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