An Evening Tale

Our tale this evening is but a series of happenings.

We walked home from school, which was, he tells me, great. There were lots of smiles. His favourite bit of learning was maths. We remained hand in gentle hand all the way.

I ate my dinner sitting on the landing simultaeneously holding onto the door to a Little Man’s room to avoid either of us being hurt.

I learned exactly how wide a range of words can be created with the word “head” at the end when you’re trying to be insulting or rude (and don’t yet have a full grasp of how to truly offend). I still think – as I commented on Twitter earlier – that Willyhead was the most creative individually, but it was perhaps the hidden poetry in the repetitious flow that was best of all.

For the second time the LM attended a new after school tennis club today. For the second time he appeared to have a great time. For the second time we didn’t even manage to get away from the site without him running off, banging his racket on the floor/wall, avoiding coming when called etc.

For the first time for several days our together time just before sleep was genuinely mutually warm, loving, comforting.

After some probing the LM stated that the pre-dinner troubles we’ve had for a good few days are all because he doesn’t like the taste of his toothpaste (brushing teeth and putting on pyjamas usually happen before dinner here).

Even though we’re nearing the end of his current bedtime book, and he is really enjoying it, the LM opted to do his homework which is due tomorrow instead. I think he did it ok too. When he then asked for his bedtime book and I reminded him we were really quite late and so there wasn’t time and we’d already agreed this evening’s choice … he settled down almost fuss-free.

I wasn’t very patient and raised my voice when being ignored finally wore me down.

I managed to seize whirling legs aimed at kicking me or forcing me away, and turned it into giggly time with a laughing, shaking countdown.

I remembered how hard I find it when half an hour or so of meltdown eventually cumulates in a cuddle being shared, a boy rocked, and a nursery rhyme sung … but then within moments I’m grabbing hands to circumvent being hit again.

I was super patient and succeeded in doing a few chores while calmly letting rage have its platform.

Apparently I was this evening a weehead person who he is going to hit in the face with a very hard thing that will really hurt.

I was also, I was told, a great person who is awesome and cute and cuddly.

Our tale this evening is but a series of feelings.

 

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Understanding your productivity & motivation: A self-assessment questionnaire for prospective adopters

One is encouraged, as a prospective adopter, to carry out much research. Understand your relationship/fertility history, revisit your own traumas, talk through your childhood – yep, absolutely. Get lots of experience with children – indeed. Attachment disorders, ASD, developmental trauma – crikey, definitely better read up on all of those. Consider finances, health & safety, space in the home – ok, done that.

And so the list goes on.

What they don’t tell you is that really, there are a few other things you should be considering. So here’s a short self-assessment questionnaire to help you with just one aspect of your evaluative and developmental journey.

Understanding your productivity & motivation: A self-assessment questionnaire for prospective adopters


PART ONE: ASSESSMENT

(A) When you have an evening when you aren’t actually totally knackered, you theoretically have had an ok few days, and you should therefore have some resilience finally, do you:

  1. Sensibly evaluate what really needs to be done, race through essential chores, go to bed as you realise it is likely that you will be joined by a rather sleepless co-sleeper and overall even if you feel ok right now underneath you definitely need sleep more than anything or …
  2. faff around, achieve nothing, procrastinate on social media, wander around the house a bit but mostly sit idly on the stairs on your phone, snack on and off on a range of random not particularly inviting but just sitting there foodstuffs, and spend a bit – well ok a lot -more time on social media when mostly in fact you just refresh rather than even interacting with anybody, all before probably going to bed rather later than is wise?

(B) If your child has gone to sleep early, because you started bedtime straight after dinner and despite protests and tears it still worked (pudding having been forfeited for eating biscuits while dinner being cooked) do you:

  1. use the time thus gained to tidy up the mess around the place quickly and remake your bed so at least that necessary task is done, and then you can have a nice evening just for you where you feel you’ve had some good restorative self-care time or …
  2. faff around, achieve nothing, procrastinate on social media, wander around the house a bit but mostly sit idly on the stairs on your phone, snack on and off on a range of random not particularly inviting but just sitting there foodstuffs, and spend a bit – well ok a lot -more time on social media when mostly in fact you just refresh rather than even interacting with anybody, all before probably going to bed rather later than is wise?

(C) When you realise that earlier in the day your answer to “what are your plans for the weekend” was “we don’t have any really” do you:

  1. recollect all the advice re close supervision, structure, planning, back-up ideas and balanced activities and interactions, and sit down and put together a more ambitious (but still calmly structured and balanced) programme, with a slightly less ambitious (with more downtime and sensory focus) agenda to refer to as necessary, with a fallout backup plan complete with a range of instantly prepped low-demand activities (including options that enable high physical release, options that are sofa-based, options that build in effective food and water intake with the least likelihood of control battles) or …
  2. faff around, achieve nothing, procrastinate on social media, wander around the house a bit but mostly sit idly on the stairs on your phone, snack on and off on a range of random not particularly inviting but just sitting there foodstuffs, and spend a bit – well ok a lot -more time on social media when mostly in fact you just refresh rather than even interacting with anybody, all before probably going to bed rather later than is wise?

 

PART TWO: EVALUATION

Note both your answers and how strongly you felt they were true to you.

Should you have all (1) answers, and you are slightly baffled (albeit in a very nice, earnest, attempting to understand everyone because yes we’re all different, so of course it takes all sorts, kind of way) why anyone would ever have any (2) answers then:

YES YOU ARE NOW APPROVED TO ADOPT. Good luck, you will be required to access internal resources and resilience and strengths you have never previously been aware you have, but you will also find rewards and beauty and love and depths of intersubjective relationship (sorry? you haven’t yet attended a full therapeutic parenting course and aren’t sure what means? Well no worries, given your general brilliance you’ll probably have written the book on the subject before you have a child living with you …) at a level you have never previously encountered.
Should you have plumped for (1) answers but had to admit to that (2) answers had a sneaky attraction although you yourself would never of course be able to live in such a way then:

YOU ARE WELL ON YOUR WAY TO BEING APPROVED TO ADOPT. Good luck. The road is hard and long but you will make it and you will look back at this moment and you may even find you have a wry grin and realise why actually it wasn’t ever in your assessment after all.

If you aren’t quite sure that you’ve ever had an evening in your relatively sane, normal life to date, when you could honestly have even given a nod towards anything related to an (a) answer but hey (b) sounds like this adoption malarkey will be just the life for me then: 

YOU ARE CLEARLY NOT A GENUINE PROSPECTIVE ADOPTER. You should now go and write a pointless blog post rather than doing anything that might in any way be useful, helpful or indeed take you in the direction of that sleep you identified as a key priority several hours ago.

PART THREE: NEXT STEPS

If you are still reading you probably EITHER:

  • have a child who is only just showing signs of finally giving up the battle and going to sleep and you are too tired to be discriminatory about what you are reading and somehow you started this so you’re just reading on regardless, with most of your brain listening in the vain hope you’ll hear genuine sleeping noises rather than footsteps / chat / throwing noises …  in which case <<< GROUP HUG >>>  …
  • OR you are a number 2 person and this just happens to be the latest in your long evening of pointless prevaricatory options … in which case <<< GO TO BED >>> …
  • OR you are reading on as you are slightly awed as to how long this waffle can continue and that other people’s lives are clearly so amazingly weird they not only apparently read but even worse *write* this stuff … in which case <<< YOU WILL BE GRATEFUL TO KNOW THIS IS VERY NEARLY THE END … >>>


PART FOUR: FINAL WORDS

Congratulations! You have finally, gentle questionnaire completer, reached the end of your evening’s assessment. I am delighted to confirm you have demonstrated fully your capacity to deal with the bewildering, the disconcerting and the often downright silly. This demonstrates, whatever your answers above, that in fact you probably undertook this quiz under false pretences as you are not really a prospective adopter at all but are probably someone already spending most of your life in that alternative universe entered by so many who embark on adoptive parenting.

I hope at least it made you smile🙂

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Becoming the Little Man – and (just about) nodding us onwards

One of the many reasons for the my long blogging interlude (in addition to the obvious, honest reason that laziness begets laziness) has been the inevitable questions that float around in my head concerned with what I might share, what I should share, how much, how little, what is my story and what is not.

Anyone reading this who writes about their personal life and has children – or indeed other family or friends – will have grappled with this. However, as many of you will know, adoption brings layer upon layer of additional complexity to this question.

So today I tried an alternative approach. Let’s stop trying to work out the impossible and ask directly, whether he thinks blogging is ok. Unsurprisingly this was a bit of a strange conversation. (I summarise.)

——

“Blogging? Blogging is like writing a diary or writing at school about what I think, or about what we’ve been doing, or what I’m worrying about. You know you’ve seen Twitter, well blogging is another thing I like to do.

I get a look.

“It means that people can read about us. Maybe. I write about things that might be interesting about where we go, what we do, what happens. And about adoption in general. And other things too.”

I get another look.

I try another angle.

“I’ve also been wondering, if you don’t mind me writing about us and what we do, what you’d prefer to be called?”

Aha! The look of disdain. Clearly that is the most obvious question ever. I guess it indeed is when you’re 5 and have no idea really what you’re being asked about and why.

<<Name>>

“Well I’d rather not use your name. You know one of my jobs as a Mummy is to keep you safe. Well I don’t really want to use your name. Just like we talked about your name shouldn’t be in the newsletter at school.”

Doubtful look. He has never been that keen on what I suspect he sees as a strange not fair weird thing that stops him being able to point to his moment of pride recorded for all to see when he comes home clutching the class award for the week.

<<Name>>

Well this is going well. I plough on.

“I thought maybe “my boy” or “Little Man”. Or we could choose a new name for you, you could choose one? I’ve used “Little Man” on Twitter before”.

Eyes brighten. Big smile.

“Little Man. Yes”.

Hoorah! Well that definitely gained the seal of approval.

The now-named Little Man clambers down. Turns away. Comes back.

“So do you think it’s ok if I do blogging then, tell people about what we’re doing?”

Nod. “Yes, Mummy. I think blogging.”

Earnest look. Ah, we’re moving on.”I think my batman T-shirt today.”

“Well no, lovely, you wore that yesterday and I haven’t done any washing yet have I?”

The moment has clearly passed. I think, just about, we’re ok for now?

—–

A few hours later:

“Hey, listen, this is the kind of thing I sometimes put on Twitter. Listen:

We did a proper Autumn walk – canal, fields, farm animals, acorns, mud, wellies. And only one small “moment” 5 minutes from home. Success🙂

What do you think then? Does that sound ok?”

The look I receive back is a gem, with all the gentle patronage a 5yo can manage, communicating effortlessly “you interrupt my colouring to ask me that?”.

I grin and wander off, feeling duly put in my place.

A voice floats after me. “Yes, you can Twitter that on Facebook.”

I smile to myself.

I think we are ok for now.

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Thinking about … National Adoption Week

So I’m going to try and blog on National Adoption Week. This might be quite hard as my thoughts are anything but resolved. But I shall try nonetheless. Thank you for bearing with me.

From where I’m sitting it’s been pretty hard to avoid. I’m sure it has passed by many in the big wide world entirely. But for those of who tweet and blog and talk adoption matters most days … there’s been no avoiding it.

It’s a really hard one though.

For clearly there will be people who do notice, who are drawn in, who for the first or crucial time consider whether they too could adopt.

I believe every child should have the best possible opportunity for them, and I truly believe that for some children adoption is that very best option. Security, permanence, safety, dedication, commitment, happiness, family, growth: these are watchwords shared by many adoptive families everywhere … albeit they are very often mixed up with the demanding siren calls of trauma, attachment issues, life story challenges, distress, sadness, pain and the sheer endless tiredness of parenting hurting children.

I can see the attraction in the many pictures currently doing the rounds of two (usually attractive) adults walking with a (beautiful, young) child holding both their hands, kicking autumn leaves, all evidently happy and without a worry in the world. All of us who now treasure our children so dearly were once brought into the world of adoption through some kind of trigger – and it may well be that this is exactly the moment when some future families think “well maybe” for the first time; for others a week of spotting picture upon picture in social media and in the press, and this week perhaps having seen one of the many images being projected onto buildings, will be the spark that moves them from “I know we’ve thought for a long time about …” to “what about now?”.

Adoption in the UK remains a key option for children who will thrive most with the permanence and commitment of a new family. This will always mean there will be a need to draw in new potential adopters.

I understand the need. I applaud the commitment to meeting that need.

But at the same time I find myself wondering. Adoption is often hard, often difficult. Some children could never be represented in any of those photos because they refuse to hold, in the required carefree manner, a parental hand. Others do indeed enjoy the outdoors, low key things like tree-climbing and kicking leaves being ideal – but find it almost impossible to cope with many of the other scenes that make up the idealised theatres of family life (such as meeting Father Christmas or attending family Eid gatherings) of which many of us dream.

Adoption is not always, but is often, a hard road.

Money can be scarce as one or both parents cuts back hours at work, tries to reduce their travelling time, or simply gives up the battle to attend endless medical, school and therapy appointments as well as manage the rest of family life with a child who is often hyper and may struggle with sleep. Children always always change family life. Children who have suffered trauma bring additional demands to their new families; old networks of friends and wider family can fall away; holidays, spontaneity and free time for coffee can feel like wistful memories from earlier histories.

Nursery and school can be hard to manage. Again not always, but often, children struggle at some point or another. Many many require extra support, finding the constant change, separation anxiety, learning, praise, opportunities to succeed and space for failure each in turn stressors that undermine all their attempts to conform and comply – or lead them into a silent anxious compliance that undermines any capacity to actually learn. All parents worry about their child being bullied: older adoptee voices this week have talked of their own experiences of being bullied and how common that is for those who are adopted. For a child who is already struggling, bullying intensifies and adds to existing stress.

It is all very uncomfortable.

How much do the media-friendly images of happy-ever-after families make it even harder for families and children who struggle to get their voices heard? How much does the imagery of successful adoptive stories – including the stories shared by adult celebrity adopters doing their best to support by telling their tales of success following their successful adoptive family experiences – play into the understandable if often inaccurate view of many outside the adoption world that after a few weeks, or definitely a few months, everything will have been sorted and resolved and it’s all onwards and upwards and any issues must simply be because … “well, have you actually tried enforcing stronger boundaries and firmer bedtimes”?

I also struggle with the knowledge that while there are many many children who are awaiting adoption, there are also many many prospective adopters who are waiting. In the last two years much has changed – fewer children are being moved along the road to adoption while more adopters have been approved and so await matching with “their” child or children. Where is the gap, really? One friend on Twitter is hurting personally: approved for children aged 4-6 for some months now she has barely seen a profile, and is updated regularly that there are none at all that her Social Worker is aware of that might be possible. In the light of the theme of National Adoption Week this week (“Too old at 4?”) there is clearly something out of step, something not working.

I am amazed, proud, happy, excited to be an adopter. I have had excellent support from the Social Workers that supported me through approval, and from those who have supported him throughout his move from Foster Care right up to now. I have the most amazing son. I am truly privileged.

Yet on a daily basis I am bemused, bewildered, often entirely flummoxed by the reality of parenting a child who is sad, happy, excited, upset, angry, fragile, hopeful, anxious, fractious, hurting, loving – and unsurprisingly finds this huge mixed up mess sometimes hard to understand, manage or control.

I don’t have answers. I cannot help but acknowledge that much of this week I have felt uncomfortable and unsure, troubled and worried. I think I would be happier if I felt the week was more about raising awareness of adoption more generally, or indeed ideally if it was about focusing on the need every child has to be safe, loved, secure and if possible to grow up in a family that will always represent both a physical and an emotional home. Adoption is so often not the easy, media-friendly answer that it has to be shown as to be the easy sell.

On the other hand, I would in no way want to deter new adopters from coming forward. I am sure there may well be children who will, as a direct result of this week, end up in families who may not otherwise have ever come together. Maybe that in itself lends at least part of the justification for the annual media onslaught. Another friend on Twitter mentioned in a chat that a previous National Adoption Week had prompted her to find out more. That made me suddenly smile. I regained my sense of optimism and hope.

Adoption is absolutely right for me. I would never wish to deny that road to another for whom it may equally be right, whatever the initial spark may be.

Of course, once upon a time last week’s news was this week’s chip paper. Now last week’s twitter craze might as well never have been. Adoption however is for life. If the ephemera of a week-long campaign nevertheless leads to one or two or ten or a hundred children and families whose lives are changed for the better forever I would be a poor person indeed were I not to be truly happy.

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A Christmas Tale

Our lives are marked by the seasons of our own cultures, and for me – as for many in Britain – Christmas each year has the feel of a milestone, a time when, whether we like it or not, we observe (and possibly even judge ourselves) on our lives.

Just now I am – with a degree of advance planning that amuses my family no end – trying to think ahead to Christmas this year. As a result – anything to procrastinate – I have also been thinking back.

Two Christmases ago I was in one of the many waiting phases that so many of us experience during our time as prospective adopters. I’d been working through my portfolio, done my medical but as yet no Social Worker was assigned and that sense of limbo was already deepening.

Inside me, deep inside, I had long been wondering and thinking of a future shared with a child or children. Yet my life was following a different trajectory, and the hurdles seemed many – money, singledom, needing to work, the age-old “would I be good enough question”, simple practicality. So I had kept my thoughts hidden deep inside. Outwardly I’d smile when the odd enquiry arose that “I couldn’t see it happening”. I remained grateful for my close friendships with family and friends and their children; I met regularly with a lad in care who I was lucky enough to have been brought together as an Independent Visitor (his story is here); I continued to learn about the many challenges faced by all involved in children’s services – from professionals to parents and academics to children; I worked; I played; I campaigned; I had a full and interesting life. Inside that tiny voice still called out for something more.

Earlier in the year though something had finally changed. During a late night conversation with a close friend I said it out loud. Yes. I wanted children in my life.

Others managed it, so why not me? I dabbled briefly in researching other options but from that moment, that opening up of my own inner thoughts, adoption was the road ahead.

Within months I had booked myself into a welcome event. I’d filled in forms. I’d filled in more forms. I’d started reading, rapidly amassing a small adoption library that amused and possibly slightly bewildered visiting Social Workers. Family, friends, work: everyone knew the way my thinking was going.

The road ahead was uncertain – but new and exciting – and it felt right.

But now it was Christmas, and I was waiting.

Last Christmas was the endpoint of a turbulent year.

I had learnt much and experienced more. At one point I had imagined I would be in a very different place already; but it was not to be. Sometimes life is painful.

But also sometimes life is joyful. For this Christmas I was linked. The picture was vague, clouded by uncertainty. My previous experience pushed me to be cautious. But I allowed myself too hope and anticipation. My wider family came together and we shared our hope and excitement for a different future that lay ahead for me and for us all. We were happy, and optimistic.

It was again Christmas, and I was still waiting, but it was a different kind of waiting.

Next Christmas is now coming up fast.

I am excited, and apprehensive, and happy, and anxious, and hopeful. So much will be the same – and everything will also be new.

First Christmas for my boy and I together. As with everything in adoption there will be echoes of the excitement that invariably accompanies “Baby’s First Christmas” alongside fears and anxieties and the histories and expectations we both bring with us. Yes I am apprehensive that it may stir up unhappy memories, and there will undoubtedly be times when the loss and grief visit. Yet through it all we are lucky to have had many months together and we will, I am confident, also be visited by joy and happiness.

It will not be his first Christmas or mine.

It will be Our First Christmas.

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Welcome to a new world …

Good morning Blogger Universe!

Anyone who remembers my previous blogging existence may recall it was characterised by periods of verbal diarrhoea interspersed with eerie silences; outpourings of emotionally charged downloading sitting cheek by jowl with confused ponderings on the slightly bizarre nature of blogging itself.

Happily, however, I am amused to note as I finally log on to reacquaint myself with my blog that the last piece I wrote nearly a year ago was a review of my Pedalling Solo journey at that date.

Handy really.

So, if you are someone who likes to know the backstory … well you might want to start here.

For those of you more interested in what I might have to say now or what has happened since – well, er, that too has perhaps been the even bigger challenge (or rationalisation for procrastination anyway). Where do you start after such a silence? Should I write a long turgid/thrilling narrative, heroically fighting to keep amused the passing reader through the wandering by-ways of lives in flux? Do I just not even attempt to update, rather plunge in cold turkey reporting from the pedalling scene today? Or should I seek a third way (always good to have a reviled political reference in an otherwise anodyne day-to-day blog I find), sharing the bare bones then adding meat later? I guess it depends on who I think you dear readers may be – and whether I am writing for you, myself or some mysterious other. Too much analysis as always – the bane of my existence and now the bane of yours too dear reader, whoever you are.

So – life ring clutched – I shall rescue myself from drowning entirely by indeed pursuing a third way with as much brevity as I can.  Here we go; 10 and a half months in a (yes, long I know, but be kind …) sentence…:

Some may say that it is now that I truly pedal solo and that too is true; yet day to day we are now two who pedal in tandem: travelling together through sun and rain, clouds and storms, we push on with faith when the storm clouds hit, and welcome with joy the gentle breezes and sparkle as the sunshine invariably reappears; journeying via parks, beaches, and picnics on roads and lanes often shared with friends and family we always come back to the pleasures of lego, colouring, cuddles and love, to our new resting place, our home for two.

And so I welcome you all to the world of the pedalling duo: my boy and me.

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Looking back: my adoption journey so far through the Pedalling Solo lens

I’ve been officially on my adoption journey for over a year now – not counting the years of thinking about it before I officially picked up the phone for the first time – and I’ve been blogging about it on and off since January.

It has just struck me: that’s quite a long time. So what’s the last year or so been like, viewed through my Pedalling Solo lens?

Firstly, an overview:

I have had some really great experiences, and made some amazing new friends. I have also had some times when I have had to dig deep. I have learned much, read more (and forgotten half of it already of course), and accumulated rather an extensive library to turn to in the future – if I ever have time to read in my future world. I know there are fundamentals in me that have not changed at all – and other things about me that have developed hugely. (For example, while I had come across the concept of attachment theory before I didn’t really know much about it, and definitely didn’t have the no doubt tedious capacity to link it into some otherwise normal conversation on what seems to be a daily basis!) I have had experiences that left my mind boggled (attending the Exchange Day trade fair marketplace springs to mind), and experiences that have moved me such that I have subtly had to wipe away tears (viewing one of the DVDs on our preparation training being a notable occasion).

It is rare, I suspect, that anyone’s adoption journey feels entirely smooth. I know compared to many I have so far been relatively lucky, yet my travel through this adoption territory has still been erratic, going in fits and starts with times when I have seemed to shoot ahead, and times when the graffiti on that week or month’s stop has begun to seem rather monotonous.

Perhaps in sympathy with this, I have also been an inconsistent blogger – inspired one month then quiet the next, constantly struggling between the desire to tell a story and share anecdotes, the need to be considered and thoughtful, and my aim to retain my anonymity as much as possible in case I want to carry on blogging in the future. Despite this, I believe overall I have portrayed my adoption journey fairly.

Continue reading

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