Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Therapy Begins...

Therapy is a funny old thing, often dismissed as 'mumbo-jumbo' or words to that effect. I'm not going to chat about everything that happens - as it's also a personal thing. But I hope that by sharing some of the more 'general' things that I can help show just how beneficial it can be.

A couple of weeks ago we had our 'family' session. Where Papa and I, and the two boys, attended our first group therapy session. We went into a small room and were given a number of tasks to complete. Games to play, cream to put on each other, feeding each other etc. All the things you would expect after reading a little about theraplay - Dan Hughes is the go to person for this.

This was all videoed and a week later Papa and I were called back in to go and discuss the therapist's findings.

We sat down in another little room, clutching a cup of tea as if it was Dumbo's magic feather and hoping that everything had been ok. We hoped that we had come across as lovely, caring parents and that we would, therefore, have passed the therapist's test.

It's funny - it doesn't matter how long you have been an adoptive parent for, you simply can't get away from feeling that you are constantly being judged. I wonder if birth families feel the same way when they ask for external help - do they automatically enter a room expecting to be told that they aren't really very good at this parenting lark and maybe they should try something else, like fly-fishing? (Believe me, there are times when I wish I did find pleasure in the solitude of fly-fishing - although I don't think the waist high waterproofs would suit me.)

So we sat there and watched...

It took me about ten minutes to get over the fact that I looked so fat on TV. I know the camera add ten pounds, but this one was obviously faulty as it had added at least fifty!

But, once I remembered it wasn't all about me, we got down to the nitty gritty and assessed our behaviour as a family.

It was pretty much a lovely scene. We played well, we were age appropriate in our responses. We worked with the children and allowed them the room to explore whilst retaining the necessary boundaries - it was all good.

Then our eldest boy, KC, left the room for a while with Papa whilst TJ and I completed a couple of activities - one of which nearly had me in tears, as it showed that since the loss of my mum, one of his biggest fears is the death of either Papa or myself.

Then, a little while later, I left the room and TJ was left alone. I told him I was only going for a minute and that it was all ok. But it was obvious that as soon as he was on his own he became anxious - something I didn't realise he did. I've always assumed that, as he sees the world differently, that he would prefer his own company. But, I was reassured, this was trick that an adopted child becomes very good at - pushing away the very people he/she needs without our being aware of it. In our case, I felt he didn't want or need me, when in actual fact he was screaming for us.

I became upset. "It's ok," the therapist said, "children who have experienced trauma become very skilled at this - they need to feel that they have been abandoned - it justifies their sense of self. They are not worthy of anyone's love. That's what we are here to help him with."

I realised that my assumption had always been that he was very much self sufficient - but, of course he is exactly the opposite.

Back to the video and a little later both Papa and I are back in the room playing with TJ. A lovely game. Then KC entered - and it was like a whirlwind had come into the room. A whirlwind that simply took over. Everything. Including Papa and I. TJ retreated into a corner as KC played the games and ensured that Papa and I were focussed entirely on him. A little later he did try and involve TJ in the game - but by then TJ had already retreated into himself and was sitting as a passive observer.

My heart broke.

We had bought into the image the boys had been projecting for so long. That KC was the sociable, outgoing, chatty one whilst TJ was cold, distant, insular.

It was a lie that had been perpetuated by the children and had been fed by us.

I felt so guilty.

But again I was reassured, that this was a survival technique - this was how they had managed to survive in care. KC used this as a means to protect his younger brother and, being born into chaos, TJ had no idea of any different form of family.

But now, even though there was no reason to play these roles, they had simply begun to live them. For KC this was hard as he now no longer wants his younger brother hanging round him and his friends, which is age appropriate I guess. But for TJ this is a massive rejection and, as he hasn't built a real bond with us, then he is left floundering.

So now it is time for us to focus on TJ. To build that bond - even if it does mean starting from scratch. We start theraplay properly in the next couple of weeks - and I, for one, am looking forward to the next stage of our adoptive journey.


But first of all... I need to lose weight!!!!!!!!!!

 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Why Did You Choose Us?

That was the question I was confronted with in the car today on the way home from school.

I often wonder why these conversations always seem to happen on the move, I guess it's simply because we are in an enclosed space, with nothing else to do. I looked out of the window pretending to see where we were going.

'Don't do that,' KC said, 'don't try and avoid the question... I'm asking you a question. Why did you choose us?'

'Well,' I started, ' we looked at profiles of lots of children, ' (I wasn't going to tell him we spent nearly two years ploughing through profiles, that we had three failed matches and that their profiles were our last attempt at the whole adoption thing).

'When I saw your pictures then I knew you would be our children,' I stopped him from speaking, 'I can't explain it, but when I saw you and your brother's photo I just knew it was right.'

I expected that to be the end of it. But no.

'But why have children, why adopt?' I looked at him. Had he heard the countless arguments where we had asked ourselves that very question. The times we had nearly given up, the times when it really didn't seem worth it. Of course, we came through that phase, but what parent doesn't occasionally miss their years of pre child freedom, although you cannot underestimate the pressure that adoption places upon a couple, upon a family.

'I mean, adopting children is hard work,' he went on, ''Normal kids (his words, not mine) don't go to therapy, they don't cause as much trouble, they don't get angry and break things, they don't make their parents quit their jobs. You gave up everything to be our dad,' he said, 'Why did you do that. You love acting why did you stop?'

If I wasn't driving I would have burst into tears, purely at the depth at which he had obviously been thinking about all this. I wondered how long he had been playing with these ideas.

'but, we have you,' I said, 'Yes, it can be tough and yes we do have our problems, but all families have problems at some point. We just have to remember to be able to talk about them.'

'I want to look at the picture,' he said.

I looked at him.

'The picture in the magazine that made you choose us,' he went on, 'I want to see it. I want to see what you saw.'

'Ok,' I said, 'I have it still. You can see.'

He nodded. We came home.

He walked through the door.

'Let me know whrn you want to see the photo,' I said.

'It's alright,' he replied, 'I don't really want to see it."

He then rushed on out to the park to play football with his brother.

I sat down and wrote this.... My therapy.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Therapy... Again...

We are currently on our Easter holidays.

Indeed I am typing this from somewhere above Spain as we fly to sunny Majorca. 

We hadn't intended on taking a trip this holiday, in fact Papa had booked his leave so that we could spend time together as a family.

I had to go up to deal with some things at my mum's house and after just one night alone with the children, two full days, I came back to the news that Papa would 'go spare' if he had to spend two more weeks trapped in the house and had booked a last minute break to Majorca, Port Soller, to be precise.

I wasn't complaining.

But before we left had an appointment with the therapist that worked with KC, and did wonders! But this time for TJ. He has been struggling at school and it was felt an assessment was needed. 

The therapist was lovely. It was completely different to KC. Where KC needed to come to terms with his past, TJ now needs to come to terms with himself. He also needs to deal with so much change, change of school, my going back to work and, of course, the loss of his Granny.

In hindsight, had we known everything that was to happen, then I wouldn't  have gone back to work quite do soon, but, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20 vision.

We chatted for our given hour, the school SENCO came along and gave her views as to TJ's coping in school. He isn't. It's hard to hear your son has no friends, and that he doesn't look for them. He pushes everyone away. I thought about his old school and realised that was probAbly the same, but it's easier to hide in a class of 30. In a class of 12 he has nowhere to hide, and everything is spotted.

We talked about how he gets anxious when I am away, how he self harms when being reprimanded. How he can't deal with anything that is perceived as failure. Even a full stop In the wrong place results in a complete breakdown. Itw as heartbreaking to listen to, but not a surprise. There was no one from post adoption support present. They had signed off on the funding as part of our agreed adoption package and therefore, had nothing new to bring to the table. 

Then we talked about things TJ enjoys, his football, his maths, his pets. All things that can't judge him. It was at that point we talked about the 'spectrum', about foetal alcohol syndrome, about trauma. 

Then we talked about Dan Hughes, about Theraplay and about how they could help my troubled little boy begin to like himself. Suddenly, things began to make sense. Suddenly, there was hope.

So today I am flying off to an unplanned holiday, clutching books about Theraplay, Autism, Trauma... Most of drive I have read before, but with KC in mind. Now I will re read them with TJ as the main focus.

The symptoms are completely different, yet the causes seem to be the same... And the keys to help our children deal with themselves, their past and their present seem to lie with the same people. Hopefully it will help them unlock a door to their future.

But for now, I'm going to relax in the (hopefully) Spanish sun! 



Sunday, 20 March 2016

Moments to Treasure

"What was it like in the olden days?"

So asks TJ, as he sits doing his homework.

I wasn't sure what he was working on, so I figured that I'd better ask for more information before I regailed him with my knowledge of Tudor England or the Industrial Revolution - I am sure he will find both topics thrilling. So I asked which period of history he was looking at.

'I mean when you were young?"

I looked back at him - "You mean in the 1980's?"

'Is that the same time as 'Call the Midwife?'

So my youngest son now thinks I was born just after the war and lived in a poverty stricken East End.

I can see why he would be interested though. Recently we have been clearing out my mum's house, getting it ready to put on the market and, naturally, whilst going through the loft I found all the 'stuff' that I had left there over the years - forty years of accumulated sentimental tat that I was happy to leave at my mum's as long as I didn't have to fill up my own attic with it. My mum often asked me when I was gonig to clear it all out and I always promised I would... eventually.

So eventually finally happened and we have made two trips, so far, with car loads of afore-mentioned 'tat'. Much of which has consisted of old photos, school books and records - lots and lots of records.

It was going through the hundreds of singles and LP's that I became nostalgic for my lost youth, showing the boys cover after cover. I can't claim to be 'cool' - I havent found lost copies of Bowie or the Beatles, no, my collection is of trashy 80's pop - a collection of Madonna 'shaped' picture discs, Five Star albums and A-Ha - my favourites at the time were Bucks Fizz (I'm sure my parents knew I was gay long before I did!). But as I pulled out each record, I remembered my dad yelling at me to turn it down, or my mum comparing everything to the music of her youth, the Swinging 60's. Or my running down Blackpool sea front desparately trying to get an autograph from one of the afore-mentioned Fizzers on their UK tour. (I managed to get Bobby G's - I still have it in a photo album - that I also bored, I mean enthralled, the boys with.)

Each of those records brought back a treasured memory - even if we don't have a record player at the moment (you may note I said 'at the moment' - plans are afoot!), I'm not sure if I'll still be as fond when I play them all again.

But then I thought about what our children would have to treasure - a download? an internet game? an app? - who knows?

I do know I wouldn't change my childhood for anything - I had a great time. I only hope I can give my own children, who have had such a tough start to their lives, something that they can treasure, if only memories.

And if that means acknowledging that I lived in some ancient pre-historic time then so be it.

But one thing is certain...

I'm not swapping my ABBA stand up, gatefold sleeve of 'Winner Takes it All' for anything!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mother's Day - Yet Again...

So Mother's Day reared its head again this week and I really wasn't sure how I was going to take it.

It's the first Mother's Day since we lost my mum and so I always knew it was going to be difficult - which meant I was prepared - or so I thought.

It was also going to be difficult for the boys and for school.

After a couple of dodgy decisions made by school in past years, including the pink handbag card with stuck on flowers that TJ was so upset he had to give to me, it had been agreed that the boys would make cards and gifts from Granny. You can relive that experience here:

http://4relativestrangers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/happy-gay-dads-day.html#.VuSI5Tarx_U

Only, of course, this year that wasn't going to be possible.

TJ still hasn't really grieved for his grandmother, whom he adored, and that still worries me - I thought this could be the day that he finally cracks.

He didn't.

In fact, I don't know if either boy made a card this year, for anyone. I didn't receive anything. I asked Dylan if they were trying not to upset me. His reply, 'They haven't even mentioned it."

Suddenly the avoidance of Mother's Day was just as upsetting as the inappropriate ways it had been marked before.

So Mothering Sunday was treated as any other Sunday - we had our roast dinner, we walked the dogs - everyone was very careful around me.

The next day before school KC came down to breakfast holding a box. In it was a stone painted as a ladybird. "It's for you,' KC said, "I didn't want to give it you yesterday as I thought it would upset you."

It was so sweet of him. I put it into the cabinet with all the other precious things he has given me - on display for all to see.

We went to school.

And it was Monday that I found difficult - everyone talking about their own weekend, most people chatting about their day spent with their mum's,  some people even moaning that they had to travel to see their mum. I smiled and nodded and told everyone I had a quiet day.

I thought that if I was struggling then the chances were the boys may be too.

I wasn't wrong.

TJ had a difficult day. By lunch he was sitting in the corner of the classroom crying. I was called to go and see him. He and I sat there holding hands as he cried. I didn't have to ask him why he was upset. We both knew.

Eventually he calmed down. He didn't want to go back into the school dining room though - he wasn't hungry. I told him that he couldn't go back to school hungry and I had to teach that afternoon, but I would sit with him while he ate - he liked that.

So the two of us sat in the canteen together - I didn't go to the teacher's table, or skip the queue (as teachers are allowed). We sat and ate. We didn't talk. We didn't need to.

Afterwards he got up and went back to class.

When I collected him at the end of the day - the barriers were back up. The incident at lunch wasn't referred to - in fact, as far as he was concerned, it hadn't happened. He told me he was upset because he lost at football. I nodded knowingly.

His teacher is concerned for him. So am I. I think that even though the grieving process is tough for us all, for children who have had a string of losses, be it birth mum, foster carers etc that death can have an even stronger effect. Maybe its time for him to talk about his own sense of loss, in a child friendly way.

So it's back to post adoption therapy - this time for TJ. We know how successful it was for KC so now maybe TJ is ready to talk - maybe not - but we need to try.

On another note I went to KC's parent-teacher evening and... it was amazing! He was a different child - gone was the unhappy, angry little boy from last year - the child who hated school, life - everything. Now he was making good progress and was not only prepared to enter senior school but would, in his teacher's opinion, thrive and excel.

My mum chose this school for him.

Mum was right.

I only wish I could tell her...

But then again, I tell her everything, every day - just like I used to.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Grief...

It's a funny thing grief.

It kind of sneaks up on you and catches you when you least expect it.

This week has seen me directing my first production for the fancy, private school where I now work - and expectations are high. I had a budget that even when I was directing professionally would have seemed large. So I was determined to make it a good show.

And it was...

Except, it was also a show I began writing whilst mum was having her operation back in August of last year. I designed the set and chose the music whilst mum was recuperating at home and I was looking after her. Mum and I discussed the songs we would use for our musical version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' - she was a big fan of the movie 'Mamma Mia' - so my four lovers became Abba and used some of their songs.

Mum came to see KC in his first show with the school last year - just before I took the job there - and loved it. KC was in 'Joseph and the Amazing Tchnicolour Dreamcoat' and it was a great show. Mum was looking forward to seeing his production this year - she was supposed to be with us for half term. Instead we are going up to her house to meet the rest of the family and begin sorting through her things before we can put the house on the market - it all seems so mercinary.

Grief catches us unawares. I was in Waitrose when I saw the milk my mum always buys, Cravendale, just seeing it on the shelf made me cry. Suddenly I was sitting down by the till being given a free coffee surrounded by concerned staff seeing if I was ok. I couldn't even explain myself - I just sobbed over milk...

For the boys it must be just as confusing. KC burst into tears when I told him about Granny - he had thought that it was my Nan that had died - after all she is 92, and my mum was her carer. He firmly believed that mum would get better. I held him as he sobbed into my chest, the day after his birthday.

For TJ its a different matter. There were no tears. He was silent throughout the funeral, just sat staring ahead. That worried me more.

A couple of days after the funeral we had to go back to mum's house to pick up paperwork. He refused to get out of the car. When I tried to move him, he screamed at me. I reacted badly - I screamed back and slammed the door. It wasn't my finest hour but I'm not beating myself up about it - we were all tired and Christmas was, by now, a few days away and I had no idea what we were going to do.

When we came back to school after the Christmas holidays, that's when he started to react. But his was through anger, storming out of class, walking out of music and drama. Kicking and punching other children. It got to a point whereby I was called into school.

I sat and listened to the head teacher telling me how she couldn't tolerate this kind of behaviour. I told her that I wasn't trying to excuse his behaviour just explain it. It was then that I discovered that TJ was walking out of play rehearsals. The play the junior school are doing is 'Peter Pan' - TJ is a lost boy. I read the script - as I explained to the head teacher - TJ was now in a play where the children are 'stolen' from their families and sent to live a long way from home - then, to cap it all, TJ sings a song to Wendy, asking her if she could be his new mother. "I wish I had a mother, I want another mother.' the children are singing.

I tried to explain to the head that maybe this had effected him, maybe that was why he was sitting at the back of the drama session holding his head in his hands, maybe that was why he left the room in floods of tears, hysterically shouting.

Her reply, "I'm sorry, but plenty of kids lose a parent or grandparent - he really needs to learn to suck it up and get on with life." - she said this to me, who has also just lost his mother. I was in such a state of shock that I just told her I'd deal with it and left. Dylan was so angry he wrote to the school and put in a complaint - it's now all being investigated, which wasn't really what I wanted.

I have now spoken with the drama teacher at his school. I've explained what's going on - she was dumbfounded that no-one had told her, so was I.

We have dealt with it - we have explained to TJ it's just a play - he is now prepared. He knows its not real.

Now he's enjoying it.

I'm still not sure how I will react when I see it though.



Saturday, 6 February 2016

Loss...

So it's been a while since my last post.

Forgive me.

It's all been a little bit frantic.

I guess I've been putting off writing this for too long now - there's no easy way to say it.

Unfortunately, just before Christmas, my Mum, the boy's Granny - who has featured so much in this blog, alongside ASBO dog, died. She had just turned 68.

She had been diagnosed with lung cancer earleir in the year and in August they operated on the effected lung and successfully removed the tumour. Thye had caught it in the very early stages - it hadn't spread, everyone was very happy. It looked like Mum would make a full recovery.

Unfortunately, life had other plans. Mum caught an infection whilst in the hospital and ended up staying there for over a month in Intensive care but she finally came home - relieved and ready to start her recuperation.

Again, that was not to be. She managed to contract pneumonia and ended up in hospital - again. Pneumonia turned into fibrosis and by the end she decided she wanted to die at home.

Hospitals don't make it easy to discharge the dying. We need to ensure there is care at home - but with all the cutbacks the NHS simply can't give that. So we booked a private nursing company to look after her alongside her family and the district nurses. Now the hospital needed to see proof and get written statements from the private company - all before midday as the registrar left then - it was a Thursday after all. But, luckily, my brother had a contact who sorted everything out - without that Mum would probably have died in the hospital - alongside deaf Betty and screaming Susie who were both in the beds beside her. It wasn't much fun.

But we got Mum home and laid her in a single bed in the living room only to find out that the hospital had cancelled the hospital bed we thought had been booked as, in their words, 'Mum was probably not going to last the night." When the district nurse heard this she was horrified - I've never heard such language from such a seemingly nice lady when she called the hospital to see if why we had been told was actually true. But whatever she said worked, as the bed arrived at about 10pm that night and mum could at least sit up to watch tv or listen to the radio.

Mum had a stream of visitors - even when she had pretty much lost consciousness. We didn't realise just how many friends she had. But they came from far and wide to say their farewells. Everyone commenting on how peaceful the house was - the more religious felt that the Holy Spirit was present - I was convinced it was my father, coming to collect his dear wife. Although he had been gone fifteen years - almost to the day that she died - she never loved anyone else. 'How could she?' she would say - she married the man of her dreams and that only happens once in a lifetime.

I had my final chat with her on the Friday. We had listened to Cliff Richard's new song, 'Golden' - she was a huge fan - and she liked it. She smiled when we played it and said he was back on form. Then my brother and sister popped out to the pub.

It wasn't a long chat - but she wanted to plan her funeral. It seems strange now, my sitting there writing down what she said, the hymns she wanted - the fact she wanted her vicar (she was a church goer) to conduct her service and that she didn't want to be buried with Dad. She didn't like the church were he was lain, and nobody visited anyway, she said. She wanted to be cremated and for us to scatter her ashes together, as a family. She didn't mind where as long as we were together. Regular readers will know my brother and I have had a difficult history, but she wanted her death to allow us to draw a line under our past.

She didn't want any pop songs at her funeral - she wanted it to be traditional, solemn. A time to reflect. A time to pray and give thanks for her life and for our own

She died on the Monday - the day before KC's birthday - the hospital were wrong - she used their bed for a good four days.

The next day I raced back home - a four hour drive in order to be there for KC's birthday - I even had a present from Granny for him. We decided not to tell him until afterwards. It was strange watching him open Granny's present, in the card she had told him to share it with his brother, knowing she wouldn't be there for TJ's birthday.

The church were amazing, they helped us with the undertakers, the arrangements... everything and we had Mum's service sorted out just before Christmas. The undertaker called me as I drove up to Cheshire the day before the service. We hadn't chosen a song for when the curtains closed on the coffin and the congregation left. The organist was coming from the church, as we had held the first part of the service there before the committal - but I said, we need some Cliff Richard - but one of his gospel songs - not a pop one. The undertaker said, "How about Miss You Nights - does that work?" 'No," I replied. "We have Golden - his new one if you want that," said the undertaker. So Golden it was. The words are beautiful and really fitting. My aunt told me later that she was fine all the way through but when she heard Cliff, it just reminded her of mum and that was when she cried. For my brother and sister and I, I think it had a completely different meaning, it was the last time we all sat and listend to a piece of music together.

It sounds strange but it was actually a lovely day. Lovely to see so many friends and family and to hear so many stories about her and know how loved she was.

Now life is returning to normal - well, as normal as it can be when you are talking to probate lawyers and estate agents and all the stuff that happens when you become an orphan, as my brother put it.

But grief - grief is hard enough for adults but for children...

Children who have already lost so much...

It's funny but through my own grief I can finally understand a little bit of how they must have felt to have had to leave their birth mum, their foster carers. Adoption agencies talk a lot about the grieving process in looked after children - but it is only now that I can even partially relate...

By the way - ASBO dog is fine - she is living with my sister and terrorising their cat!


Sunday, 8 November 2015

What a Week

This past seven days has been a week of complete contrasts, both positive and negative and both extreme!

Whilst KC has settled back into school routine very quickly, TJ has struggled.

I suppose the first half term at a new school was filled with novelty and finding out new things. For TJ these are things that usually cause him to struggle - we really thought the first half term would be the hardest. In reality, everyone was really pleased and surprised at the speed in which he settled in. I guess in hindsight that should have triggered off a lot of warning bells.

KC now has an EHC Plan in place, to help with his learning and listed on there are not only his educational needs but also his attachment issues - and the teacher working with him actually knows all about attachment and the way in which it effects a child. She wanted to talk to me about TJ this week as, whilst KC has an official diagnosis, TJ doesn't and although he is on the 'spectrum' (as they say) his needs would not be considered great enough to justify a plan of his own. As she pointed out, he must be really bright because, unlike KC, he has never allowed his inner turmoil to effect his learning - she actually praised our parenting for achieving that - and in a world where the finger of blame for an adopted child's problems are usually firmly pointed at the adoptive parent, then its nice to hear someone on your side...  I digress...

Anyway, as I was having my meeting with the new SEN teacher there suddenly came a cry from outside in the corridor - 'He's off again!" a voice shouted and from out of the corner of my eye I saw TJ racing along the corridor heading for the front door. 'Let's go!" said the SEN and we raced off in pursuit.

The great thing about school security is that whilst it keeps strangers out it doesn't stop people from leaving - one hit of the big green button marked 'EXIT' and TJ was off. Luckily, the school has been practising the 'lock down' procedure in case of unwanted intruders and the receptionist put these into place effectively locking us all in. TJ stood banging the front door and wailing. I sat down with him and he sobbed hysterically into my arms.

When we calmed him down it turned out that the children had been looking at a puppy that one of his classmates' mother had brought in and TJ wasn't too keen. Apparently, the mother was late and instead of coming during registration she had arrived whilst the children were supposed to be studying English. To most children this would be fine, but for TJ any break in routine is questioned. He was apparently coping quite well until another child, who was speaking out of concern, asked TJ if he was ok. That was it - the fact that it had been noticed that he was behaving differently was enough to push TJ over the edge. The mum asked him if he wanted to pat the puppy and he then burst into tears and ran.

Eventually I took him back to the classroom (whilst his teacher went and sat with my class - luckily mine were a senior GCSE group who were quite happy to work by themselves). We sat with the puppy and he let it lick him. The dog then peed all over me - much to everyone's amusement but at least it put a smile on TJ's face.

The SEN teacher and I carried on with our chat and talked about the fact that where KC is desperate to attach, so desperate that he will freely offer his love to anyone, TJ is completely the opposite - born into chaos and had to be completely independent from birth, practically. So for TJ, rather than seeing us as 'parents', Dylan and I are simply the people he lives with - as, unlike KC, he has no concept of what 'parents' actually are.

It was a hard conversation but, at the same time, I was pleased to be able to talk to someone who actually understands what adopting a child with a traumatic background can actually entail.

Later that afternoon I was called out to TJ again, luckily it was to after school club this time. TJ was swearing (again) using incredibly nasty language towards his football coach - and he wouldn't stop even when the coach was telling him he wouldn't be able to come back. It turned out that the coach had made the huge mistake of telling TJ that he was going to tell his mum about something - we don't know what but TJ just flipped. It seemed as though the puppy had triggered off feelings of despair, of being forcibly removed from mum, as I later learned, the children were talking about the fact that the puppy had only just been taken from its own mother.

Still, it enabled TJ and I to sit down that evening (as he was being grounded for swearing - I can explain but not excuse his behaviour). We sat and talked about parents, that he has two parents who love him even if he cannot live with his birth mum. He told of meeting other adopted children (usually within our friendship groups) who hear from their birth mums, who get letters and pictures whereas he gets nothing. He knows we write every year and she has never written back - whatever her reasons, for him it is simply yet another rejection from her. It has made me question the letter box system - are we better to make a clean break? Does she even read the letters we send? I don't know.

I told him about a senior girl (no names of course) whose mother has left her family and they only have one dad now - he seemed to appreciate that he wasn't that different, that other children struggle too.

He calmed down and accepted that he had to be grounded for using bad language and for trying to run away from school.

The next morning we headed back to school and as KC got out of the car he shouted, "Bye Daddy, I love you," over his shoulder. "I love you too," I shouted back. It sounds a bit churlish to write it but KC uses the words 'I love you' as freely as 'hello' or 'can I have an ice cream?" - sometimes he means it, sometimes not - but I'll take it anyway. Then as TJ got out of the car I said, "I love you as well."

Normally, TJ will just smile or shrug and get out out of the car but this morning it was different. This morning he leaned through the gap in the front seats and very quietly whispered, "I love you too, Daddy." It had taken four years but finally he said it and I truly felt he meant it...

I went into school in tears.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

It's all about family....

So this week we broke up for half term. Exciting stuff, except that it also marked for me my first few weeks as being not only back in full time employment but also as the first few weeks as being a teacher at the same school at which both my boys attend.

What has also compounded the pressure over these past few weeks is that my mother (granny) was diagnosed with a pretty hideous illness and, whilst the operation has been successful (thank goodness) she does require constant supervision. My sister has been 'working from home' for five days a week and I have been taking the long journey north in order to take my turn in looking after mum for the weekends. And, to add to it all, this week I started back on my open university course, where I'm currently in my fourth year of a psychology degree. I don't want to complain, not when mum is so ill, but it's been a nightmare.

That said, this week sees National Adoption Week coming around again, albeit this time under the leadership of the great team behind First for Adoption, whom I met with last year, after the sudden and shocking demise of BAAF. Surprisingly, that loss has barely been acknowledged.

Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to go this year as the children and I have had to travel north to take care of Granny but hopefully, Papa will attend. He does a lot of work with his company in promoting adoption and fostering, he's much more practical than I.

So we are with granny for the next couple of weeks and, to be honest, I hadn't realised just how much she means to the boys. KC will barely leave her side and TJ is obviously concerned. He even helped me with the weekly shop constantly asking, "Would Granny like these?" Or "Will these make Granny better?".

I think we often forget how much adoptive grandparents mean to our children. In our case Granny is probably the most constant female family member in their lives.

So the strain on my new job and on family life has been much harder than we ever thought it would be... But we keep going and we keep fighting, as a family...


Monday, 5 October 2015

What a difference a month makes...

Can you believe a whole month has gone by since my last post, that's ridiculous!
I don't think I've ever gone so long without writing something but this month is seen a lot of changes in the Williams household. To begin with, I went back to work... What was supposed to be a part time job suddenly became full time at the start of the school term and so off I went one September morning with both boys, who are now in the same school, to work. I'm suddenly a teacher again... 
That seems wierd even to read... To work. I haven't 'worked' for nearly four years... Not including parenting, blogging or writing, of course. But now I am back in gainful employment and paying the tax man a monthly allowance.
My mum, Granny, has also been very ill and was hospitalised for over a month, I won't go into detail, but she is on the mend now. What was surprising was how much her sudden illness effected not only her life, but all of ours as well. The boys were distraught and I hadn't realised how much she meant to them, particularly to TJ who has had a bit of a 'glitch' behaviour wise. But that was to be expected, after all he has just started a new school and he wasn't best pleased when he heard I was going to work there as well. It wasn't the working that bothered him as much as the knowledge that there would be no one at home if he got sick... Or to make his dinner each evening. They are now on school lunches, with a sandwich or beans on toast for tea... Papa doesn't get home from work until around 7.30 and I'm not planning on spending my entire evening cooking for everyone like some one man canteen.
But we are now settling into a routine.
School has been interesting, I'm not sure if the kids have worked out our family dynamic yet, I even had one of my pupils tell me there were children in the junior school with two dads... She was very pleased to tell me about her school's diversity policy. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I already knew. I'll wait and see how long it takes them to work it out. Not that I'm hiding anything, when they ask me I will tell them. But I'm also not going to turn up to work in my best tiara (it's not part of the dress code).
So I shall let the blog go into a new direction.
Being a gay family that not only live together but also spend all day in school together. Let's see how they, the other children and even the teachers react to everything and how we adapt to this new, very open, life.
Another chapter of the blog begins... Who knows it may even become a sequel... Or a second debut... I'm not sure how that would work...

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Pride

It's an odd title for a post but after a long hiatus caused by the summer holidays, my starting a new job (yes, I'm going back to work) and my Mum being in hospital for an operation, I thought it was best to start a new month on a positive note.

Then I realised that this would be my three hundredth post. Wow! 300 posts over three years. 

I decided that was something to be proud of. Watching my little blog grow from a few readers each month, mainly friends who knew us, to a few thousand from all corners of the globe.

I completed a book version of our story, hopefully it's different enough from the blog, and managed to secure a really lovely literary agent almost immediately, which I'm also very proud of. Whether it goes any further rrmains to be seen, apparently adoption is a hard sell, so the publishers tell us, and as for gay adoption, well, the supermarkets wouldn't stock it, so that won't do - those have been the rejections from publishers we have had so far. But, on the plus side the editors all love the writing style and the story, it's the marketing people who reject it. So I can be proud of that. As my agent put it, I just need to find that one editor who is stronger than their marketeers and believes that readers aren't as homophobic as supermarkets are, apparently. When I showed my friend that rejection she simply laughed and pointed out the fact that 'erm.. Gay people use supermarkets too.'

This year has seen us signing contracts to produce a possible play version of the blog as well as seeing a pilot TV script, which is now being shown to those in the know. Again, I don't know if anything will come of it, but the pieces I've read so far have been beautifully written (not by me I hasten to add) and I'm really proud of that as well.

As we approach this year's National Adoption Week, which seems to be in disarray after the shocking collapse of BAAF and where last year, this blog, and some other work I do with BAAF and other children's charities promoting 'Families that are different' in primary schools, saw me winning the title of Adoption Champion, which I'm still surprised by and proud of, I was thinking of how we could change the adoption week format to include those who have already adopted.

And then it hit me.

Pride.

Just as the LGBTQi community celebrate Pride in who they are and their achievements in cities around the world, surely we as adopters and our families are entitled to take a day where we can look back at our lives as an adoptive family and say, 'yes, I'm proud of what I have achieved' without feeling guilty or focussing on all the negatives and hardships that often fill our day to day lives but just to sit down, raise a glass to ourselves and celebrate 'Adoption Pride'. Perhaps that could be included within National Adoption Week, amidst all the pictures of children and Lorraine telling would be adopters to sign up. 

After all, we all have plenty to be proud of.... We only have to look at our children to realise that.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Communication...

Mum bought herself a new phone. So she kindly gave TJ her old one.

This was lovely of her - although it came with the warning that 'it was only for emergencies' and that he would have to 'carry it with him when he went to the park' etc.

All good.

We disabled the internet on it and popped in a pay as you go sim card which only allowed calls and texts. We learned that lesson after his older brother, KC, happily used my old iphone to watch you tube videos of his favourite cartoons and left me with a walloping bill.

So both boys are now contactable.

Except that the novelty was soon lost on KC once I removed the inrternet functions - I thought that the use of text would help his dyslexia - it doesn't and he can't be bothered to call anyone, that would be too much effort, so his phone tends to sit beside his bed where he uses it as an alarm clock and a torch in the night. The torch function he loves!

TJ on the other hand loves the text facility and uses it constantly - luckily he only has 1000 per month.

So, today the boys asked if they could play football in the park. "Only if you take your phone," I said (they didn't want me to come with them as that would not 'be cool' - apparently).

So off they skipped with the instructions to be back at 5 by the latest.

I sat down for a quiet cup of tea.
I had barely taken a sip when the phone rang for the first time, "Daddy, KC has put grass in my mouth - can you come and tell him off." I put on my best 'Dad voice' and told them if they couldn't play nicely then they had better come home - apparently, everything was ok.

I took a sip of my tea and picked up a book, the phone rang again, "Daddy, KC threw a stone and it hit my leg!" in the background I heard the wail of 'It was an accident!" 'Do I need to come and bring you home?" I asked. "No, it was fine, " I was told.

The phone then rang again. I wanted to cry...

"Daddy, its really boring here - can we come home or do we have to stay out until 5?"

So I now have both boys beside me on the sofa whilst I type - KC has just pushed TJ off - and there is now a full on fight...

Oh well, thats my idea of a quiet day destroyed - I guess we had better take the dogs out for a really, really long walk!




Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Final Week....

A version of this appeared in last month's 'We Are Family' Magazine.

For most children the end of the school year can be an exciting time. The exams are over, usually by half term, and the final six weeks or so are focused on the ‘fun’ social aspect of schooling like sports days, the end of term concert and play within the classroom – dressing up days etc.

However, for some children, particularly for children with additional needs and for many adopted children, with the often overlooked additional need of attachment disorder, this period of term can also be a challenging one as the routines that they cling to in everyday life are suddenly removed.

Children who rely on routine can often become unsettled and this can lead to a disruption in their behaviour. The teacher can then be at a loss as to why the child is suddenly behaving like this, after all it’s supposed to be fun, right?

But for the child who has experienced a chaotic household in their early years routine offers a safety net and, in their eyes, ensures that the chaos they had experienced is in their past.

Our eldest son struggled terribly at the end of both the Summer and the Christmas Term. A normally well-behaved child suddenly became tearful or angry, or both, and I was constantly being called into school to comfort him or to take him home as he simply wasn’t coping. Of course, as we are same sex parents, the school were well aware that our sons are adopted and worked with us to try and ensure that the routine was kept as manageable as possible. Our son was given a list of things that would happen the next day on the day before as he left the classroom and we were then able to talk him through it. He held onto that piece of paper like Dumbo with his magic feather, even though he couldn’t possibly have read it as he suffers from severe dyslexia, which also makes his ability to remember what happens next in the day difficult as it is. If you then change that timetable after he has spent a term getting used to it, well, he simply went off the rails.

Eventually I sought help from the Post Adoption Centre, who were brilliant at helping me to deal with a number of the issues we were experiencing both at home and as school and I was surprised at how common the ‘End of Term Anxiety’, as they labeled, it was amongst adopted children.

And they highlighted a point, the idea of boundaries. If a child has experienced life without any clear boundaries and seen what that can cause, then that child comes to rely on those boundaries, as set by adoptive parents and the school, as a means of ensuring their own safety. We know that domestic abuse, alcohol and substance abuse all lead to children being ignored or left to parent themselves in a boundary free environment and, after adoption, we aim to create a safe environment with the necessary parental boundaries and once those carefully established boundaries are removed then the child goes into a state of fear – fear of not knowing what will happen next.

Family members are always amazed that even on holidays our children want to go to bed at a certain time, we’ve even been accused of being ‘too tough’ but I know that any deviation from our family routine can be problematic. Our younger son panics if his meals are any more than thirty minutes late – probably a throw back to times where he was left unfed for days and any deviance from our normal pattern can seriously effect him. However, we are lucky that his school understand that and never rush him at lunch time and on one occasion, even allowed him to eat his lunch with the kindergarten group so as not to upset his routine.

Hopefully, its something they will grow out of as they take more control of their own lives, hopefully!


Just because we think that coming off curriculum is fun we shouldn’t necessarily assume that it is the same for our children.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Looking for a Sore Point

So this week I was intending to post under the Adoption Social's theme of 'Sore Points' highlighting areas of adoption that we have trouble with and I think, for most people, its this time of year that we sit down and write our contact letters to birth family.

As I said in my last post, I'm going to be doing that for the first time with KC as he has shown an interest in his birth family and wants to let them know how he is getting on.

But when it actually came down to it, I couldn't find any sore points this week - unless you count breaking up a week earlier than his brother which has caused friction - having two boys in different primary schools can definately be a chore.

I have actually allowed KC to sleep in - to stay in bed until I have managed to get TJ packed up and off to school. As long as TJ doesn't see KC in the morning then the school run can carry on as normal. but the one morning he realised he was going to school and his brother wasnt... well, let's just say I'm glad I wasn't his teacher that day - he left in a foul mood, slamming doors and screaming all the way to school - that was a sore point.

Yesterday, KC was bored... he was really bored. Again, breaking up earlier than the local school means he has no-one to play with - apart from me. So I took him swimming. We had to work our way around the over sixties water aerobic class, but they seemed happy enough to let us share the pool, we were the only other ones there. Until KC decided he wanted to see if he could 'jet propel' himself across the pool - using his own 'wind' (if you get my drift). He fired himself across the pool, between the old ladies who were diving out of his way (I was reminded of the hippos in Fantasia during the water ballet sequence). It wasn't just the ferocity of his.. erm 'windy pops' that was surprising but the smell that eminated from the bubbles that arose from the depths of the pool was enough to clear the pool and for the instructor to ask that we remain away from the group. I apologised profusely and put KC into the jacuzzi where he could pop away unnoticed.

Maybe that was a sore point - it was definately embarrassing.

Then we received both boys end of year reports on the same day. This was going to be a sore point for sure. As you know we have been battling with the local authority to have KC assessed for an EHC Plan and finally they have agreed, although the assessment is taking place over the summer holidays, which makes little sense when they are dealing with schools - but that's another bridge and another sore point.

But the reports were excellent - especially in terms of effort. They were praised on things like team work, they were both described as popular and both seemed to be enjoying school. Maybe having them educated separately was finally paying off.

So we are getting there, slowly but surely. I shall enjoy this week as it's quite rare that we have such a positive week on all fronts (apart from the swimming pool incident, of course).

Hopefully, I shall have more weeks when my sore point is actually not having anything to write about.

Of course, next week I will be putting together the contact letter - so who knows how that will go?

Friday, 3 July 2015

What Would Happen if I Met My Birth Mum?

"What would happen if I met my birth mum in the supermarket"

I looked at KC.

"What do you mean?" I asked, trying to pretend I hadn't heard him although in reality I was just giving myself space to think.

"Well, say I was at the supermarket getting you some milk or something, by myself, and my mum was standing there, what should I say to her?"

I looked at him. This was a genuine question - he wasn't after anything or trying to play me - this was obviously on his mind. A couple of weeks ago the school had a talk from members of the NSPCC and, although KC didn't attend, his classmates have all been chatting to him about it and, his teacher told me that he has achieved a 'cool' status in being adopted, having two dad's - having experienced some of the isues they only hear about in assemblies - I'm not entirely sure he appreciates this new status as talking about his birth mum and his past life in care has never been top of his priority list - well, not to school mates anyway.

But I was't going to let this opportunity to talk openly about his adoption go, I wasn't going to sweep it under the carpet with a well meant pleasantary, "Let's talk about it later." As my sons both tell me, 'when a parent says 'later' they usually mean 'never'.

So we talked.

He had a lot of questions.

Yes we have his life story book, but he doesn't like to look at it for very long. It's not the pictures or the story that upset him, it's that they bring back memories of 'the bad things'. He very rarely talks about the 'bad things'. But today he wanted to talk about his birth mum and why she let the 'bad things' happen.

"Maybe she's changed?" he said hopefully.

"Maybe she has," I replied, "But, to be honest, I don't know. But when you are ready then we can look for her together - although legally we can't do that until you are 18."

"My friends say I can find her through the TV show, "Long Lost Family."

I stopped. We don't watch that show, not because I have anything against it - its just not my cup of tea. However, here we are at home being careful over everything the boys watch, monitoring internet and mobile phone use - doing all the right things. But I hadn't counted on well-meaning friends spurred on by talks from well meaning adults...

'I don't think thats the best way to make contact." I said.

"Do you still write to her?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied truthfully - in fact our contact letter is due later this month.

His eyes lit up, "Can I read her replies?" he asked.

I wasn't going to sugar coat things, "She has never replied," I told him. "Not yet anyway."

"Can I write to her?" he asked.

I thought about it. He is nearly 11 now.

"Why don't we write it together," I said.

"Good," he said, "I want to tell her how much I've grown and about my cricket match."

He stopped.

"Do you think she goes to the gym now and is healthy? Has she stopped taking drugs and drinking? Is she still married to TJ's dad?"

None of these questions I could answer - well, some I could - I had seen her Facebook page and it didn't look as though any of the above had been adhered too - apart from the marriage which I saw from her status was no longer recognised but I couldn't tell him that.

I think he saw I was a little moved by his questions.

"Its okay," he said, "I don't want to live with her - not after what they did - but one day I might want to visit."

He paused, "And anyway, you are always saying we can't live in the past - so I'm going to have a good day and plan my future."

I wonder if his plans include her... or his fantasy version of who she is...




Friday, 26 June 2015

A Gay Family Friendly Trip...or Just a Family Friendly Trip?

This post originally appeared as a guest blogpost for We Are Family Magazine:

In a previous blogpost I talked about the difficulties of visiting countries where homosexuality is illegal, in our case Singapore but whereas others have a choice as to where to spend their pink pound we do not – Papa’s family are Singaporean and our choosing not to go would be to deny our boys their Grandparents, who are too old to travel, and Papa’s extended family.

But we manage it and continue to plan for our yearly expedition to the city-state.

However, to put the boys sense of travel into perspective we also try to visit at least one gay friendly destination each year and for our last trip we took the short flight over to Barcelona and the travelled further to the beautiful gay friendly town of Sitges – we even had my Mum, the boys Granny with us – so it was a real family affair.

What’s lovely about Sitges is not the nightlife – Papa and I used to partake when we were younger and it is pretty vibrant, nor the culture – there are a lot of art galleries and things to see but it’s the fact that being gay is not something to hide. There are other gay families mingling naturally with straight ones and couples of all persuasions and ages holding hands as they stroll along the beautiful promenade.

Its great for the boys to see that their family is just the same as everyone else’s. I know there are events and holidays run by organizations such as New Family Social in the UK, and they do a brilliant job, but its also good for the boys to see gay families in a ‘real life’ context. The boys made friends with another boy at our hotel – the convenient and friendly Medium Sitges Park – and they were soon playing football on the beach with their playmate’s dad and Papa whilst his mum and I sat sipping a sangria with Granny.

It's that sort of natural behaviour that should be emulated across the globe – its only a shame that it isn’t.

After a week in Sitges we travelled back to Barcelona for a long weekend, Granny had never been and we promised to show her the sights. We decided to stay self-catering at the Serrenia apartments, which were well placed to explore the city – particularly if you have two young children and an… ermmm… older lady with you.

Again, the sight of an inter-racial gay couple and their sons didn’t raise an eyebrow – although one waiter did think that Papa was my Mum’s toyboy – which she was very pleased about, him not so. But the boys loved the tour bus – they weren’t too happy about the churches and museums although they did have a great time at Camp Nou, the Barcelona FC stadium which Papa took them round – whilst I accompanied Granny on a shopping trip.

Mixing the two destinations meant that everyone had something to do and no-one got too bored. Plus finding destinations that are both gay friendly and family friendly can be quite difficult but Catalonia definitely offers it all. We’ll be back!