12 Blogs of Christmas #9. Etch a Sketch

As a child I always wanted an Etch a sketch, it was new back then in the 70’s and positively ‘hi tech’ to us who had been brought up on basic, traditional toys.

Advertisements for the – to be honest, pretty rubbish – pen and paper alternative were all over the TV and made it look positively glamorous.

And then the Christmas came when I was to get one – I knew because being 12 I had done that unforgivable thing of searching the house mid December to root out the presents we would be getting.

I was pretty pleased to finally be getting the gift that I wanted so badly and I was full of excitement on Christmas morning, however the excitement didn’t last too long. I was unwrapping my gifts with the growing realision that NONE of them were in fact those that I had seen a couple of weeks earlier.

I was obviously very puzzled and conclude that my patents must have worked out that I had found them and had exchanged each and every one. That will teach me I thought as I sat there full of disappointment and with a forced smile on my face.

So another year without the coveted gift.

About mid morning the family across the road who we were close to came over to wish us a Merry Christmas and we children all compared our gifts – and then the reality of the situation hit.

The boy the same age as me had all the gifts I had seen…including MY Etch a sketch.

Serves you right I hear you cry – and I would most certainly have to agree. It was a harsh lesson and rest assured I never went in search of my Christmas presents again.

12 Blogs of Christmas #8

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

In theory no – it’s against my principles, but sometimes we cannot help opening “just the one” before midnight !

When do you put up and take down your tree?

Up: Almost as soon as the local Tree market opens and;
Down: probably not within the boundaries set by tradition/superstition.

What goes on the top of the tree?

A fairy (not a real one) or a star (again, not real), depending

Fake or real Christmas tree?

After a good number of years as a singleton with a re-usable fake tree, my wife has me converted to real and no way am I going back.

Favourite Christmas film?

It’s A Wonderful Life

Coloured or clear fairy lights?

Clear

Favourite Christmas song?

Depends on who is singing it – It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, if a choir; We Wish You A Merry Christmas, if our daughter.

Favourite Christmas food?

Sprouts. And my wife’s home-made sausage rolls. And Beef – I do not like Turkey !

What is the best Christmas gift ever received?

Socks

What is the worst Gift you’ve ever received?

Socks – it’s all about timing.

What’s the best part of Christmas for you?

Watching people open their presents; the second glass of wine with Christmas lunch

Most annoying thing about this time of year?

The West End

The Pixies. 12 Blogs #2


This year I’ve tried out an advent calendar. In our house it is a piece of cloth with 24 small pockets, into which I sneak a small item every evening after my son has fallen asleep. Something simple, tiny, unpretentious but special. He’s loving it.

The first week I focussed on stones and the like. One morning he got a biggish stone. Igneous looking. From the depths of the house collection. He showed it to his dad. Who raised his big daddy eyebrows in very real surprise. If not disbelief. ‘You gave him the stone I collected as a young boy from Vesuvius?’ Oups. I guess I did. Which would explain why I couldn’t remember where or when I’d collected it. He soon relented and he likes the beauty of passing it to his son. If only he’d been part of that decision. Not unlike the year I told our son The Santa doesn’t exists.

‘That’s the kind of stuff I think we should agree on as parents – before we tell him.’
That does seem very reasonable to me. Even in hindsight. But the cat was out of the bag. Out and gone. My son now tells a number of other kids that santa is just made up. Apologies if you are a parent of a kid who has met our six year-old myth buster.

That same evening of Vesuvius Gate my son asked me why I had stolen it from daddy.
I told him I didn’t think I had bla bla bla.
‘But mummy you lied to me.’
‘?! What do you mean…?’ I thought I’d been honest. Too honest it turns out.
‘I thought the pockets filled by magic…’
Errrrmmm….
‘You just fill them, Mummy. When I am asleep.’ He was very disappointed. And I was busted.

How to get back from that one??

Turns out there was a way back to December magic. After another few mishaps.

One morning my son complained there was nothing in the pocket for that morning.

‘Are you sure?!’ I remember finding something the evening before and carrying it downstairs. But my son was adamant: There was nothing there. I checked with him. The pocket was totally and completely empty. And my son’s eyes as big as saucers.

Hmmmmm. Puzzled but not deterred I went about my business, grumbling over what may have happened. I distinctly remembered having chosen something small and fine.

‘Maybe we have nisser (Danish for gnomes or pixies)….’

‘Maybe they took it? Like they sometimes take daddy glasses and put them up on top his head so he can’t find them.’

‘Or they ate the last biscuits. Pesky creatures …’

I walked into the living room and there on the mantle piece was the thing I’d chosen. Small and shiny. I managed to sneak it in to the pocket. And soon after I heard a scream of joy:
‘Mummy! The pixies have been! They brought me a crystal!’

Since that morning his faith in the pixies has been restored. Which all together is a better fit for our family than Father Christmas. They’re mischievous and fun. Not good, nor bad, but a bit of both. Altogether more real. They also don’t judge. No elves on our shelves!

Next year I think I may introduce more of their mischievous sides. You see in Denmark where I grew up you put food out for the pixies. Every night in December. To keep on good terms with them. If you forget you may upset them. And they may play tricks on you and your family. Like dye the milk blue only for you to realise as you pour it over your breakfast cereal. Or they may fill Your pencil case with raisin instead of pens! Which you only find out when in school.

I think my son is ready for some December themed mischievousness. But am I?

10 Missed Calls

Like many today I am somewhat attached to my smart phone and I have it within reach pretty much constantly. However I was recently away on holiday and just decided that I wanted a day without it so left it behind on a trip to the beach. I didn’t miss it at all and in fact I barely gave it a thought throughout the day.

Arriving back at the accommodation it wasn’t sitting out anywhere obvious and I was still happy to be without it, some time later we were leaving to meet friends for dinner so I searched out my phone. I discovered that my brother had called, in fact I could see that he had called 10 times throughout the day as my phone was displaying 10 missed calls. There was also an SMS – ‘Call me bro’. That all seemed a bit keen – in fact it seemed a bit desperate.

Our 79 year old father had recently spent 3 1/2 months in hospital, finally recovered and well he had been moved into a care home just three weeks earlier – so of course I assumed this was about him:

– Had he had another fall and broken another bone or two?
– Had he caught yet another nasty, dangerous infection?
– Had he organised a alcohol fuelled party against the home rules?
– Had he insulted a resident or carer in the home and was getting his marching orders?
– Had he done a runner in his wheelchair?

These and other thoughts ran through my mind as I made the call to my brother. He answered and after asking how the holiday was going, he said ‘Sorry bro, there is no easy way to say this – Dad has died’.

It was a total shock, I had left my father less than a week earlier and although very unhappy to be in the home, he was physically well.

We had already set off for the restaurant and I was walking a little ahead of my family and friends, how to handle this information – most significantly for our two adopted sons – suddenly became the most relevant issue at hand and from necessity it had to take priority over my own emotions. Our sons have suffered so much loss in their short lives and it has clearly impacted our youngest quite severely and I had no idea how this further loss would affect him or his brother and of course being on holiday added an additional dimension and difficulty to breaking such shocking news.

Telling children of the loss of anybody close to them is difficult, however with the extra level of loss an adopted child has experienced it possibly makes it even more of a concern. Our sons knew that their grandfather had been very poorly in hospital, but they also knew that he had recovered and was well and they had visited him a few times over the past few weeks.

As I finished the conversation with my brother I was already aware that I needed to contain myself and to not give any indication of how I was feeling as I knew immediately that I would need to prepare the boys for the news over a period of time. Also, as we were leaving the next day we would soon be home, which I figured would be a much more secure environment for then to deal with the information.

So I said nothing, which of course made for a rather difficult meal and end to the day for me. However, I actually started to realise that I was also allowing myself to process the loss and deal with the shock privately, which I appreciated. I shared the news with my partner and friends after the boys were tucked up in bed and then the following morning I simply said to the boys that I had spoken with their uncle who had said that Granddad had become quite ill again and that we were quite worried, then again the following day when we were back home I brought it up and said that Granddad had sadly got even worse and as he was an old man we were very concerned that he was so weak. On the third day I said that there was no improvement and that things looked very bad – then that evening we told them that Granddad had sadly died.

They were clearly a little upset, but both of them appeared to take the news well. They had immediately started to ask if he was going to die when I first said that he was unwell again and I had answered that it was possible and having a couple of days to process the possibility I think at least helped remove the shock. We have spoken about Granddad almost everyday since and both boys wanted to come to the funeral, where they were very well behaved and respectful of the occasion, which we feel was evidence of them dealing with their emotions.

I am sure they will be processing the loss for sometime now, but it does however seem that they are coping with it. We of course will not take that for granted and will keep an eye on them and hopefully will be able to recognise any difficulties if they arise.

Meanwhile we will continue to talk about Granddad as still being very much part of our lives and we will share the many happy memories we have, hopefully the loss is then wrapped in warmth and love and positivity. I have learnt for myself that the best way for me to cope with loss is to always think of something happy, wonderful and positive about the loved ones who are no longer with us in a way that warms my heart and with each of those thoughts comes a smile – a genuine smile from deep down – and it’s very hard to be sad when you are smiling. This I am trying to pass on to my sons, for the loss they are suffering now and indeed for the loss they have suffered in the past.

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 #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.

12 Blogs under the Christmas tree #5

20161223_130426If you could put one thing under the Christmas tree this year, what would it be?

I just want sleep. 10 hours. Every night till I feel restored.

Getting enough sleep is the key to me functioning as a parent. I’m grumpy without. For a good couple of hours. Or more.

My son has cottoned on to that as well. A couple of days ago when I really couldn’t move at 7pm, he and daddy snuck out, and I heard his whisper : ‘ let’s close the door to the bathroom, daddy, so mummy can sleep.’

I know he is exhausted from a long and seasonally dark term. So am I. So is daddy.

After four years with us, our son still wakes on average 4 times a night, and calls for me. ‘Mummy, I’m scared.’ ‘Mummy, can you come to my bed? It’s dark.’ ‘Mummy, it’s dark.’ ‘Mummy, I think it it is getting light now.’ ‘Mummy….?’ ‘Mummy??!’ ‘Mummy, can we get up know?’

There are periods when he sleeps through til 6. But it’s been some months now since we had that luck.

We’ve been working hard a teaching him to snuggle in bed. And now he will come to our bed around 5.30/6am where he will have a good long quietly snuggle. He may count his fingers or sing a little song. But it is mostly snuggling.

I am very grateful for that. Very.

But I want more.

Please Santa, give me sleep. Dreamless and deep, restful and restorative sleep. Bring me peaceful sleep.

Snow would help. The world is so quiet …… wrapped crisp cold and fluffy white.

But really… sleep is all I dream of.

Love,

a mummy

Scared of Water

fullsizerenderI am sitting besides a pool watching my partner and sons play in the water. It is loud, excited, fast and furious play, lots of splashing and swimming, jumping and diving, so much fun, so much joy. It is a great pleasure to watch and I soak up every minute.

We were on a similar holiday 18 months months or so ago, lots of sun and lots of chances for the boys to use the swimming pool or play in the sea, however things were quite different then. There was fun and excitement, but none of the carefree abandon of today, sadly underlining it all was a huge amount of fear, fear that stopped the boys really letting go and enjoying themselves.

Neither of our sons could swim when they came to us, but I guess at not yet 5 & 6 that was not such a surprise. We think that our oldest’s fear was little more than fear of something new and he took to the water well and with us beside him he did quickly relax and start to enjoy himself, by the end of the holiday he was much more confident and clearly happy in the water.

However, his brother’s fear of water was quite shocking, he was so afraid he would not even take a shower. Up until he moved in he had only bathed sitting in a bath of a few inches of water and insisted we continue that. When it came to washing his hair it was a huge drama and we had to work out ways of rinsing off shampoo with minimal amounts of water making sure none splashed his face. A damp face cloth gently wiped over his face was the very most he could cope with.

It took quite a bit of time, energy and effort to get him to even consider the shower and when he finally did it had to be totally on his terms – shower barely lukewarm, shower head held down below his waist, and water totally turned off while he was soaping himself up and absolutely no water was to get on his face.

Slowly we worked on his fear, each evening in the shower we tried to get him to relax his ‘rules’ and little by little he did. Gradually we got him more used to water to the point that when we did go on that first holiday he had already come on a long way and we were amazed to see that he actually wanted to be in the pool – with arm bands and with us beside him to grip on to. He was still truly scared, but clearly felt confident enough with us and safe enough with us to allow himself in. Mind you, all hell broke loose if his head went underwater and it wasn’t much better if his face got splashed.

The 18 months between holidays have been put to good use and weekly swimming lessons have seen them both come on hugely and swimming is now simply a part of their lives. The youngest has continued to be fearful, but now has more confidence in himself to trust being in the water.

However, even with the lessons he still needed somebody by his side pretty much constantly. That is until now. What I am witnessing today is a total revelation – it is evident that the fear has gone.

On the first day we noticed a different attitude from him and a very surprising willingness to put his face down into the water – as this was still something he was refusing to do. By the end of the day he was actually ducking under the water and holding his breath for a second or so.

Since then there has been no holding him back and he is jumping in and actually swimming under the water.

We have no idea what has brought about this change so abruptly or so completely, but it is heartwarming to see. I have always enjoyed swimming and to my partner it has been quite a big part of his life and knowing that we can now be together in the water without concern for our sons fears is a great step forward.

We have no idea if their fear of water was a result of some kind of ‘water related’ trauma in the birth family and neither of the boys have shared anything to suggest such. We think it was more likely just through lack of them being introduced to water as babies, you assume parents bath and clean their babies daily and make the most of what should be quite an intimate parent/baby experience – the likelihood of that not being the case for our children is just one more thing from their past that we have to come to terms with.

Dear Son.

IMG_9516Dear Son,

You are the apple of my eye.

My sunshine.

The bee’s knees. And I love you. More than I could ever say.

This is summer 2016, we are on holiday and the Olympics are just about to start in Rio.

‘You do know what this means to me, don’t you?’ Your dad said when it was announced on the radio. I nodded. Because it means the same to me. It means ‘meeting our son.’

Four years ago, during the Olympics we were frantically finishing our daytime jobs and getting the house ready. For you. The Paraolympics provided the background to our matching panel and introductions. All in London. Our London. So our hearts still swell at the sound and sight of the Olympics and Paraolympics. Sweet with memory.

You are my brown-eyed, curly topped, soft skinned, chatterbox, chart-wheeling, miracle of a son. You give hugs I didn’t know existed. And kisses that are transporting. You are a time machine, that at once slows everything down to the here and now, and speeds everything up, because I don’t know where the time went. Four years?! Where’s our big baby? The one who said ‘mama’ for everything for two years. It mainly meant ‘I want…’. You didn’t really need to be able to say much more. We doted on you and tried to read your mind, and preempt your every wish and want. Now those days of few syllables are gone. You toy with words and ideas all day long. And even in your sleep. This morning you declared to me that ‘Today, I am 100% happy.’ You know those smily to sad faces you can press on the ‘How did you find the toilets today?’ and so on? You always want to press them. And you always press the smiliest one. ‘Kerbose, I’m are happy.’

Sometimes though you are not so happy. Sometime you despair, and feel ashamed. These two feelings can be strong in you. But even when they take hold of you, and you feel I may not love you anymore, I do. Always. I’m always here. Right here. Remember when we put those plastic pirate tattoos on your shoulders? And I said, if you miss me when I am not there, just touch the tattoo. And remember I love you. Can you feel it? That’s one way that I will always be with you. When you start school again, we’ll stick some more on you. But first it’s holidays. We are together with daddy all the time. Yeah!!

Sometimes you get angry and you cry. These are two other states of yours that I am well familiar with. It’s usually LOUD. I have learnt to sit through this with you. To hold you till you are calm again. If you’ll let me. I’ve found much calmness in myself that I didn’t know I had, because you have asked for it. Or rather demanded it. There was no option but not to try to find it within me. I am definitely a better person for knowing you. You open avenues in front of me to a life I could not have imagined. And it just keeps getting better. As we grow up together.

You grow and develop with such lightning speed and I have never been more interested or fascinated by anybody in this way. You are a curious soul. The world is your oyster. There for the taking and exploring. These days you are into bugs. You’ve got X-ray vision for small creatures when we are out walking. You bend down ‘Look, mummy, look! A lady bird!’ ‘A centipede’ ‘An ant!’ You know your bugs. And you teach me to slow down, and look with you (well, mostly). Because it is fascinating. Especially with you.

I didn’t give birth to you. I didn’t breastfed you. I wish I had. But you would not have been you if I had given birth to you. You have two other parents out there. They made you. The perfect you. The soft skinned, giggling, sunny, strong-willed boy that is you. Your dad and I could not have made you like this. So we are so grateful to your other parents that they did. Sometimes I think about what they are missing. And it makes me sad. Adoption is a wonderous thing. It is both beautiful and very sad. I hope your dad and I can give you much pride in what you had before you came to us, because it is also what made you you. I wish we could show and tell your other parents, how well you are doing. I believe we can share that pride in you with them. I hope one day we may be able to share your life with them – somehow. I don’t quite know how. But we can think on that. Meanwhile, I keep writing letters to them.

The fact that you are not my flesh and blood I find endless fascinating. I know what your mother looks like and I see her freckled auburn beauty in your face. We don’t know what your dad looked like, but I have a sense of it. The colour of your skin, and your curly hair for starters. Yet in the end whatever they gave you, you are you. A world upon itself. I see my own mum and dad in my flesh, and more so as I age, but you are so different to those genes. So I see you. And it makes me curious precisely about you. And what you are all about.

No one who knows you has not at some point been impressed by your physical skills. It is a primeval force that makes you excel at climbing, cycling, jumping, dancing and much more. I look on, often in dazed amazement. I’m getting so much better at not showing how nervous I am at times. My stomach no longer turns (as much as it once did, possibly never more than when you first started walking). I am better at showing you I trust your judgment. And when I do, you show you can handle it. When I step in to say ‘I can’t let you do ___’, you listen. And you stop or move away. We make a good team. As you reminded me when we were schlepping our suitcases home 200 yards at a time from the tube. ‘We can do this, mummy. We can! We are a good team.’ I don’t know where you got this mantra from. But I love it. And I agree. We are a good team. We are a good match.

A few months after you arrived, we had some friends around for dinner. We were all sitting around the table. You were sleeping calmly upstairs in your cot. Your godmother asked us what the biggest surprise has been in adopting you. Your dad was ready with the answer:

‘The Love.… Definitely the Love … I have never felt love like this and I have never loved anyone like this before. Sorry, darling…’

He looked at me. I nodded.

‘It’s ok. I know what you mean. I feel the same.’

Looking into each other’s eyes, we smiled. I’d have to add that I love your dad more now, seeing him as your dad. I too think he is the best dad in the whole world.

I hope you feel the love. Because it never goes away. It is. It is a switch that has been turned on, and there is no off button. It’s like my eyes are blue and yours are brown. It just is. Even when I get annoyed, because you … say broke the iPad, or wake up too early and just want to play, when I really just want to sleep a little bit more.

I love you always. When you scream and shout, or cry, even kick and hit, and poo and pee, and fart. Or when you are ill, and we are up with you all night, because you cry in pain, or twist in fever. I love all of you. I once told you it was so with love. And your eyes lit up. ‘Really?!?’ ‘Yes.’ So this is one of our games now. Naming all the things you do, and that I still love you when you do them.

The very first moment I met you I admit I was scared. This was it. Forever. Your foster mum asked if I would like to hold you, and I said yes. I had sat down on her couch to steady myself and she put you in my arms. You laid your head against my chest. We were both silent. And that was it. You were mine. And I was yours. Forever.

I love you, my sunflake, now and forever,

Mummy

 

Dear Daughter: Where did the time go?

20160802_131053Dear Daughter,

It’s been over three years now since you came into our lives as a little, bum-shuffling, bottom-swaying, 14-month old bundle of pure energy. We’ve been with you watching you grow through so many different stages and here you are now, a 4 year-old little (or big, as you prefer) girl about to start school.

You are leaving your nursery friends behind in whose company you at first seemed so shy, but who, on the last day of nursery ever, were shouting your name and hugging you and laughing with you as we went through the nursery gates. And to see you shouting goodbye to your teachers, calling them by their names, filled me with pride.

You seem to be taking these changes in your stride now; you’ve grown to have so much more self-confidence. But we know the move to the “big” school is going to be hard on you, as change has ever been thusfar. Except for the day we brought you home; the change from foster home to our home, with your forever family, did not seem to phase you at all. Mummy and I planned to stay awake in shifts through that first night, listening for any signs of distress or unease. But you slept through the whole night and we woke you to receive smiles and giggles. And you’ve slept well and long ever since (with the exception of New Year this year, when you arrived at the top of the stairs at 1.30 am announcing, “I feel left out.”)

We have watched you grow in confidence – a precursor being us wheeling you around in the pushchair at 20 months, you waving and smiling at people as you passed – and with that a beautiful and inspiring sense of fun, and our feeling that you receive so much joy from the world around you. You are kind and thoughtful, careful and caring of others, boisterous and sometimes demanding, but always with a little smile on your lips. When you feel hurt you are not afraid to express it.

Our conversations at bedtime are the highlight of my life and it makes my heart burst watching you and Mummy together, like peas in a pod.

Our love for you is boundless, my beautiful girl.

Your Forever Daddy

xx

P.S. One word of warning, though. If you ever stop reaching for my hand when we are out walking together, I’ll dock your pocket-money.