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’.