You might see…

If you were to come into our house you might see us playing on the floor. You might see Little sitting very close to me or on me and Big sitting quite far away.

You might not see the little smiles I give Big and the little squeezes on the knee or the foot.

If you came to school to pick the girls up, you might see Big not move when she sees me. You might see me having to go to her and help her out of her seat to come with me. You might see that she doesn’t smile when she sees me. You might see Little come running, shouting, ‘MUMMY!’

You might not see the wee kiss I drop on top of Big’s head or the wee squeezes and rubs I give her hand as we walk up the road.

If you were to watch bedtime you might see Little give me a huge hug and say ‘I love you, I love you, I love my mama.’ You might see Big drop her head when I go in. You might see Big not being able to say anything at bedtime.

You might not see the kiss I drop on the back of her head. You might not see me whisper ‘I love you, I will see you in the morning, I love you.’

If you came on a day out with us, you might see Big try to run away rather than come home with us. You might see Big hit and kick and shout at me.

You might not see me whispering, ‘I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. It’s okay to be scared.’

If you came into our house you might see a girl who looks perfectly happy and content. You might see a girl who smiles. You might see a girl who looks happy where she is.

You might not see a girl who holds herself away from people ever so slightly. You might not see that her smile is slightly too wide. You might not see how scared she is.

If you came into our house you might think, ‘That mum is with one child much more than the other.’

You might not see how many books the mum has read to try to understand her eldest child better. You might not see how she seeks advice from other parents to help her with different strategies. You might not see how much she fights to get help for her eldest child. You might not see how hard she keeps trying to find ways to be closer to her eldest child.

You might come into the house and sometimes see a parent holding back tears after she has tried to help her child. You might see a child struggling with a coat and see the parent taking a second to take a deep breath rather than helping her.

You might not see the years of trying to help. The years of not being spoken to or touched unless someone is watching. You might not see how many ways the parent tries to help the child and the different ways that that help is rejected. You might not see how scared she is that she will never be able to help her.

I understand that people need to comment on my relationship with Big. I understand that they need to point out the things that they see. I understand that the first thing that people would suggest is that my parenting might be at fault. I’m sure there will always be things that I need to do differently. But I wish people would listen to the things that they don’t see. I wish that people could see that Big needs help. Big and I need help. But that, even though you don’t always see it, I am trying.

The best bits

We went away for the weekend a few weeks ago. I wish I could show you a photo of Little’s face at the bottom of the waterslide. It was just wonderful.

Big had her first session with the OT last week. She persevered with climbing up a hanging ladder and did really well.

I went on the water slides too. At one point I screamed out loud and then giggled. I can recommend it.

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‘Real’

Little: I’m your Baba. I came out of your tummy and you called me Little.

Me: Oh Babs. Remember, you came out of birth mummy’s tummy. She called you Little.

Little: Grr. What about my big brother and sister, are they adocted too?

Me: No sweetheart, they stay with their birth daddy.

Little: Grr. Do they have a real daddy though?

Me: They stay with him, with their birth daddy.

Little: NO! I don’t mean that. I mean a real daddy , like the daddy I have just now. My daddy.*

She was so very cross that I’d misunderstood her.

My two have very differing opinions on what ‘real’ is. Big is very clear that I’m not her ‘real’ mum. That she doesn’t want to live here and that she doesn’t have to do anything I ask because I’m not her ‘real’ mum.

The dictionary defines real as: Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact.

We’re all real in this story, we all occur and exist. I’m sure that the word will be used in many ways over the years. Little’s understanding or thinking of it may change, it may not. Big’s understanding of it or thinking of it may change, it may not. But we’re all real.

The best bits

We went up our local ‘mountain’ (340m) on New Years Day. The girls were amazing. They kept going and were really pleased to get to the top. Big finds descending really hard but she didn’t stop and did so well.

We watched Ballerina this holiday (not the most well chosen film.) Little has shown everybody the ‘sixteen’ positions and has not stopped dancing since.

*I should point out that I have not been able to have one of these conversations with Little without being in tears. Her ability to voice everything astounds me.

** Some of you may have read a blog by Al Coates (MBE) a few weeks ago and might be thinking that this post sounds familiar. This is simply a matter of coincidental timing and not an attempt at plagiarism.

The ‘best’ best bits

Somebody lovely commented on my last post saying that they enjoy reading the best bits. So I thought I’d do lots of them.

Both the girls learnt to swim this year. Big swam 20m independently and Little can currently do about half a width. It’s not an elegant style but they’ve tried so hard to get there. When they came to us, they’d never been in a pool. We’ve been every week for three and a half years and I’m so glad we have. When Big first jumped in on her own the lifeguard on duty was the same one who’d been there on the first day we took them. She cried a little bit too as she said she couldn’t believe how far she’d watched them come.

They are both amazing on their bikes. When I think about how much sensory stuff they are having to overcome to do this, it’s incredible. I think they actually get a lot of feedback from it as they go up and down kerbs, down ‘the big hill’ and on the mountain bike tracks. I love watching them.

I really wish I could show a video of how much Big has improved at gymnastics. For a year everything she did was in separate bits. Walk to the vault, step on the springboard, climb on the vault, walk along, jump off, touch the floor. Now she runs, jumps, walks, jumps in one fluid movement. I still well up when I see her. Little loves gymnastics. She can hang on the bars, tuck her knees up, touch the bar with her feet then rotate round.

‘Out’ has always been the best place to be but coming back from ‘out’ was always fraught. Recently, we’ve not had so much fraught. It’s been lovely being out and then we’ve come home.

This year we have been lucky enough to stay at The Open Nest twice. I cannot describe how wonderful it is there. I have NEVER seen Big so relaxed. The second time we went she came home in the car without a meltdown. This has never happened on a day trip before. (It hasn’t since, the place is magic and wonder, I tell you.)

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We bought a paddle board this year. It is the best thing ever. I would take one of them on the board and the other would go in the canoe with my husband and we would swap about. They’ve done so much ‘wild’ swimming this year and have explored lots of lochs and seas. We also got them wetsuits which was probably another ‘best thing ever’.

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In the summer we met up with a wonderful family from Twitter. Seeing our girls play together was fab. We went in the water and seeing them all experience something and be confident at it was lovely.

We had a proper fence built this year. (After the old one had blown down four times we thought we needed to.) Big asked if we could paint it in rainbow colours. She’s never asked for anything so we did. We worked together to paint it and she smiled a real smile.

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Today, at the beach, Big gave me a little hug.

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Wishing everybody happiness, peace and calm for next year and here’s hoping for many more best bits.

This year…

This year has been the hardest yet.

This year I have gone back to work.

This year Little has started school, and all her needs, that we were just about managing with me being mostly at home with her, rose right up to the surface.

This year, the girls’ Headteacher gave me a memory stick of photos from the Christmas show as the girls wouldn’t be on the CD they were giving out.

This year, Little had grommets in and her adenoids out. A very routine operation but it was hugely triggering for her.

This year, our PASW and our senior social worker told me that it was my fault we were experiencing the difficulties we are experiencing.

This year, we paid for a private OT to do an assessment for the girls and Little has had 3 sessions with her. Seeing everything (and more) written down on paper, that I have been trying to tell people for two years was hard but I’m glad we did it.

This year (in the last 6 weeks), Little has slept through for most of the week!

This year, Big swam 20m.

This year, we had a meeting to ask us what we needed in terms of support. We told them, they took away what they were currently doing and told us they couldn’t do anything else.

This year, something happened that, in my head, had always been the thing that I said I wouldn’t be able to manage. I’m not saying I managed it, but I found a way through it.

This year, my husband and I had to move out of our bedroom and move into the living room. (Our PASW told us ‘the event didn’t happen but we’re telling you that the girls need to be kept separate or supervised at all times.)

This year, my husband, the most calm, patient, laid back man in the world, got cross. Cross at the lack of support, cross at having to fight so hard, cross at constantly feeling like we were asking for the world.

This year I began to wonder if we’re going to be able to do this.

This year the violence increased so much.

This year, I did my food shopping on Christmas Eve in the same place and at the same time as the girls’ birth mum. I found my thoughts jumping between, ‘I’m glad she’s got some whole milk in her trolley,’ to ‘I’m glad she’s got a yule log in there, she’s got something nice to eat,’ to ‘I wish she wasn’t living here, I really wish she would move somewhere else again.’

This year, Big didn’t get invited to any parties.

This year, we’ve been in the woods a lot. We’ve been at the beach a lot.

This year, I realised that this is how things are. I’ve not totally given up on the hope that things might get a bit better. But I know that this is the life we’re living. Little will always need a lot of help and Big will always need A LOT of help.

This year has felt very isolating.

This year has been the hardest yet.

This year is nearly done. I have no idea what next year will bring. Maybe I’ll write a similar post next year, maybe it’ll be a post full of joy. Maybe we’ll be in a similar place, maybe it’ll be totally different. Whatever happens, I’m sure we’ll still be in the woods and at the beach a lot. That’s not going to change.

 

 

Fault

I don’t think ‘fault’ is the right word to use but I’m going to use it because that’s the word the senior social worker used this week.

During a phone call with my husband, she mentioned that I seemed to be being evasive about having a meeting. My husband explained that was because the last time we met, they had made it seem like the difficulties we are experiencing were my fault. She replied, ‘Well I won’t apologise for that. That is a professional judgement made by the PASW. She doesn’t love Big as much as Little and it’s her fault that Big feels the way she does.’

I’m sure that the way things are with Big is not helping. But to say that I am the fault of all the difficulties that she has seems unfair and upsetting. Loving a child who is unable to give anything back is hard. Being met with violence, being met with words that are mean and unkind, being met with no response to a cuddle or a touch is hard.

It does have a bearing on how I am with my children. I know that I am wary of Big. I know that there are days when I don’t give her as much as I should. But I try. For three and a half years, I’ve tried.

Fault is an interesting word. Is there fault with anyone in this situation? Is it Big’s fault that she has lost trust in her caregivers? That she is so worried that she will move again that closing down is the only way she can protect herself.

Is it the fault of her birth family? Should they have looked after her better? Should they have been better at putting aside their own needs to take care of her?

Is it my fault? Should I be doing more for her? Should I be meeting her needs better? Should I be able to move past the constant violence and rejection?

Clearly, Big  is not at fault. She had no control of the things that were done to her.

Are her birth family at fault? Clearly they didn’t do the very things that parents are supposed to do, keep your children safe, clean, well fed, nurtured. They didn’t look after their children. Should more support have been offered to them to help them be able to do this?

Am I the ‘fault’ of all the difficulties we’re having? That is the decision that has been made. Is there truth in it? A bit. I have asked for help with this. I have asked to speak to somebody who knows about blocked care. I have asked if we could take part in some Theraplay. I have always been very honest with people about how things are, I have never tried to pretend that everything is okay. To have asked for help for three years and then to be told that this is all my fault and there is nothing they can do left me fairly broken.

No one is at ‘fault’ here. Everyone tried or is trying to do their best. Trying to do their best living with early life experiences or trying to do their best to show love, to be there, to start each day with a smile and a hug.

The best bits

Big did an AWESOME vault at gymnastics. She ran to the springboard, jumped and then jumped up with both feet on. She did good.

This morning, at an ‘o’ clock that is not really made for being awake, Little came through to us, got three satsumas out of the fruit bowl and peeled one for each of us. ‘Here’s some sunshine’, she said as she gave us them.

Asking for help

The first time I asked for help with parenting my children, I remember having to work up to it. I remember feeling that if this was something that I wanted for so long, why wasn’t I able to do it very well? I remember feeling like asking the social worker was a big thing and I was worried about it. When I asked for help the first time the response I got was, ‘Post adoption depression is a thing you know.’

A few months later, my husband and I both asked for help. We requested a meeting with our social worker and the girls’ social worker. I mentioned the girls’ sensory needs, Big’s language delay, and the fact that Big really struggled to play. I was told, ‘Maybe you need to stop focusing on being a teacher and just enjoy being a parent.’ We then mentioned that we were very worried that Big didn’t seem to feel safe with us, that she was starting to be violent in her response to us. We were told, ‘You just need to give her some time and to relax a bit.’

We stopped asking for help for a while.

Over the last three and a half years, things have becoming increasingly difficult. We asked for help again. I was told that the fact that I ‘seem to parent them differently’ was the cause of everything we were experiencing. At that point we requested an official minuted meeting to discuss support for our family.

The support that has come from this period of difficulty has been the department agreeing to pay for my husband to be off for one day a week. I understand that we were very fortunate to get this. At the meeting we said that this was the one thing that really needed to continue. That it was just about giving us chance to breathe before we went into the weekend.

It was decided that a ‘professionals meeting’ should be held to discuss how people could support us further. The outcome of this meeting was to take away the day off for my husband.

When we ask for help as a family, it is to try to get help for our children. It is to try to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to support them. Big’s trauma is huge. It is all encompassing. Little is being engulfed in it. (As well as dealing with her own trauma.) I have run out of words to try to describe what this is like. How every single part of every single day has to be managed so carefully.

When we ask for help it is because we need help. It would seem that in our region, either people aren’t asking for help or, because there are relatively few adoptions, we’re the family that are experiencing such difficulties or, that we’re doing a terrible job of parenting our children. It is clear from the responses from the department that they think it is the latter. That really everything should be tickety-boo by now and why do I keep pestering them?

But we need help. So do I keep asking and keep being told that this is to do with what I’m doing and for them to tell me that I need to do better? Or do I stop asking? I don’t know. But we need help.

The best bits

Big floated in the pool last week. She let me hold her to get her set up then she let me let go so that she could try it by herself. And she did it!

Little and I did some very early in the morning baking yesterday. We made mince pies. We discussed the word ‘mincemeat’ a lot. (We actually mostly made jam tarts and a few mince pies.) She proudly carried them to the person we made them for and announced, ‘Here’s some meat pies for you. I don’t like meat pies. I like jam tarts. Will you share them with me? You can have all the meat pies though.’

 

Talking and Not Talking

Last night putting Big to bed…

Big: AARRGGHH!

Me: It must have been really hard today with everything being different and everybody looking different.

Big: GRR!

Me: I wonder of you’re showing me this because actually it would be easier if you didn’t have to do these days but you can’t tell me about it?

Big (in a high pitched voice): I wonder if you’re showing me this because actually… argh.

Me: I know, it’s really hard. We don’t have to do them. We can say to school that it’s too hard.

Big: Nods

Later putting Little to bed…

Little: I don’t want to be called Little.

Me: How come?

Little: I don’t like it.

Me: That’s the name that birth mummy and birth daddy chose for you.

Little: Ugh. I don’t want that name, I want a different name. I want mummy to choose it.

Me: If you still feel like this when you’re a bit older we can talk about what name you might like.

Little: Did you have other darlings* before me?

Me: No, you and Big are my only darlings.

Little: How come they choosed that you couldn’t be a birth mummy?

Me: I’m not sure lovely.

Little: I don’t want you to be my new mummy. I want you to be my birth mummy and my new mummy. Just be my birth mummy and then I wouldn’t have needed a new mummy.

Me: Oh darling.

Little: Mama sad?

Me: I’m sad that you’re sad.

Little: Baba sad.

Me: I know lovely, I’m so sorry.

Little: Cuddle. I love you.

They have such different ways of managing how they’re feeling, talking and not talking. And I’m hopeful that one day Big will find the words. And I’m sure that Little’s feelings will change about things. But sometimes it feels that I’m not able to help either of them. Finding the words to say to silence and the words to say to words are sometimes just as tricky.

*I must call them ‘darling’ a lot because darlings seems to have become the word for children. ‘How many darlings do they have?’