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.