressed feelings, respected the wishes of the adoptive parents and I have been rejected. It is true that every family is different. I have so much respect for you and other families that try to maintain contact with birth parents for the benefit of your child.” 

 

And here is the original post as it was published on April 10th 2015.

Any Advice Gratefully Accepted

Having read the recent blog about sibling contact I thought I’d write asking if anyone has had any problems with direct birth parent contact. I know that to most this may seem like a strange ‘problem’ to have but here goes…

When I adopted my daughter I agreed to annual direct contact with her birth father. I didn’t want her to hit teenage years with all the possible angst that that can entail and ask why I wouldn’t let her see him when there was no reason for me doing so other than ‘I didnt want to share you’. Had I not been a single adopter and had it been her birth mother who wanted contact maybe I would have felt differently, who knows. Anyhow for one reason or another we fell through the cracks last year and contact was not arranged. I tried unsuccessfully to contact social services leaving voicemails but no one returned my calls. I finally heard from them saying they would chase it up and get back to me but they haven’t and now another year has almost gone by.
I guess what I’d like to ask is whether anyone else has experienced this and also if any of you know whether it is my responsibility to be chasing up contact. I’m also worried that a gap of two years (spanning ages three to five) will make seeing him harder for my little one.
Any advice gratefully accepted.

Flowers

photo by Lili Gooch

Photo by Lili Gooch

I previously wrote a blog about the break down of the long term foster placement and guardianship of our sons older sister, I ended by saying that we hoped that the the new placement the sister had been moved to was a good one and would offer her the security she so deserves.

Thankfully that appears to be so, it does seem like a good placement and the new foster carers are committed and seem to be giving her the family life she needs and indeed some of the security that has been lacking in her life recently.

Most importantly she just seems happy.

She is a sweet child who has spent much of her life caring for others and as a result is thoughtful and selfless. She has had it tough all her life and being 4 years older than our oldest was more aware of the neglect and the consequences of that while in the birth family. At the age of 5/6 she was attempting to ‘mother’ our boys, stepping in where birth mum was failing.

What we have now discovered is that the almost 5 years she spent with the previous foster carers were not as positive as we had thought and in fact we have really had to reevaluate our reaction to the break down of that placement.

We were aware that the carers were very strict and lacked pastoral parenting skills, but it seems that the situation for the sister was anything but ideal, we have been told that she was made to do most of the housework and ironing as well as various other chores, apparently time was dedicated for this before and after school everyday and most of Saturday and if this is true it strikes us as being quite inappropriate.

Again we question where social services were throughout this, but now she has moved from that placement and seems happy I feel we should all be looking to the future.

So things are good – or certainly looking so. However we are concerned about the effect the break down of the placement has had on the sister. Yet again she has had parents who have failed here, yet again the family she thought was for life has proven not to be so, yet again she has been thrown into the unknown.

She is aware that – all going well – the new placement will only be until she is 18 as the new carers are not offering guardianship and as yet we do not see any suggestion that they will remain ‘family’ beyond that.

We have been really concerned for her and when we finally met for contact – after a year of not being able to – we asked how she was doing and if she felt settled and happy, she was her usual cheery self and said that she was pleased to be where she was and that life was OK, we asked if there was anything that bothers her or that she had concerns about and her response shocked and saddened us as she opened up and expressed her concerns for being alone after she turns 18.

We assured her that her fears were unfounded and that she was loved by all of us and that we would always be there for her as she was our family. We hope that we offered some kind of reassurance, but somehow we are not convinced as it was evident just how alone she felt.

Her exact words will always stay with us:
‘I don’t mind never being adopted I know it’s difficult for somebody to take a child of my age and that’s OK, the only thing that really bothers me is when I think of the future and not being in a family it upsets me to think that if I was to die there would be nobody to bring flowers to my grave.

She is 12.

Ask the 8 year old.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been processed and passed by the adoption panel for two children and as first time parents we really hadn’t even consider taking on any more. We originally saw the details of our sons – where it was stipulated that they had to be placed together – with no reference to other siblings.

Of course when their full CPR came through their siblings and half siblings were included, as indeed were details of the close relationship the boys had with their older sister. It was explained to us that as they had not found an adoptive placement for the three together, the sister had been asked if she would like to stay with the foster parents in long term fostering, freeing up her brothers for adoption together.

She was just 8 at the time and she was being asked if she wanted to stay in the home she had known for – at that point – over 2 yrs with people who cared for her and offered her the only real security she had ever really known – at the expense of staying with her brothers. Or to continue to wait for… well, the totally unknown.

She obviously chose to stay.

Good news for social services, who’s life just got a lot easier as placing a 4 and 5 yr old together – although not easy – is a whole lot easier than when there is a third aged 8.

Good news for the boys as it gave then a better chance of finding a forever family,

And of course good news for us.

It seems the only one with not such good news is the 8yr old who’s decision made it all possible. She will never be adopted and technically at 18 (although at the time it was still 16) be ‘family less’.

The foster parents were caring, but quite elderly (60&70) and very old school, they were very strict and although great for short term fostering they seemed to have little understanding of the ‘pastoral’ care looked after children so require.

We were aware of this and if I am to be brutally honest I have to admit that we chose to ignore it. We had already been building an attachment to our future sons and didn’t want to complicate matters, anyway surely Social services knows what’s best.

Also, if we decided not to proceed because of the sister, that would not result in the three being kept together, but in social services finding other parents for the boys. The boys who were already starting to feel like our sons.

Regular contact between the three and also their baby sister – born after they had all been taken into Care – was arranged twice yearly with both sisters and their families. It was tough at first for our boys, but it did mean we maintained contact with their foster carers who they were very attached to.

Although not perfect, all was fine until 2 yrs later when the foster parents declare that they are giving up the sister because ‘she has become too much to deal with’. They site various episodes, but basically it boils down to an understandably troubled 12 year old defying their ultra strict regime.

We are angry. Angry at social services for not addressing what was clearly a problematic situation before the inevitable, angry at the foster parents for not respecting the commitment they made and angry at ourselves for sitting back doing nothing while it suited us and also now, not being able to take on the older sister because we just don’t feel ready or able.

In addition we are angry for all the children, the sister for the horribly raw deal she got and for our sons and their baby sister who experience yet another family breakdown.

The sister has now been moved to another long term placement and is apparently settling. There has been no contact now for almost a year and the boys are missing her terribly, it should resume soon.

We have said that we want more contact and that we want to take the sister away with us when we holiday, but we have no legal connection with her and social services have no reason to acknowledge us – and they don’t. They have ignored our letters of complaint and so far our requests to be involved in the child’s life.

To us that is a mystery, but no doubt they have their reasons.

Let’s just hope the new long term foster placement the sister in now in will prove to be the happy home she so deserves