Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Carols, Coughs and Gas...

I hadn't planned to write this as today's blogpost - in fact I had almost forgotten about it and to be honest, I'm not actually supposed to be here. At this very moment I'm supposed to be sat in the school hall with three hundred other parents all desperate to get a look at our darling children as they murder some Christmas Carol or other - as you may remember from last year's post (or was it the year before) the school carol concert is usually quite comical - for all the wrong reasons. Instead of craning to see my 8 year old belting out While Shepherd's washed their socks (that never gets old) I get to see him close up as he sits on my lap coughing and sneezing... it really is quite unpleasant. Maybe I should have sent him to school and then I could see him coughing and sneezing from a distance - although that would be irresponsible as he would infect the rest of his class.

It wouldn't be so bad if KC wasn't at home as well. He broke up last week and has been driving me bonkers ever since - he's bored, there's nothing to do, can he watch TV?... again. Of course everything I suggest we do together is 'boring' - my ten year old has suddenly turned fifteen.

But last week we had a bit of a scare - I went into my eldest son's room and smelt something very strange. Odd smells are normal in a ten year old boy's room - I know this after sharing a room with my particularly smelly brother for many years - I, of course, smelled only of Giorgio Armani - the after shave of choice in 1985!

However, this smell was very strange - a sickly sweet odour that could only mean one thing - gas!

We recently had a lot of alterations to the house and most of them involved KC's room which is directly above the car port, where the main point for the gas is. I rushed downstairs and got the carbon monoxide monitor which immediately went off. We panicked.

I immediately opened all the windows and called the emergency gas number. I followed their instructions, turned off the gas at the mains, opened all the doors and waited for the gasman to come.

To be fair, he arrived within the hour, not bad for a Saturday afternoon, and came straight into KC's room. "I don't know what that smell is?" he said, "but I don't think it's gas. What worries me is that your carbon monoxide alarm keeps going off."

He took out his own monitor, it said everything was fine but, unfortunately for us, the gasman wasn't prepared to take any chances, and he had a flight to Tunisia to catch at 7pm (I know he told me... many times!) So he shut everything down and told me to call a gas repair man to check on the problem.

You try getting a gas repair man on a Saturday evening - it wasn't going to happen. So we were facing a weekend without heating or hot water.

Then I had a brainwave. I called the builder that did the work on the room. He immediately called his mate who did the plumbing and fitted in the radiators. He promised to be round straight away. As luck would have it, he lives around the corner from us.

So he came and checked everything out. There was no Carbon Monoxide and no gas leak. He checked our carbon alarm. It was dated 2009 and, as we were then told, after five years it would begin beeping to let us know that it needed to be changed. They only last for five years apparently. So that was why it had gone off - it just chose to go off when I placed it in KC's room.

But that didn't explain the strange gas-like smell - we were all puzzled. Then KC came into the room and immediately looked sheepish.

"What have you done?" I asked him.

"Well," he said, "You know that you told me to clean my rugby boots? Well, I did and then they were wet - so I put them on the radiator to dry - and I think that's what is making the smell."

I looked at the radiator which had now cooled and there on top was balanced a pair of rugby boots. I didn't need to smell them - we could all smell them, a strange mixture of over heated plastic and boy foot sweat... It's amazing that once you know what a smell is then you can pinpoint immediately where it is coming from.

The plumber howled. I sighed with relief. "Emergency over!" I laughed.

"Yes," agreed the plumber, " Now that'll be a £75 weekend call out fee," he laughed.

I didn't.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Cheers!

The problem with Christmas is that it seems to take ages to get here and then suddenly everything seems to happen at once - and at the same time! (not unlike the storm bomb that the UK is currently experiencing - such a great phrase, 'storm bomb' - it makes great headlines!)

Well, we are currently experiencing a Christmas bomb - I'm not sure how we are managing to fit everything in - in fact, sometimes I don't actually know which event I'm attending. I'm guessing this is how members of the royal family must feel - hurriedly moving from one mind numbingly boring event to the next, making small talk and shaking hands whilst simultaneously wondering if they remembered to set the Sky plus to record 'Casualty' - or perhaps thats just me.

Whilst having the boys in two separate schools has made life so much more bearable in many ways, it's at this time of year that it becomes manic. We have two of everything to attend - carol services, Christmas Fayres (both spelt with in a jaunty medievial fashion - in fact they both pretty much had exactly the same things on offer, although the posh school's one priced everything at double the state school.)

Actually, one really nice thing is that this has been the first year since the boys came to us that they both seem completely immersed in the whole Christmas experience. They wrote proper full-on 'lists' to Father Christmas - completely selfishly asking for everything they have ever seen on telelvision -and then adding a few more. Previously, we have taken a peek at their lists only to find them having barely anything on them - and never anything of value - as if they weren't worthy of asking for nice things. Last year KC asked for stuff for the pets as he 'didn't need anything'.

So I was heartened to see the 'full on' list.

I know it's hard, and I am in no way knocking foster carers, who do an amazing job, but Christmas must be so difficult when you have children in care living with you alongside your own family. For the boys they had an 'allowance' of £20 each from social services for the foster carrer to buy them a Christmas gift - they were with their final carers for 2 Christmases, and I know their foster carer bought more for them - but it can't be the same sitting with another family on Christmas morning and knowing, deep down, that you are not really a part of it. And I'm sure that the boys must have missed their birth families at that time - perhaps they still do, or rather they miss a memory of what they think it was like - fuelled by television shows. I do know that KC is very wary of people being drunk at this time of year.

However, I found out that TJ ripped his list up and decided to change it. He has decided only to put on the things he wants the most - so Santa will get him the right toy (a Nintendo 3DS). I know this because he told the hairdresser last night whilst he was having his hair cut. It was the first I had heard of it - luckily Santa is able to fulfil that wish.

KC, on the other hand, is on the cusp of 'getting it'. I think his list this year is a test - seeing just how much loot he can get if he 'still believes'. He has just turned 10 now - so he has already decided he is too old to actually see Santa, but he has agreed to go with his younger brother.

We put the Christmas tree up this week and as we did so I pulled out all the things they had made over the past few years. KC took one look and demanded that everything he had made be taken down as it was 'rubbish'. I know this is how he views himself. So I insisted that everything went on, despite his mumblings that he hated me, and a little later I spot him out of the corner of my eye just looking at everything he has made.

He is in a funny place - Christmas does that...

But tonight I shall be attending his end of term drama club play (he is worried he might have stage fright - he's a reindeer - but I've told him it doesn't matter, I'll be there anyway and I shall clap really loudly for him) and then we race straight over to the cathedral for KC's carol service - he is still angry that I signed him up to be in the choir, although he loves singing he didn't want to do it in front of everyone.. because, (yes you've guessed it) he's 'rubbish'. I've told him it doesn't matter I shall sing much louder than him anyway.

And where is Papa this evening whilst I am running from place to place? At his works Christmas party!!!! I miss those - actually going out to meet people and drink and have fun - and not talk about exam results or little Lucy's ballet classes (she's doing ever so well...)

Oh well - I'd better start practising 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' - something tells me I'll be belting it out a few times in the next week or so!

And just as we get school out of the way my mother will arrive - with her ASBO dog! (I've booked the cat into a cattery already - at least he will have a peaceful Christmas...

Monday, 1 December 2014

Puppies, Grapes and Leaving Home...

It's been a hectic few days, which resulted in my missing my weekly post - hopefully I can make up for it this week!

It's been mainly the dogs that have caused us worry this week.

Our eldest dog, the toothless Cairn, managed to grow an ulcer, on her eye, it wasn't pleasant. Poor thing. After two weeks of treatment at the local vet he decided that we were going to have to see the specialist, so we drove thirty miles to the nearest pet hospital and they decided to operate there and then. The ulcer was removed and a contact lense placed on the eye to help it heal - I never realised they made contact lenses for dogs - luckily we had maintained her insurance as the bill would have ensured that Christmas was cancelled otherwise.

On the same morning the puppy, bonkers Cocker, decided to get into the fruit bowl and consume about half a kilo of grapes - I blamed the boys to begin with then found all the stalks under the coffee table. Whilst the vet was looking at the toothless Cairn I mentioned in passing what the puppy had done. I laughed... he didn't. 'You need to bring her in as soon as you get home," he said with a worrying tone, "That amount of grapes is potentially fatal."

I had no idea that grapes were so toxic. So I raced the puppy back to the vet and she stayed there all day having her stomach pumped and being induced to vomit.

It was a fun day in the Williams' household that day.

The vet continued telling me that it wasn't just grapes that were toxic to dogs, but raisins and alcohol as well - especially fruit cake. She had better not go near my Christmas cake - after three months of being 'fed' I think there is more brandy than fruit in it.

And now it's advent!

Both boys have dealt with Christmas with difficulty over the past few years - can you believe this is their fourth with us! It's also the first one where it feels like Christmas is coming.

TJ won't allow anything about Christmas to be mentioned before December the first - he gets quite angry when he sees people put their decorations up before then - I think he may be a member of the advent police.

Both boys have their birthdays this month as well, so despite being very expensive, it's also quite emotional for them both. Add to that the fact that they came to live with us just after Christmas, then seeing the tree go up can trigger off quite a few emotions.

This weekend, TJ decided he wanted to find a new family. One without any children where there would just be him. For most children I'm sure this is a usual occurence, I remember running away when I was about 9 and going to my friends house and eating jam sandwiches. I was home for tea - but at least I showed my parents I was serious about going.

But for TJ its different, he has had a few families, birth, various foster and now his forever family. But what is forever to an 8 year old? If TJ wants a new family then in his mind that is a reality that could actually happen.

We decided to treat it with humour. He presented me with his packed bags first thing in the morning, I asked him what he was going to eat. He decided not to leave until after breakfast.

After breakfast he remembered it was Sunday roast dinner - chicken, his favourite, he decided to stay for that. In between KC was jubilant, TJ was going and because letters to Santa had already been written then KC would also get all of TJ's presents. KC was practically pushing his younger brother out of the door.

I could see things were going too far. So I took TJ upstairs and sat with him. "Why do you want to leave?" I asked, "You know that we will all be very sad to see you go?"
"No you won't," he said quite calmly, "You are always telling me off and making me do stuff I don't like - like tidying my room and homework."
"Everyone has to do those," I said, "Even in this 'new' family"
"They won't," he said, "Because they want a little child and they will love me and give me everything I want."

Suddenly I thought I was being blackmailed.

"Well," I said, "Think of all the things we already do for you - cooking your meals, buying you clothes, taking you to football and to the park - and playing with your brother - won't you miss all that?"

He thought about it. "I'll come back to visit , " he said, "And I'll come back for Christmas."

"But what happens if your new family move away - or we do?" I asked him.

He thought about it - but didn't have an answer, then KC popped his head around the door, he'd obviously been listening in. "You're not really going are you?" he asked his brother. Even in KC's mind it was a real possibility that his younger brother could leave.

"He's coming down for lunch," I told him deciding this conversation was coming to an end.

We had lunch and at the end of it TJ made his announcement."I've decided to stay," he declared, "because Daddy is the bestest cook in the world."

This morning he shot out of bed with a spring! "It's advent!" he shouted, "Where's my calendar - I want to eat chocolate!!!!"

So the way to man's heart is definately via his stomch!!!!!!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A Tale of Two Sickies...

It's never fun when your child is ill.

It's doubly worse when they are both ill at the same time... as we found out.

Over the weekend TJ came down with a particularly nasty chest infection - he is very small for his age so his little body doesn't cope very well with infections. Add in his asthma and this weekend was set to be pretty bleak. He has a home respirator and spent much of the weekend sitting in front of the TV while the machine whirred alongside him. To be honest, its a pretty annoying noise and KC soon got fed up - but as I pointed out to him it was either the whirring of the respirator or TJ's coughing that interrupted his movie... and, anyway, I pointed out , if TJ gets any worse we are all off to the hospital to make sure he is ok. KC decided that the whirring wasn't that annoying after all - and turned the sound up on the TV.

TJ copes well with illness, he was born prematurely and since his birth and diagnosis of a genetic disorder he has been in and out of hosptial for most of his young life. To a point where I am trying to keep him away from hospitals and doctors as he seems to revel in going. It's as if the attention that he gets from them makes up for something missing in his life - either that or the attention takes him back to his early chidhood and he finds comfort in it. We could hypothesise all day, but my gut instinct tells me that his obsession with doctors is not a healthy one.

He spent the whole day asking if the doctor had called and were we going soon to see him. As it was, once I had managed to get through, the doctor couldn't see him until Thursday anyway and I didn't want to risk a weak chest at the local A and E unless it was a genuine emergency, so we decided to wait and see. As it was the respirator did the trick and he went on with life. Although even once he was better he still wanted to go to the hospital - just to make sure.

KC on the other hand, is never ill. Never. So when he woke up on Monday morning with a sore throat it was a bit of a shock for him. I found him in the bathroom in floods of tears, convinced that he was going to die. "It's just a sore throat," I told him, "It'll get better in a few days."

This didn't reassure him, "What if it gets worse and I can't eat - then am I going to die?"

"You are not going to die," I said as I administered the Calpol.

"But my friend says that the doctors will put a camera up my nose," I don't know who this 'friend' is but I could kill him for the amount of dumb advice he gives out.

'Nobody is putting anything up your nose," I said, "besides I don't think my phone will fit up there!" i thought some humour may diffuse the situation... it didn't - he just eyed my phone warily.

So now my youngest has skipped off to school happily informing his teachers that he is really ill but if he gets worse then Daddy will pick him up. Whilst my eldest lies on the sofa watching endless cartoons and drinking water whilst moaning that he may never eat crisps again... well, every cloud has a silver lining.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Politics in School

Handling issues at school is always tough - particularly when it concerns politics and what your child is exposed to.

I don't want to come across as too political but let me explain.

We live in an area that is about to have a by-election, thanks to the defection of our MP to UKIP and this has led to an explosion in political activism across the area.

We are called two to three times a day, either by opinion poll companies or the political parties themselves all trying to ascertain which way we are going to vote - Papa now tells them all he will vote for them, just to get them off the line. I tend to stay and chat - well, its nice to have a grown up to talk to during the day. I've had some lovely chats with some of the most unexpected people - then I tell them that they are wasting their time as I already know who I am voting for.

Just last week the man from UKIP called and KC answered. 'There's a man from You Kick (sic) on the phone and he wants to talk about his by erection,' KC shouted - I hid a smile and asked him to tell the man to hold on. I kept him there for a good ten minutes whilst I put away the washing and then hung up the phone. You can tell I'm not a fan.

Last week over on twitter there was a hash tag caption #Ask Nigel Farage and someone had placed the tweet '#AskNigelFarage if he saw a mixed race gay family with adopted white kids would he have a coronary?'. It made me smile - after all, we are that family. What didn't make me smile was the barrage of homophobic and racist abuse that came after it. 'The gay marriage bill can be overturned', 'these children can be taken back' etc - all sorts of really upsetting stuff - I don't do twitter a lot but this made my blood boil.

Then I went into school to do my voluntary work and whilst there I overheard the lunchtime staff chatting about the election - they were all of one mind - 'I'm voting UKIP cause there's too many bloody foreigners here." I may have paraphrased but that was completely the gist - you know the sort of thing. I couldn't keep quiet. "I'm sorry,' I said (I don't know why I began with an apology), "But my partner and TJ's dad is from overseas and I really don't want TJ hearing this kind of thing - would you mind keeping your opinions to yourselves?"

I hope I was that polite. I was met with dagger looks. "It's because of the foreigners that my husband can't get a job," I was told, quickly followed by, "the Labour and Tory government's just let anyone in, they don't care," and my personal favourite, "I'm not racist, I just don't think we should let any more of 'them' in."

I watched as the children filed by into the dining hall and realised I was not going to win this argument.

But as I watched the children I wondered not only about my own son with a Singaporean Papa - but also about those kids of any non-British ethnicity who ran the risk of overhearing such views - how did they feel? After all, whatever your politics children don't have any choice and I'm sorry - but using the word 'immigrant'  or 'foreigner' instead of more unpleasant terminology does not suddenly make racism or xenophobia ok.

In certain circles, UKIP is making both racism and homophobia acceptable (although I am sure they would deny it) and I don't believe that a primary school is a suitable place for this to be discussed. Especially not in front of my son.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Unexpected Post...

Today's post was supposed to be about the success of National Adoption Week, about the National Adoption Awards and the fun we had followed by a successful presentation to would be adopters with the LGBT group Spectrum at Barclays.

I say supposed to be...

As I was putting my notes together this morning there was knock at the door - the postman - he usually delivers the registered letters and parcels for everyone in the street to me, as I'm the only one at home all day. We joke that I run the sorting office for the entire street. Its not a funny joke but we make it every time.

But this time I had to sign for a letter for myself and Dylan (I'm using his name now - so he doesn't feel like chopped liver). I sat down and opened it and onto the kitchen counter fell a picture of a beautiful little girl. I then opened the rest of the letter. I didn't need to read it. I knew who it was.

It was the first picture we had seen of the boys' sister in nearly 5 years - the only picture we had previously was one in their life story book of a grinning baby.

As I said in a previous post, the social workers had managed to misplace our contact agreements and as far as the sister's family knew we didn't want to have anything to do with them. However, that has all been resolved and we agreed to swap photos and letters once a year. I had sent mine off last month and today theirs arrived.

It was a lovely photo of a beamingly happy little girl who was the mix of both of her brothers - she had KC's incredible hair colour - the hairdresser is always telling him that 'people pay to have their hair coloured like yours!" and TJ's cheeky little grin.

I looked at the photo of the little girl with a fat dog in her lap and cried. I just cried - ridiculous - but there it is.

I am one of three - myself, my brother and our baby sister - just like our kids. My only thought was - what would have happened if my brother and I had been separated from our sister (whom I love dearly).  We are even similar in age gaps.

Of course, the sister is completely happy and probably blissfully unaware of two brothers she has never met - but to the boys? I'm not sure - they know about her. We have talked about her and they have asked after her. Now we shall sit down with them and chat about this picture and how happy she is without yet knowing if and when they can meet - and should they meet? Would it be more damaging? Are we going to get family jealousy - 'Why didn't I live with her parents?' etc - is this constant sense of insecurity peculiar to adoptive parents alone?

I'm forever concerned that my boys will one day wake up and realise that I'm a fraud and have no idea how to be a parent.

As National Adoption Week has focussed on siblings this week I think it is also pertinent to look at those that can't be together and the incredible job of the adoptive parents to manage that contact - as was said at the awards on Tuesday, brothers and sisters are all we have once our parents have gone - they are our immediate family and that bond will and should always remain.

To be honest, I don't really speak to my brother now - he distanced himself when the adoption went through - whatever his reasons are I know one day we will all need each other again.

But for now...

I think I want another child...

Maybe I'm just being sentimental...


Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Sibling Pair - Guest Blogpost for BAAF

The original transcript for this Blogpost can be seen at

Three years ago we made the biggest decision of our lives. We adopted two boys - two brothers, or as the social workers like to refer to them, a sibling pair.
To be honest, I’d never really used the word ‘sibling’ prior to coming into adoption. I never referred to my own brother and sister as my siblings but there is a lot about adoption that is new to us.
For some children being adopted with their siblings is not the best option. I can see the reasoning in some cases, the child needs to learn to attach to their new family, and dysfunctional sibling bonds need to be broken and re-built.  Also just as importantly, a child is far more likely to actually be adopted if they come on their own due to a shortage of adopters who are willing and able to adopt a sibling group.
We know this to be the case. When we adopted our two boys they had just turned 6 and 4 years old. We knew that we were our older boys last chance of adoption with his brother. Had we not come along when we did then he would have remained in care whilst the family finders set to work on an adoption plan for his younger 4 year old brother. An adoption plan that didn’t include him. An adoption plan that would have seen them separated – but would have been a realistic option for the younger boy – after all 4 is the average age at which most children are adopted in the UK.
The boys have a younger sister – she had gone into the care system at birth and was easily adopted – the chance of having a baby was just too good an opportunity for any adoptive parent and the sister went straight away into an adoptive placement.  The idea of adopting her alongside her brothers was never even considered. The boys never met her. The only contact they ever had with their sister after they went into care was seeing a picture of a smiling baby in their life story books.
But, after much soul searching and ‘can we do this’ chats – we decided that these two boys were going to be ours and that we would be a family. We also asked that there be some form of contact set up with not only the birth mother but also their birth sister.
This was agreed and we had two lively little boys placed with us.
Our lives changed.
Adopting siblings has its ups and downs – the boys have an incredible bond that often seems unbreakable to us. Often the younger will still turn to the older for comfort rather than coming to us and we have to accept that. We had to learn that the elder boy was always going to be the youngest boy’s first point of call.  The boys had shared a difficult past together but they had also come through it together. They did everything together – our job as adoptive parents was, and is, to let them realize that they are individuals. That they are both worthy of their own lives, believe me, the lack of self worth is paramount in many adopted children, particularly those from abusive backgrounds.
We put the boys into separate schools – not just to break a dysfunctional bond, but also to give them time to be themselves. It was tough for both of them at first but now, two years on, everyone agrees it was the best move. The older is loving sport and drama and making his own group of friends – he is no longer constantly running after his brother or checking that he is ok. He has finally stopped parenting and is enjoying being a child.
The younger took a little more time to settle without his brother constantly by his side. But we were prepared for that and his school was amazing – they totally supported the idea and completely supported the youngest boy in his transition to a school life without his brother as a crutch. Now he skips into school ready and eager to learn and to meet his own group of friends. Where he was once shy and reliant on his older brother for everything he is now confident and popular, his life is one steady stream of playmates and parties.
We often laugh that their social lives are busier than ours.
But now they have social lives – they come back after each day at school and chat with each other about mundane things such as what they both had for school lunch, what they studied or played. We are no longer caught up in life that is built merely on their past together.
We have kept in touch with their sister and through regular exchanges of letters and photos.  We see her grow up happy and healthy and the boys are often asking after her. 
I hope one day that the can finally meet their sister – but only when everyone is ready.
Adopting siblings is hard work but it is incredibly rewarding. To watch them play together, have fun, even fight – as boys often do, usually over the most trivial things, to see them grow into (for want of a better phrase) normal fun loving children is a joy. 
To anyone considering adopting brothers or sisters I would only have this advice - look at the children as individual beings – not as a ‘sibling pair’.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Truth? - I can't Handle It...

'Why do people abuse children?"

That was the question KC gave to me as soon as we got into the car and drove off to TJ's tuition lesson.

What is it with him and questions at the moment? And why are they always asked at the most innappropriate times?

I decided to postpone my answer. It's a tactic I use a lot.

"Can we talk about this whilst TJ is at his class" I said. "We can go for a Costa cake and have a chat."

KC seemed satisfied with this and the two of them sat chatting merrily in the back about the benefits of Minecraft.

We dropped TJ off and walked down to the local branch of Costa (other coffee stores are available but much further to walk to.)

We sat down - I had a skinny latte (I am being good) whilst KC had a huge piece of chocolate cake and a fizzy drink - he is not being so good.

"So," He looked at me.

"Don't worry I haven't forgotten," I said.

This had all come about because he had heard a news report that stated that thousands of known child abusers were probably going to escape any form of police intervention - simply because there are too many of them - abusers, not police. I'd like to say I am shocked - but I'm really not. I don't think anything shocks me anymore. Horrified, yes, disgusted, absolutely - but shocked... not really.

I thought back to the time during our introductions when we were told that the people who abused our children would not be prosecuted as the children were too young to be 'reliable' witnesses in the eyes of the prosecution service. Then I sat there shouting at the social workers - telling them that they all knew what was going on and now the perpetrators were going to get away with it?

"That's how child abuser's work," I was told calmly. "They know the police are unlikely to get a conviction - and the younger the child the less likely there will be any hope of a prosecution."

I was shocked then...

My eldest still believes that 'the people who did bad things' are in prison. They are not. One look at Facebook told me that. They are out there, living their lives - with new families.

I came back into the room and my son was looking at me expectantly across our hot drinks.

How was I going to handle this one? I couldn't tell him that all child abusers are evil - that would include his family - would he then think it included him? I opted for the sick route...

"People who do nasty things to children are very ill," I began, "They need help."

KC stopped me, "But the children need help too," he said, "Who do they ask for help? Does anyone listen to them?"

I was stunned. Was he now talking about himself? Was he finally opening up to me - it's something I thought I wanted him to do - In therapy they tell us that as parents we make the best therapists but I'm also terrified of hearing what happened to him from.. well, from him. It's one thing to read documents and listen to social workers, it's another to actually hear it from your child.

I think he read my fear. That sounds strange but he almost seemed to want to change the subject - he knew I was uncomfortable - and I felt awful that he had picked up on it. He decided to talk to me about his school day... I listened and nodded my head sagely at his problems with maths - I didn't actually hear a word...

Abuse was part of his life - part of what makes him who he is. I don't want it to define him and I'm sure he will cope with whatever life throws at him but it is there and, no matter how hard I try, I can't erase that - no parent of a child adopted from the care system can. I just wanted to make it all go away - but for him or me?

I'm ashamed to say that when he changed the subject I let him... I didn't want to go to his darkest places - not just yet.

Now I've just made myself cry...

Next time I'll be better prepared - I just hope I get some warning...

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name...

"What would my name be if I was really yours?"

This was the question KC gave me just before he got into bed last night.

I was suddenly stumped - why do kids always ask these things at bedtime? Do they really want an answer? Is it something that has been troubling them all day? Or do they simply not want to go to bed?

My guess was that this was something thay had been on his mind for a while and he was waiting for the right time.

I sat on the end of the bed - preparing for a long discussion.

"Well, the first thing to get out of the way," I began, "Is that you are 'really' ours - you're not going anywhere, this is your family and we love you very much. Okay?"

"Okay" he replied, "I know all that but if you had me as a baby then what would you have called me - what is your favourite name?"

"I think KC suits you," I said, "It's the name your birth mum chose and it suits you - she didn't get everything wrong, she got some things right. Like you and TJ. She got both of you right."

I wasn't sure if I was making sense to him.

"Yes," he said, "I know that but what would you have called me if you first saw me as a baby in a hospital?" (Hospitals are where babies come from, apparently.)

"I really like KC," I said.

"No you don't," he replied, "It's not the sort of name our family has."

That was incredibly astute of him. Our family is full of Joseph's and Freddie's, Marcus's and Rachel's. Good old fashioned traditional names, whereas he and TJ have more 'modern' names - thank goodness they didn't ask about their original middle names which sounded as if they had come straight out of an edition of Heat Magazine. I try not to be a name snob but I do think that a name that suits a celebrity's child who attends a public school in Harrow is not going to sound quite the same when yelled across the playground at the local junior school. But that's probably just me.

Interestingly when the children were baptised and chose their own new middle names, they both picked more traditional ones.

I told KC that he could use his middle name if he liked, after all he chose it.

"I don't want to," he said, "I just want to know what you and Papa would have called me if I had been born to you."

I gave in, "Alright," I said, "When we were thinking about names, before we even knew about you, we had always said that we liked Ben for a boy and Beatrice (after my grandmother not Prince Andrew's eldest) for a girl. Interestingly, I later found out that my Gran hated her name, which is why she always shortened it to Bea - so KC is not alone in his dislike of his given name - but his reasoning is probably different.

"You can change me name to Ben if you like," he said, "I don't mind."

My heart went out to him. Was his sense of self so low that he was willing to change his name just to please us?

I cuddled him, "Look," I said softly, "There's a very famous play called Romeo and Juliet and in that play Juliet asks if she should stop loving Romeo just because of his name and she says, '... a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet' (I'm sure I paraphrased a little) and that means that no matter what we call a rose - we could call it a 'widgy' or a 'smellybum' - it would still smell the same and still be as beautiful. So it doesn't matter what your name is - you are still beautiful and still lovely and still very, very smelly!"

That got a laugh out of him.

I tucked him in.

'So," I said, "You will always be KC and we will always love you. Now go to sleep."

He sat up again. I braced myself.

'Daddy," he said.

"Yes," I held my breath.

"Is there a heaven?"

My guess was this was the sort of bedtime question designed to prevent lights out...

I looked at him. "If you don't go straight to sleep," I said, "You'll soon find out."

I don't think he got it - but he went to sleep anyway - whilst I poured a drink!

Adoption is hard work!!!!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Gay Family Overseas... 'What if..."

I've just spent this morning engaged in some very serious chats with some of my closest friends (and partner) about the rights of gay people overseas, particularly in relation to illness and families.

It's been a real eye opener.

It all started because dear Papa commented that he didn't really see the point of 'upgrading' our current civil partnership status to a marriage certificate, as we will be allowed to do later this year. I pointed out that the very fact that our 'status' is different is a form of discrimination - although he felt it was a positive discrimination as he 'didn't want to be married like everyone else.'

This led onto a 'whatsapp' argument where I pointed out to him that when I asked him to marry me all those years ago I used those words, "Will you marry me?" I didn't say, "Would you like to form a civil partnership and protect our legal rights should one of us become ill?" That was met with a silence - I think we will be having a 'chat' when he gets back from work.

Two of our best friends are getting married soon. A lovely gay couple who are made for each other - they are going to the USA to have the ceremony - even though they live and work in Singapore, a country that does not recognise same sex unions of any sort. This has left them in a quandry, after all, if one of them is rushed unconscious to hospital (heaven forbid) then the other has no legal rights to be at his bedside - unless a kind nurse or doctor allows it. They are not considered as next of kin and, should the same doctor or nurse be of a discrimnatory personality - or merely someone who 'follows the rules' (that's very common in Singapore) then they may be completely forbidden from seeing their ailing partner.

Of course, thats a worst case scenario - but one always has to ask the 'what if's' in these situations.

For us the 'what if...' is a simple one... ''What if one of Papa's family over in Singapore should become ill and we need to go back permanently - how would we cope not only as a couple but as a family?'

When I wrote the book version of '4 Relative Strangers' it was a point that my agent was particularly interested in - the legal status of gay families overseas. Singapore is odd as (if I read it correctly) they would recognise both Papa and I as parents of the children - but not as a couple, so we would be the boy's next of kin, but not each other's - which is just wierd.

Our friends, whilst busy planning their nuptials, are also worried about the same thing, and they really shouldn't have to be - they should just be excited about committing their lives to each other but the reality is they live in a country where they have no rights as couple.

Gay life is tolerated in Singapore - but it's seen as something to be pitied (in my experience) as if homosexuality is an illness or a 'mental issue' and it is assumed that the theatre scene in Singapore is essentially a club for gay men. Let me elaborate, I remember a very well known personality/politician explaining to me that the National Arts Council has rainbow coloured shutters not to reflect the 'diversity of the arts' but to promote the arts as a 'gay club' and just recently two lovely gay theatre practioners, have openly married each other in London which has generated a lot of publicity in Singapore - which is fantastic as at least it gets people talking about it - but on the flip side I can imagine many people saying, 'Well, it's what theatrical types do."

When I first 'came out' to my parents my Mum said, "Well at least you work in theatre.. its much easier to be gay there." Hopefully that has changed here in the UK and nowadays the law allows you to be openly gay wherever you work - whether you still feel you can is another issue - but at least you cannot legally be discriminated against, unlike so many other nations.

As we saw this week, with that poor British man going to prison in Morocco for merely having 'compromising photos' on his phone revealing him to be homosexual, the reality of going overseas has really hit home for a lot of gay people and for gay families it is even worse. Do we want our kids to see us be arrested and they then placed into care should we visit an intolerant country - again a worst case scenario - but I'm sure its something the Russian authorites would be happy to do. Especially as the foreign office can only stand by and watch.

At the moment Papa's family are well and we are happy heading over there twice a year to see everone and spend time with them - but 'what if....'

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Presentations, Tumble Dryers and... Kylie...

Yesterday, Dylan and I were asked to give a presentation to a group of adoption professionals.

When we agreed we thought it would be a small, informal affair - the sort of thing we are used to doing - chatting to would be adopters about our experiences. But a couple of nights before we were told by the organiser that we should pass her our powerpoint presentation and a transcript of the speech... what?!

I had intended to 'wing it' but that wasn't going to be possible. There were going to be a lot of important people there from adoption social workers, to senior family judges and head of adoption charities. Suddenly it was very scary!

So we worked over the weekend (my birthday weekend) and put together a half hour talk accompanied by various images and 'bullet points' - Dylan likes bullet points...

We turned up at Somerset House, a beautiful historical venue in the heart of London - although we were an hour late due to a nasty traffic jam - although we had missed a couple of other speakers we weren't on until later - that didn't stop my heart from beating at a furious pace though.

Eventually we went up and stood in front of this large group of people.

I said my opening lines, 'Good morning, my name is James and this is my partner Dylan... I talk a lot - he doesn't - you might say he's the Bobby to my Cilla...' (I have no idea where that last bit came from - it wasn't scripted but it went down really well). I had huge laugh - I don't think there had been much to laugh about before then. I went on saying how we chose our adoption agency after being turned down by so many purely on the basis that they offered us cake - this also seemed to go down well. After that the script was out of the window and we chatted openly about our experiences, about the ups and downs of adopting siblings and the help they needed - especially the input they required post adoption. As I said, just because the adoption order is signed doesn't mean that any of the problems miraculously disappear...

We spoke (yes, Dylan spoke too) for a good 45 minutes and sat down to a nice round of applause whilst the next speaker came on to talk about data input... as he was sorting out his powerpoint I was asked if I would like to sing something, maybe by Cilla - I was sorely tempted...

We couldn't stay after lunch (childcare is still not really an option for TJ) but we also didn't get to eat anything as so many people wanted to chat with us.

This morning I received a lovely couple of emails from speakers who followed us, both saying how they had changed their prepared speeches in order to reflect on what we had said and to continue to press issues that we had raised - mainly about the availability of good therapy and proactive post adoption support. All too often these areas only come into being when the adoption reaches a crisis.

We came home last night exhausted when Papa passed me a little red envelope - a belated birthday present.

I had made the mistake of saying that we needed a tumble dryer a few days ago and saw Papa frantically tapping away online. So I expected the gift to be the delivery date for the dryer. I have had numerous white good for birthdays before - I once got a Hoover because I 'admired it in the shop window' - I now only 'admire' Bulgari... not that any of that has come my way.

Still I was surprised to see that the envelope didn't contain a receipt for a tumble dryer but instead there were two tickets for tonight's concert by Kylie Minogue at London's O2.

I don't think I looked particularly overwhelmed as Papa said, "But it's not a tumble dryer and we're going to stay the night in a hotel - I've even arranged for the baby sitter to stay over."

Maybe I'm just too old for concerts now... eek! Maybe I just don't like surprises anymore - there is something to be said for anticipation... or maybe I just looked at the huge pile of washing I'm trying to get dry... and wished I had a tumble dryer...

I can be quite difficult to please sometimes...

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge...

Well, it's been an interesting summer,

We had an amazing trip to see Papa's family in Singapore and had time to catch up with lots of old friends, as well as mananging to take a short break to Thailand, staying in a friend's villa - it was lovely.

But all of this was happening whilst our house was being re-built. We have a home by the river and, unfortunately, whilst this seems idyllic it also means that occasionally bad things happen - like the garden seeming to subside or the ground floor sinking. But we agreed that it could all be fixed whilst we were away on holiday. Except when we came back, it wasn't. So the poor dogs had to stay in kennels for an extra week whilst we went first to Granny's and then onto a rented apartment in London, near Papa's work.

That was great fun as we were able to do lots of touristy things, like the Tower of London and the Cutty Sark and then meet Papa afterwards and still have dinner as a family.

It was after one of the trips that we decided to stop off at a local pub and wait for Papa there whilst I had a cheeky glass of wine (well, I was still officially on holiday) and the boys had lemonade.

It was whilst we were here that we witnessed probably the strangest 'ice bucket challenge' yet.

I'm not a fan of the challenge - as anyone who has challenged me knows. I did the honourable thing - I made my donation and then put the ice in a gin and tonic. I think the challenge got a bit out of hand myself, but that's just a personal opinion and who am I to question anything that raises money for charity? But here is what finally put the hole in my charity bucket...

We were sat outside enjoying the early September sun when suddenly a group of banker types came and stood next to us and started to remove their shoes and socks. We were by the Thames so I was concerned that we might be witnessing a mass drowning of the financial industry, or if we were really lucky, estate agents, but no. They were (I assume) senior managers who had all decided to do the ice bucket challenge together.

Duly stripped to their trousers and shirt sleeves they stood as their 'minions' (well, someone lower in the pecking order) came along with the ice buckets - each bucket also containing a bottle of champagne. By now both boys were fascinated and were itching to push through the suited crowd and see what was going on.

One of the waitresses sat next to me to watch. 'Some of them have spent over £100 a bottle", she said.  There were 5 bottles in 5 buckets.

'Are they donating a similar amount?" I asked her. She wasn't sure.

The senior managers then each made a long speech into the flurry of smart phones pointing at them - I was reminded of the French Revolution for some reason and then once they had finished giving their presentations (I half expected them to produce a power point display) they then all poured the buckets over themselves and then popped the champagne bottles spraying champagne, F1 driver style, over their colleagues.

It all seemed to be great fun. The boys certainly loved it and spent ten minutes kicking lumps of ice into the river.

But somehow it grated just a little on me. I can't explain why. I've heard the arguments that the challenge wasted gallons of water but here we were wasting bottles of expensive champagne - and I'm sure any charity would have been grateful for the £500 spent on it.

It was at that point I decided the ice bucket challenge had out lived its usefulness.

However, this week it is the MacMillan bake off coffee morning - I shall be taking part and am sending Papa in to the office clutching a batch of cakes to sell - hopefully for £500. I won't be eating any though - I'm on a low carb diet! (again...)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Contact Time 2

Thank you so much for your responses to my last blogpost both here and on Facebook - it's made for really interesting reading.

This week we had another surprise in that we received a series of letters from one of the boys' siblings. The letters had been held at social services and they had forgotten to pass them on.

Contact between siblings separated through adoption is so important I think. I was quite shocked to think that this other family had believed they were writing to us and that we were simply ignoring them. They had written regularly for the last three years - it was so sweet to read their exploits and yet also quite annoying as we now have to share all this with the boys, whose first question will be "Why didn't you tell us this before?' Still I guess social services are very stretched and mistakes do happen.

We always knew about this sibling but it has only ever been as a picture of a baby in their life story books - so to the boys the sibling is still just a baby. Its hard to believe the child is now at school. Their sibling was removed at birth and adopted at a very young age - so they have never actually met.

So today I find myself writing two contact letters - one which I know will probably never be read by the recipient, but will hopefully prove to the boys that we did try and we didn't shut their birth mum out and the other to, what seems to be, a lovely family whom one day the boys will want to meet - a meeting that we will encourage, if the other family are willing of course.

I'm much more positive about the latter letter.

On another note, I have decided that the time has come for some lifestyle changes - after 6 weeks away from home I have gained a few kilos - by few I mean a lot! So I have taken the plunge and am now dieting and going to the gym - I can't quite believe it myself.

The boys are both happy about it - KC even told me he thought I looked thinner this morning - but I think that has more to do with the fact that he is in trouble for not doing his homework this week - aminly because he keeps 'forgetting' to bring it home!!!!

I'll keep you updated.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Contact Letter Time... and Facebook!

Its that time of year again.

Time to write our annual contact letter to birth mum, not that she has ever responded but I do it anyway to ensure that in the years to come when the boys decide to look for their birth family (and I'm sure they will) they know that we did our best to keep birth mum informed.

Its always such a difficult letter to write. We are told to keep it brief, not to go into any personal details and to make sure it is positive - don't dwell on any of the problems we face on a daily basis or in any way blame the birth family for causing those problems.

There's a part of me that just wants to say "You caused this mess, you destroyed our children's lives and ruined their childhood, you could have stopped the abuse at any time - but you didn't - surely you should be writing to me and thanking us for giving them any hope of a future!" Of course I don't. I say they are doing well at school, we had a great time on holiday, they love sports and games... stuff like that. It basically becomes a completely rose tinted view of our lives. A facebook view of adoption.

Facebook - love it or hate it, its part of our lives.

There will come a time when the boys end up online and so this week I did the inevitable - I looked birth mum up on Facebook... and there she was.

Her whole life displayed publicly - no privacy settings.

I went through it all, eating it up, reading everything about her - desparately trying to find something about the children - not just ours but also the others she has had removed and have been adopted elsewhere.


Not one mention.

Just lots of lovely pictures of her with her friends and her (and I guess the boys') family. Lots of parties and pets - the usual pictures a young woman would put up on Facebook.

At first I was relieved that she wasn't showing any interest in the whereabouts of her children. I think I had been afraid to look before because I was worried that it would be filled with pictures of our kids as babies with her desparately pleading for someone to help find them.

And then I was saddened by it.

What would the boys think when they eventually see this? (Which won't be for a long time, but its bound to happen and I'd rather it was with me and papa to help them navigate it rather than for them to take a sneaky peak when no-one is looking) - how are they going to feel when they see that they aren't even mentioned?

Of course, I get that it may be too painful for her and that not everyone shares their lives on Facebook (although some of the stuff she did share seemed incredibly intimate) but with birth mum not engaging in letterbox contact my fear is that this will be the first time the boys hear from their mother again and it doesn't make for pretty reading.

It made me realise both the importance of letterbox contact and also the threat of social media, or rather unguarded social media in the lives of our children.

But for now - I'm back to writing platitudes...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Fun at the Tower

So I haven't been online for a while but we are now back from our travels and normal service should resume.

After a three week stay in Singapore and Thailand we have a few days left and decided to stay in London for a couple of days and do the touristy stuff to help us get over jet lag.

Yesterday we decided to brave the Tower of London.

We left bright and eatly, which isn't a problem as due to jet lag we were all up at around 5am so by 9 it felt like we had been up for hours.

Off we went on the dlr and even though the Tower had just opened we joined the long queue.

TJ wasn't impressed. He had been to Leeds castle in Kent with his school and is, therefore, an expert on all castles and did not need to see another one. But we persuaded him that we would see the Crown Jewels and lots of other things, plus the gift shop was probably very different to the one at Leeds castle. He agreed to accompany us.

The day was lovely,  the sun was out and it was not too hot, especially after the heat in Asia. We managed to avoid the huge queue for the Crown Jewels that built up during the day, if you are planning a trip my advice is to go early and do the jewels first, the queue by lunchtime was nearly two hours long. We waited for twenty minutes.

Towards the end of the day KC decided he wanted to visit the torture chamber, which also had a long queue. As we got closer to the door TJ decided he didn't want to go in, probably due to the constant descriptions given by his older brother of the way the instruments of torture worked. Papa agreed to take TJ for an ice cream while KC and I went into the chamber.

There were two ladies with their daughters behind us in the queue. When TJ left one said to me, "is he a bit worried, it really isn't that scary," it was very sweet of her and I explained that TJ is quite sensitive about these things and the descriptions given by his brother didn't help. She laughed and went back to chatting with her friends and their children.

The queue was quite long and the ladies were chatting quite loudly, so we couldn't help but over hear them. Particularly when they started talking about child abuse.

I'm sure it wasn't meant with any harm but KC suddenly went very quiet.

The ladies daughter was complaining about the time they spent queuing and the parents made the usual jokes about if the girls were so bored then they could call childline to report their parents for child cruelty in bringing their children to the tower and making them queue. This of course then led onto questions from the children about what Childline was and how it worked. So the louder of the two mums began explaining in great detail about children whose parents really abused them, what those nasty mummies and daddies did and how lucky her daughter was that she would never have to call Childline. The daughter asked what would happen if she did call and the answer was that she would be taken away and adopted by another family... And how would she like that?

I was in a horrible position. KC was obviously listening, he was quiet and no matter how much I tried to distract him or talk about something else he was glued to the other conversation.

I didn't know if I should ask the ladies to stop talking to their children about this as I would then have to explain why... And that wouldn't be fair on KC, so I chose to try and ignore it.

Even now I don't know if I did the right thing but how would making the lady feel awful make any difference.

We got to the chamber and KC raced through the small room and out the other side, I don't think he really took anything in. He just wanted to move on.

I stopped outside with him and asked if he was ok, "I'm fine, ' he said, 'can we get an ice cream now?'

I couldn't deny him that... Even at £3 a pop!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pulping the Penguins

I've been thinking about whether or not to write this post for a few days now.

I decided to let my anger subside and then write it with a more open mind - unfortunately, the longer I leave it the worse the situation seems to get.

We are off to Singapore shortly to see the boy's Grandparents and Aunt, Uncle and cousins. Our boys love going to Singapore and they get very excited about seeing their family over there but this trip has already been tainted by the goings on being widely reported in the media and across social media websites.

If you haven't heard the Singapore National Library and Media Development Agency have taken the strange decision to ban all books which do not fulfil the right wing Christian and, to some extent, Muslim groups ideals of a perfect family. These books, such as 'Tango Makes Three', "White Swan Express" and today I heard that 'Lets' Talk About Where Babies Come From" have been removed and pulped for not promoting the family (by recognising that familes of different types occur) and for possibly corrupting young children should they walk into a public space and begin reading such books without parental supervision.

Although it should be noted that "Let's Talk ABout Where Babies Come From" (which in the USA is called 'Its So Amazing' is actually a reference book aimed at parents and educators looking for a child friendly way in which to answer the difficult questions about sex when children bring it up. It is told in a child friendly way but is definately not supposed to be read by the child by themselves. So, in effect, this would be the first adult book that the MDA have removed. Obviously, adults need protecting from corruption as well, particularly as the book contains one page about adopted familes and same sex relationships...

At first glance the whole story seems a bit of a storm in a teacup - even Papa (who is Singaporean) dismissed it saying, "Who uses libraries nowadays?"

And that would probably be true had the Singaporean Government not then lent their support to the ban (bearing in mind that both the Library and MDA come under government juristiction in one of the most censored countries in the world). Obviously, if the government rejected the removal of these books they would be rejecting one of their own organisations policies. The NLB spokesperson stated; "NLB’s understanding of family is consistent with that of the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Ministry of Education."

So, in a nutshell, the Singapore government has blatantly stated that it is now ok to discriminate against any family that is deemed to be not of the social 'norm.' I maybe overstating it but thats certainly how things appear. It would also seem to include single parent families and all adopted families.

So that raises the question then of 'where does our family fit in?". Our boys are proud to call themselves half British, half Singaporean - even though it would appear that Singapore does not want them.

When we go back to Singapore are they to be barred from talking to other children for fear that they may corrupt them. Will Papa and I be able to walk down the street holding our children's hands without being spat upon - seriously, if you read some of the comments the so called 'Christian' and 'Muslim' groups are espousing on their various social media platformsthat would seem to be the next step.

Of course, we know it is just a minority who have these views and our friends and family will welcome us with open arms - but what is worrying is how much weight this minorty view is being given. And what happens if, God forbid, anything should happen and we have to relocate back to Singapore - will our family even be recognised - our partnership wouldn't be so how would that effect the adoption? Thats actually a scary thought.

After our last trip to Singapore and my comments on how much more open it has become as a society this seems to show that Singapore has once again taken a step back into the dark ages.

On a more positive note - just as the anti gambling ads which ran in Singapore showing a  desperately sad, small boy hoping that Germany would win the World Cup as his Dad had placed all his savings on them (that backfired) so, hopefully, this will help me in my quest to sell the book version of the blog - as my lovely agent said on Monday - 'Its all pretty petty what's going on in Singapore at the moment, and very sad, but it will definately help book sales!"

So here's hoping the Singapore governemtn slap a ban on my work as soon as its published!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Finally Forty - Part 3

Ok - this will be the last part, I promise.

I know that reading about a group of forty somethings frolicking in a French chateau pretending to be students again doesn't really float everyone's boat - and it is a bit indulgent but bear with me for one more post...

What was lovely about suddenly not haivng a family to worry about was the freedom - the freedom that we took for granted before children arrived. I know many of you will be saying, 'But you chose to adopt." and you would be right.

But in the three years that we have had the boys Papa and I have only been away from them together for one night and I have never been away from them all - not by myself. It took some getting used to - well, about three drinks and I was used to it... but there is a sudden realisation that life isn't all about routine. Life is also about having some time to yourself - we soon realised that we could get up when we wanted, eat what we liked, drink far too much and then - and this was the heavenly part - go for a nap -in the daytime!!!!!!

That was brilliant. There is something very decadent about sleeping in the day (when you are not ill, of course) but looking at the light around the curtains as you get into bed just seems really naughty! And no little hands banging on the doors demanding juice or that you sort out their argument with each other. We had a lovely few days - Furry had it all planned out. I'm not normally a fan of 'organized activities' but he had done them well. There was a quiz - boys against girls, the boys specialist subject was trout fishing, the girls tractor management - Furry had brought magazines so we could study. Our team divided the magazine up into sections - one member was very competitive and I was a little scared - so I studied 'Flies' and my question came up and thanks to that we won!

Furry also left a costume for each of us in our rooms - all ready for 'Allo 'Allo night (the eighties BBC show set in occupied France) My costume was that of Herr Gruber, the camp, alcoholic German officer who has a crush on the show's leading man Renee - played by the only genuine Frenchman in our group. (apparently it was typecasting - I tried not to be offended)

Each 'couple' had been designated an evening to cook and Papa and I had gone for a Singaporean menu - except Papa wasn't there, so I followed his instructions and made a Laksa followed by a seafood curry - I gave up on his dessert and made an Eton Mess - which all seemed to go down well.

Th big day came and the birthday girl opened all her presents over breakfast and had a little cry at the many messages people had sent in via their phones. I passed her the presents we had bought for her last year, with a couple more added on - by a guilty Papa - and this time she was allowed to open them.

Then we produced a cake that we had managed to put together despite having very few baking utensils, no baking powder and, more importantly, no food processor - but it went really well.

Actually, the whole few days went really well and it was a shame to leave.

There was only one person who spilled a small can of beans - after a lovely barbecue - which consisted of Furry scorching huge slabs of meat - I asked if we could eat the Vienetta for dessert - I had seen it snuggling in the freezer. Fairy's ears pricked up - "Vienetta' she squealed excitedly... Furry glared at me... 'That was a surprise,' he said through gritted teeth, Fairy politely looked the other way... Sure enough, later that evening as the clock ticked over onto Fairy's big day a Vienetta (complete with sparklers) was handed to her... oops.... still, I had managed to keep everything else quiet - which for me is an achievement! And all kudos to Fairy for still acting surprised when it arrived... (she is a professionally trained actress though!)

When I came back Papa met me at the door - 'Dont you ever go away again," he hissed looking a dishevelled mess whilst the kids seemed to have turned the living room into a circus of some sort...

Its nice to know that you are missed...

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Finally Forty - Part 2

This may turn into a series by itself....

But, continuing from our arrival in Nantes...

Fairy and I sat in the airport with our new french friend, she was lovely and explained that the sports car that was due to collect Fairy and whisk her away had met with an unfortunate demise enroute... the front fell off. Luckily no-one was hurt.

Furry had planned to collect me prior to the arrival of Fairy - but for some reason her Easyjet flight had arrived early (which is unheard of) and Furry was stuck in a traffic jam - but he was on his way and he would collect all of us- in return for the French lady helping him he had offered to give her a lift to her home, which she assured us was nearby.

Furry arrived and quickly ascertained that I hadn't spilt the beans (I'm good at that) and loaded us all into his car ready to drop French lady off and then head to the rendezvous in time for supper.

French lady may indeed have lived nearby.... the only problem was, she didn't seem to know how to get there. Nantes, like most French cities is packed with roundabouts and, if you are the sort of person that doesn't drive then negotiating roads via roundabouts is particulalry tough, especially when you have the world's most untrustworthy sat nav.

We drove for hours in French suburbia - which is lovely, but all the time Furry, who had been driving through the night was getting visibly tired and at one point we actually went round the same roundabout 6 times at which point Fairy helpfully pointed out that if you go around a roundabout more than three times you are breaking French law (whether that is true or not I don't actually know) but either way, it lent a little more tension to the already fraught air.

We eventually found the right exit and headed over to the French lady's lovely little flat where she gave us coffee - which Furry was in obvious need of.

After a short while we left and headed to the chateau - except we had forgotten that not only was it was the first day of the school holidays but rush hour was now in full flow - so we sat in traffic and argued with large French truck drivers.

We got off the moteorway and then sat nav decided she hated us and refused to take us anywhere that Furry could recognise. Of course he was also nodding off at the time and Fairy was keeping him awake by poking him in the face with a pine cone. It reminded me of my own childhood, sitting in the back of the car whilst my parents squabbled.

Then he saw the sign and we drove along a long drive and up to the most beautiful chateau - a stunning building - although to be honest I would have been grateful to have seen a run down shack, as long as it had a toilet! I was busting!

There on the patio were two carefully placed champagne glasses and Furry dutifully took his wife by the hand and they had a romantic moment in front of the chateau - while I watched. I suddenly felt like Kenneth Williams when he went with Barbara Windsor and the Kray chap on their honeymoon. They canoodled and then Furry led Fairy into the castle where the other guests dutifully popped out of their hiding places - I hoped they hadn't been there for hours...

No sonner had they surprised Fairy and tears were shed (mainly by me as I really really needed a wee) than dinner was served...

And so began the main theme of the weekend... food, lots of it and even more drink!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Finally Forty... part 1

It's been an eventful couple of weeks... with a lot to tell you about...

So let's begin...

Last week it was the actual 40th birthday of a very dear friend of mine (and KC's 'fairy godmother' - her hubby is TJ's 'furry godfather' - as we like to call him - sometimes they swop over...).

If you recall, last year we rushed around trying to sort out a celebratory 40th birthday bash - only to discover it wasn't actually her 40th - there's a blogpost about it somewhere - very embarrassing!

Well, this year it was actually the big 40 and 'Furry' had organised an amazing surprise bash in a chateau in the middle of France somewhere, with a few of Fairy's closest friends and... no one else. No kids, no pets, no jobs... no worries! Or that was the plan.

The week before we were all due to travel on our secret mission (and yes, we managed to keep it a secret) - the French air traffic control went on strike. Luckily, that would only really have effected Papa and I as everyone else was driving down - oh, and the birthday girl - who was also in Algeria (of all places) on a business trip at the time. She turned up at the airport to learn that her plane was still in the UK and the chances of her flying home for the weekend were small. She was also then booked to fly back out to Nantes upon her return home - and that flight looked uncertain as well.

Cue distraught panic from all concerned - excpet for the birthday girl who was happily contemplating a few more nights in sunny Algeria at the expense of Air France and was oblivious to the fact that her dear hubbie was on the verge of a very serious nervous breakdown everytime the word France was mentioned!

Then. out of the blue, two friends had to pull out due to a family medical issue and Papa also had to cancel because he was needed at work. The latter part wasn't such a big issue - oh, except that we had arranged for Grany to come and look after the boys, with all animals being put into kennels. It was to be our first proper trip away without the boys since their arrival three years ago. I love my children, of course, but the thought of eating in a restaurant that doesn't have a menu that you can colour in or not having to share a 'family' hotel bedrroom was extremely appealing.

I was still to go though and a plan b was put in place. A plan B that saw me trying to get across the UK by public transport (Mum was using my car) on Thursday night to join the driving party at 2 in the morning - a plan that was never going to work - and anyway, the birthday girl would still be in Algeria. But we all nodded and said we would try, secretly praying for a miracle...

Then on Wednesday the miracle happened. Fairy got on board a delayed plane for the UK and French Air Traffic Control cancelled the rest of the strike - Hurrah!

So, on Friday I headed off by myself into the sun...

I got to Nantes airport and saw that my plane had landed immediately ahead of Fairy's - she wasn't supposed to know I was here - the plan was that she was to be collected and whisked away in a sports car to the secret destination - whilst I was then picked up by Furry to do some shopping (or something like that).

I ran through passport control and ducked in the baggage arrivals area looking, I thought, not unlike Daniel Craig as James Bond - although it was probably more like Russ Abbott as Brooke Bond in his 80's TV show...

I shot out of the arrivals and ran into - no-one. There was no-one there. I stood in a panic. Should I let Fairy see me - would someone else spot me - and why were there three people dressed in Chinese robes, were they part of the plan? Should I ask them? I went over... no they were waiting for their daughter who was coming back from a year working in Shanghai - but they were very nice people. I decided to just stand in the airport...

Fairy evenutally came thorugh and a lady I didn't know went over to explain that the sports car that was due to collect her had broken down (seriously) and that her hubby (Furry) was stuck in a traffic jam. Fairy nodded and then saw me - "You're here!" she cried (to be honest I knew that already). 'Yes," I said, "But I cant tell you anything." - Which was true as I hadn't got a clue where we were going to.

Luckily the lovely lady on the plane turned out to be a friend of a friend of Furry's and he had organised a secret message on the plane for Fairy using the friend  (It all gets very complicated) and, luckily again, when the mishap had happened with the cars the secret lady was able to intercept Fairy and tell her what had happened - she had no idea who I was though, so if I had remained in hiding, as had been the original plan, I would probably still be there now....

Anyway, we went for a lovely coffee and a chat whilst Furry negotiated rush hour on a Friday in Nantes...

And we hadn't even reached the chateau yet...

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Full Moon...

The evenings have been getting longer and staying warm... Which is a nightmare when you are trying to persuade children they need to go to sleep.
"Why am I in bed when it's still daytime?" Is asked every night, and even black out curtains don't seem to work.
So I have allowed for longer bath times and longer stories and longer... Well, longer bedtime routines really.

This evening was no exception and our eldest boy, KC, decided that he was too hot to have a bath so would rather have a shower in our room instead. We have a small ensuite shower room which seems to fill the boys with fascination.

KC has told us he is now becoming a man (he's 9) so needs to start showering. To be honest, I don't care as long as they are clean.

I left him upstairs undressing in our room and ran downstairs (three flights as we live in a townhouse - which means I should be tiny from all the exercise, which I most definitely am not) and let the dog into the garden.

Whilst out there I heard a commotion above me and I looked up...

We are lucky in that we overlook a river, and alongside that river is a riverside walk, a very busy riverside walk, made even busier by the lovely warm evenings...

As the people were taking their evening stroll my eldest son was hanging out of the top floor window... Or rather his bottom was!

His little, pink, perfectly rounded 'tush' (as he calls out) was being thrust through my Juliet balcony with a voice shouting 'it's a full moon!' To all the passers by.

The passers by were gazing up and, to my horror, they started to applaud. This only made my drama loving eldest son more energetic in his 'bum wiggle' and he soon resembled a pale, pink bumble bee doing it's 'wiggle dance' to the rest of the hive.

I was mortified and ran upstairs. Unfortunately by the time I had managed to puff my way back up three flights with puppy in tow, the little monster (or moonster?) was now in the shower denying that he had ever done any such thing!

I sighed... Sat on the bed and watched the crowds that had gathered outside the window disappear... I certainly wasn't going to continue with the show! 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Sports Day Rehearsals

One of the big problems with having children in separate schools is that you have to double up on everything, teacher's meetings, school fairs etc. Hopefully, none of those things then clash - luckily so far they haven't.

This month is a busy one for all schools and one of the biggest events in the school calendar is Sports Day.

We are lucky as KC's sports day is tomorrow whereas TJ's will be next Thursday - so I can plan two separate days out, although Papa needs to take two days off work, but I'm sure he will cope.

However, each day this week has seen sports day practice for KC - he has been coming home each night in his PE kit after an afternoon spent on the school field - which he loves.

However, this has also meant that he has managed to come home with everybody else's clothes. On Tuesday I discovered that he was wearing someone else's blazer and had lost his socks - how do you lose your socks? Luckily I had lovingly (well begrudgingly) sewn labels into all his clothes only to find that he has been picking them out 'cause they itch!'

On Wednesday morning I discovered that he was wearing someone else's shoes - the ones on his feet were two sizes too big, they were like boats on his little feet, which also meant that another child had squeezed his larger feet into KC's small sized shoe - like one of Cinderella's ugly sisters.

Last night he came home again in his PE kit and this morning I noticed that he still had the wrong shoes - only now he only had one of them, but at least he had found his socks...

Upon enquiry it turns out that he doesn't know where the other shoe is. So now not only is he wearing someone else's shoes but he has lost one of them as well. I'm so looking forward to meeting that boy's parents at Sports Day tomorrow...

It reminds me of last year when TJ came home with someone else's uniform in his PE bag - except it was a little girls' skirt - she had taken his trousers home - luckily the Mum and I both saw the funny side.

It will be his turn next week.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Staying at Home - when ill!!!!

I went into school yesterday to collect TJ and came back full of sniffles, "I'm allergic to kids' I joked on the way back. TJ didn't get it.

Then this morning I woke up full of 'man flu' - head banging, body aching, full blown cold symptoms - lots of fun!

I told Papa as he left for work that I felt awful.

"You should stay in bed today then," came the sympathetic reply as he left the house.

So sweet I thought... and then remembered I had to get the boys up and ready for school - which with them at different schools takes a good 90minutes. Then after that I had to walk the bouncy puppy. I got home and sat down. Papa called, "Are you resting?" he said. I smiled, then he added, "Because I haven't any clean shirts left so could you wash and iron me some please?" I stopped smiling.

"I thought I wa supposed to be resting?" I said.

"Well, I thought about it and realised that you can't so I thought you might as well be kept busy," said Papa laughingly.


So I have just finished hanging out the clothes and am sitting down for lunch.

Papa called back "Shall I get dinner tonight?" he asked.

"That would be nice," I replied, "Especially as I have to take TJ to his piano lesson and then collect KC from rugby after."

"Great," he said, "Chinese or Fish and Chips?"

To be honest I don't care - as long as I don't have to cook it.

Stay at home parents should be allowed to include sick days in their scope of work... except they can't...

Friday, 13 June 2014

Horrid Henry...

A couple of days ago TJ announced that it was book day today and that everyone had to go into school dressed as their favourite literary character.

Being the consummate professional that I am I went into costume overdrive. I decided that TJ would go to school dressed as the Mad Hatter - the Lewis Carroll version of course... I made a hat, complete with tag, I organised cravats and frilly shirts to go under his suit from his day of being a page boy - well, he does need to get some wear out of it. I dug out an old wig and knew that everything would be fine.

Unfortunately, when I informed TJ that he would be going to school today dressed as the Mad Hatter he looked at me with daggers. "I am going as Horrid Henry," he replied.

I glared daggers back. "I have gone to all this trouble," I said, "You will be a great Mad Hatter."

"I don't want to be the Mad Hatter, I want to go as Horrid Henry, its my favourite book and I want to go as him," he then added, "You can go as the Mad Hatter if you like."

"Why didn't you tell me?" I said angrily.

"Because you didn't ask!" he replied.

I was stumped.

He was right, I didn't ask.

So feeling a little guilty we duly went through his Horrid Henry books to find a 'look' for school.

It turns out that Horrid Henry must also be smelly Henry as he only ever seems to wear one jumper - a blue one with a yellow stripe through it but that was the jumper that TJ wanted...  So we set off two days ago to find a jumper that looked exactly like Horrid Henry's.

We didn't find it.

TJ was distraught.

How could he go as Horrid Henry without a blue jumper with a yellow stripe?

Then Papa had an idea. Wasn't Horrid Henry also a cartoon. We quickly googled the cartoon version and found that here Horrid Henry wore many different clothes - but in the cartoon he was also a red head (in the book he is dark).

So now TJ had this image fixed in his mind - when TJ gets something fixed in his mind you know you are going to have to follow it.

We searched the shopping mall for cartoon looking clothes - lots of britght colours - but definately stripes (Horrid Henry would only ever wear stripes). And then TJ decided that like the cartoon he needed orange hair.

So we went off to the lady's accessories shop - which TJ refused to enter and found him neon orange hair spray.

He left for school as happy as Larry - or Henry...

I just hope he doesn't put his head against anything - or that iot rains - or else he will look like he has been 'tango'ed'!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Praise - it simply doesn't work!

Everyone talks about praisng our kids - encouraging them. Making sure they feel good about themselves. Increasing their self esteem (although judging by the plethora of kids on TV talents shows there should be a few whose self esteem could do with a trim)

But. on the whole, this is a great attitude to take - except when a child simply doesn't believe it.

Let me explain.

Our eldest loves praise - he thrives on it. If you tell KC he's done something well then he simply beams. Even the smallest amount of praise can result in the hugest grin. However, on the flip side of that he simply can't bear any form of criticism. He takes it completely to heart. If you say something along the lines of  'Your room is really messy,' then in his mind he seems to hear - 'you are really messy - so we don't love you.' He literally takes everything personally.

TJ on the other hand doesn't respond to praise at all. He simply doesn't believe it. So if you were to tell him that he did an amazing job at anything he looks at you as if you have just told him to chop off his right hand. 

I saw that yesterday in his piano lesson. TJ is really good at piano (that's not just a doting dad) - but he can play at a level far beyond his years (probably due to his way of seeing the world) and yesterday, he played a particularly difficult piece and, naturally, his teacher was full of praise, "That's amazing TJ, I have adults that can't play that piece TJ..." etc.

As soon as he heard this TJ turned into Mr Jekyll, or Mr Hyde, I can never remember which is which. Anyway, the 'moody, grumpy, refusing to play piano anymore' one.

His teacher didn't know what had happened. She was caught on the back foot and in order to compensate was immediately overly enthusiastic. "TJ, I said you were brilliant," she said. It was met with a sullen teenager like glare.

I decided to end the piano lesson there.

As soon as we got into the car TJ was absolutely fine again - we had a 'chat' about how he seemed to have been very bad mannered to his teacher and how she was there to help him. Halfway through the chat he simply said, "I don't know why she said all that - everyone knows I'm rubbish."

I was floored.

'The one thing you are not is rubbish," I said - and then made exactly the same mistake as the teacher and told him how wonderful he was - it was met with a stony silence.

When we got home I explained it all to Papa - he listened and then said, "But the therapist told you how to deal with him - he can't take praise... always remember that 'good' is good enough."

Sometimes I should remember what the therapists tell me - but they have said such a lot, its easy to forget....

I want to praise my kids and tell them how wonderful they are - but they simply wouldn't believe me - and why should they? They probably spent most of their early life hearing how awful they are before being (in thier minds) given away... they were unwanted by the very people who should have given them the most praise of all... 

Who can blame them?... It's me who has to change my word descriptions and remember that when I just say 'good', I actually mean incredible... 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

A More Serious Post... It's just neglect...

Good grief - It's June!

How did that happen?

The year is flying past....

Apologies for not blogging over the past few days but its been half term and I have just sat my second year psychology finals - so its been a busy week. But today I am catching up on ... well, on everything.

Then I came across a message in my email intray asking about my opinion on a statement made by the Head of Christian Concern here in the UK about a sibling pair who had been placed with a gay couple here in sunny Kent. The scope of her ignorance amazed me - and yet it is shared by so many.

Apparently after being told by social services that their two children were to be adopted by a gay couple the, supposedly practising Roman Catholic birth parents, were concerned for their children's well being and argued that they would suffer 'psychological harm' at the hands of their new gay parents. This claim was then backed by Andrea Williams, the Head of Christian Concern who said:

 'We do not know all the details as to why adoption was deemed necessary but leaving that aside, this case raises profound concerns. Why is it not possible to accommodate the beliefs of the natural parents and act in the best interests of the children? Why are these beliefs about marriage, which the government claims are protected, being trampled on? It is causing great present distress to the parents and as they have outlined is likely to cause great distress to the children in the future. Why not seek adoptive parents who share the beliefs of these parents?""

Of course we all have our own views and I thank God every day (yes, we are Christian family) that we live in a tolerant nation that allows everyone to express their own viewpoint - but what was said here was just blatantly mis-informed and the most important part about this story is the part that she wishes to brush under the carpet - 'we do not know all the details why this adoption was deemed necessary but leaving that aside...' - 'leaving that aside'!!!! - that was the statement that made me boil!

I had a call yesterday from a lovely TV producer who wanted to know more about the adoption system and he was stunned by the end of the call - he had no idea things had to be so bad before children were taken into care, and then, once they were, just how difficult it was to find even one child a loving home, let alone a sibling pair. The idea of a 'catalogue' of children waiting for adoption being passed out to approved adopters horrified him - but thats the reality...

Its that word 'neglect' that causes so much confusion.

What is neglect? To a right thinking person 'neglect' is exactly as Ms Williams describes it - not bathing the children, irregular meals, dirty clothes. Of course, in this case we have to add in the fact that these two toddlers were beaten by their parents on a regular basis. But I don't want to talk about just one case.

Even in their own investigations the Government admit that the terms 'neglect' and 'emtional abuse' are poorly defined and cover too many areas. They say that neglect can go on for many years - becoming a 'chronic' condition before the threshold can be reached to bring the children into care.

And this 'threshold' is remarkably high, particularly when used in a social work sense.

I was stunned when I knew what 'neglect' really meant when used in a Social Work sense. It is an all encompassing phrase that covers everything from children being left in their own faeces, often  starving, or peeling wallpaper for food as ours did. It is about children being left for hours on end whilst the parents are at the pub or high. Its children watching their parents inject themselves with the drug of the moment whilst they sit and watch cbeebies, if they are lucky - often its hardcore porn or violent films they are sat watching. It is a horrific term that strikes fear in me whenever I see it - but that's because I'm an adoptive parent. I didn't get my information from the Daily Mail - I got my information from months of adoption preparation, from attending courses, from learning what sorts of background my future children would come from. And we didn't shy away.

Nor did this couple who finally adopted these children. They were brave enough to stay the course, to say "Yes, we will take these children on with all their problems. Yes, we will love them and deal with the incredible mess that these children are thanks to their early years with this horrendous birth family. Yes, we will give everything we have to make these unwanted children happy."

And that's the bottom line - the birth parents, Christian or otherwise, didn't want their children and had the right to parent them removed. I get sick to death of hearing that the children's mummy "loved them very much but she wasn't able to look after them." (which is the line social workers like to tell kids in care). Well, birth parents can choose to change, they can put their children before drugs or alcohol- social services work for years with them getting them help before they eventually take their children.

No-one wants to bring children into care - it has to have reached a point where there is simply no other option in order to keep the children safe. For one thing its too expensive - it costs more to keep a child in care each year than to send them to Eton and for another, we know that the best place for a child is with their birth family - but some people shouldn't have children and when that happens then the children are taken into care. Yet the birth parents still have time to change whilst the courts decide what is best for the child, which can take up to a year. However, if there is still no attempt to change then adoption is the final choice and the search for a suitable family begins. The search for an adoptive family can take years, let alone restrticing that search to a family that will support the birth families religious beliefs. Yet, in reality, these beliefs are commented on in the paperwork (and there is a lot of paperwork) and the propsective adopters are asked to comment on it - the religious beliefs are usually put into the catalogue of 'hard to place' children as well. All of this is taken into consideration when looking for suitable adoptive parents.

But, of course, it is the physical and emotional well being of the child that has to take priority, their spiritual journey is one they will undertake later and will be a choice they ultimately make for themselves.

I did smile when I saw the birth parent's argument which read:

'The children will not be able to be brought up in the Catholic faith because of the conflicts between Catholicism and homosexuality. They would not be able to maintain their Catholic faith if they are adopted by this couple and even if it  was promised that they would attend church the children would at some stage be taught or learn of the attitude of the church to same sex couples. This would undoubtedly be upsetting to them and cause them to be in conflict between their religion and home life.'

Apparently they were in tears as they read it to the court.

Of course, my argument would be that it is the church that is at fault here - for seemingly teaching that it is ok to dismiss the parenting skills of  a loving same sex couple in favour of a hateful heterosexual one who see no harm in their treatment of their children.

So to Ms Williams I say this, you are entitled to your views - but at least make sure you have the full facts before you start making such inflammatory statements.


If you are interested then the terms I have used have been taken from the Government's own research and investigation into social services and are printed below and the comments I have used above are from Ms Williams own website. All other views are my own - but I'm guessing you knew that already.


Taken from: Safeguarding in Children Services' by Carolyn Davies and Harriet Ward. 2012. Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Neglect is described as:
The persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
  • provide adequate food, clothing or shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment)
  • protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger
  • ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate caregivers)
  • ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

We have quoted these descriptions in full to demonstrate how comprehensive and detailed they are. yet even with such precise guidelines, professionals find it difficult to identify these types of abuse and to decide when a threshold for action has been reached. The difficulties arise for a number of reasons:
  • Both types of maltreatment are heterogeneous classifications that cover a wide range of issues as is evident from the descriptions above.
  • Both emotional abuse and neglect are chronic conditions that can persist over months and years. Professionals can become accustomed to their manifestations and accepting of the lack of positive change: the serious case review into the death of Peter Connelly, for instance, found that professionals were too accepting of low parenting standards.43 These can include poor supervision resulting in numerous ‘falls’ and bruises; poor cleanliness of the house and poorly cared-for animals; persistent and recurrent infestations such as head lice; loss of weight and failure to thrive; poor dentition; skin problems and nappy rashes; delayed motor and speech development; and self-harm and running away in teenagers.
  • Both types of maltreatment can persist for many years without leading to the type of crisis that demands immediate, authoritative action. Without such a crisis it can be difficult to argue that a threshold for a child protection plan or court action has been reached.
  • Both types of maltreatment are also closer to normative parental behaviour patterns than physical or sexual abuse, in that most parents will, on occasion, neglect or emotionally maltreat their children to a greater or lesser degree. It is the persistence, the frequency, the enormity and the pervasiveness of these behaviours that make them abusive. However, such factors are difficult to pin down with any degree of clarity and this makes it difficult both for practitioners and the courts to determine when a threshold has been reached.