The Golden Child

golden childHe didn’t want to go again this morning. He didn’t want to get out of bed, or get dressed, or come downstairs. He just didn’t want to do it today. His chin dropped low, his brow furrowed and he looked up at me from beneath his beautiful long lashes. Those brilliant blue eyes, like deep pools of salty tears, pleaded with me not to send him.

After a little coercing and tiny bit of deal making,  I pulled the front door behind us both. Instead of propelling forward, towards the car, he sunk down and sat on the doorstep.

“Please” he said, “I don’t want to today.”

Some gentle persuasion and a couple of promises later we got to the car, we got in the car and we drove to school. There was no conversation. I racked my weary brain to find that elusive nugget of conversation which would stop him thinking about how much he didn’t want to go.

We parked, got out of the car and walked to the gate. He hid behind the wall instead of going through the gate. His teaching assistant happened to be there, on hand.

“Are you coming in?”

“NO”

Through gentle guidance and some bribery we arrived in the main reception of the school.

Those eyes now glistened, as the pools threatened to overflow.

“Probably best if you go now “I was advised.

“Bet I’ll be back again soon” I thought, as I reluctantly turned away.

Twenty past three and I was late for school pick up. I was running, sort of, when I noticed the text on my phone from school.

“Your son has achieved a gold award today”

As I rounded the corner he was there waiting, beaming from ear to ear. He clapped his hands together and bounced up and down, as I was informed of his achievements. He’d been invited back into the school reward scheme, previously too hard for him to deal with.  Traffic lights and golden awards, certificates and special treats. He can opt out again if it’s all too much.

I am a VERY PROUD mum and more importantly he is super, amazingly impressed with himself.

“I turned it around” he thrills, those eyes now gleaming with joy.

I’m sure many of you will realise that there is a hesitation, a cause to be cautious, a moment of let’s just wait and see, as I suppress the thought “this could all go horribly wrong”.

But for now he is basking in the glow of just how golden he is and I must admit I can feel the warmth too. I’m also quietly crossing everything, saying a little prayer, preparing to sell something, anything, in hope of a gold rush.

My Return to Blogging.

blog1I’ve decided to try very hard to make more time to write. Specifically write here, in this space, my beloved but much neglected blog. There are many reasons for my absence from this space but I’m not going to go into them, it’s all in the past and that’s where the past can stay. As Harper Lee writes, on the opening page of To Kill a Mockingbird “When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident”. Whilst nobody has been in an accident here, yet, many events have occurred. I too often feel unable to look into the shadows of the recent past and be caught up in their horrors.  For now we are living amongst those shadows every day, they lurk just over my shoulder, close but still behind me.  No I live by the mantra of many an adopter I know, today is a new day.

So on this new day I’m returning to my blog to write. I really hope that doesn’t have you all too over excited, because I’m not completely sure where we’re going yet. I know it’s so far been a good day, a productive day and if it goes to plan, which we know it often doesn’t, it has all the possibilities of a big thumbs up day.

As part of this day, I spent some time reading blogs from #WASO, it would be called an occupational hazard IF, The Adoption Social was, what my husband calls, “a real job”. Like supporting an online adoption community is some airy fairy thing I do with my life, my Tupperware party. Believe me Mr H there is nothing, unreal, made up, amid the lines of the blogs I read on our Weekly Adoption Shout Out. Just to reassure, I am still married to the silver-tongued Mr H and I’m working on him. Who knows one day he may surprise us all, join the fold and give us all the benefit of his wisdom in his very own blog post.

Whilst we wait for this miracle, I will instead refer to some blogs which I have been able to read. One has helped me to make a decision I needed to make, and another two have caused me to reflect on recent occurrences in our family.  Okay you could say that this is looking back over my shoulder but it’s the good bits, so I’m allowed.

Firstly lovely Mama Bear held a birthday celebration for her son’s birth mum. It sounded like such a positive and natural thing to do and hand on heart, I thought yes, I could do that. Then I realised I don’t even know when our birth mum’s birthday is and seen as though both boys are at that “don’t even mention her” stage, lead balloons sprung to mind. However, it also brought back to my conscience that I’ve not written a letterbox letter for maybe four years. Cringe. So that’s it, I’ve decided I’m going to do that this week. You are all my witnesses and please hold me accountable.

Next to reflections. Mr Coates wrote a post for “sibling day” and discussed one of the many adoption conundrums, should they or should they not be kept together. I wrote a post way back in the early life of this blog shouting about how wonderful my sibling group are, stop laughing at the back. Since those times I have questioned, all be it only momentarily, if my boys should have stayed together. I absolutely felt the pain of poor Pink Diamonds, with her post, also from last week’s #WASO, about how the constantly niggling of each other and forever trying to be your favourite one, can drive you to insanity. However, two moments from the past couple of days make me know my boys belong as one.

We set out for a walk on Sunday morning, it was cold and windy and Tink was not in the mood. We walked up into the woods, where many dens have been built and the boys ran through the trees, throwing pine cones at each other. At this point it was harmless fun. The game progressed, each boy found delight in cornering the other inside one of the dens, their target now a sitting duck oh and stones became missiles. I’m sure you can imagine it was soon a full scale war.

I was a  little surprised, when only half an hour later, Tink asked me for three pounds of his own money, to spend it in the National Trust shop. He’d seen something he wanted to buy for his brother. Yes it was genuinely a gift for Stig, not something Tink wanted, pretending it  was for his brother, then a change of heart at the last minute. He handed it over and his brother beamed “thanks Tink”.

The second moment occurred during biscuit making on Monday. I usually avoid, at all costs, cooking with both boys, but this was Stig’s activity and as I’d said he was in charge and could do it all, he invited his brother to join in.  They worked very well together, dividing the tasks and Stig even kindly gave his little brother the much coveted job of cracking the egg and beating it. My older boy delighted at how brilliantly his little brother carried out his duty, stating “wow you’ve done it much better than I ever do”.

It was I, yes mother, who came along and rocked the boat, by getting a little bit touchy with Tink for being messy.  Tink took umbrage and ran off down the hallway and into the cupboard under the stairs. It was all okay though because his big brother rescued him and the situation, by encouraging him to come and add his egg. “It’s a very important job” he said.

It’s so important to savour these moments and etch them onto your mind, to recall during other moments, not unlike the one I faced this morning. I hid in the kitchen whilst Tink raged and ranted “That idiot brother of mine has gone to school in one of my shoes and one of his own; I’m going to beat him around the head when I see him.”

Enough blogging for today but I shall return soon, it’s good to be back.

The Phoenix

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Recently I publicly humiliated myself. It was a rather unceremonious unravelling of my sanity. Wine fuelled, my very inappropriate behaviour was a climax to a couple of weeks of free falling into the depths. Unable to grasp at the sides, or cling onto a thread, I reached for the wine and hoped for the best.

Very far from being one of my finest moments.

But we have to count our blessings, see the positives and move forward.

I have put a stop to wine time, which hasn’t been that hard because I’ve now given myself permission to” not be coping”. I’ve stopped trying to be “fine”. I’m really not fine at the moment and that is ok.

In the desperate moments of regret and sadness, I’ve had this week, I’ve allowed the feelings of pain to flow and I’ve survived them.

I’ve survived because there have been others there to hold me, share the weight of my sorrow and nurse my fragility.

The blessings I’ve found are these people. From the ashes of this wreck, a light has grown in me. I have felt the warmth and love of my family and true friends.

Together they have revived my spirit, lifted my chin, nudged a smile and eventually made me laugh. They have made me realise the importance and the lack of importance of my folly.

So where as last Friday, the day of my doom, I was wading through a quagmire of loneliness and despair but pretending I was floating on air. This Friday I sit still, here in the moment, experiencing my being. What I feel is loved and blessed.

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