Tag Archives: Family

Pickle’s Profound Philosophy (3)

17 Nov

Today, Pickle’s teacher asked the children what was special about each of their families.

Pickle apparently responded with:

“My family gave up their time to adopt me. Without them, I would have nobody to love….and nobody to talk and laugh with!

Whoa, he kills me!!

At least, I’m disguising my floundering parenting skills well!

 

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Life Story

18 Jun

Kept safely on a low shelf inside my wardrobe are 3 very special books:

One is a book crafted by my own fair, dextrous and creative hands. Lots of perspiration and profanity went into its fine production.

The book is a veritable Who’s Who of the Permanently Pickled household. It holds pictures of me, OH and Gherkin, the Olds, the animals, the car, the house. Surgically sutured into the back of the book is a DVD, containing a short clip of moi (as the protagonist) standing in the doorway, rather awkwardly and gawkily offering a warm welcome to Casa Chaos.

From the hallway, I glide towards the living room with all the gracefulness of a bag of bricks and, à la Anthea Redfern, present my loving family – just as my cousin quickly dives out of the way of the lens.

It’s cringe-worthy. It’s god-awful. It was a horrid reminder of those not-so-halcyon days of GCSE drama.

But there was a damn fine reason for putting myself into such an embarrassing position. This book and – soon-to-be-acclaimed – DVD were to provide Pickle with his first glimpse of his new forever family. The foster carers adeptly used them to drip-feed information to Pickle, so that when we finally met he would have some sense of familiarity with the random strangers he was to call mummy and daddy.

The second book is an album of photographs meticulously compiled by Pickle’s foster carers, charting his time with them. This was the most useful book to us in the early days following his transition. It made Pickle feel warm and safe to look back on the good times with the foster carers when he was feeling uneasy and at his most insecure and vulnerable. He would also understandably cry a lot and miss the sanctuary of their home. It could be difficult to sustain animated enthusiasm and a jolly tone when a frightened and anxious child was crumpling in your arms.

The final book is Pickle’s Life Story Book. Assembled by the infinite number of professionals who have flitted in and out of his life. Ultimately, this is the most important book. It’s my link to Pickle’s babyhood. It tells me the place and time he was born, how much he weighed, the circumference of his head. All those specifics that you naturally absorb at the moment you hold your newborn in your arms.

It’s factual and to the point, if not actually that detailed. It’s an honest account of the reasons that Pickle can no longer be in the care of his birth parents.

Up until now, we have only ever looked at the photographs in this book. Photos of him as a tiny baby. There are only 3 or 4. Taken on a mobile phone. Grainy with very few intricacies, like cute dimpled cheeks and knees. I’ve tried squinting my eyes to see them.

I hadn’t therefore expected him to hand me the book last week and ask if I could read the words to him. I wasn’t ready or prepared, but I duly obliged, siphoning off the inappropriate and unnecessary, and watering down the complex language. He then blurted out “Why can I not live with Mummy X and Daddy Y?” I really hadn’t expected THAT question just yet.

But what both flummoxed me and gave me the best feeling ever was when I explained to him about how he came to live with us, about how he was specially chosen. He maturely put his arms around me and asked me where was heart was.

I pointed.

He kissed the place.

What’s that smell?

8 Jun

There’s something in the air.

And it’s no longer the smell of despair, singed ends of wits, or frazzled nerves.

Yesterday, I reached out for a modicum of support. Just had a need to not quite feel so alone after a tough few weeks with Pickle. In all honesty, I felt a little foolish and a bit of a failure, but I am glad I did it.

The support came in 140 characters or less. From a small circle of people who could genuinely understand the dark, heavy shadow that is meagrely attempting to shroud me. I have never met these people. They are faceless, some of them even nameless. It is highly likely I will never meet them. I am however thankful for their small uplifting utterances and consistent humour. No murmuring of ‘oh, they all do that’, just kind virtual nods of empathy.

In response, I kicked my own tushy – which is pretty difficult what with it being so little – and the result was an amazing day out with a much calmer young man. We spent a solid 5 hours in the fresh, damp air, chasing the most inventive and hilarious scarecrows lurking around the countryside.

It was fun. I haven’t had fun – I mean real belly-giggling, doubled-up, rolling on the floor fun – with the kids for a while. I had become too engrossed in the whys and wherefores of the intricate and complex nature of the child psyche. I had been blinded by theoretical discipline techniques. I had been over-analysing (though, as part of my own intricate and complex psyche, this will NEVER stop). I had forgotten one blinkin’ basic thing. To smile. To laugh. Ok, so that’s two.

Instead, I had watched the downward spiral of Pickle’s behaviour until it spludged into an abyss of crappy crap. Then I slumped down and seethed with silent fury, and self-pity.

Light bulb. Worra-a-noob!! Laugh. Smile. Inject some life and spirit and it’s amazing what can be achieved. Even with a fiercely stomping 5-year old decreeing: “That’s it! I’m just not living here anymore.”All the while I am bemoaning Pickle’s behaviour and all the while my own has been to blame.

One simple rule that I had briefly forgotten: Calmness breeds calmness.

Don’t think I am overly berating myself. I’m really not. I am human. Mostly. And some hardcore pontificating from Mother Theresa would be nothing short of miraculous should it have the slightest dribble of influence on Pickle.

I am merely stating a fact. I have been trapped in ever-decreasing circles of intolerance. And through my recent posts, you may have had a whiff of the fact that my patience has been tested almost beyond the point-of-no-return.

There’s something in the air.

It’s the smell of cwoffffeeee. I’ve woken up. In this moment, at least.

I shall revel in the delights and achievements of today and tackle tomorrow with the same vibrant determination. That is providing I don’t hear the thundering feet of my mini man mountain pre-dawn chorus.

Gherkin’s Feelings on Adoption

7 May

This is a guest star named Gherkin. And this part of the blog is all about how tough it is for me and for every child who has had such a change and impact to what has happened to them over the years they have been through the adoption process.

4 things that have been really hard for me over the past few years

  • The urge to retaliate and to do to Pickle what he does to me to show him what it feels like but I really think that that is the wrong thing to do.
  • The pain when I get bit and really hurt.
  • When he calls me names they are just words he does not know but they still get to me sometimes.
  • The thing about doing things different to what I would usually do and trying to keep my calm is very difficult.

4 things that have been good about the past few years

  • The feeling of giving Pickle a new home.
  • The feeling I get when he thanks me and cuddles me.
  • When he looks up to me.
  • Seeing how far he has come.

If you are thinking of adopting I think you should do it because it is a thing that you will not regret. Just forget about the negative and look at the positive. You will give a wonderful child a new loving family and a brand new house to live in.

Bacardi Breezer, Anyone?

15 Apr

Recently, we met up with an old friend and his family who adopted a gorgeous little squidgling of their own at the back end of last year. It’s the first time I’ve spoken to any other adoptive parents face-to-face and it was great to compare stories. We chatted about our experiences of going through the adoption process, and I started thinking back to how I felt at the very outset of this incredible journey….

Social workers are programmed (robotically, some say *winks at my social worker friends) to ask all kinds of invasive and delving questions. They poke and prod you, narrow their eyes as they scan you from head-to-toe. Through the adoption novice’s eyes, they may initially seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to a cross between the Childcatcher and Miss Trunchbull; wafting their Biros in front of you like long, thin sugary lollipops before slamming you into The Chokey, throwing their heads back with a muahahahaaaaa as they try to catch you out with their probing questions.

These were our preconceived thoughts.

However, the process – though intrusive – was by no means as scary as that. Or at least it wasn’t for us!

Our social worker was, in fact, a dream. She was polite and understanding, and I found the ‘show-off’ choc-chip shortbread biscuits worked a treat at eking out her inner softness.  Obviously, she wanted to know the ins and outs of a duck’s derrière when it came to our personal and professional lives.

The home study groped with long, gangly fingers into our extended family history, education, religious beliefs, parenting experience, and overall lifestyle, as well as ferreting out any past misdemeanours. Not that I had anything to hide of course *shines halo. Quite rightly so, we were thoroughly scrutinized.

Frozen to the settee by the icy, penetrating glare of the social worker’s expectant eyes, we fumbled around trying to find the right things to say or should I say the right things we thought she wanted to hear, whilst at the same time trying to give the least altruistic-sounding response possible.

SW: “So, if the adopted child with whom you were matched was called Beaujolais, Pinot or Bacardi Breezer, how would you feel? Would you want to change his/her name?

Me: *purses lips, snorts deep intake of air. “Of course not.  It is a fundamental part of the child’s identity and having been stripped of everything else that s/he has known, we feel it would be very remiss of us to then snatch away the remaining link to his/her heritage”. *glances at OH with a was-that-ok-was-that-the-right-answer kind of look.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually believe this wholeheartedly, but I also have to be honest and say… I really don’t like Pickle’s birth name. He has 2 beautiful, solid middle names and I did toy with the what-if-I-just-swapped- them-around idea in my head.

But at 3 years old, with his own very steely and established identity, and having been taken from two prior homes, we felt that we couldn’t suddenly tear him away from his foster placement and after 10 days say “Whey hey! Here we are. This is us. Complete strangers. Large quantities of bonkerness running through our veins of sanity. And oh, by the why, you’re no longer going to be known as Smirnoff!

Some families are advised to change an adopted child’s birth name for clear and understandable reasons relating to his/her background. For us, having been given – let’s be honest – Hobson’s choice, it did ultimately make sense not to take away that piece of Pickle’s jigsaw. (Still don’t like it though *stamps feet, sulks)

Would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on those initial meetings.

Laying the Foundations

19 Mar

We held off from legally adopting Pickle for almost a year after he moved in with us. Not because we were unsure of our situation – far from it – but because it was essential for his emotional development and stability to attend the same school as Gherkin. He had already started to form relationships with our friends’ children, who also attended the local school. We felt there was no other option. We had to get a guaranteed place for him there.

Under current legislation Looked After Children (LACs) are given priority in the school admissions system, but once that child leaves the care system they are treated much in the same way as every other child, provided there are no special needs requirements.

So, under this legislation is the government suggesting that when a judge stamps a form, signs a piece of paper, and gives the gift of a cuddly rat (yes, bizarrely it was a rat), an adopted child’s feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, anger, loss, grief, and the myriad of other emotions that lend meaning to his/her life all magically disappear? That the underlying wounds of the child’s harrowing past are suddenly healed with one gigantic, bureaucratic sticking plaster?

Well, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the answer is a big fat, resounding NO!  Thankfully I am not on my own in my thinking. In January 2013, thanks to the government’s overhaul of current adoption procedures, a  much-welcomed legislation will come into effect affording adopted children the same rights as Looked After Children in respect of their educational needs.

Fortunately and unashamedly, we worked the system and a nursery place became available for Pickle at the local school at the beginning of the Spring term, after he had been in our care for a year. He was 4 years old. He was champing at the bit to get out of the house and I too was anxious for him to socialise with other children and help this defiant little monkey understand that rules and discipline apply to everyone.

The first six years of a child’s life are imperative in terms of developing emotional attachments. Many adopted children have been starved of this basic need, having had constantly changing faces as their caregivers. It has been proven that interruptions in the bonding cycle in these informative years can create problems throughout a child’s life and have potential repercussions in adulthood.

As parents, we have to create a foundation for an emotionally and socially healthy life from the day our children are born. For an adopted child, who has perhaps learned anti-social or unacceptable behaviours, it is often the case that an adoptive parent has to completely strip back certain facets of the child’s personality and start afresh with a blank canvas, building up a spirit and resilience that will enable them to cope successfully with the adversities of their adult lives.

The teaching profession plays a huge role in supporting parents not only academically but also with regard to a child’s interpersonal and emotional growth. I had never quite realised just how crucial this role was until Pickle started school.

I was able to meet Pickle’s future teacher in advance of his first day. She’s a young woman bursting with enthusiasm for her obvious vocation in life. Long may it continue! I hope the pressures of the education system don’t take its toll on her innate passion.  Together, we discussed Pickle’s needs. We made plans. She listened to my concerns and she worked with me, I felt like she was ‘on my side’.  It was important that Pickle’s school routines were as consistent as possible with those at home, to create a feeling of continuity, safety and trust and to limit anxieties and help build self-control. She is extremely empathetic and understanding towards all the children in her class, not just Pickle.  I had already heard glowing reports from other parents, but I have been utterly astounded and amazed at how much she has helped Pickle grow in all aspects of his personality.  She created a safe haven for him in her classroom when he was at his most vulnerable. She has continued the attachment process beyond the walls of our home by focussing his environment on strengthening social interactions. Most importantly of all, she has been adamant that we should discuss issues together as a three. Always including Pickle, so that he understands that we constantly work together as a team. And that’s exactly how I feel.  We are a team. And without her guidance, support, encouragement, diligence and unfailing patience, our lives would have been so much harder.

The Joy of Grandparents

14 Mar

It’s our parents’ job to worry about us and shield us from the harsh realities of the world outside As we, in turn, will do with our own children. But when does the worrying stop? Well, it doesn’t! Irrespective of our age, our parents will always be concerned that we are making the right choices in life.  Worrying is intrinsic to our very being.

At 26, I got the top of my left ear pierced. I remember my mum saying, “I get you to this age, married off, with no hitches, and then you go and do a stupid thing like that”. Annoyingly – as I’ve been told so often and as I will no doubt tell my own kids – mums are always right. It’s something I now deeply regret since my ear cartilage has subsequently rebelled and I look like I could have hailed from the Planet Vulcan.

So then at the grand old age of 36 (and 38 for OH), we go and do another ‘stupid’ thing to worry both sets of parents, we go and adopt a child! A stamped, marked, branded difficult-to-place child!

It never entered our heads when we embarked on this undulating journey: the fact that our parents would inherit the impact of our decisions, that they would be forced to accept a non-biologically related child as an integral part of the family, that they would feel the pressure to develop an emotional connection with a tiny tantrum-toting tyke.  And aside from that, as carers for the kids every Friday night, my parents would also have to be interviewed by the social worker and undergo CRB checks. They would have to be open and willing to do this. To take on the impact of a decision we made.

They did this readily and without question.

Both sets of parents were concerned about whether they would ‘take’ to the child, whether they could love him/her in the same way as a birth child, how we would feel in the future when that child wanted to contact his/her birth parents. All of these are very common concerns of grandparents in adoption.

Thankfully, Pickle never gave them a chance not to ‘take’ to him or love him. His boundless love, humour and energy make it pretty impossible for even complete strangers not to take to him on first meeting. Not that it has been an easy ride for them at all.  My parents still believe that they are some 4 or 5 months behind in terms of managing his behaviour, gaining his trust and developing security.  He pushes buttons with them that he dare not push with us. For OH’s parents, development is dragging even further behind. Primarily because they live a few hundred miles away and we only get to see them every couple of months.

A supportive family network is a crucial crutch when going through the adoption process.  The extended family is vital for helping to build and consolidate attachments and to create that all-important sense of permanence in an adopted child’s life.

This post is really just meant as a big shout out, pat on the back, and huge whoop whoop for all those grandparents who have inherited the ‘stupid’ decisions we kids make.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We couldn’t have done it without you.

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