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)