Sunday, 8 November 2015

What a Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I went into school in tears.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

It's all about family....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 5 October 2015

What a difference a month makes...

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

Saturday, 5 September 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it hit me.


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

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

Wednesday, 12 August 2015


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

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

All good.

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

So both boys are now contactable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Final Week....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Looking for a Sore Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 3 July 2015

What Would Happen if I Met My Birth Mum?

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

I looked at KC.

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

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

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

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

So we talked.

He had a lot of questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Can I write to her?" he asked.

I thought about it. He is nearly 11 now.

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

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

He stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 26 June 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 19 June 2015

Rewards in Heaven...

A couple of weeks ago we went 'oop north' to go and see Granny.

My Mum is also the carer for my Nan, who is still going strong at 91 - although she is convinced that any day now she'll be saying farewell to this earthly life - although, to be fair, she has been saying that for thirty years - but I guess at 91 you can be excused. However, she keeps giving things away - buy Nan anything new and guaranteed you will have to go and buy it back from the church jumble sale at a fraction of the cost you paid for it. Some people in that village have found some pretty amazing bargains I can tell you.

Anyway, whilst we were there the time came to 'do' the supermarket shop. Nan finds walking difficult, so I've set her up on online shopping - but she won't have it - I've even told her about the cute young delivery men from Waitrose, but she prefers Sainsbury's and they're not quite as cute.

Anyway, my Mum takes Nan weekly to their local Tesco - which is enormous - and this week was no exception and we had the two boys in tow as well. The boys aren't known for their love of supermarkets and they were led to the car protesting their innocence and pleading to be allowed to stay at home - I was reminded of the scene in 'Tale of Two Cities' when Dirk Bogarde is proclaiming 'tis a far, far better thing... as the little seamstress is led to the guillotine.

But they duly got into the car and off to the land of Tesco we went.

KC decided that if they helped Nan and Mum (Granny) with the shop then they could probably get back to the TV quicker and may even get a treat for their trouble - my Mum has Sky, we don't - apparently our lack of TV channels is tantamount to abuse.

We went into the store and Nan produced a list. My Mum had warned us that Nan takes a long time debating over most of the products on the list before eventually buying the same items she buys every week, but I guess when your are in your 90's you can do as you like.

KC was brilliant with Nan, he ran backwards and forwards collecting her items on the list, only for them to be rejected, but undeterred he then took them back and reselected the requested item in the right size, or colour... or whatever.... It was good exercise for him and, as he suffers from severe dyslexia, it was also a useful way to put into practice all the extra support sessions he is given in school.

I was so proud of him and Nan was equally impressed. She patted him on the head, "You are a good boy," she said, "You'll get your reward in heaven."

KC looked at her, "In heaven?" He looked at me...

"Do they have DS Games in heaven?" he asked.

"In your heaven I imagine they do," I replied. He gave a big grin and immediately went back to helping Nan with her shopping.

Mind you, this weekend is Father's Day and TJ has already been complaining that he has to buy two presents instead of just one. I told him he could get something for us to share - "But you don't like football!" he cried.

"I meant for Papa and I to share," I told him, "Not all of us."

"Well, that's not fair," he said. So I've booked a family trip to see Jurassic World on the Imax screen on Sturday night and will await my football themed present on Sunday, which TJ will then happily play with all day - still at least it will keep him occupied.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

An NSPCC Assembly????

So this morning I was walking the dog when I bumped into a doggy walking friend. Our only connection is that we both walk our dogs at the same time every morning and we got chatting about the normal mundane things that dog walkers discuss.

Despite having 'chatted' for over two years the lady finally asked me what I did for a living. "I was a teacher," I told her (I never say I used to be an actor or anything like that - that leads into huge conversations regarding the fact that not all working actors are mind blowingly famous - and anyway, I haven't done it for ages... adoption enforced 'resting', I like to call it..) 'And," I added, "I'm going back to work in September at my sons' school."

"I'm going to be running an assembly at that school next week," she told me cheerfully. "I work for the NSPCC and we go in and talk to children about domestic abuse and the fact that children can use Childline etc."

She must have seen the colour drop out of my face.

"It's ok,' she said, "It can be a bit full on and some children do get upset but we've only ever had a few actual disclosures."

I decided to come clean. I told her that our children are adopted and that our eldest, who would be attending the assembly, had only recently come out of therapy to help him understand his past and the 'parents' that they would be discussing could very well be the birth family he experienced.

She listened and advised me that maybe my son should not be taking part. I agreed and went home to speak to the school and find out why I knew nothing about this.

I wrote a long email to the Head, also including the fact that the genetics lessons (see previous post) had also caused some upset and asking if the school could keep me in the loop about such things - I asked he if she could let me know when the assembly was in order that I could find a reason for KC not to attend that day.

I wasn't at all happy.

But I was also wrong.

The Head had already decided that KC wouldn't take part, she was waiting for confirmation of the assembly and then she would arrange for KC to be doing something very important that day, which would mean he would 'unfortunately' miss assembly. Once everythin g was in place, she had intended to give me a call...

She also took my point about certain classes, such as family trees and genetics and would have a quiet chat with all the staff because, obviously, it didn't just effect adopted children but also those with single parents or those in care.

She was completely open and lovely and thanked me for my openness (I don't think you can hide much when you are the only gay family in the school - but there you go.)

But it also goes to show that it really is worth talking to the people you meet every day... properly!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Genetics Class - Nature v Nurture

KC is doing genetics in school.

This has led to some interesting dicussions revolving around his birth parents. KC and his brother share the same birth mum but have different birth dads - so suddenly I find myself at the receiving end of questions like: 'Which of my birth parents gave me my learning difficulties and which of them gave TJ his - I'm guessing it must be our different dads - what do you think?"

How do you answer that?

I never want to apportion blame to the birth parents for any of the children's genetic faults - and there are a few. But these are things that couldn't be helped and wouldn't lead to a child being taken into care, so I choose to recognise them as 'gifts' from the birth parents, a different way of seeing the world. I point out that the boys both have different colour hair and different colour eyes from each other and that their additional needs can be seen in exactly the same way - they are unique to them and its what makes them unique.

KC seems to 'get' that but then he told me that the teacher had told them that their are 'made up 50% from their mum and 50% from their dad' - he looked at me, "But she didn't say anything about you, do I get anything from you?"

I felt as if I was about to be drawn into the whole nature versus nurture debate, which is so popular with psychology students. I decided to go with it.

"Well," I said, "You've now lived with Papa and I much longer than with your birth family or your foster carers and you've grown up a lot in that time. So, the gifts you received from your birth parents we are now using those to make you a more rounded person."

I felt satisfied with that answer - he looked confused. I went on...

"Think of it this way, when a puppy is born to a wolf (he likes wolves at the minute) then that puppy can't do anything and if it was left by itself it would probably die, even though its birth parents have given it the instincts it needs to survive."

"Like hunting," he chipped in.

"Yes, like hunting," I said, liking where this was going. "So the baby wolf needs to learn how to hunt, but the mummy and daddy wolf are too busy to teach him. So the baby wolf looks for a family that can help him and he meets a dog who lives in a nice house but hasn't got any children of his own." (I apologise for comparing children to dogs here - but I wasn't intending to make the conversation a blog piece at the time and I was thinking off the cuff - so to speak). "Well, the dog then takes the wolf puppy in and teaches him lots of different tricks and things - all of which use his instinct..."

"Like when our puppy chases sticks?" he interrupted.

"Yes, just like your puppy chasing sticks and the wolf puppy grows into an adult who doesn't really look like his adopted dad but who can chase sticks just as well as he can and can do lots of other dog things like ..." and I floundered a bit..

But he took over, "Like rounding up sheep or hunting criminals and being a police dog - or an army dog that looks for bombs?" he was in his stride now.

"Yes," I said relieved, "Just like that - but the grown up wolf is still using the gifts he got from his birth parents - he has just adapted them in order to work alongside his adoptive family."

KC seemed to like this analogy and went to his room to do his homework - although I'm not sure if his science teacher will appreciate the drawing of a wolf dog looking for bombs.

A little later KC came down the stairs and said, "I do know one thing I get from you..."

"What's that?" I asked.

"My beautiful singing voice" And he proceeded to belt out the chorus to 'Bills' by Lunchmoney Lewis (I believe its number one on the hit parade...) in a key previously unheard of by mankind.

I nodded and took it as a compliment - which in many ways it absolutely was!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Puppies, Pants and err... Putting on Weight!

This blogpost was supposed to go up last week but I made the 'mistake' of changing my internet provider which left me with intermittent internet for a week - although hopefully, its all clear now and I won't have to keep popping out to Starbucks to send out emails.

Anyway, last week I was in the supermarket with TJ when I suddenly felt a cold draught around my crotch area. We were in the chilled section so I initially placed the blame on the half price cheese at waist level but as we moved on I noticed that the draught was getting distinctly stronger and that TJ was staring at the back of my trousers.

"You're wearing pink underpants!" he exclaimed.

"So?" I asked him, assuming you could see the top of my pants over my trousers - I'm so down with the kids.

"Everyone can see them!" he squeaked, "There's a massive hole in your trousers!"

I tried to turn around and see what he was talking about - and ended up looking like a large dog chasing his tail in the middle of a packed supermarket. I ran my hand down the back of my trousers and felt, to my horror, that there was nothing there - just a huge gaping hole where trousers had once been.

By now, we had nearly finished our weekly shop so I told TJ to walk behind me as we navigated our way through the checkouts and practically ran back to the car.

When we got home, I raced upstairs to see what had happened.

Our lovely puppy, now a year old, had been left on her own in our bedroom and had decided, as she was obviously missing me, to eat her way through three pairs of trousers which had been left out after ironing. But she didn't chew the trouser leg or anything like that - no she went for the crotch on all of them. Obviously, I hadn't realised when I got dressed that morning and throughout the day the hole had been simply getting bigger until it finally gave way in the chilled aisle of Sainsbury's.

So the next day I decided to go to our local shopping centre and treat myself to some new trousers and probably some shoes, oh, and a couple of shirts as well.

There is something about being a lone male in a clothing store that makes you a magnet for all female staff - I'm not saying I'm gorgeous or anything but I think the assumption is that we men are incapable of choosing anything for ourselves and that once we have a nice lady telling us how good we look that we will then go ahead and spend a small fortune. Actually, that is pretty much the case...

Anyway, I had two ladies helping me and once we started discussing our children we all became life long friends for the next half hour.

So I selected some jeans and chinos (well, I am in my 40's now as everyone keeps reminding me) in my size and took them to try on.

I came out of the changing room so the ladies could have a quick look. Afrer a few minutes of 'humming and hahing' the older lady suggested that I might like to go a size larger. I was dumbstruck, I've been this size for as long as I can remember.

"Maybe it's the cut of the jeans,' the younger lady suggested, "Try on the chinos."

So I went back in, slightly self consciously, and tried on the chinos. I came out for the scruitnization - the ladies now thought they were on daytime tv and were handling a make-over.

"Yes, they're a bit on the snug side as wel,' said the older lady with the younger nodding. The older lady turned to her colleague and asked her is she could find the same trousers in the next size up.

I looked at her, "Surely they will 'give' a little" I said, "Don't these stretch in the wash?"

"Yes,"  she replied, "But not as much as you want them too." and she went off to the fat man trouser section to help the younger lady look whilst I stood there close to tears - well, the trousers were a bit on the tight side.

So I bought two pairs of trousers in the next size up - and left the store devastated! I went to another store to buy my shirts and left the shoes as I was too traumatised. I was in such a state that I had to go for lunch - just a little something to help me get over it. I had a burger.

On the upside, I 've decided to go back to work in September... so that gives me a few months to lose weight!!!!!!

Oh, and from now on - I'm only shopping online!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

More Life Story Work

It's been a busy old week, mainly because TJ has gone back to school after the Easter break, although KC still has another week off - one of the perks of sending the boys to separate schools is the different holiday dates. KC's school is fee-paying, which means that we are essentially paying for him to have longer holidays, hmmm...

I'm not sure why it seems to be so much more work having one child at home instead of two. It's probably the sudden need KC has to be entertained by me - whereas I can usually say, "go and play with your brother," I now have to find things for him to do - if I left it to him to entertain himself he would never prise himself away from the TV.

So, yesterday, we decided to go for a long early dog walk. We dropped TJ off at school and then off we went on our treks. A few minutes in and KC asked me what his mum looked like. I stopped and looked at him.
"Where's that come from?" I asked.
"I just couldn't remember what she looked like?" he replied, "I sometimes imagine she is dead, then I don't have to think about it so much."
"Your Mum's not dead," I told him, "Why don't we go back and look through your life story book, I know there's a lot of pictures of your birth mum in there."

He told me he would like that very much and after the dogs had been suitably exercised we went back.

We went through his book together - the pictures of him as a baby, pictures with his birth mum and her partner, KC's birth father. Then we came to the part of the book that I hate, and which I think he has avoided - you may recall from a previous post that I had 'edited' these areas' for TJ. But KC wanted me to go on. "We need to talk about it," he said when I asked him if he was ready.

I won't go into detail here - mainly because its not my story to tell but what I can tell you is that KC was honest and open - not pulling any punches. Telling me about his abuse and the bits of it he remembers. He looked at me and said, "How come I can remember all of that but I can't remember what she looks like?"

I can't tell you I had any great words of wisdom for him, or shared any earth shattering revelations - I just sat with him. He didn't cry or get emotional he just looked through the book again. Then he gave it back to me. "Put it away," he said, "I don't want to look at that anymore."

But, as I said before, that's the importance of life story work - it enables the child to share their experiences with you - but by using the book they aren't talking to you directly about what happened - it's as if they are talking about the character in the book - the child they once were.

Then TJ came in from school and he'd been playing football today - how do I know this? Because I went downstairs to find his football boots on the dining table.

"Why are your boots on the table?" I asked erm.. 'heatedly'.. I decided not to go on about it being bad luck or anything (although it will be for him if he does it again). His reply?

"Well, they are covered in dog poo and I could see that the floor has just been cleaned, so I didn't want to get that dirty."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry - luckily our bonkers Turkish cleaner was in (hence the cleaned floor) and she was able to get the mess cleared up whilst teaching us all some very interesting Turkish words (which I don't think I will repeat should we ever go to Turkey).

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Four Go On An Adventure....

(This post originally appeared on the BAAF website but I'm reposting it here for those who missed it.)

30 March, 2015

Last weekend we were lucky enough to receive a weekend’s stay at a remote castle, well tower really but to the boys it was a castle, courtesy of the Landmark Trust who had given a number of properties for use across the country by various charities. BAAF was one of those charities and they offered this gift to us which we gratefully accepted.

 When I first told the boys they were non-plussed. “What do you mean there’s no TV?!” exclaimed KC to which TJ added, “And if there’s no internet then how can I play Minecraft?” – his current addiction.

 I told them we would be able to take our dog and we could go walking and exploring the countryside, as well as playing games together and reading. All of this fell on deaf ears and the boys decided there and then that they were not going to enjoy this.

 Papa came in through the door and I excitedly told him our news, that we had been selected to enjoy a stay in a Landmark Trust property. Papa was equally excited until I told him how remote it was, “No internet? No TV? Then I’m not going!” he pouted.

 Good grief. At this point I decided that I would go by myself with the dog – at least she would have a good time.

 But soon enough the weekend came around – Mother’s Day weekend as it happens – which is always a difficult time for us. No matter how much they deny it I know the boys will at some point be affected by the whole obsession that schools have with Mother’s Day in the week prior. KC’s school had held a ‘Celebration of Thanksgiving for Mum’ and TJ’s schools had held a simpler assembly – but still focusing on the gratitude the children should feel towards their female parent.

 This year our youngest decided that he wanted to ‘remember what his birth mum looked like’ – although I’m pretty sure his memory is through his life story book. So we went and got the book out – the only difference being that where in previous readings I edit out any of the bits that might be too upsetting, now he can read them for himself, which brought up a lot of unhappy memories for him.

 So the castle trip was ideally placed to take their minds off the mother’s day shenanigans as they happened.

 We loaded up the car on the Friday after school and headed off on the two hour journey to the depths of East Sussex. We were told the house was off the beaten track and.. it certainly was. We followed the excellent directions and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a huge expanse of empty space confronted by a huge tower with the windows lit up like eyes glowering. TJ immediately wanted to go home. “It looks like something out of Scooby Doo!” he exclaimed, “How is this a holiday?”

 But we went on in and inside it was warm and welcoming with tea things laid out on the table. The boys found the old spiral staircase at the back of the tower and rushed up to the roof to look at the stars and then to find their bedroom.

 The next morning in the light of day the place just seemed beautiful. No traffic noise, no Saturday morning kids TV blasting, just bird song and the cries of children shouting “I’m hungry!”

 We made a full English breakfast in the beautifully equipped kitchen and then headed out for a walk across the Downs, stopping to watch the barn owls teach their young to hunt. It was magical.

 By Saturday night we were exhausted and just made pizzas in the oven before settling down together to play a game of monopoly, which no-one won as everyone was so tired and the boys soon drifted off to their beds whilst Papa and I opened a bottle of wine and sat by the roaring (electric) fire.

 By Sunday we were all totally relaxed into this new way of living. I suggested going out but the boys wanted to stay and play football and ’knights’ in the grounds. Papa and I were only too pleased to oblige.

 The weekend was over way too soon but by the end the boys wanted to go back again, not bad considering they didn’t want to stay at all.

 But the real beauty of the trip was that it allowed us time to be a family. As every adoptive parent knows, creating a familial bond is possibly one of the toughest things you can do. The boys, as siblings, have their own special bond and sometimes we, as parents, can feel pushed out. But this trip allowed us just to play, without any of the distractions of modern day life – but just be together – whether it was walking, playing games or preparing food. Our eldest boy even found doing the washing up a brilliant way of passing the time – we have a dishwasher and he had never had to wash dishes before. It turned out he was very good at it and each mealtime he would wash and I would dry and we would chat. It’s the little things like that that bring a family closer together and this trip definitely facilitated that.

 Thank you Landmark Trust and thank you BAAF!


(photo posed by model and provided by the Landmark Trust)