Friday, 30 January 2015

a missed anniversary

Edit: if you stopped by yesterday early evening, you may have read this post before it was finished. I published prematurely without noticing. There were no pictures and half finished sentences, and there was no beginning or end to the post! Apologies.

It has been three years since James and Alistair came to live with us. They were 3 and 4 years old. The anniversary came and went and wasn't talked about. I only fleetingly mentioned it to Richard. How strange, we love to celebrate special occasions and the day the number of children in our family doubled can most definitely be called that. It was also a most terrifying and stressful day. So were the weeks and months that followed. It was a big change for all of us and I remember I cried a lot. I felt quite lonely during the first few weeks. Let me be self indulgent for a few minutes. I am not saying it was the most difficult time ever for me/us but it was really a strange experience and we all struggled at times despite the excitement and joy that James and Alistair brought into our lives. I remember the day they moved in very well. It was a Saturday. They never looked back. They ran up the stairs to their new bedroom and bounced for a while. They were like ping pong balls out of control with excitement. We had pizza for dinner. They went to bed as if they had never gone to bed anywhere else. The rest of us was a bit dazed. Happy.


Whilst Richard, Sam and Annie carried on going to work and school I was on adoption leave and spent all my days with two little boys that I didn't know very well at all and who didn't know me. Alistair and James had fully formed personalities but we had missed their formative first years. We were matched based on social worker reports and our relationships didn't grow organically as they would normally. Their personalities were not shaped by their experience with us, but by their lives lived with their birth parents and then in foster care. It was a bit strange.


Communication was difficult. Alistair didn't really talk and James we did not understand very well. He used only very few consonants and his speech was slurred. It must have been so frustrating for him, his foster parents were used to his speech and understood him much better. How difficult it is to fulfil someone's needs if communication is hampered.

I constantly worried about Alistair's height and weight. Alistair barely scratched the 2nd centile on the health visitors growth chart. James was hovering around the 25th centile, which didn't cause me that much worry. We had little information about childhood diseases they had had and what immunisations they had been given. It took forever to have their health records moved to our GP surgery and find out more. Some information was second hand and not very reliable.

We were trying to wean them onto our diet over a few weeks. They liked to eat stuff we don't routinely have, sweetened cereals, macaroni and cheese made with shop bought sachet cheese sauce, tinned soup. They ate so much, I have never seen anything like it. Tinned chicken soup was a favourite. It smelled like cat food. Ketchup on porridge was popular, too.


Neither of the boys really played with toys much. They did know how to work an iPhone though. Playing with trains and cars with them was a bit of a chore, although they did enjoy it when we played with them. They just didn't seem to be able to play on their own, whatever it was, it quickly degenerated into a mad flurry of flying toys and jumping boys. James and Alistair loved being outside most of all, running around and riding their bikes. But it was winter and playing outside was not something we could do all day long. They still don't play well. I don't know if children naturally know or don't know how to play or if it is something they learn through experience. Annie is trying to "coach" them how to play imaginatively. She has a patience that I lack. James and Alistair are rather destructive and if left on their own manage to break pretty much anything. It is a bit like the poor chap in the Skittle advert. They did (and do) love stories. They brought about 10 books with them, four of them identical. Luckily we have more books than we can read in a year. We spent many hours on the sofa reading the Gruffalo, and many of the other children's books we have. I did like that. James and Alistair did, too.


Communication with the boys social worker was fraught and irregular. She was an opinionated woman who liked to intimidate. I think she found it difficult that Richard and I had parenting experience and couldn't easily be bullied into her every whim. For example she requested that James and Alistair should have separate rooms very early on. They still don't sleep well on the few occasions that they are not in the same bedroom and that's three years later. I suffered from stress diarrhoea every time she announced a visit. These were frequent at first but luckily dwindled down to barely any after a while. There was never a last visit, she just disappeared from our lives. If it wasn't the amazing support of our own social worker who had been working with us since the beginning of the adoption process, I think I might have cracked. Our adoption agency was and still is an amazing support for us. It was a relief when the court order came through after 18 months. No more LAC reviews or other hearings. Richard went to all the hearings, which was great for me but I don't think he enjoyed it very much. Usually, James' and Alistair's birth parents were present, too.

Nursery was a life changer. I enrolled Alistair and James at the nursery that Annie had loved so much. It was a small nursery managed by a woman with a big heart. All Scottish children over the age of 3 are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare. This gave me time to breathe, and run. I have never been so fit since then. I felt guilty about sending them off to nursery in the mornings but we felt it was important that James and Alistair grew confident in socialising with other children their own age. Nursery was great for their speech development, too.

This all feels like a long time ago. Look at them now, three years later! What bundles of energy. How happy they are.

I feel guilty because we have the privilege to be James' and Alistair's family and because their birth parents are not allowed to see them grow up. They are not bad people, life has not been kind to them. We write them letters every six months, telling them what James and Alistair are up to. These are a bit like blog posts with photos interspersed. It hurts me to think of the sadness these might
cause but I hope they also bring happiness because James and Alistair are well and happy. Sadly, this letterbox contact is one way only.


So, three years on I feel I cope just fine although I do sometimes find life difficult. I think we all do. I think that's probably normal. Richard doesn't talk much and it is difficult to judge how he feels sometimes. I think we function well as a family on the whole. It is difficult to compare ourselves with other families, the outside image of family life is no doubt very different from the reality. It feels as if James and Alistair have always lived with us. So maybe it comes as no surprise that we didn't feel the need to celebrate the anniversary of their arrival. Instead we celebrate their birthdays.

I take great joy walking with the boys and Jack, the naughty puppy. We usually go straight after school and wander along the canal. It takes a good hour to get back home. The photos were taken today, the canal has started to freeze over and it was fun to throw sticks and snowballs. Last time the canal was frozen, Jack ventured down. It was hilarious to see him skid on the ice.

I hope the weekend is shaping up nicely for you. I have to say good bye to Sam tomorrow. He is off to a ski trip in Italy. By bus! Other than that, we have no plans, which is nice.


See you soon!Cx




24 comments:

  1. My goodness, you have been through so much. I guess that it is hard to have a day to celebrate as it was such a long process of the boys coming to live with you and then until the day they were officially "yours". I really admire you for all that you have done, are doing and will do in the future with and for the boys, and especially your other two children who have obviously done and do so much to help the youngest two. You are a wonder and an amazing mother, I can tell, just by the way that you write about all your children in such a wonderful and caring way. xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a wonderful thing you have done, giving those two little boys a stable home. Parenting is never an easy job, but to take on children from outside your family is something that only a special kind of person could do. It won't be long before they've lived with you longer than they've lived anywhere else and even though they have their idiosyncrasies which don't always make life easy, they will still always think of you as "home" xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad I came back to re-read your post, it has a lovely positive feel to it now. And thanks for the heads up on being a "no-reply blogger" - I had no idea until you told me but I've worked it out now! xx

      Delete
  3. I agree with Winwick Mum, what an amazing start in life you are giving to your sons. I really admire what you are doing and from you have said it cannot have been easy especially in those early days. I am interested in what you write about playing. I do think that children learn to do this by, actually doing it. Sorry if that seems like stating the obvious but from what you have described it sounds like their was little opportunity for it in their life before coming to live with you. If they have never had a chance to use their Imagination that muscle in their brain doesn't get a chance to develop properly and I am sure it is harder the older you start trying, we all know that don't we?

    ReplyDelete
  4. forever parents. I love that. and think you are amazing x

    ReplyDelete
  5. When I first started reading your blog I read that you had adopted James and Alistair. I felt such a lot of admiration for you and Richard, it is such a monumental step to take, such an overwhelmingly good thing to do. I imagine it is very tough at times, and very wonderful at times also. I think you are absolutely right about the 'outsider' and 'insider' view of families, every family is unique, with their own set of challenges, and it is a rare family that doesn't face really tough times sometimes. An honest and thought provoking post Christina, have a lovely weekend X

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a lovely post, to hear the story of your boys' adoption. It sounds as though they are so very lucky to have found such a loving, caring and happy home. I know they will continue to flourish. You and yours are quite amazing. CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
  7. I feel all teary reading your post. You convey your feelings so well Christina. You are all amazing. I can imagine how terrifying and lonely it was at first for you, that's exactly how I felt when my first baby arrived, totally unprepared and with little or no instruction. Your boys look so happy now, you can see the joy in those wee faces.
    I know what you mean about comparing with other families. Our family life is very different from many of our friends' due to my sons autism. It's not awful or anything, we are just in a slightly different place than many of our friends. Thankyou for sharing all this and a big hug of admiration from me :)
    Jillxo

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a wonderful post. A friend of mine adopted a little boy last year and the endless meetings and missed appointments were so stressful for her and the little boy.
    It sounds like you're doing a fantastic job and your boys are going to be absolutely fine.
    Thanks for sharing.
    S x

    ReplyDelete
  9. You sound like a very normal happy family if such a thing can be defined. The boys are a credit to you and the the love you have given them. Lovely post . X

    ReplyDelete
  10. Wow.
    I'm completely in awe after reading this story. Complete admiration.
    First of all I have to tell you I know busy and crazy... I had 5 kids at home once! But in reading about your adoptive experience I have to say... you were their mom all along. You worried and stressed as if you were their birth mom, you show so much love in your worry... I admire and respect you.
    I would also like to add, I work with special needs children, they often have a hard time playing on their own & even with interaction sometimes still can't. I'm not saying your boys have special needs, but it could be that their home life and foster family life led to stressors that damaged part of their creative natures, that are needed to play alone. Just a thought. You truly are my hero! We need more people like you in the world.
    Tammy

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow.
    I'm completely in awe after reading this story. Complete admiration.
    First of all I have to tell you I know busy and crazy... I had 5 kids at home once! But in reading about your adoptive experience I have to say... you were their mom all along. You worried and stressed as if you were their birth mom, you show so much love in your worry... I admire and respect you.
    I would also like to add, I work with special needs children, they often have a hard time playing on their own & even with interaction sometimes still can't. I'm not saying your boys have special needs, but it could be that their home life and foster family life led to stressors that damaged part of their creative natures, that are needed to play alone. Just a thought. You truly are my hero! We need more people like you in the world.
    Tammy

    ReplyDelete
  12. I first read your post last night and I'm glad I've come back for another read today. I love the photos that you've added to your post. James and Alistair look so happy. They're both so blessed to have been placed with your family, and they will continue to grow into happy, clever, sweet boys because they're in a loving home with a wonderful, supportive family.
    Thanks so much for sharing. I hope you're all having a nice, warm weekend. x

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow! You are to be commended. The boys look so happy and I'm sure that's due to the life your family has given them. Some kids never learn to play, they just have so much energy they can't slow down enough to play.
    Happy anniversary.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Christina, it is wonderful that you and your husband (and your two other children) decided that you had room in your home and hearts for two more children who needed the kind of loving home that you can provide. I think that something as seemingly simple as being able to "play" is one of those important skills that is developed very early on. If they had no opportunity or guidance in free play and maybe were just placed in front of a screen, they didn't have a chance to develop those creative skills.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This is the best story ever! I hope you read this to the boys someday. They are so lucky to have found your loving family as a forever home. It isn't easy, I know that. Somedays I think, really, what have I done? But I know Little Buddy is safe, he has room to grow into the best person he can be and you have given that to these two little ones. I think you are al angels on this Earth.
    Hugs,
    Meredith

    ReplyDelete
  16. Christina, you are such a special person with a huge heart. The boys are so lucky to be part of a lovely loving family. xx

    ReplyDelete
  17. Alistair and James are clearly a very important part of your family and I think you are all very fortunate to have one another. Thank you for sharing more of your story together. It sounds like they are growing and thriving beautifully in your home. You and Richard are wonderful, caring people and all four of your children are impressive and interesting. (I'm sorry if I've missed any of your posts lately, I've been having a lot of trouble with my blog feeds for the past week or so and I think new posts are being left out on numerous blogs that I follow).

    ReplyDelete
  18. How lucky those boys are to have joined your family, Christina. I have nothing but admiration for the kind, generous folk who find room in their lives for children who are in desperate need of a normal environment. I've done TA work at school supporting a child newly placed in care and seen first hand the difficulties they have to deal with. Thank goodness for amazing people like you. xx

    ReplyDelete
  19. Christina those boys are so lucky to have found you and become part of your family. So lovely of you to share. You are amazing! cheers Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  20. That's such a lovely post Christina. What a wonderful thing to have welcomed the boys into your family. I'm sure you'll have much happiness all together. xx

    ReplyDelete
  21. Fantastic post Christina. Those early weeks are so tough aren't they. We have our anniversary of the celebration hearing in the summer, this year will be our first one so we'll be doing a little low key celebration of some sort to mark it. As for your experience with your social worker...you are not alone in that. Whilst ours was wonderful, we came across some really unpleasant ones during the course of adopting our two. The day they stop visiting is a great one! X

    ReplyDelete
  22. What a truly wonderful post, taking on 2 children in their hour of need is a amazing thing to do, you will be rewarded with their love as they grow.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Oh Christina, what a post. Your boys are so, SO lucky to be growing up in your family, in your cosy home, surrounded by so much love, fun and creativity. I think some days are hard for all families, whatever the dynamic. Your family sounds ace. xx

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx