Reflection part 1

After a couple of properly horrid weeks; I finally have time to reflect. I need to state our new normal is still okay, we are still doing ‘okay’ no matter what it looks like from the outside or how tired I am. It’s been national adoption week this past week and whilst I have managed to avoid most of the hype & flowers it hasn’t utterly bypassed me. 

It is still utterly the best thing we ever did. There is so much laughter and joy in our lives brought by the boys. But it is also the hardest, and day to day it is still the hardest thing we are dealing with. And trying to let people see that balance; trying to make people understand that adopted children are broken before they ever get to their adopted family has been my personal crusade for the past couple of weeks. A lot of it I cannot share…it’s not my story, it’s not our story, but yesterday I was called to meet the boys headteacher as a result of a letter I had written.

Jelly went to nursery class at the school he now attends in reception. He went very much pre-verbal with about 15words he could clearly say. He went with 2 friends who he knew & felt secure with. Over the course of the year he branched out from these friendships and made others. This was good, I befriended mums and let some of them know why he was ‘different’ and they understood and supported us when their children went home and said Jelly’s done this or that. There was serious disappointment for us then when the reception classes were announced and he was with not one of these new friends, infact he was going into reception with one ‘friend’ who happens to be a girl with very different interests and who he is friends with due to circumstance. 

I spoke to the head teacher who told me that the classes were sorted and that was the end of it. Except it wasn’t, I wasn’t the only mum who was upset, some mums had a good rant and have continued to do so. So imagine my horror this week to discover that one child (whose mum was still kicking off) has actually moved classes this last week. I wrote a very angry letter to express my/our disappointment that the head hadn’t stuck to her word and had actually moved a child who I know has no additional needs and the only reason she has moved is because her mum shouted loudest & longest. 

In my letter which I copied to the chair of governors, I went through all the explanations and reasons I had wanted Jelly to be with his friends. I also reminded her of all the things that Jelly had been through and copes with on a day to day basis living with Boyo. And I asked her what the school were going to do to improve this situation. 

So yesterday lunchtime I received a call asking if I could go into school yesterday afternoon which I managed to arrange as we were on a training day at work. Quite rightly she told me she couldn’t tell me why this child had been moved, although she did say it was a governor decision (which I find highly odd as it’s not normally the type of thing governors decide). But apparantly there were reasons (I know this isn’t true). But as she had called an emergency meeting yesterday (having received the letter),  with chair of governors, SENCO and class teacher she did have a significant plan to help Jelly. 

She knows that I am extremely disappointed. She knows that I know why there was a space in the other reception class (adoption disruption). She has forgotten (although SENCO hasn’t) that we know lots of people and know that there was no reason to move the other child, so I am going to stick to my belief that the parent who shouted longest got what they wanted. She has also not realised that himself and I know a significant number of governors and some of them we have known a long time, so I will be asking questions about whether they are now decided which classes pupils are going into. 

The only good thing in this is that yet again we were reminded that the SENCO gets it. She knows that they are broken and that we are working extremely hard to help our boys. She offered a life line yesterday, which we grasped with both hands. And when I mentioned another issue that had become apparent she promised she’d look into it. But both himself and I are determined that nothing will slip by, that we will be contacting school about anything that we have issue with. 

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A new normal…

We have just been blessed with a weekend away; we went to one of our happy places. A place where we can just be; no judgments, no worries. And we had a lovely weekend…not without issues because we wouldn’t be us if there was no issues… but nothing to worry about.

On the way, after school on Friday, I made a passing comment to himself that we were finally finding our new normal. That this is okay; we are all managing okay. Nothing about our life would appear normal to anyone else, but that’s okay, they aren’t living our lives.

We had a good(ish) week last week.

Boyo announced on Thurs evening he was excited to be going away; Boyo telling us how he is feeling is pretty enormous.  He may well have wobbled on Friday morning, but that’s okay, we can cope with that.

Jelly didn’t hurt anyone at school last week (that I’ve been told about). Although he has spent a lot of time this weekend chasing a chicken that didn’t appear to have the sense to just get out of his way!

Himself and I went on a very useful course on Wed; which confirmed we were doing a lot of things right. It put a lot of theory around some of the things we do, do & also about some of the issues that we have.

I was called into school; but found that the SENCO was very supportive of Jelly and understood my concerns about the reception teacher trying to get him to be too independent. We came up with a plan for the issue that needed addressing and there are meeting minutes that addressed my other concerns.

And then we went away and had a lovely time & everyone came home today (with a few wobbles) and went to bed tired but happy.

A new normal…tired but happy…and coping; well for the minute, we are coping.

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A small ask…

When I trained as a teacher a few years ago (well 15 to be exact) we had a small half day session on special needs & that was that. I did a little more as my first placement school had a significant number of children with Down’s Syndrome and I actually wrote an essay (with research & everything) on EBD (emotional & behavioural difficulties) within school. 

Nothing prepared me for the after effects of trauma. No mention was ever given to these children. The first time I ever thought about it was in Feb 2009 when we did our prep course. I returned to school after that course and moved a pupil I had been having significnant issues with…from the front of the classroom (because she was unable to stop talking) to the back, the TA who was with me thought I had gone mad….but it worked, she did so much better. As it happened I was in the rare (for my school) position of knowing this particular child was a child in care.

And I want to write this in defence of all the teachers who have never considered the effects of trauma on a child, at the same time as shouting ‘JUST LISTEN’. It isn’t the teachers fault that they haven’t learnt about these issues, they are simply not told. But it becomes the teachers fault when they think they know better than the parents, than last year’s teachers, than social workers… And that is the problem that my boys have suffered from, and my friends children, and those Twitter friend’s children, and the pupils that go to the school at which I work who have suffered trauma.

And I want to make this clear, trauma comes in many, many forms. Yes, the children I am talking about on the whole are adopted or in care (because those are the circles I mix with) but what about those whose parent has died or who has seen an adult relationship break up in a unpleasant manner? What about those who no longer see a parent? Let me be clear, these children, these pupils are innocent bystanders to whom bad things have happened. It is not their fault. None of it. 

Teacher to teacher I beg you. Don’t believe you know better, go out and become educated on the after effects of trauma. Work alongside parents, because they have to cope the pupil you send home. Listen when a social worker tells you something won’t work. I ask you please, think about those children in front of you and what they have been through; and give them some understanding. 

I can’t speak as an adopted child, I can only speak as a parent of two. If you had been through what they had been through you too might struggle. And again, I ask, none of this ‘well they are with a loving, stable family now’ because truly that does not repair the damage that has been caused. If you have ever had anyone you are close to, die, does been somewhere different actually take your grief away? It does not matter what birth families have done, or not done, there is a primal belonging, if a child is removed that belonging does not go away, no matter what age they were. 

Just think, just listen, just try to understand. 

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Back to it…

It’s the Sunday evening before the new school year. Part of me has been hanging on for this day for about the last 5 weeks… the other part wants for the school free days to last forever.

Today has been a hard day; and that is saying something in a holiday of hard days. Boyo went for walk in his socks; he kicked his wellies off (he did put them on eventually). I have several bite marks (both boys). Jelly has refused to eat. Toys have been thrown. There has been a lot of noise – random noise. No-one has managed to play/or do anything for any amount of time.

Tomorrow I have to go to work. I’m not looking forward to it as a change in management means I have a less than supportive boss. The boys go to school; a new area for Boyo with new arrangements (and no afternoon play). Jelly is going to do two half days, then start full time on Wed. I give it until Thurs before we hit a major problem, but I do have a back up plan in my head.

Tonight will undoubtedly be relative sleep free; because who wants to sleep when they are full of anxiety. The only person not worried about tomorrow is himself – as he has a week’s parental leave starting tomorrow! Mind you – he has to get the boys to school and collect them again.

So here we go… we will see what happens.

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Nearly there…

I have done it… tomorrow Himself is off work; Monday we all go back to school. I have managed nearly 6 weeks with the boys by myself. I would love to say that we’ve had an amazing summer, but we haven’t… and I stood last week with some of my best adopter friends, who have all had a difficult summer and one of them commented, ‘next year, will be different’ and I recognised the truth in that, no-one can promise it will be better, but it will be different.

I had hoped I had planned well enough, I had hoped we were going to sail though. I forgot to factor in my children or at least Boyo! Early on in the holidays; I had made a commitment not to fight where it wasn’t necessary… this meant when he refused to go somewhere (which irritatingly he would have loved) I accepted it and agreed we could stay at home.

Of course there was plenty of arguments/shouting/screaming/kicking/biting/hitting and just general horribleness. We have had some amazing moments; just yesterday Boyo spent a long time playing (yes, playing) with another child! Okay, it involved mud and grass, but they played and planned together. Jelly managed a 3 and a bit mile walk without any carrying. There have been giggles and laughter. But when overwhelming the summer has felt ‘hard’.

We were spoilt in the middle as we had a break; 3 daytimes without the boys. We did catch up on some sleep; we talked (a lot) to other adopters. We made memories, with help from other people. And this holiday, that was our saving grace, because without that time, it would have been too hard. The boys had an amazing time.

I haven’t done half of what was planned, it hasn’t been possible. I have mostly mixed with other families who understand. Who don’t care when someone lies on the floor and screamed. Who agree with me, that we have to get out whatever the weather.

So now, my thoughts are turning to September, which hopefully will be another entire post. I am sad, because I know it will bring it’s own stresses and anxieties, but equally welcome the return to routine and structure.


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A diagnosis…

Once upon a time there was a lady. She was pregnant (again). She had a difficult life, more difficult than we in our lovely middle class lives can imagine. She was stressed. She was having a really challenging time (for a variety of reasons). She didn’t want to acknowledge she was pregnant, because that might lead to interference in her life that she did not want. So she denied she was pregnant. She had a few alcoholic drinks to help her deal with her lot in life (this last bit is assumed, the rest is fact).

There is no joy in hearing that a pediatrician thinks your son has brain damage caused by drinking during pregnancy to go alongside his other issues. And by ‘think’ the comment was, he has Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) but she can’t yet formally diagnose it as we are waiting for some cognitive tests, in the absence of any admittance by his birth mother that she drank when she was pregnant. We have been aware of this real possibility for over a year now, but it was still a complete moment of heart ache for him.

So now, our precious boy is deemed to be suffering from complex neurological trauma and FASD with learning difficulties alongside his attachment difficulties. Which doesn’t take away from the amazing boy that he is. He is caring and loving and empathetic. He mostly wants to please. He is trying hard to not upset most people.

He is struggling big time at school, he cannot access what other pupils his age can, so can be upset by comments when he is doing different work. He doesn’t the unspoken rules. He doesn’t know how to play in an appropriate manner. He is strong believer in rules, and therefore will tell over another child when they don’t follow the rules. He wants things to happen his way and doesn’t get that sometimes other children’s ideas might be better.

He likes to know who is in charge, how they make themselves in charge. He needs to be liked by whoever is in charge, because then he will be safe. He spends a lot of time whilst at school making sure that he is ‘safe’, which doesn’t help him academically.

Because so much effort is taken up in being safe at school, he gets really tired. He doesn’t show that effort often at school – although will chew anything that is close to him when he is anxious. He does however, show how much the school day takes out of him when he is at home. We cope often with meltdowns after school. Sometimes they happen in the car, sometimes he manages to wait until we get home.  Sometimes they are short and manageable, sometimes they go on and on and on. Sometimes he just screams, sometimes he aims to hurt.

He needs routine and structure. School holidays are hard. Different is hard. I had plans this holiday to arrange to see some of his school friends, but he is struggling so much.

You cannot know what a child is living with, you cannot know what a family is dealing with.  I am grateful that the majority of his class accept him for who he is. They know he is different, but don’t necessarily worry about the different. I am amazed by the understanding shown by parents. I hope that other people who are living with children who are struggling are surrounding by understanding, because it helps.

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A difficult week…

I meant to write last week about the pleasant week we’d had, but never quite got round to it. This week has been the opposite, which we predicted, but it was as though a switch was pressed on Friday afternoon and this week has been hard.

There came a point this week when I thought this is it, our life with two children with additional needs. Jelly had a speech and language assessment on Tues, where the therapist commented on his low concentration span… I’d not noticed because it is considerably more than Boyo’s was at the same age! I lie, I’d noticed, but his lack of ability to speak appropriately and his frustrated behaviour because of it, is a bigger concern to me.

Boyo has struggling not to argue this week. At times we went down the line of ‘accept or argue’ mostly when we were out, with the knowledge that ‘argue’ meant going home. We have ignored the nonsense. We have asked him to think, to use his thinking head. We have asked him to listen. Not much has worked, and he has had meltdown after meltdown as he has struggled with the lack of arguments, or when needed the instance that he does need to do what we have asked.

We are full on in anxiety city and therefore Boyo is struggling. Because Boyo is struggling, Jelly is struggling. I have been bitten by both of them today (several times) I have been hit and spat at. I have had them sat on opposite sofas in the front room and refused to let them move. They had they iPads and headphones. I sat on the floor between them.

We are two weeks down into a long 6 week holiday. Last week was planned, this week less so, because Boyo has been doing a Tennis Camp each morning. Thankfully the coaches are familiar with him and know that he wobbles. He has chewed the handle on his racket this week to the point it’s had to have a new grip on it. He has also chewed tennis balls!

Next week will be different again. At some point, I have things I must do, my ironing pile is now in two bags. Our paperwork is now into the third box. I have lessons to plan (yippee!) for the new GCSE (double yippee!). But right now the boys need me to be available to them, when they need me, so after full days, I sit in the evenings and think…another day got through.

There came a point this week when I thought this is it, our life with two children with additional needs. But we have got through worse. Better will come. And in the meanwhile…there is always gin!

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