The marvel of L

L is a ray of sunshine. She is usually up before the sun but she has the ability to brighten up any day.

She is brave. She is really good at judging whether she is capable of something and if she decides to do it, will give it a really good go.

She is caring. L will always make sure that everyone is okay. She will always ask if you had a good sleep (sometimes at 2am!) or if you had a nice day at work.

She is amazing at telling us how’s she’s feeling and why.

She can wangle an extra chapter out of me by saying, ‘No mummy, I NEED to know what’s going to happen.’

She’s curious. ‘How did trees get their names?’ ‘What happened to the old eggs in dinosaur times?’ ‘Do I need to change gear? I’m on level three just now.’

She couries in and always likes to have a piece of her touching a piece of you.

She says ‘Can you get in mummy?’ then falls asleep tucked up tight.

She is amazing on her bike. She is riding drop offs and whizzing round berms, I’m going to have to go on my bike soon to keep up with her.

She has the ability to make us all feel better. I wish she didn’t need to have or use this ability quite so much but it is definitely a superpower of hers.

I constantly marvel at L. The fact that she can live in the life she’s living and be the marvel that she is just astounds me. She is a wonder.

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The marvel of B

She can ride a bike. This is an incredible feat when you realise that for B, simply putting her arm out in space is difficult as her sensory issues are so huge. And not only can she ride a bike, she can have a good go round the single track on the mountain bike trail.

She can swim a 20m length. Again, incredible when you consider that she can’t co-ordinate the top half of her body with the bottom half.

She is becoming quite a fluent reader. I was really worried about her learning to read as her visual processing issues are quite profound but she has found strategies and she seems to be really enjoying the fact that she can read a book.

She’s finding ways to play on her own. These ways are not the most typical ways to play but she has found things to do that she finds calming and that she feels she can achieve at.

She runs 2km every Sunday.

She’s having a really good go at the skatepark on her scooter. She’s also beginning to be able to recognise when she shouldn’t do something just because somebody else is. B will now have a go at going round the bottom of the bowl and is just starting to see what it feels like when she goes up the walls a bit.

She’s becoming so much more confident when walking down stairs and hills. She’s so much quicker when we go for a walk up our local hill now.

She’s started having a go at writing at home.

Sometimes I forget to marvel at B. At how much she’s accomplished. But I really should, because she is a complete marvel.

 

 

 

Hope

Yesterday, in the yoga video that I did, she mentioned something that made me think. Now, I’ll be honest, I mostly do yoga because it makes me strong and I get to breathe properly for half an hour because she reminds me to. I don’t always focus on the ‘third eye, inner teacher parts’ but yesterday she said that in a lot of books she’d read they said that ‘hope was a muscle’* and that thought stayed with me.

It is hope that keeps me going. Hope that one day, B will feel safe here, hope that one day, we can venture further afield and we’ll be okay, hope that one day, I’ll be able to do something that helps B, hope that L will feel that she was able to enjoy her childhood.

I can pinpoint the two times in the last 4 and a half years that I felt I had lost hope. The times that I really couldn’t see any way out of what we were experiencing. Both those times people asked me very difficult questions and it was those questions that made me realise that I was still hoping. That I was still hoping that we could find a way to help her.

I don’t really know how you ‘exercise’ hope, I don’t know if it’s something you consciously do or if it’s only when you feel like you’ve lost it that you try to get it back again.

I don’t really know much at the moment. But I know that I’m still hoping.

*She then went on to say that ‘hope leads to trust and we have to trust in ourselves’ and I may have muttered ‘I do mostly trust in myself fine, it’s often the people that are supposed to be helping that I don’t’. And then L woke up and I may have muttered to myself ‘hmmm, I trusted that she would would have woken up before the end.’ (I’m doing a lot of muttering at the moment.)

The best bits

L had made a card for us and she was bouncing with excitement waiting to hand it over. She’s been in a Christmas show and blew kisses to me every time she walked on and off the stage. She sings, ‘All I want for Christmas…’ and points at me every time she sings ‘you’. She’s been up every night this week and comes and tucks up next to me and says ‘better now’.

B has got through the last week of term with a supply teacher for half of it and a trip to the church. She has sat and written a story that is pages long. She tried a tumble turn in the swimming pool.

 

Here I am, stuck in the middle…

We’re very lucky that in our family the girls are able to sit (or traverse round it in the case of L) at the table and this has led to the table becoming somewhere that conversations take place. Not for the back seat of the car for L, the swimming pool changing room, the post office queue (I think everyone in the queue was in tears by the end, not just us), round the table are all places that we’ve talked about her story. Yesterday at breakfast time we had the following conversation:

L: I miss my birth mummy.

Me: I know you do toots.

L: You’re my mummy now though, my mummy forever.

Me: I am, and she’ll be your mummy forever too.

L: Yes, she’s part of the family but she doesn’t live with us.

The next thing I knew, there was a chair over, a cup over and a lot of screaming. When B could speak she shouted, ‘She is part of our family!’ No amount of anything could get her to understand that that was what L had said.

I sometimes think that poor B feels as though she’s the only one who feels the way she does and as a result no matter how many conversations she listens to, she feels so isolated in her feelings of loss. For L talking about it is just a thing she does, she knows she’s perfectly okay to do so and she does, regularly. For B, talking about it is so hard that she cannot get the words out. Listening to L talk so openly must be so hard for her.

The girls currently feel so differently about adoption. One feels safe and secure here, one feels the opposite. One can feel the love that we give her, one can’t. One can be happy here, one can’t.

Sometimes I feel like the bad guy, that I did a bad thing by adopting the girls. But then I think that actually it wasn’t me that did the terrible things to them, it wasn’t me that’s caused life long trauma for them. But then I look at B and know how unhappy she is and I think I am the bad guy. Then I watch L signing a snowman song with such pride on her face that I realise that I have provided a safe place for them. And I’m stuck between those two thoughts about a thousand times a day.

With the two of them I am so often stuck in the middle. I’m trying desperately to live a life that B can cope with while trying to let L have experiences she wants to have. Sometimes I’m physically stuck in the middle, separating them from each other. Sometimes I’m stuck in the middle as one tells me they love me and one tells me they hate me. Sometimes I’m stuck in the middle as one feels so much worry and one feels so much peace.

I don’t know how the girls will feel when they’re older. I don’t know if there will ever come a time when I feel I can do the right thing for both of them. But just now, I’m finding it so hard being stuck in the middle.

 

My Class

In my class there are: 33 children, one of whom is being ‘educated offsite’, 3 autistic children, 1 child with a hearing impairment, 1 child with a vision impairment, 1 child with microcephaly, 1 child with diabetes, 2 children with epilepsy, 1 child with a muscle wasting disease, 1 child with executive functioning difficulties and 1 child with Down’s Syndrome.

In my class there is a child currently managing their parents separating, a child with a younger sibling having cancer treatment, a child with a parent with alcoholism, a child with a parent with a long term illness and a child managing a difficult step brother.

In my class 1 child gets additional support. And the level of support that child requires means that there is no grouping children, there is no sharing of that support at all.

I need to be with one of the autistic children in my class for them to be able to focus to complete their work. If I ask one of my autistic children to complete any kind of imaginary work, they look at me with terror in their eyes. One of my autistic children panics whenever a bell rings.

The child in my class with diabetes needs support managing their condition. The child in my class with the muscle wasting disease cannot use the stairs. My classroom is upstairs. I have to remember to take medication with me whenever we go out of the classroom. I have to remember to photocopy things to A3 for my child with a vision impairment, I have to remember to give specific instructions to three of my children.

In my class (of 9 and 10 year olds) there are three children with a reading age of 6 years. One of my class can complete mental calculations quicker than me, three of my class are not confident with number bonds to 10.

Through all this, the Scottish Government expect 85% of children to be meeting age related expectations. And I really don’t know how I can do this.

I (and thousands of others) work really hard to ensure that every child in every class makes progress but it feels like education is on a precipice. We’re at a point where children are not meeting their potential because the support isn’t there. I cannot split myself in as many different ways as I need to split myself just to get some of my children to put pencil to paper, never mind achieve as much as they can.

It makes no sense to me not investing in education. It baffles me that governments cannot see the future harm they are doing to our country.

My class are wonderful and make me laugh every day. They make me notes that say ‘best teacher’ and they draw wonderful pictures for my wall displays. They support each other incredibly and (most of the time) work as hard as they can.  They are interesting and enthusiastic and kind. My class, like all classes, are fab. And they deserve support.

Ten minutes…

After lunch today, I sat with a cup of tea and watched three coal tits, a blue tit and a great tit taking sunflower hearts from the feeder, taking them to their nests and coming back and taking another one. They did this repeatedly for ten minutes. Then a chaffinch and a goldfinch turned up and I must admit, I let out a tiny squeal.

I never imagined that I’d reach a point in my life where I would squeal when I saw a goldfinch, but there you go.

This October holiday has been full of noise. Screaming and shouting and stomping and stamping. Noise from simple requests, noise from fear, noise from not being in control. ‘Time to put shoes on,’ results in so much noise. Noise seems to have been a permanent feature over the last two weeks.

Because so much of our time has been taken up with B, L has decided that the way forward is just to talk constantly. Just ask questions, talk for twenty minutes when one would do, talk over the top of everyone, just keep talking so she remains the focus. Noise equals survival. When one of my children has been making so much noise I thought the neighbours must surely come round, the other has been talking over the top of that noise in a bid to make it go away.

I’m exhausted. The never ending thought process of trying different strategies, of trying to preempt, of trying to predict what might cause what to happen, of trying to keep them apart (when they have to be together because it’s only me), of trying to find some way of doing things quietly is exhausting.

So I watched the birds for ten minutes and marvelled in the quiet.

The best bits

We went to do some jobs this morning. L went to the bakery with my husband, B came to the wool shop with me. When we came out, L was standing on the other side of the main street waving a baguette nearly the length of her, shouting ‘I LOVE YOU MUMMY!’ It gave everyone a wee smile and it was just lovely.

B rode her bike really well over the holidays. She rode a wee drop off that she’s never done before.

Accepting

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post, which you can read here This afternoon, I sat down and wrote an almost identical post. As I was writing it, I kept thinking, this feels familiar. Then I looked back and realised why. So clearly my feelings haven’t changed much in a year.

I’ll be honest, where I live, National Adoption Week doesn’t really have an impact. There’s not a huge drive to recruit more adopters, there’s no billboards, no adverts on buses. It doesn’t really get mentioned.

But, adoption week or not, I realised today that adoption, to me, means so many different things than I thought it would.

It means accepting that I’m not the mum I thought I was going to be. And it’s also accepting that I’ve still not quite accepted that.

Adoption is about being the parent you need to be. About meeting your child where they are. About accepting that that might look very different to how you imagined it would.

I struggle so much with this. I still expect my seven year old to behave like a seven year old. I still get cross that she can’t hug me or say nice things to me. I still want her to be the child I imagined having. And that’s not fair.

I was talking to our OT today about the girls’ Form Es. After having met the girls for two hours, I knew the girl they had written about was not the girl in front of me. I knew it had been written by someone who either didn’t know her or did know her and wanted to gloss over things. And that’s not okay. B and I were never given the chance to start out on an even keel because everybody kept telling us both that she was ‘fine’. Any child that can move to two sets of different people within 5 months and not ask where those people are, is not ‘fine’. Nobody gave my big girl a chance. They didn’t involve her, they didn’t even tell her we were coming. We’re both still accepting this huge thing that’s happened from such different places, I wanted it, she didn’t. She doesn’t want to accept that this happened, I’m desperate for her too.

In our family, adoption means having many conversations about first families. Trying to answer many questions when I have so few answers to give. It means one of my children asking all these questions and the other listening and watching me carefully.

Adoption, in our family, means being stared at as your child screams at you in the street. It means accepting that you’re not going to be greeted with hugs and kisses. More often than not, it’s a scowl. A mixture of relief ‘you turned up’ to ‘you keep turning up, why have you not left me yet.’

Adoption is about living in the same small town as your children’s birth mother and spending a lot of time worrying that the first time your children see her again is going to be a fleeting glimpse of her in the park or at the school gates.

Adoption is many things. For my children it seemed hugely to be not about them. They weren’t considered, they weren’t consulted, they weren’t respected. And they’re still not. Because adoption also means fighting harder for support for your child than I’ve ever fought for anything.

As L says sometimes ‘I HATE being adoctered.’ And I hate that she’s adoctered. But also, I’m so grateful everyday that I get to be her mummy.

Adoption means understanding both sides of the same coin. And really not knowing what to do about it.