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We had friends staying for a long weekend, a childless couple as well as a family with two children. It was fascinating watching the couple suddenly knee deep in four kids 24/7, one of them was clearly more at home than the other and it was really interesting to watch the other’s expectations of how he felt the children should behave unfold as the weekend progressed.
What became apparent was that the expectation was pretty much that all children should behave at all times. It was clear that the occasional wrong doing, curt reply, moan, bicker, sulk, back chat, snide look or minor display of disobedience or rudeness etc – were surprising to him.
I think I understand where he is coming from as we are both of an age to have had the mantra of ‘children should be seen and not heard’ quoted to us regularly by our parents and older adults around us as we were growing up and he has had little, if any reason to question that.
Thankfully that kind of parenting is a thing of the past and nowadays that approach is generally recognised as an outdated and somewhat ignorant attitude to child rearing – at least by those of us with children.
However, in various Memes and Social Media posts that regularly do the rounds I am conscious that it is not just my child free friend who feels the way he does, it’s apparent that certain people – possibly of a certain generation – do yearn for the days when it was so and when in their eyes all children were so much better behaved and the world a better place as a result. I would suggest that they do tend to be the same people who share posts about smacking children and the subsequent downfall of society now that it not allowed.
So it has got me wondering about the children of the past, did they all just sit around for hours on end saying nothing and not interrupting the adults around them, did they all behave so well out of the fear of being smacked?
It doesn’t take much thought to realise that the answer is in fact a huge, resounding…NO.
Of course children were heard, of course children misbehaved regardless of the threat of a smack. Of course children were children – just as they are today.
So what is different? What is it that makes certain adults feel that children today are less well behaved, less respectful, less well mannered?
In a word my conclusions is… proximity.
Nowadays children – especially (but far from exclusively) those growing up in cities or towns – tend to be around adults the entire time. In the ‘good ole days’ doors were opened and children went out to play for hours on end, they were free to run and shout and indeed to misbehave – all away from the judgement of adults. They were able to ‘let off steam’, to run and jump and skip and to ride around on bikes, on scooters etc, they played football in the streets and were involved in other sports and games – endlessly releasing all the energy today’s parents have to deal with at home.
There was not only far, far less interaction with their parents and other adults around them, but when they were indoors they were calmer after all the physicality of being outside.
Of course modern parents make sure that their children get to run around, to play and get to be involved in sports, but surely with far more limits on time and ALWAYS under adult supervision.
We know with our sons that when we have failed to get them to release all their energy we suffer the consequences and their behaviour is more troublesome. We could scream and shout at them and insist that they be seen and not heard – but that would hardly be fair considering it is our fault that they are ‘full of beans’ from being kept cooped up in doors all day.
So today’s parents learn to be more patient, more relaxed and more tolerant – because we HAVE to be.
To develop and to find themselves children need to be able to express themselves, they need to be loud and to be playful, they need to challenge and to question, they need to ‘let off steam’ and if they can not simply open the door and go outside to do all this – they need to be able to do it around the adults surrounding them and without being in constant threat of being reprimanded – just for being the children that they are.
So in conclusion, contrary to popular belief I am pretty sure that children are no worse behaved today than they have ever been. There always have been challenging, rude, disrespectful children, just as there have always been wonderful well behaved ones.
As indeed most of our children are today – if we can only allow ourselves to see it.
The twisted briars cloud my vista
I only see the dark and tangled past
It’s upon me the 3 horsemen
It’s crowding me
Making me twist and feel like I’m failing
Flailing, shivering in my nest.
I stop. I stare. I implode. I scream.
The journey of my youngest feels
Like a weighted stone and doubles
The pain of my childhood.
I see my mother’s wrinkled face and don’t feel love.
I don’t feel compassion. I don’t feel joy.
I only feel sad. Sad like a bag of rocks weighing me down.
It slips into my childhood disease and makes my stomach churn.
My cheeks burn with embarrassment. I feel guilty, I feel shame at this.
I have to resolve this.
I need to move through it.
I can’t go under it.
I can’t get over it.
I need to go through it.
I try and see open doors but I only feel brick walls.
The prospect of drowning in this is a fingertip away but I need to find a path which allows me to see the wretched past and the matriarch and allows enough light in so that the flowers can bloom. So that I can become the mother to my 2, that they need me to be. So I can be brave. So I can let it go. I am not my mother. I have time to be a brave mum to my 2 as they need me to be brave, to fight for them. To be their advocate. They chose me to be in their lives and I will get on these horses and I will pound down the walls and find those open doors.
I’m in my 50’s and I am aware it may be a generational thing as I hear it an awful lot from younger parents – and I appreciate that I may well be a bit of a ‘Dinosaur’, but never the less I can’t stop myself from wincing internally every time I hear a parent describe their child as ‘my best friend’ or vice versa.
I understand that it is often just terminology and not literal, but regardless for me there are such clear distinctions between being a parent and a friend that even casually blurring the lines feels wrong.
Personally I feel that getting on with your child, having a wonderfully close relationship, sharing certain interests, being able to open up and share your feelings with them and encourage them to share theirs with you is not friendship – it is just good parenting.
So it is somewhat ironic that I quite regularly hear my 8 year old son declare that my partner is ‘not my friend anymore ‘ when he is angry or upset with him.
It usually follows a reprimanding of said son and no doubt my partner having raised his voice – which our son always struggles to cope with as he immediately perceives it as a sign that the security he has with us is under threat.
He is comfortable using the word ‘love’ and he declares his love for us daily – as of course we do to him – and I know for sure that he sees us as his parents , yet I question if he truly feels it 100% and understands yet that it is forever.
And maybe that is where the idea of a ‘friendship’ with us comes from, I guess it’s easier for him to relate to the word ‘friend’ and to see his relationship with us as such – even though we have never suggested anything of the sort.
I think that even with the constant assurance of our love he is confused by our anger when it arises and he sees it as being decidedly ‘unfriendly’.
I’ll let it go – for now – and as he grows and settles more and more I will hope that it will slowly disappear. If not and he continues to see us as friends then I’ll accept that and even consider it to be an achievement under the circumstances. However, rest assured he will never hear me using it in return.
We Are Family started on the grass in a local park in the summer of 2013, about a year after our son had moved in.
It was borne of a strong need to be with other adopters and their children, and frankly also out of a sense of disbelieve that after such ongoing intense scrutiny of our private lives if not parts, the flurry of social workers and other officials just seemed to vanish soon after placement.
There was no two ways about it: A traumatised child, who had not asked for any of this, had been placed with us. A child with a complicated background and at least one other set of parents.
However happy we might have been, he was in shock. The early days was the time when I really needed a network, or just someone to talk to.
Instead I was stuck at home with a toddler who was also a stranger, and completely out of sync with parents of children the same age.
I was astounded that there wasn’t really much post-adoption support to be found.
Where was that village that was going to help me raise my son??
Actually my exact thoughts when the gap in the post-adoption provision dawned on me was ‘You’ve got to be kidding me… after all this you hand us a traumatised kid and then you disappear?!’
I am well aware that some people think that adoption is a happy ending of years of trauma… Forever families, love is all you need and all that jazz. Well, let me state this for the record and as a main reason for starting We Are Family:
Placement is just another beginning.
So after attending some training offered by our local adoption consortium and with the encouragement of other adopters, I just got started along with a few other kindred spirits. Building the village from scratch, every Friday afternoon in the local park. Sometimes no one came, but other times we were 25 parents with our children. And it grew from there.
A friend in Southwark who had adopted around the same time as us had started coffee mornings for local adopters in her area, borne out of the same need and disbelieve. A few months later another group was born in Richmond. We got together to support each other and started calling ourselves We Are Family or WAF for short. We all soon met more adopters who felt the same, and soon we were many parents doing something for WAF on a very regular basis.
Then, people from other parts of London started contacting us to hear if there was a group in their area, and if the answer was no and some of them decided to get going themselves with our support.
In other words there are only groups in areas where parents have been and are proactive. In the NLAC area alone there are currently two WAF groups: One for Hackney/Islington and one for Enfield.
At the time of writing this WAF now consists of ten groups, mainly in London, each with their own head and steering group of volunteers. We count over 700 families. We believe in meeting regularly and informally. Face-to-face. We carry a strong belief in the comfort of knowing that when you open your front door and step outside you are not alone. And you will have somewhere to turn when you need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to share a success story with or just to rant.
WAF is unashamedly parent-focussed. It is in essence about meeting others in the same boat, and we aim to do this as low key as possible. With a thermos and a muddy ball under your arm if that’s what it takes.
As we have grown it is interesting that so have the expectations of WAF. It may be timely to remind everyone and ourselves that we are ‘only’ parents or parents in waiting, who feel passionately about adoption support for all families. WAFers do what we can – in our spare time – on a shoestring. If you think our charity status has offered us a certain standing and corporate responsibility, please lower your expectations a tad to meet us at eye height. We are not councillors, we never give advice, we don’t mentor, and we don’t have any quick fixes for any of the hard stuff that happens to so many of us on a daily basis, but we are happy to share information and our own experiences.
We are very passionate about you adopters getting to know about the training and other useful stuff out there, especially if it is good, free or low cost. We are all grown ups, who can make judgements about who we want to hang with. WAF just provides opportunities. In practical terms that means that WAF offers parent groups, playgroups, family meet ups and other socials across London. Most of our groups met monthly, if not every other week, or in some cases weekly. These events are all run by our small fleet of volunteer adopters or prospective adopters, who we welcome from stage 2 onwards.
In the beginning many of us had younger children, and our events seemed to cater mostly for families with primary school-aged children. We now have an increasing number of kids in secondary school, and so there is now mounting pressure to host a group for parents of teenage kids.
Critical to WAF is a non-judgemental atmosphere as some of our parent groups often have their fair share of heavy stories.
Essentially it’s all about people who just ‘get it.’ People to whom there is no need to explain about trauma, loss and the other baggage that comes with adoption.
WAF has regular contact with all five London Consortia, some of them have even offered us some funding. We meet with their social workers to discuss the interface between our organisations (WAF is a social worker free zone).
Of course as well as WAF, I must point out that there are other peer and user-led adopters groups out there. In London, Adoption UK (AUK) runs groups too, and we are aware of several informal or social worker-led support groups across the capital. If you live outside the capital, your local authority may be able to help you. You can also find support online, through twitter or facebook, who may help you locating groups of adopters nearer you. And if you haven’t already, be sure to hook up with the wonderful Adoption Social, now hosted by The Open Nest. They too are aware of networks in various places.
Because we believe you really shouldn’t feel or be alone in this topsy turvy world of early trauma. There should be a group for you too.
For more information please take a good look around our beautiful new website designed by Here Design: And maybe consider sending us a blog, all written by adopters from this community.
Most of all, do get in touch in you are interested in joining us.
We’d love you to.
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