Nearly a year ago, a senior social worker sat in my living room and asked me if I thought I was ‘maybe talking about before the girls came to live with us too much?’ and that ‘maybe I just needed to stop talking about it and let them settle.’ A senior social worker.
In our house we seem to talk about the girls’ first family nearly every day in one way or another. I don’t know whether this is an indication of the fact that the girls really don’t feel settled here, that I’m not doing the right things to help the girls feel settled here (this is certainly the view of social work), whether it shows that we’re doing an okay job of creating an environment where the girls can talk and ask questions every day or whether it’s because actually, my children had another family before they came to me and they need to know about them.
One day in the holidays, L burst into tears in the swimming pool changing rooms and said she was sad because she doesn’t live with her birth mummy and she wants to. We talked about it (not that easy trying to have a conversation about things I’m not sure L would want sharing in a cubicle but we did.) Yesterday L asked me if her grannie and grandad were the grannie and grandad of her siblings. At teatime we talked about where L’s blonde hair comes from. These conversations are part of our everyday.
Last year, B did some ‘life story work’ with me and the psychologist. I’m going to be honest, the phrase ‘life story work’ does not sit well with me. ‘Work’ implies that it is something that MUST be done, not something that someone wants to do and, while I understand that the phrase ‘the story of your life’ is used in other contexts, ‘story’ implies that it is fictional. If I’m teaching about how to write a story, one of the key points is that it’s made up, it’s not real. So what I’m actually doing is ‘life recount work’, I’m recounting the part of their life before they came to live with me. But again, if I’m teaching, a key criteria in writing a recount is that it contains feelings or emotions. I can’t talk about how the girls felt before they came to live with me. I can say ‘I wonder if that felt…’ but I don’t know. So what I’m actually doing is reporting. I’m giving the facts about the time before they lived with me. And sadly, the facts that I’m basing my report on are very minimal. The facts have been collected by someone who was not particularly invested in the girls’ future. So what I’m actually doing is giving the girls a very basic outline of their lives. I can’t fill it with tales of first words, first steps, favourite foods, ‘oh and you used to love it when…’ I know so little about their time with their first family that most of the questions they ask (L asks) have to be answered with ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know but we can write it down as something we would like to try to find out.’
So I don’t know if we do ‘too much’ talking about before the girls came to us. I always take the girls lead and I always do my best to answer their questions as best I can. I also always do my best to listen to them when they tell me that they want to live with their birth mum. I don’t know if I’m really doing anything right. But L’s quite good at telling me when I’m not, so I think, at the moment, I’ll listen to her rather than the social worker.
The best bits
We went away this weekend! We walked on a Roman wall, we dressed up, we had cake, we went swimming and we went out for tea. We had some fun.