The First Time

I never thought I could love you more than when I first saw you sitting in the school room working hard on your literacy. I then took you on an aeroplane and realised there was even more love to give!

When I found your profile you were 5 years old and I fell in love instantly  they say you know when you find the one, but to be honest I didn’t believe them. I then had to fight for nearly a year to persuade your social worker that I was perfect for you making you 6 and a half before I finally got to meet you. I would lie if I didn’t say that your age worried me to begin with. Worried that I would have missed out on so much. In the weeks leading up to that meeting I struggled with these thoughts: I would never get to rock you asleep; never hear your first words; never change your nappy (maybe I should have rejoiced in this!) never take you to school for the first time; not be there when you first swam a stroke. If I thought about all the firsts I would missed I would have become overwhelmed and maybe started to wonder if I was doing the right thing. Then a very wise lady reminded me that there would always be things I had missed, but there was so much more that we could do together.

We have been together 10 months now and I have been thinking of writing this for some time; our firsts are coming thick and fast now so it’s now or never! Of course I got to rock you asleep, of course I got to bath you, of course I got feed you as you regressed and let me. Then we had a first birthday together; A first Christmas together; first New Year together; First Easter Egg hunt with your cousins and my first Mother’s Day.

Then I got to experience so many firsts: The joy and pride you showed when you swam your first stroke, was only beaten by my own joy. The excitement when you mastered a backward roll and then a handspring; when you first learnt to ride your bike to school. Then there are the small ones that bring me so much joy: Your first bus trip, your first train trip, your first boat trip. Getting your first passport.

The ones that surprise me: When you came back from swimming with my best friend – beyond excited – about “that thing that moved us and we had to hold on”. You were laughing so much with your arms and legs all over the place, knocking things off the side but I was still totally confused! Then i was reliably informed there was a wave machine. It had never occurred to me you had never felt or seen a wave! The following weekend we went camping; your first holiday and they joy you expressed (even for a compost toilet!) You helped set everything up, searched for wood, built your first fire, toasted your first marshmallow or smarshmellow as you call it. I may not have heard your first word, but I have your smarshmellows, skirils (squirrels ) startcastic (sarcastic) and menember (remember) which I will treasure for ever. I will never forget your amazement when your first came across seaweed and walked in the sea with wellies. We spent hours touching it, smelling it and squishing it all for the first time and then second time the following day. You were 7 years old, but lapped it up like a woman having the first glass of wine at a weekend or a toddler tasting chocolate for the first time.

I am a traveller and adventurer and thought my ruck sack would have to be hung up. But the first thing you told me was that a “real mum would get you a passport & take you on loads of holidays”. So after 3 camping trips and a caravan holiday in the U.K. and many stop overs at friends around England to check you can cope with nights away from your bed (and you did amazingly), I bit the bullet and am now taking you on your first aeroplane and overseas holiday. They even let you see the cockpit and you felt honoured. So now as you sit next to me on your first flight, staring out the window – stunned at the sight of clouds and the feeling in your tummy. You told me you are a “10 out of 10” and that’s before you get to swim in your first outside pool in the sun, feel hot sand through your toes for your first time, build your first foreign sand castle, swim in the sea with your snorkel for the first time (that you have been practising with in the bath). These are all the things you are excited about, not forgetting your first buffet breakfast where I have agreed you can have whatever you want!

If I didn’t know it before, Miss AAK, I am totally honoured to share my travelling life with you for the first time. Anyone out there who is worried about missing out on all those firsts – create your own. Yes, I cried when we took off and you squealed with joy! I may not be the first person you ever called mummy, but it really doesn’t matter!

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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.

My heart swells.

photo-1470394056006-130bc90c012bMy heart breaks when I think of their past, when I think of them suffering, of them left uncared for, for every day that they went hungry and for each cry that went unanswered.

It breaks for the unfair start that they had in life and for the fact that I was not there for them – to care for MY sons and to protect them as a parent should.

Do those feelings ever go, do they – can they – ever leave an adoptive parent?

Will I one day be able to let go of their past and focus only on the positive that is their life today and on what the future has to offer?

They now have the unconditional love and care that they should have always had, they have protection, they have security and they have hope. They have come a long way and are different little boys to the ones who first joined us, but they are still the same children, they still carry their past within them and they always will.

And it feels like I will too.

However, it most certainly doesn’t dominate, as mostly my heart now swells.

It swells with pride for the amazing little boys who call me Daddy. It swells with each smile and with each achievement – no matter how small – and most of all it swells with love: pure, unadulterated and total love.

My heart swells for my sons and the joy that it brings is what I focus on and what I now live for.

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

20160803_175122Dear Daughter,

A few things you may never know:
That before you walk into a room it is always less sunny than it becomes when you arrive.

That you genuinely have brought the fun to our dysfunctional extended family.

That I love you more than you, or probably I, will ever be able to comprehend.

Kisses to you my little sunbeam, mama.

A Birthday Wish

IMG_4105It’s your birthday, it’s your birthday.
Last year we didn’t see you.
But we thought of you so much.
All day, every hour.
Wishing you fun and laughter and cake with a candle.
We took ourselves to the beach and played in the sand, amused ourselves on the penny slots and ate lots of ice cream.
We wondered exactly what you were doing. We tried to see into the future.
To see if we could connect with you, almost transcend time.
I sat in your newly painted room, I rocked myself and pretended you were here with me on my knee.
I willed you in my life. I desperately imagined what life might be like with you.
I felt I couldn’t bear to be without you for a single day, even though I had not even met you yet.
But dear daughter, it really didn’t matter, as soon as we glimpsed you from behind the door, all those anxious moments, melted away. Our hearts were open and you jumped straight into it.
So my dear, on your birthday our wishes have all been answered as we have you in our lives forever and you darling can wish for the stars.