Four Days and Counting.

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Things can slip so very easily, as I have recently discovered. One day you are strutting down the street, wondering how on earth you got yourself in such a fuss about one thing and another and then the  next, you’ve not washed your hair for four days and your eyes are red raw from crying, about one thing and another.

How does that happen?  How do we slip from taking it all in our stride to feeling like the sky is going to fall down? For me, this time, it went a little like this.

So we’re walking down the street with a spring in our step, my son is in school, ok not full time, but he’s going, he’s coping with what he’s being asked to achieve and within the time he’s there, he’s hitting his “targets”.

Ok now, my son is in school full time, he’s not coping, he’s not achieving what he’s being asked to achieve, he’s not meeting his targets and life for him must feel like a long string of failures, with a massive helping of stress.

As soon as the expectations are taken to a greater level, he is deregulated and unable to cope with the pressure which is being placed upon him.

This in turn brings a ramped up level of controlling behaviour at home, unable to affect change on his school life, he turns his attention to his home environment. He won’t go to bed, brush his teeth, take a bath, eat breakfast, brush his hair, go on family outings and the list goes on.

The boy is confrontational, argumentative and unhappy about a lot of things.

Cue parents under a greater amount of pressure and parenting differences between mum and dad become more exaggerated.

Boy and dad argue, boy has been rude to dad, dad is unhappy and boy uses unkind, hurtful language to push dad further away.

Dad is maddened by the increase in abusive language and behaviour.

Mum is anxious to make it stop, she steps in.

Dad does not like mum to step in. He wants to be able to sort things out himself. Mum should leave him to it.

Mum is worried for both dad and child.

Dad is now cross with mum for stepping in and being too soft on boy.

Older child, boy number two, is looking in from the outside, seeing people becoming tense. He’s thinking it must be his fault, it’s always his fault. He needs mum.

Mum is not always available because mum is either with his brother or sad because of it all.

Cue more increased anxiety, this time from older child, boy number two.

Boy number two also becomes a little more difficult around bedtime and other requests by parents. Agitation is a known method of producing attention.  He begins to sulk and look at mum with a sad face. He reaches out for a hug every time he sees her.

Mum is starting to feel drained, from trying to support everyone and keep the peace. The sight of boy number two sulking and asking for hugs is driving her potty. His neediness and her lack of desire to meet his needs, start to compound the feelings that she is not doing a good job.

Mum cries again. Dad knows she’s crying, boy knows she’s crying and boy two knows she’s crying.

Dad is frightened by mum crying, boy is frightened by mum crying and boy two is frightened by mum crying.

Dad tries to make it better but he’s not always sure how.

Dad really wants to fix this, he feels frustrated and tense because he can’t.

“I’m alright she says”

“Phew” says dad, boy and boy two.

This same dance takes place a number of times over one weekend.

Monday comes and boy does not want to go to school. Boy two however goes off happily, relieved to be escaping the madness.

Boy really doesn’t want to go.

“I don’t want to go” he says

“I don’t want to go” he says

“I don’t want to go” he says.

“I know” says mum.

He goes but his face is so, so sad.

Mum cries again, she feels like the worst mum in the world.

Mum doesn’t wash her hair for four days and counting……

 

#TakingCare100 – A Fresh Start

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It’s a little late in January to being doing the New Year’s resolution post and to be honest I’ve been bitten on the bum by those before. Being keen to start afresh on the first of a new year, I have blogged about all my best intentions for the whole year, only to be totally off track within days. So that is not what this is.

I’ve been joining in with the #TakingCare100, a photo challenge started by some members of the online adoption community. Every day, for a hundred days we take a snapshot of the little or big things we are doing to take care of ourselves. So what this has made me do is ensure that I at least do one thing a day which feels like I’m treating myself with consideration or giving myself a little treat.

So far this has included, eating a healthy breakfast, going to the gym, drinking my tea from beautiful china, eating cake and running myself a deep, relaxing bath. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done some of these things previously; however it has changed my appreciations of those moments. I’ve celebrated those small things in my life that give me pleasure and I’ve tried to be present in the moments which are for me. Really it’s all part of mindfulness, which is something I’ve been trying to prescribe to increasingly and this project is just giving me a daily nudge in the right direction.

So this fresh start is more about affecting change for the long term, creating happiness in the every day. The aim is that even on the days when everything seems dark and hopeless; my mind will look for that one little ray of sunshine which will light my way back to a more contented and grateful view of my life.

I’ve linked my posts through my instagram account which you can find here.

And why not take a look at some of the other #takingcare100 pictures here.

The First One Hundred Kisses

100 kissesI don’t remember all the first one hundred kisses we shared with our children but, there definitely were a first one hundred kisses and there have been hundreds more since. Those kisses brought intimacy to our relationship and have always been a huge expression of our love, gratitude, happiness, sadness, anguish and togetherness. Sharing a kiss with someone you love is a sealed moment of understanding, for both parties. Your lips touch, or their lips may touch you, your lips touch them or maybe lips don’t touch at all, but there is the understanding that a kiss exists between you.

On first meeting my children, I longed for that moment when I could first kiss them. It seemed so wrong to hold back, not brush my lips against their soft skin. It took great strength, on my behalf, to not overwhelm these damaged little parcels with my zealous need to show them love. Tactility is a badge I wear proudly. However we devised ways of introducing this explicate act of affection  without over stepping the rules of engagement.

The first was stolen; there is no doubt about it. A small child over confident enough and misguided enough, to move that close to an unknown adult, that physically close to you. You can’t resist gently and sweetly pursing your lips and tentatively disobey the rules. It’s a nuzzle of their hair, or a moment stood above or behind, when you lean in closer, stealing the moment for yourself.

How to introduce the idea of a kiss to a traumatised child?

In our house it started with what we call “little kisses”.

“Don’t try and kiss them” said the social worker “Not straight away”

But kissing is a big part of how we show we love.

So after a bath we came up with “little kisses”.

Stig loved these from the onset. Tink showed the indifference, or false smile, we now know as his armour.

After a bath, whilst wrapped in a towel, we started at the hand with the lightest and smallest of lips against skin. Again the tiniest touch of lips against skin. Hesitations as you wait, to see the response. No tensing, no pulling away, in again. Kiss, kiss. Kiss: the lightless of kisses.  Up the arm, slowly but surely. Not on the face.

Eventually when you do little kisses there is laughter and smiles. Result.

Then we would throw kisses, blown kisses from a distance, the challenge would be “Can you catch this?”

If you did happen to catch it, you could place it where you wanted it. Tentative steps and so much restrained and heartfelt love in those exchanges.

Mr H remembers the day, in the first six months; it was whilst we walked in our local park. This was something we did regularly, hand in hand, on our way to feed the ducks. He walked with Tink.

“Whilst we were holding hands he turned and kissed my hand”

You wouldn’t dare question it, he would only deny it, but wow, those moments from Tink told you the world.

When he started nursery, there was a little girl with many physical and mental difficulties. She couldn’t speak and was in a wheel chair. Tink used to hold her hand, a lot. One day he was witnessed gently moving his lips to that hand and bestowing a kiss. I have no doubt that it was a heartfelt kiss, maybe his first from a place of no concern. He knew she would expect little beyond that moment.

Stig and I moved on from little kisses and throwing kisses, we touched tongues. The idea seems so unpleasant now but, we had eye contact and giggles as we aimed the pointy ends of our tongues together.

I know those first one hundred kisses, however they occurred, laid the foundations for the thousands we have shared since. Now Stig leans into my face and looks into my eyes wanting my kiss, an affirmation of my love for him. My lips are prickled against the early signs of his adolescence.

Tink will move his head into my armpit as we snuggle on the sofa. In the adverts for the Simpsons he will turn towards me, raise his warm palm to my cheek and then draw my face to his pink, bow shaped’ lips.

They now want my kisses and those first one hundred kisses brought us to this point.

 

Dear Mr Timpson

Dear Mr Timpson,

I really don’t want to seem ungrateful, I know they often say it is the thought that counts and for the small thought you gave me, thank you. However, in my case and in the case of many adopters, your thought is not enough, not by a long stretch of the imagination.

Yes I understand that measures are being taken with the impending adoption support fund and I’m also sure schools are very grateful for the pupils premium plus. However, I have many concerns and desires which are not being answered and I wish to details them here.

My first concern is regarding PP+, how are you ensuring these funds are allocated appropriately?

My own experiences has been as follows:-

My youngest son was fortunate enough to be allocated a key worker from his funding, employed especially to support his particular needs. This was beneficial to his time in school, in which he very much struggles and with this support he was a much calmer little boy, on most days. This support has now been removed and he no longer has a dedicated support worker because the funds only lasted one term. His introduction in to year six has therefore been extremely rocky with his behaviour almost resorting in a permanent exclusion and he is now only in his mainstream school for one hour a day. To me the allocation of these funds were therefore mismanaged by the school.

For my other son, in Key stage 3, at a school which already has additional resources for special needs children, I’ve been told that the money goes “into the pot” of all funds allocated to children with special needs and my child is accessing  this support. However I know that he would still have been able to access these funds without PP+ and feel the allocation should be made to specifically benefit his needs.

I feel that it should be a mandatory condition of the funds that parents are consulted as to how best allocate the fund and best support their child’s education. It is a sad but true fact that most parents have a better understanding of how their children should be supported in education and I feel that the educators should be made to listen.

Whilst we are talking education I think it should also be compulsory that all teachers receive some basic training in attachment and also the therapeutic approach of supporting children. Often simple adjustments to how a child is approached, spoken to, the choice of words and body language, can make an enormous difference to our children. I also have no doubt that this understanding would be far reaching, supporting not just adopted children but also other vulnerable children in schools.

So what else would I really like?

I would like a dedicated well trained social worker. NOT a social worker,

Who sits on my sofa and tells me about how their own parenting style is not affective with their own children.

Who refers me to departments where the personnel have no understanding of developmental trauma.

Who tells me “that my children are the worst behaved children they’ve ever met and that the other children they have worked with live in far worse circumstances than mine”

Who sits on my sofa, pointing their waggling finger at me and telling me “you spend too much time talking to them about adoption, they’ve been with you seven years and they are yours now”

Who thinks that bringing a sticker chart with the morning routine on will make sure my nine year old dresses himself each morning because the fact that I still help him is “unacceptable”.

When I tell them I am worried about the increasing violence my ten your old is showing towards me and level of destructive behaviour in our home (broken furniture and holes in walls) reply with “Does he have a grandfather that could take him fishing?”

And say “it sounds like you and your husband need a holiday, could you get away for three days”

I could tell you of many other inappropriate and even damaging things that have been said to myself and my family but the under lying implication is that we feel completely unsupported, unimportant and very much to blame for the challenging situations we find ourselves in.

Whilst the mental health of my children is of utmost importance to me, my own health is very much compromised. Through extremely difficult times, my husband and I have both found ourselves suffering from depression and have had to fund, privately, the treatment which is leading to our recovery. I know we are far from alone, many other parents, under the strain of the daily challenges adoption brings, find there is a major impact on their own health.

What would have made the difference?

For me, a trained, dedicated Social Worker :-

Who knows about Trauma-related behaviour.

Who has attended training to support their understanding of children struggling with early life trauma and continues to train and update their understanding.

Who knows that you are trying your very best to support your children and will listen emphatically and sympathetically and who will give knowledgeable and astute feedback.

Who knows your family and is able to offer a shoulder to lean on in tough times and will help you feel less alone in the world.

Who knows what suitable and applicable resources are available, even if they sometimes require us finding funds to access them.

Who is prepared to fight for funding so your family can access specialist support, when needed.

Someone who will advocate on the behalf of you and your child, in school meetings and with other institutions.

Someone whose direct phone number you can have, so that you don’t feel you are constantly leaving messages with a voice at the end of the phone who doesn’t know you.

Someone who works more than two days a week.

Finally what I want is access to respite care, where those providing it full understand and know your children’s needs and are supportive in the fact, that as parents we work so very hard that we deserve a break.

I feel that whilst it would be easy to ridicule your letter as patronising and even insensitive (sent during National Adoption week which, focuses purely on recruiting new adopters into an already ailing and decrepit adoption support system and also chooses to ignore the opportunity to celebrate the hard work of existing adopters), I have instead decided to make realistic and considered requests for support. These requests will not solve all problems; many families do need to access extensive specialist care right now. However, I feel that offering simple support of the kind I’ve detailed would prevent some families reaching a point of breakdown and minimise the struggle so extensively experienced by so many families, on a day to day bases.

It would help adopters feel valued by the very institution we save millions of pounds for each year, by taking these children into our hearts and homes. These changes would represent a government that’s sees that the adoptive parents are often the very best support for these children. See that we develop the important, meaningful relationships with our children, previously missing and distorted by neglect and abuse and we are therefore the governments most valuable asset in adoption. An asset that needs to be cared for, supported and made to feel appreciated, respected and understood.

Finally, I understand that you have experienced adoption on a first hand bases, within your own family. I ask therefore that you truly consider what could have helped your family, think about the effect not having this support made on your family and how damaging that has been for the individuals concerned. Then I ask you to prioritise the change that is required to ensure all our children can for fulfil a future they justly deserve.

Yours Faithfully

Sarah H.

Adopter

Co-Founder of The Adoption Social

Trustee for The Open Nest

 

The Open Nest Conference – #TakingCare

takingcareI’m probably the last to write a review on The Open Nest Conference, #TakingCare and it’s a little appalling as a trustee for the charity. However, besides all the not so great stuff going on for us at the moment around school, I’ve needed this time to reflect, absorb and process exactly what happened in The Royal York Hotel on October 18th .

I was nervous, not only because I was speaking and right at the end of the day too, but because this was a slight leap into the unknown. Although a fairly intermit and small event, it felt like this conference would be the platform by which the charity launched its intentions to the world of adoption. Amanda Boorman (founder of The Open Nest) had a very clear vision for the day, it was to be informative and real, raw content that would make those there, feel included and understood. However, it was also to feel like a day away from home, you were to feel as if The Open Nest were Taking Care of you.

Stepping into the beautiful oak panelled room, in which we were to spend the day, with the beautiful table settings and the striking striped “goody bags”, I immediately felt we were somewhere special, I felt special. I know these may be considered small niceties compared to the content of the day but this attention to detail is what immediately set this conference apart from any other I’ve attended.

The opening film, Severance, detailing Amanda and her daughter Jazz’s adoption journey, shown through extensive home video footage and a candid interview, delivered a less subtle message of intent. This uncensored, no holds barred representation of two peoples adoption story was a sympathetic hand, reaching out to all those struggling within their own story.  The film claimed everyone in that room, in some way, parents, prospective parents, adoptees and workers, everyone could relate to some aspect of what they saw.

As the day unfolded we all travelled to some of the darkest corners of our lives and were shown the power there is in sharing them. Al Coates did this magnificently through humour, crafted to show us that we all have misgivings in the most challenging of times.

Fran Proctor, through bravely sharing her own story, showed us the courage our own children reveal each day, in facing their own trauma. This for me had the greatest impact of the day.

I felt empowered by all the practical, sensible and well thought out advice that Sally Donovan delivered. Clear messages on how to take care of yourself,  I was especially keen on the” no need to do housework” point but  may have been taking care of myself in this way all my adult life. The notes on how to advocate for your child in school were again enormously helpful and I will be making use of them very soon. It crossed my mind that social workers could take a leaf out of Sally’s book, in times of budget cuts, encouraging adopters to take care and relaying how best to support your child doesn’t cost anything and is far more useful than playing the blame game.

Marie Louise from We are Family, delivered an inspirational model on running an adoption support group, the important factor seeming to be they were “groups for adopters run by adopters”. Again I wonder if LA’s could look at supporting this initiative, especially if their own groups, if they have them at all, are not well attended.

Finally, Vicki and I talked about how we had discovered the use of social media as a support tool and what we aimed to achieve for the online community through The Adoption Social. Phew, I was relieved once that was done.

Apart from all the incredible content the day provided there was the meeting of other real life people, people we often spill with and tell all sorts to, via our blogs and twitter. There is, to me, no doubt that the bringing together of people, was more than just the icing on the cake. Knowing when you meet someone you don’t have to explain the whys and hows of what’s going on in your life, that there is acceptance. For me living and breathing that acceptance and empathy for and with other human beings is the core of what the conference gave me.  In making those meaningful connections we truly learn how to Take Care.

I had a real desire, when walking back to my hotel room, to lie down in a dark space for a long time to just take in the enormity of the day. I felt overwhelmed by the sense of momentum the day had gathered, the empowering sense that our voice not only matters, but that it will also be heard.

Instead I donned a posh frock, reapplied my lippy and headed into the night to let my hair down with my new found friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Making Little Monsters

little MonstersIn the spirit of The adoption Social #SummerSandpit, I introduced Tink to Pinterest this week. I’ve made him his own little board which can see here. I was determined after his refusal to do leaf painting last week that I was going to get him involved this time. He delighted at all the marvelous projects that came up when we searched “children’s sewing projects”. When the little felt monsters appeared things were settled, that would be our project.

You will find the original post for making these little monsters on MollyMoo Crafts. We have slightly altered ours and not yet got around to making the beds.

I cut the felt shapes for the bodies and the boys did near enough everything else. I am very proud that they are both very capable in their sewing ability, especial as fine motor skills have at times been a problem for them. As we sat on the sofa, with both of them sewing and myself crocheting, there was an air of peace. Both have said that they find sewing very relaxing which makes a sewing, crafting mum very happy to hear.

Today I took the little monsters out in the garden for a photoshoot. The blue one is called Bob, the other remains nameless at present. We had a lovely time in the sun, I think they quite enjoyed the attention.

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A Changing Face

changing faceHe’s changing. His face has always seemed a little bit alien to me, angled in a way that no other person I’m related to angles. Tink, his lines are soft ,a little round and whilst the image is not born of our family, it has always felt comfortable. Stig has an edge to his bone structure. I marvel at his face often, the beauty, the distinction, the steely strength of his face, the defiance it is capable of holding.

Recently I see it changing, the weight of a young child with trauma is being replaced with an adolescent wired by his trauma. A man, in his earliest form, is emerging from the face I behold. A faint whisper of hair, a definition of jaw and a deepening sense of defiance. Those eyes could lose me forever in a world where I drive myself crazy trying to determine their voice.

He’s struggling with his sense of belonging; the early signs of adolescence bring a mind filled with the questions,

“Who am I?”

“Where do I belong?”

And yet there is a maturity which shows a greater awareness of self, beginning to understand the role he plays in his own life. Making choices to his benefit and not always challenging or reacting to the impulses which are so hard to regulate.

Yet some impulses are wild and yet untamed, the desires of a boy beginning puberty has brought a want to explore the world of sex on the internet. Inappropriate and shocking he seems to be unable to keep himself safe if the opportunity arises.

Every electronic device is now on lock down, pin or password protected and in a safe locked place at night. He seems calmer knowing these firm boundaries are in place and he can sleep without wondering if there is the slightest possibility.

His changing face stirs anxieties within me, worries about how he is processing his history and understanding of his place in his new family. I can only keep giving him the love I have for him and guide him where he will allow me to.

I no longer kid myself that the future is going to be easy and some day this will all be over, however I am starting to feel increasingly able to cope with this future. The hopelessness is dispersing.

As I drink in this boys changing face I am also filled with many hopes for his future, he has the capacity to overcome the challenges that lie ahead, especially with me by his side.

Leaf Painting

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I love a bit of crafting but I really haven’t been channeling my inner creative crafter recently. Now I know this weeks Summer Sandpit theme is “nature” but I thought I could sort of combine the two. I also wanted to do something that I could entice the outdoors and nature resistant Tink into participating in. He loves to paint, I thought, so why don’t we paint nature, simple as that I came up with the idea of leaf painting. Strangely though, no matter how hard I tried, he still wouldn’t join in, so I had all the fun. Happily, Stig has said (now he’s back from camp) that he would love to leaf paint with me, bless him. So here goes, it’s really not difficult but I’ll give you a few hints.

Material

Large Leaves

Acrylic Paint ( I buy the cheap ones from The Works)

Paint Brushes

Method

Find some large leaves in your garden, those that seem sturdier and less floppy are best

Paint them with lovely patterns.

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As you see we turn ours into bunting for our outside seating area, by threading them onto a length of wool using a tapestry needle.

Other Ideas for painted leaves

A picture

A headdress

A mobile

Let me know if you have any other suggestions of things we could do with these decorative items.

I’ve linked this post with #SummerSandpit

The Adoption Social

 

 

An Oasis – #Memorybox

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The last week or two have stretched liked a desert of glum, uninspiring defeatism . I’ve felt very annoyed at my return to a less than upwardly positive state but then all things considered it’s not really a surprise.

First ,a less than good week for Tink at school, he struggled to settle after the internal exclusion and my worries for his future years in education have been plaguing my thoughts, again.

Then there was the late night, no scrap that, all night Kindle playing from Stig, made all more catastrophic with a quick history check. Porn, yes porn, it nearly had my eyes out ,but realistically I was left feeling bereft for my sons innocence and racked with guilt that I had not protected him from these images. For about 24 hours I truly felt heart broken.

And then Mr H, struggling through work and home life with the weight of a dark, conspiring, unkind world on his shoulders. The depth of his despair has also been heart breaking and we’ve (family) had to take action. Hopefully we are about to start making things better for him, he so deserves a happier heart.

So really it’s not a surprise my head has been finding it hard to hold on to the optimism which had blossomed.  However in this relentless desert I found an oasis, a little corner of creativity that reminded me of me. It  was the wonder which is Well Dressing. I wont tell you lots about it, I’ve done that before, however, I will say that it saved me last week. Amongst friends, creating beautiful designs depicting the life and works of Shakespeare (this years theme) from petals, leaves and all sorts of natural paraphernalia. I loved  every moment it, and this year I brought along my mum, and she loved it too. So enjoy the finished works of our great community.

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I’ve linked this post to #Memorybox

Memory Box

 

Im a Trustee for The Open Nest.

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I’ve hinted about it a bit, talked a little about it at times, I Instagramed a picture from our first trustee meeting but I’ve not formally said it. So here is the announcement, I am very proud to be a Trustee for The Open Nest Charity.

This charity aims to provide post adoption support for families in crisis, through a number of different channels, which are currently under development. At the core of what the charity aims to do is  provide respite care for families.This will take place in a beautiful rural setting with lots of activities and support provided by specialist, trained staff.

Whilst the Charity is awaiting Ofsted approval ,Amanda Booreman, the founder, is in discussion with a LA to devise a feasible and workable plan of action that will enable those families that really need access to their facilities to be identified and provided for.

The Open Nest is very supportive of the work Vicki from The Boys Behaviour and myself do on The Adoption Social. They understand that a community that “gets it”  is the foundations of a good support network.

So together with The Open Nest we are delivering our first conference on Saturday the 18th of October, in York. A user led conference with inspirational speakers and opportunity for discussion , oh and a social event organised by The Adoption Social, it’s all in the name. The tickets are at a subsidised cost at £25, making it accessible to more people. I will let you know when there are more details. If you are interested in attending then contact me and I’ll ensure you get the information.

The Open Nest has also commissioned this short but powerful film to help others understand how a lack of support can feel. The content of the film was collated from the twitter community and other adopters and adoptees. Please take a short moment to watch it.

The Open Nest. The Lost Children Of Trauma. from marry waterson on Vimeo.