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.

The Twelve Blogs of Christmas #4: Christmas Party Games you never played before you had children…

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  1. Name that stain Being a parent apparently means accruing a large knowledge of cleaning products and how best to combine them. I can’t make a Martini but I sure can combine Vanish, Napisan and bicarbonate of soda to get melted chocolate coins out of the sofa
  2. 56 wipe pick-up The rules are self-explanatory here, just insert whichever item you would prefer your child(ren) didn’t dismantle and throw around the lounge whilst you had the audacity to go upstairs and brush your teeth
  3. Midnight tag “you get up”. “No you, I just went”. “I will give you a tenner”…..
  1. Sniff those trousers Is it wee? Is it poo? No it’s just dribble, we’re good
  2. Race the dog to the vomit A particularly charming game where one of your children has thrown up and the Labrador will ‘clean it up’ if you don’t get there first
  3. Car seat bingo What is your child eating? The only clue is that they retrieved it from down of the side of their car seat
  4. The stood-on-a-piece-of-lego party dance No explanation required
  5. Supermarket sweep – where before you were perhaps one to stop and compare prices as you made your way round Tesco, now you dash round à la Linford Christie to avoid small child meltdown
  6. Pudding roulette – they ate a lot at dinner and it’s been a very exciting day, plus you don’t want to play the Labrador game again…
  7. Patience – Of course, you played it before you had children but it turns out it ain’t a card game