Friday, 29 September 2017

Just when you thought it was safe...

So my positive post from last week has gone 'tits up' - to quote someone or something.

Last week we were happy in our new school bubble. A week later its over - excluded and no longer funded. KC is showing signs of depression and has been self harming. He has already asked me why we bothered adopting him - after all, he says no-one really wanted him in the first place, we should have just left him where he was. It was after he said that that I noticed the marks on the backs of his hands and up his arms - scratched he had been making with the blade he removed from a pencil sharpener. Great.

Then yesterday came the news he had been excluded from school pending an investigation - an investigation into the type of event I had been warning both school and social services could happen at any time - given the poor boy's past abuse.

But now it has happened and I'm lucky we have a great relationship with our post adoption social worker (I know some of you reading this will be pointing out that I'm lucky to even have a post adoption social worker). But I can't fault her, within 24 hours of my calling her she had therapy in place and fully funded, ready to go. Her advice was the same as before, which the SEN team ignored, take KC out of school for a while, let him undergo some serious therapy - school can wait. He can't learn if his head is full of his other stuff anyway - he needs to clear his mind then focus on studying.

There is an obsession to keep kids in school whether it is good for their well being or not - and in this case it wasn't just KC that ended up damaged, but other children as well. I am no doubt going to have social services on my back and the SEN team around my house as my son is categorised as a 'child missing education' but I'll fight for him - he won't go back into a school situation until they fully recognise his behavioural needs as well as his learning needs - he needs to be seen as a whole person, not just a funding requirement.

But my youngest is happy enough - although he begins testing for his needs at the end of next month - but for the time being we will just focus on KC and let TJ trudge along - then we can swap over afterward I hope.

To say I'm exhausted is an understatement.

It was my birthday yesterday - so I chose not to take the exclusion personally and just got on with having a nice meal in our local pizza restaurant (the boy's choice of course!!!!).

Onwards and upwards...


Monday, 18 September 2017

Ch...ch...ch...Changes...

Is it still cool to quote David Bowie song lyrics - probably not, but we have definitely been through a period of great change over the past few weeks.

KC changed school, we managed to get his new school named on the EHC Plan the day before he was due to start - it was as if I had spent the whole summer holiday trying to get hold of various different agencies, the local authority, the school, the virtual head, post adoption social workers...  and everyone was on holiday at different times then, the day before school restarts, wallop! They are all in at the same time and I spent a full day on the phone co-ordinating KC's start at his new school.

It had even reached a stage where I was seriously considering home schooling him - I had joined Facebook groups, taken advice from friends who home school and was setting up a mini classroom for him - I even quit my job (but that's another story). I told KC of my plan and he looked horrified - 'But, you'll make me learn stuff!' He exclaimed - "That's the point,' I replied.

Apparently school isn't about learning its about having fun and sitting in the classroom chatting - maybe the change of school was a good thing after all.

Anyway, the boys are now in different schools again, which was actually in line with their therapist's view anyway - although we hadn't planned it that way. Her feeling was that TJ would be more able to grow and become more resilient if he wasn't in his brother's shadow - plus, as their relationship was still quite a dysfunctional one, it may be a wise choice to allow them both to lead separate lives and then come back together after school to share experiences etc. I don't know if it will work - but I do know I now spend around 45 minutes on the school run twice daily!

But I don't regret leaving work at all - it has made me re-evaluate stuff - I know we are lucky to be able to afford to have me at home (even if it is just for a short while whilst we 'reset') I had forgotten how much adopted children in particular need you to be there for them - and how much stuff they were missing out on. So we shall see what happens next - ideally I can find something part time that allows me to get out and meet people.

But on thing is certain - I am now free to blog again and so I'll be looking at how to rework this existing blog to adapt to the boys growing up - they no longer want their lives put on line for all to share - unless, they have agreed it first! Which is fair enough I guess...

Watch this space!!!!!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

School holidays - bored, bored, bored

Wow! It's been over a month since my last post and I wish I was teeming with positive stuff to write. But, alas, it's just not to be.

I'm looking for the positives wherever they may be - but today they just seem to have flown away, sitting just out of reach.

The last few weeks of term have been really difficult - I know adopted children often find this time of year hard but for my two it just seems to have been more difficult than ever.
KC has managed to get himself into a mountain of trouble  resulting in a formal written warning and a probationary period of six months - which I find excessive and unfair - but I'll come to that later.

TJ, on the other hand has made himself so ill that he simply could not go to school for the final few days - which, on hindsight, was probably a good thing as he doesn't cope with goodbyes at all and this was his final year at primary school before he takes that huge step into secondary.

So I'm now in he process of looking for a new school for KC before he moves into year 8 - today emails have been written to his post adoption social worker and to his SEN co-ordinator, who issue his EHC Plan - its all very complicated but we will get there - my feeling is that there inso way he will make it through the next school term without losing his probation - and he will be out. His 'crimes' chewing gum and farting in class - I kid you not. In my opinion it's obvious the school want him out - they can't cope with his needs so its easier to get rid of him and use behaviour as the excuse. to be honest, he is probably better off out and I've found an amazing school nearby - but now have to go through the paperwork of changing the EHC Plan - which is funded by the local authority in order to get him into the other school. It's a headache I could do without.

TJ on the other hand, is thriving at the same school and wants to go into the senior school with his friends - it seems the strict rules of the current school suit him - he thrives on it. And, at least with my still working there I can keep an eye on him.

Maybe its good for KC to go to another school away from me and TJ - learn some independence. I just don't know...

We are three days into the school holiday and already the boys are 'bored, bored, bored' - I have six weeks of this. I just spoke to my lovely (and very wise aunt) who informed me that its good for boy's to get bored - they then invent their own play." Unfortunately, my two's idea of play is attempting to kill each other at any opportunity.

But I have taken up a new exercise regime - I'm power walking (I'm too fat to jog!) - but I'm enjoying it and it gets me outside and away from the kids. We went to the park together yesterday, KC threw TJ's ball up a tree and we spent most of the afternoon trying to get it down whilst TJ screamed, the dogs barked and KC roared with laughter... I could feel the pity from emanating from the other parents around me... they were so glad not to be me.

I do think there is a kind of reverse sexism which means that people are more likely to feel sorry for me in situations like this because I'm a dad - if I were a mum they wold probably be judging my every move disapprovingly - as a dad i get knowing smiles and sympathetic nods...

So my quiet summer is already over - no wonder parents drink so much - I'm avoiding the booze too... which probably makes everything seem ten times worse.

I'll keep you updated on my progress!!!!!!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

How can they forget Father's Day - They have 2 Dads!!!!!!!!!

It's not that I'm bitter, and it didn't really come as any surprise - but I've been dropping hints all week - so how could they forget?

But then again, maybe it's karma - the universe is taking revenge on me for all those times I would forget Father's Day, only to be met with a sad, knowing smile and a nod from my own dear, departed Dad.

I could explain it away by pointing out that maybe they needed to forget - perhaps the notion of any kind of parent is too much for them, after all they didn't ask to be adopted and adoption raises so many issues for children - are they really going to be staying forever? Will we eventually let them down? KC even informed me earlier in the week that he would be going to live with his best friend's parents as they liked him and would probably buy him the new bike he wants... I didn't fall for that one, after all there's nothing wrong with the bike he has.

I could hypothesise that they really don't want to be our kids - which is why they 'chose' to forget. They want us to reject them (actually, now that I've written that the rejection thing seems highly likely). After all, if we reject them that proves their own feelings of self rejection... they don't deserve to be loved.

TJ came and told me it was my fault he forgot Father's Day as I didn't take him shopping. Although I pointed to the new trainers on his feet and reminded him that we had only been in the local shopping centre three days ago buying him the trainers he wanted for sports day. (And he still didn't win - but third place is a respectable placing, so we can let that go.)

I used to tell my Dad that Father's Day was a Hallmark holiday - invented to sell more greetings cards and tatty gifts. My Dad used to nod and smile and tell me that one day i would be a Dad too - now I know how he felt.... sorry, Dad...

So after lunch both boys rushed upstairs and within 10 minutes we were presented with a couple of hastily written cards (well pieces of paper) and two unwanted cuddly toys wrapped in plastic bags... I can't even give them marks for trying... but I can nod and smile and remind them that one day, they will be fathers too..

But, until then, Father's Day may indeed be a Hallmark holiday - but it's still a good excuse to open the bottle of champagne we were given last month!

Cheers!

Happy Father's Day!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Tango... a personal review

So it's happened....

Tango...

It's been three years in the making. A real expression of love and hard work.

I have read various incarnations of the script but have seen the show twice now and each time have found different things that have moved me.

The first time was through the telling of our own stories. Even though I knew them, the way in which Joel (the playwright) had blended our reality with his own creations was seamless.

I was touched... we were touched.

I think most telling was how much we felt towards the character Jayden, our son in the play. When he is suddenly involved in the violence that occurs through no fault of his own we both became immediately protective of him.

But, as we are here to work, we have attended and taken part in numerous talks and it is these that have really shown the impact Tango has had on audiences here.

From the mother of two gay sons who had only ever dreamed of being a grandmother, to the same sex couple and their teenage son who were happy that families like ours were being given a platform to show they even exist. Same sex couples who now had a baby and were worried about the future, single parents who, through no fault of their own, found themselves being judged by their own society, even the adoptive child (now grown up) of Dutch parents who was now able to express his feelings as a child with a distinctively different background to his peers.

Also, the couple who told us they had never experienced discrimination for their same sex family and their child... but they put that down to their being of the same race and, as we shared, the waitresses initial curiosity was roused because our Caucasian son was sitting with his Chinese father. And finally, the Chinese mother who had a seemingly'white' child with her Caucasian husband and how, whenever she took her daughter anyplace new, the automatic reaction was that she was the 'helper'.

So many stories.

So much shared  love.

Tango has nearly sold out in its final week... I hope it is seen again and again...

It's a powerful story... not just because it is 'inspired' by this blog, but also because it shares the humanity of life, of love, of family....

If you haven't bought tickets yet... do...

It really is worth it!




Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The blogpost that began the story of 'Tango'

I had been asked to find the original blogpost that inspired the new play 'Tango' by Joel Tan, and after spending an hour or so trawling through my blog I found it... from Feb 2013.

Rather then expecting people to trawl through... here it is.

Enjoy!

Coming Home...

That's how it feels coming back to Singapore... Especially when we see our lovely friends. We have a lot of people to catch up with and started today with a friend I made on my first day working in Singapore back in 1999. She is now married, to another great friend, and have two adorable children, one of whom is in love with our son.... We shall ensure their betrothal by the end of the trip. More friends to meet tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow... Great fun!

After a lovely afternoon, in which we persuaded our friends to take our washing home with them (they have a maid!) we decided to do some shopping. KC needed summer pyjamas, as the onesie he brought with him is just too hot in evenings where the temperature does not fall below 25c. Papa also decided he needed a new T-shirt, so we went to a few stores and he finally found one he liked... And today he learned the lesson that all Caucasians learn very early on... Singapore does not cater for British 'physiques'! ( unless you are small and skinny, of course).

When we lived here Papa used to laugh when I came home after a days shopping in a state of depression. Here I was a large size ( even when I was skinny)... It was even more depressing when you walk into a shop and the assistants would scream 'no large sizes!' And usher you out of the door.... Being Caucasian in Asia stops being fun when clothes shopping... I'm sure it's even worse for the ladies!

To be honest, one thing I have noticed is that Singaporeans do seem to be getting bigger, obviously affluence does affect size as people eat out more and fast food outlets are now everywhere. But today, Papa understood my depression when shopping. He went into a local store (that also has branches in the UK). In the UK he is sized as a medium... Which is fine. But today he went into the same store to fine he was an XL! He was so shocked that he simply threw the clothes back and stormed out of the shop. I ran after him and reminded him that this was Singapore and therefore they were Asian sizes... He looked at me disparagingly, "Asian sizes... Asian sizes!" He repeated himself for dramatic effect before a drawn out pause... "I am bloody Asian!" Words failed me.... But inside I was smiling!

Later that evening we decided to go out for a quick dinner and as it was getting late we popped into a local Chinese restaurant chain. 'Good and cheap' as Papa puts it. All was going well until the waitress decided she needed to know more about our family. As I took TJ to the toilet I came back to find Paoa and the waitress having a 'heated' discussion in Chinese, with KC sitting there. The gist of it was that she wanted to know where the boys' mother was. When Pap told her they didn't have one she seemed confused and then asked if they were his children and if he had married an 'Ang moh' calmly, Papa had told her that the boys were adopted, by us... she didn't seem able to accept this and started to argue with Papa about same sex adoption and her belief that it was wrong. It was at this point that I came back. This seemed to make her angrier. As did my trying to calm everything down.

The waitress then threw the cutlery down and said she couldn't serve us. Her senior manager came over and Papa started to tell her what had happened. She then served us herself whilst the other waitress sat in the corner glaring at us. It didn't make for a comfortable evening out but at least the boys were unaware. We left quietly and I ensured we had a late night drink to calm everyone down... the boys had an ice cream... ice cream at 10pm in the heat of the tropical night is great fun!

Maybe Singapore isn't quite ready for a gay family just yet.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Home Again?

When we arrived back in the UK, KC asked me if Singapore was our home or whether the UK was.

I asked him why he felt the need to ask it, and was quite surprised by his answer.

"It's simple,' he said, 'You always say that one is where we are - where the family are. So for Papa home must be where his family are. That means that home for Papa must be Singapore and...' he went on, 'you both know so many people over there - whenever we go we just meet loads of your friends and have loads of dinners and you drink lots of wine (I'm not sure where he got that last bit from) and we sit and smile and play on our phones."

"So you didn't enjoy it then?" I said.

"I enjoyed it,' he replied, "I love Singapore - I love the food and the warmth and the swimming and the tv... I don't really love the shopping though and I don't like leaving, because it means going on a long flight and I've seen all the movies on the way back..."

'Do you want to live there?" I asked him.

"Maybe, but only if I could live with Cousin M. and Grandma and Grandpa - they let me do what I want."

Hmmmmm... Well, I guess thats part of the joy of being Grandparents - you can let the grandkids run riot an then give them back. I didn't want to remind him that his cousin will be returning to university next week and won't be there anyway.

Family is big for KC. It means a lot to him.

TJ then came in. 'Did you enjoy Singapore?" I asked him.

"No,' he replied, "I hate the food, it's too hot and you just make us go shopping. I also don't have my playstation and I couldn't see my friends."

"What about seeing the rest of the family,' I said, "and your Godparents?"

"That was alright," he replied, "But don't you think they could all come and see us next time?"

So we have one traveller and one home body... which, strangely enough, reminded me of myself and my own brother. I have always had itchy feet and my brother has never left the North, but I think we are both happy, we just accept we are different.

Hopefully, the boys will see that as well.

Yesterday, on the radio the song 'Hello, Goodbye' by The Beatles came on. KC was singing along. "You know this song?" I asked him. He looked at me, "Don't you remember, it was the song that was playing in the car when you picked us up for the first time from our foster home."

I had forgotten.

"You've got a great memory," i said.

"Well, it's one of my favourite songs, " he said as he left the room.

It's moments like that that make parenting worthwhile...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Tango in Singapore

It's been an interesting few days here in Singapore.

We arrived on Monday night to be told that even though we had just got off the plane we then had to attend Papa's dad's birthday party.

"But his birthday is not until tomorrow," Papa exclaimed.

"Yes, but tomorrow is Qingming (the day that traditionally celebrates the dead), and there is no way that we are celebrating Dad's birthday then!" So said Papa's mum - so we were now hurriedly racing down the highway to get checked in to our apartment before heading over for the birthday celebration. Luckily, the celebration was lovely, a quiet family affair wth Papa's mum's amazing cooking. So even though we had a dreadful flight, (that's a separate email to BA) the meal more than made up for it.

We are here to help to promote the play 'Tango', which is based on this very blog - and it has already met with some confusion. A newspaper report that ran on our day of arrival wrongly linked the play to the book 'Tango Makes Three' about the same-sex penguins who raise a penguin chick (its a true story and is used a lot to show the diverse nature of family) the book caused some controversy here in Singapore and ended up being removed from the National Library - but we are not here to discuss that and the play doesn't set out to criticise the political establishment - rather its aim is to help people realise that families are diverse, whether they be same sex, single, adopted, living with relatives etc... Ideally, although the play is primarily about a gay couple and their difficulty in coming home to Singapore, it also looks at the concept of family and filial relationships. The idea that the grandparents and the grandchild cannot be together due to the current legal situation surrounding families that are considered 'different' in Singapore. Mind you the fact that the first publicity shots show the young man playing the son dressed in a penguin suit might have confused the issue...

I don't want to give away the plot, but the premise of the story is true and one that can be read here in this blog (you just need to go back a few pages)...

We have worked alongside the playwright, Joel Tan, to work on the reality of being an adoptive family - be it same sex or not. The struggles to even become a family, let alone the trials that follow. However, Joel has definitely made the remainder of the play his own - one must always remember it is a fictionalised account of reality (if that makes sense)

So we are now booked to do a variety of press and media events, as well as talk about the issues we face being parents - ideally we want to show that being same sex parents is no different to being heterosexual ones - we all have the same difficulties and joys.

I'll keep you posted!!!!!!

But if you are in Singapore between May 19 and June 4 and want to come along then the link is below - we hope to see you there!!!!!

http://pangdemonium.com/productions/tango



Thursday, 23 March 2017

One Armed Tango!

So it's been a busy couple of weeks in more ways than one.

On the family front KC decided that he would spend the last three weeks in plaster as he managed to break his hand.

He was out on his skateboard in front of the house - apparently trying out some new 'epic' stunts. Then I heard a cry. I rushed out to see him to find him clutching his hand. He had taken a fall onto the pavement. But after checking that he could still wiggle his fingers and that there was no blood I sent him back out with a flea in his ear - I gave him a good telling off for not using his safety gloves, wristbands, helmet etc and told him that now he would understand the reason why he had to wear them.

He seemed to take this on board - for at least 5 minutes - before racing off out with his friends again.

That evening he sat in front of the TV complaining that his hand was hurting. "It's funny how these things only start to hurt on the Sunday evening before school next day' I quipped. I then sent him to bed an told him there was no way it was broken and I was not going to the local A and E on a Sunday night.

The next morning we got up and he was still complaining. I looked at his hand - which had turned a strange shade of blue and seemed to be very swollen. I was reminded of Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after she had consumed the blueberry gum...

"I think we had better go to the hospital" I said and off we went.

The hospital wasn't too crowded and we were seen quite quickly - well, within the four hour time slot anyway. As we sat waiting I stretched and leaned onto the arm of my chair - only to hear a stifled scream and see KC's eyes nearly pop out of his head. I had leaned onto his bad hand. "If it wasn't broken before - it is now!' He cried through gritted teeth.

The nurse had a look at him and we went off for an x-ray. True enough, it was broken, and I now felt like the worst person on the planet. A point that was not missed by KC, who soon after being put into his plaster stated that from now on he could only eat with one hand and that we should therefore go and get him a burger... feeling guilty I took him to the local Burger King.

So he then spent the next couple of weeks reminding me of how cruelly I had treated him - how I had dismissed his cries of pain and how meanly I had treated him.

I gave him a couple of days of this before we went back to our normal ways.

Then came the date to have the cast taken off - he healed very quickly, but it was only a very small fracture apparently.

We queued up to see the nurse. 'What's your date of birth?" the nurse asked KC. He looked at her with a blank expression. She tried again, "When's your birthday?"

"In December," he replied.

"What day in December were you born on?" she went on. He looked at her, "I don't know, I was just a baby..." I thought the nurse was going to fall over she laughed so much.

She asked him what had happened and he told her about his 'epic' trick and how he had nearly managed to complete it.

'Was the trick worth the broken bones?" she asked.

'Absolutely!" he replied.

She looked at me pityingly - 'You're going to be coming here a lot, I think." she said laughing...

Scarily, I think she may be right.

But now we can announce our other news...

My little blog has 'inspired' a new play and its going to be produced!

Written by the Singaporean playwright Joel Tan it's called 'Tango' (loosely based on the book title 'Tango Makes Three' - which was banned in a number of countries for its compassionate dealing with gay adoption by two penguins. Joel wanted to write a story about a gay adoptive family who try to return to Singapore but find that the climate there (being gay is still illegal) won't recognised their family, their married status or indeed the adoption of their children and how that effects the other members of the family who are practically denied access to their grandchildren. His point being that the grandparents and grandchildren are kept apart by a law that doesn't even apply to them.

Anyway, one of my very good friend's children will be playing the boy (an amalgam of both our children) in the play - which is lovely! So we are heading back to Singapore in the next week or so to help promote the play but also for my friend's son to meet with KC and to discuss his life being an adoptee to gay dads, having Singaporean grandparents and Aunts and Uncles - despite being white British and sharing his experiences.

The sad thing is that he won't be able to watch it as, in their infinite wisdom, the Singapore censorship board have made the play an adults only affair - so no-one under 18 is allowed to watch it, even though its a story about love, family and overcoming prejudice.

Hopefully, we can sneak the boys into a rehearsal... fingers crossed!

I'll keep you updated!!!!!!




Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Cyber-Bullying - the title says it all!

┼┤So this week our youngest was subjected to cyber bullying.

It's not something I've ever really experienced. Of course, as adoptive parents we are extra careful around social media and attend various lectures and training regarding it's use but this is the first time it has really hit home.

Essentially, we gave both boys mobile phones for Christmas - under the strict instructions that they were not allowed social media accounts - not only because most social media companies insist on a 13 year old age limit but also because we are aware of the dangers of their being approached not only by strangers but also by birth family members. Whilst we are cute happy to eventually look for birth parents, we want to do it when the children are ready and not when one of their 'do-good' friends decides to help them - although I can easily see that happening one day in the future.

Anyway, I came down to find TJ sitting on the stairs, holding his phone and crying. I knew something was amiss.

Eventually he gave me the phone and showed me what the other children in his class were saying to him via a text messaging group. It was awful. He was a cry baby - he cried when they poked and punched him in class - he ran away. He didn't play football he played 'face-plant' when they tripped him up. He was 'a gay' - a 'real gay' - just heaps of nasty stuff.

What worried us was not only the tone of the language used and the cruelty and cold calculated way in which they pursued him - but the threats of real physical violence to him.

Remember, TJ is very small for his age, he is on 'the spectrum (don't you hate that term) and is currently starting medical investigations to look into the reasons behind all this (see previous post on the visit to the Doctor).

So we reported it to the school and they naturally investigated everything fully.

I was called in and the headteacher explained all that had been going on. That the other boys in his class had all been watching YouTube videos about 'roasting' and decided to set up a chat group entitled 'Roasters' in which they would pick on a boy (in this case TJ) and proceed to roast him... Such fun. I'm sure Kenny Rogers never thought of this when he set up the chicken restaurant!

But what was most surprising was that at the end of it all, the headteacher told us that all the children who had been 'roasting' Tyler were at a party together and... this was the bit that stunned me... they were with their parents and yet the parents didn't know anything about it - it just goes to show that we all have to watch exactly what our kids are up to when they are on their mobile devices. If kids want to make mischief, they will find a way to do it.

Sometimes I wonder if I have become an over-protective helicopter parent, hovering around making sure my kids are completely safe. We can only do our best I guess.

I don't know.

Still TJ was happy to go to school and happy to leave his phone at home!!!!!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Doctors and Science...

So TJ's therapist has decided that now would be the right time to address his medical issues. Her feeling is that he will face questions in Secondary School and that by learning about his medical diagnosis, whatever that may be, that she will be able to work with him to 'own' it and to learn to accept it as part of who he is.

That was awfully hard to hear, let alone write it. But she is the professional and so we should respect that she knows what she is doing.

So a doctor's appointment was made and we duly went along.

I went in first to explain the situation and that we had a worry that there maybe an issue with FASD due to his early experiences, I won't put all his medical details here - but FASD is on the cards for so many adopted children that I think its ok to mention to - besides it may not even be that. The doctor listened attentively and then asked me to bring TJ in.

But, once TJ was in the room the doctor started asking me questions about his 'real parents'. I was dumbstruck. I kept referring to them as 'birth parents' but the doctor still kept on - how tall were his real parents, did I have his real parents medical history, why did he come into care in the first place?.... And he was sitting there!

Then the doctor decided to check on TJ's height and weight - using Google!!!!! I could have done that at home!

Then... and I nearly fell over - she said, "You don't have to bring him back - just by looking at him  can see that something is not right - I'll issue a letter for the specialist, pick it up next week."

AND HE WAS IN THE ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!

I was furious. We left and even before we had got back into the car TJ was in floods of tears - he was ugly, he was a midget, everyone hated him.

I don't think this is what the therapist had in mind. It certainly wasn't what I would call a good bedside manner.

As we left the doctor said, "Nice to see you again, you teach at my son's school'. I hadn't even recognised her - but now I was really uncomfortable as I don't think I can put in a complaint.

On another note, my eldest, KC, decided that tonight was the night he wanted to talk about the damage done to him by his birth family. And to question a lot of decisions that were made about his life.

I have a policy that I don't lie to the children. I may make the answers age appropriate - but if they are old enough to ask then they are old enough to know - in a kind way,  I hope.

So we sat and chatted and afterwards we had a big hug.

As I turned away he said, "Daddy..."

I looked at him lovingly.

"Daddy, can you email my science teacher and let him know that I haven't done my homework as we were having a serious chat about my 'past and my issues'.

He gave me a big grin!!!!

I had been played!!!!

So he is now sitting opposite me doing his science homework.

But, secretly, whether he has played me or not - I think he feels better for having his questions answered.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Busy Doing Nothing...

Why is it when you think to yourself, 'I'm going to get back to work on my blog - make sure that I write more regularly now'...  Why is that the minute you say that then absolutely nothing happens in your week?

We went back to school last week. Not much to report there. Papa wrote a reply to the Head's letter (see last week's post) but we haven't really heard anything - except the Head's PA called to try and arrange a meeting with Papa - but he was too busy to take the call - so the Head's PA spoke to Papa's answering machine.

We had some snow - not enough to close the school for a day, which was disappointing. Particularly for KC who spent pretty much the whole of Thursday night pinned against the window begging the dear Lord to make it snow - I'm sure the dear Lord was listening to countless children all over the country praying for the same thing.

Then to cap it all KC got a stinking cold - so didn't actually go to school anyway - but was too ill to go outside and enjoy the little snow we had - maybe God was teaching him a lesson - 'be careful what you wish for' and all that.

Anyway KC was well enough to go to his drama group yesterday. He's started a new one locally, one of those franchises - but his friend goes and they both seem to love it. He came back after the first week and said, "My new drama teacher is gay as well.' So at least there are positive role models for him. Then he added, "Are all drama teachers gay, like you?" I wanted to point out to him that musical theatre was basically a big gay celebration (I didn't of course! and naturally it isn't... I have some straight friends in musical theatre too... I'm sure I do... (joking guys!!!!!))

Instead I pointed out that the theatre was as disciplined as the army (his other love)... just with more sequins...

Then last night it was TJ's turn to get sick - great fun!

But luckily, fingers crossed, both Papa and I are fine - so far!

KC has gone with best friend and family to a skate park - his aim is to be a world scooter champion - well, it is this week anyway. TJ's aim is still to beat the PS4 at anything... and to clean out his hamster!

Which I am now going to remind him to do...

And who says family life is dull...

Actually, I quite like the dull weeks.






Sunday, 8 January 2017

Adoptophobia

So the Christmas holidays are finally drawing to a close and we are all getting ready for going back to school.

The great joy of being a teacher in the same school as your children is that you share the same holidays - that's also the downside...

But, an issue when dealing with adopted children seems to be that other parents very quickly get to know that you are an adoptive parent and, what has surprised me the most, is the fear that some other people have about their children mixing with yours.

Let me explain.

Just before Christmas we had an incident at school - involving a few boys on the back of a bus using their phones to watch 'inappropriate material' - we all know what that means.

Luckily, my eldest didn't have his phone on him - my belief being that whilst he is on the bus he is ore likely to lose the phone and, if he is at school and I am at the same school then he can actually talk to his friends and, if he needs me, he can come and find me.

So the material was watched on another boy's phone and, yes, my son was involved. But, to be honest, I would put most of it down to curiosity and boys being boys. I was more angry that the school didn't seem to mind a bunch of boys heading off to rugby having their phones unsupervised. Luckily, since the incident, that has now been changed.

But, the upshot has been the way in which KC has been targeted by other parents - one in particular, who happily put pen to paper informing the school of the 'disgusting' behaviour of my son. Of course she may not just be put off by adoption but by same-sex parents - I can't comment really... Rather than claiming homophobia do we know claim adoptophobia?

So we are called in - no other parents were - and we were made to feel as though KC was a criminal, that because of his past experiences he was putting other, and I quote, 'hard working children's futures' at risk.

This was then all recorded and sent to us in a letter - which we received on the last day of term. The day on which I was having my hand shaken by the powers that be and wished a happy Christmas.

Needless to say the first week of the Christmas holiday was spent with arguments between myself and Papa, tears from KC - who felt he was being made the scapegoat because I was a teacher - and sleepless nights for me as I dealt with the polarising forces between keeping  a job I love and supporting my son.

Of course, there have been some parents who have been amazingly supportive and look out for our boys - but it only takes one to raise suspicion and immediately it is KC who bears the brunt. After all, it couldn't possibly be their child who is in the wrong.

Perhaps the problem is that we admit that our child has issues, has faults and we want him to learn from them, to accept that he is ultimately in control of his choices. Perhaps we should be like those parents who insist their child is innocent and then make the most noise - they seem to be the ones who are listened too. KC has an EHC Plan, which is great for getting learning support but also stigmatises him to certain parents.

But, KC has made amazing progress at school, he has good friends, we have a system that works for us - I won't let a couple of angry, ill-informed parents upset that - do I write to the governors, the local authority who issued the EHCP - it seems obvious that the powers that be in the school will simply pander to the loudest voices - or am i being paranoid? Who knows... ?

So we go back to school tomorrow - not sure of what will happen next.

I'll keep you informed... 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Santa!!!!!

I'm sure that there are many parents, particularly adoptive ones, who notice that as soon their little ones arrive that they begin to put on a small amount of weight.
My own narrative of my ever expanding waistline has given me many opportunities to write - usually with great comic abandon - after all, if we can't laugh at ourselves then...
But this week i really had to bite my own tongue as the lovely lady who runs the Friends group at our boys' school asked me if I would do the honour of being the school Santa this year - apparently they have a costume that will fit!
At first I was a little offended but soon took it in my stride. After all, I have been Santa before, but that was in Singapore where my main casting quality for the role was that I was caucasian rather than obese. There people laughed and said what a scrawny Santa I was - something tells me that won't happen this year.
Anyway, once I had accepted the situation I came home and asked my youngest if he wanted to go and see Santa at the school fair on Sunday.
He looked at me and laughed ( at first I thought he was going to tell me he didn't believe anymore) but no it was far worse...
"Don't be silly, Daddy," he said, "it's not the real Santa, it's just the fattest, stupidest teacher in school dressed up!"
I was gutted.
The my eldest son popped up. 'I think Daddy,' he said, ' That my Christmas list this year will just be one big thing that I want - obviously if 'Santa' is real then he will get me that one big thing - if not - well, I may have to break the news to TJ...'
So my youngest son sees me as a fat, stupid elf and my eldest sees the ability to blackmail based on the existence of said overweight elf
Needless to say that as soon as I told Papa about the entire episode I was placed on a very strict diet - no processed foods, reduced sugar, no alcohol (except at weekends - and then slimline) I negotiated that last bit...
Still...
It will soon be Christmas!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Holiday - without the kids!

We did it!

We went away without the children.

I'm still not quite sure how we persuaded my sister to look after the both of them - but once she had said yes there was no turning back. Tickets were booked and we headed off to the big apple to have some quality adult time...

Except that I spent the first two days worried about the children - would they be ok? Would my sister ne ok? What would happen if either or both children were rushed to A and E? What if we were both killed in a freak taxi collision? Who would look after our kids then - had I put my sister down as their guardian in the will? how would they cope? How would she cope?

Suddenly the whole idea of a holiday without the boys sweemed far more stressful than one with...

Luckily, Papa had it all in hand. He produced a bottle of gin and a wifi subscription- on the proviso that I only checked in once a day to make sure everything was ok. I could do this whilst he caught up with some work  - he is a work-a-holic, but thats something both and the kids have come to accept and understand. If Papa doesn't make contact with work on a regular basis then he too can become stressed and any benefits of being away are quickly lost.

It turned out the kids were having a great time - they went to Harry Potter World, they stayed up late, they went to the movies - they ate too much pizza and junk food - they were having so much fun!

So I eventually relaxed and we spent the rest of the week eating and drinking far too much.

When we got home my sister said she had a great time and would happily have the boys again, although maybe only for a long weekend next time - perhaps a week was slightly too much - for all of us. But all of my fears were unfounded - they all had fun.

What was lovely though, and I suppose is the main point of my ramble, is that TJ, for the first time ever, told me he missed us - he even came close to using the 'l' word - but thats still just a step too far for him at the moment - who knows maybe the next time we go away he may be able to say it.

But, I came to a realisation as well - although i loved spending some time alone with Papa (and we needed it) I also love spending holiday time with the boys - even though they moan and complain and generally make most holidays as difficult as they can - having them there still makes it worthwhile.




Saturday, 8 October 2016

Olly Murs Broke my Lightbulb

It's been a while since I've written anything. I think I needed some time out - to deal with my own emotions since the passing of my mum but also to deal with the emotional turmoil that happens when a child begins therapy.

To be fair, TJ has coped really well and therapy now seems to be helping him. He is more settled and can handle his emotions in an appropriate manner - even school are pleased with him - which makes a nice change.

However, one recent incident has prompted me to put the proverbial pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) once again.

It involved TJ, his best friend, a football and Olly Murs - yes, Olly Murs, who broke my lightbulb!

TJ and his friend were playing outside the house on Saturday - they were kicking the football up and down the driveway - doing 'tricks' apparently. Anyway, I needed to pop out to the local shop to get some milk - I asked TJ if he wanted to come. 'I'm ten now," came the repy, "I can stay here by myself."

Well, I would only be a few minutes, so I told him it was ok as long as he and his friend stayed at the house. I also knew that my neighbour was in - she's a retired lady who single handedly runs her own branch of neighbourhood watch - if it happens on our street then she knows all about it.

So I nipped out.

Ten minutes later I pulled into my driveway to see both boys rapidly sweeping and shovelling bits into the bin.

'What's happened?" I asked.

"Well," TJ began, "We were playing football when this boy came and 'toe-punched' the ball upwards and it hit the garage light and broke it."

Sure enough the two boys were sweeping up thousands of timy bits of glass.

I took over. "It's ok boys," I said, "I'll do it - you just make sure there's no glass on you." There wasn't.

Afterwards we had a chat about what had happened.

'You see," began best friend,' We were just minding our own business when this guy came up and asked if he could play. We said he could and he toe punched the ball and when the bulb broke he ran away."

"Who was this boy?" I asked in my best Hercule Poirot manner.

"You don't know him," came the reply.

"Try me", I said.

"It Olly," TJ chipped in, "Yes, Olly - Olly Murs!"

"Olly Murs?" I said, "Olly Murs the singer?"

The boys looked blank - 'Erm, Yes - thats what we call him!" said best friend.

"Really?" I said, "Would I know this boy?"

"Erm, probably not, " said TJ, "He lives a few streets away - we just know him from school."

"Right," I said, "Let's go and have a look down the park and see if he is there."

The boys began to look worried and started shuffling.

"Then," I said, "When we find him we can get his dad to pay for my lightbulb."

"When I said he lived near by - I think he was actually from somewhere else," came the measured reply from TJ, "I think he was on holiday here."

"Yes," said best friend, "He was on holiday."

"But', I carried on, now enjoying myself, "You said you knew him. You said he called himself Olly Murs."

"He's probably not even called Olly at all," said TJ. "I bet he made that name up."

"I'll bet he did," I said. "Anyway, maybe we should take the ball to the park where it won't do any damage and I can walk the dogs."

I finished sweeping and through the remaining glass away.

Suddenly, the lady from over the road popped her head out. "I don't know what the boys have been saying she said, but there was no other boy here - just the two of them - they broke the bulb - not this Olly Murs chap."

"Thanks," I said, "I had worked it out - I'm going to make sure they tell the truth eventually."

"Oh good," she said, "I'd have hated for you to have gone round to Olly Murs dad's house and accuse him of something he hasn't done."

"Don't worry," I said, "Olly Murs is quite safe from me."

She smiled and went back inside.

Something tells me she doesn't know who Olly Murs is...



Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Therapy Begins...

Therapy is a funny old thing, often dismissed as 'mumbo-jumbo' or words to that effect. I'm not going to chat about everything that happens - as it's also a personal thing. But I hope that by sharing some of the more 'general' things that I can help show just how beneficial it can be.

A couple of weeks ago we had our 'family' session. Where Papa and I, and the two boys, attended our first group therapy session. We went into a small room and were given a number of tasks to complete. Games to play, cream to put on each other, feeding each other etc. All the things you would expect after reading a little about theraplay - Dan Hughes is the go to person for this.

This was all videoed and a week later Papa and I were called back in to go and discuss the therapist's findings.

We sat down in another little room, clutching a cup of tea as if it was Dumbo's magic feather and hoping that everything had been ok. We hoped that we had come across as lovely, caring parents and that we would, therefore, have passed the therapist's test.

It's funny - it doesn't matter how long you have been an adoptive parent for, you simply can't get away from feeling that you are constantly being judged. I wonder if birth families feel the same way when they ask for external help - do they automatically enter a room expecting to be told that they aren't really very good at this parenting lark and maybe they should try something else, like fly-fishing? (Believe me, there are times when I wish I did find pleasure in the solitude of fly-fishing - although I don't think the waist high waterproofs would suit me.)

So we sat there and watched...

It took me about ten minutes to get over the fact that I looked so fat on TV. I know the camera add ten pounds, but this one was obviously faulty as it had added at least fifty!

But, once I remembered it wasn't all about me, we got down to the nitty gritty and assessed our behaviour as a family.

It was pretty much a lovely scene. We played well, we were age appropriate in our responses. We worked with the children and allowed them the room to explore whilst retaining the necessary boundaries - it was all good.

Then our eldest boy, KC, left the room for a while with Papa whilst TJ and I completed a couple of activities - one of which nearly had me in tears, as it showed that since the loss of my mum, one of his biggest fears is the death of either Papa or myself.

Then, a little while later, I left the room and TJ was left alone. I told him I was only going for a minute and that it was all ok. But it was obvious that as soon as he was on his own he became anxious - something I didn't realise he did. I've always assumed that, as he sees the world differently, that he would prefer his own company. But, I was reassured, this was trick that an adopted child becomes very good at - pushing away the very people he/she needs without our being aware of it. In our case, I felt he didn't want or need me, when in actual fact he was screaming for us.

I became upset. "It's ok," the therapist said, "children who have experienced trauma become very skilled at this - they need to feel that they have been abandoned - it justifies their sense of self. They are not worthy of anyone's love. That's what we are here to help him with."

I realised that my assumption had always been that he was very much self sufficient - but, of course he is exactly the opposite.

Back to the video and a little later both Papa and I are back in the room playing with TJ. A lovely game. Then KC entered - and it was like a whirlwind had come into the room. A whirlwind that simply took over. Everything. Including Papa and I. TJ retreated into a corner as KC played the games and ensured that Papa and I were focussed entirely on him. A little later he did try and involve TJ in the game - but by then TJ had already retreated into himself and was sitting as a passive observer.

My heart broke.

We had bought into the image the boys had been projecting for so long. That KC was the sociable, outgoing, chatty one whilst TJ was cold, distant, insular.

It was a lie that had been perpetuated by the children and had been fed by us.

I felt so guilty.

But again I was reassured, that this was a survival technique - this was how they had managed to survive in care. KC used this as a means to protect his younger brother and, being born into chaos, TJ had no idea of any different form of family.

But now, even though there was no reason to play these roles, they had simply begun to live them. For KC this was hard as he now no longer wants his younger brother hanging round him and his friends, which is age appropriate I guess. But for TJ this is a massive rejection and, as he hasn't built a real bond with us, then he is left floundering.

So now it is time for us to focus on TJ. To build that bond - even if it does mean starting from scratch. We start theraplay properly in the next couple of weeks - and I, for one, am looking forward to the next stage of our adoptive journey.


But first of all... I need to lose weight!!!!!!!!!!

 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Why Did You Choose Us?

That was the question I was confronted with in the car today on the way home from school.

I often wonder why these conversations always seem to happen on the move, I guess it's simply because we are in an enclosed space, with nothing else to do. I looked out of the window pretending to see where we were going.

'Don't do that,' KC said, 'don't try and avoid the question... I'm asking you a question. Why did you choose us?'

'Well,' I started, ' we looked at profiles of lots of children, ' (I wasn't going to tell him we spent nearly two years ploughing through profiles, that we had three failed matches and that their profiles were our last attempt at the whole adoption thing).

'When I saw your pictures then I knew you would be our children,' I stopped him from speaking, 'I can't explain it, but when I saw you and your brother's photo I just knew it was right.'

I expected that to be the end of it. But no.

'But why have children, why adopt?' I looked at him. Had he heard the countless arguments where we had asked ourselves that very question. The times we had nearly given up, the times when it really didn't seem worth it. Of course, we came through that phase, but what parent doesn't occasionally miss their years of pre child freedom, although you cannot underestimate the pressure that adoption places upon a couple, upon a family.

'I mean, adopting children is hard work,' he went on, ''Normal kids (his words, not mine) don't go to therapy, they don't cause as much trouble, they don't get angry and break things, they don't make their parents quit their jobs. You gave up everything to be our dad,' he said, 'Why did you do that. You love acting why did you stop?'

If I wasn't driving I would have burst into tears, purely at the depth at which he had obviously been thinking about all this. I wondered how long he had been playing with these ideas.

'but, we have you,' I said, 'Yes, it can be tough and yes we do have our problems, but all families have problems at some point. We just have to remember to be able to talk about them.'

'I want to look at the picture,' he said.

I looked at him.

'The picture in the magazine that made you choose us,' he went on, 'I want to see it. I want to see what you saw.'

'Ok,' I said, 'I have it still. You can see.'

He nodded. We came home.

He walked through the door.

'Let me know whrn you want to see the photo,' I said.

'It's alright,' he replied, 'I don't really want to see it."

He then rushed on out to the park to play football with his brother.

I sat down and wrote this.... My therapy.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Therapy... Again...

We are currently on our Easter holidays.

Indeed I am typing this from somewhere above Spain as we fly to sunny Majorca. 

We hadn't intended on taking a trip this holiday, in fact Papa had booked his leave so that we could spend time together as a family.

I had to go up to deal with some things at my mum's house and after just one night alone with the children, two full days, I came back to the news that Papa would 'go spare' if he had to spend two more weeks trapped in the house and had booked a last minute break to Majorca, Port Soller, to be precise.

I wasn't complaining.

But before we left had an appointment with the therapist that worked with KC, and did wonders! But this time for TJ. He has been struggling at school and it was felt an assessment was needed. 

The therapist was lovely. It was completely different to KC. Where KC needed to come to terms with his past, TJ now needs to come to terms with himself. He also needs to deal with so much change, change of school, my going back to work and, of course, the loss of his Granny.

In hindsight, had we known everything that was to happen, then I wouldn't  have gone back to work quite do soon, but, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20 vision.

We chatted for our given hour, the school SENCO came along and gave her views as to TJ's coping in school. He isn't. It's hard to hear your son has no friends, and that he doesn't look for them. He pushes everyone away. I thought about his old school and realised that was probably the same, but it's easier to hide in a class of 30. In a class of 12 he has nowhere to hide, and everything is spotted. Which also means that everything is examined and taken care of.

We talked about how he gets anxious when I am away, how he self harms when being reprimanded. How he can't deal with anything that is perceived as failure. Even a full stop In the wrong place results in a complete breakdown. Itw as heartbreaking to listen to, but not a surprise. There was no one from post adoption support present. They had signed off on the funding as part of our agreed adoption package and therefore, had nothing new to bring to the table. 

Then we talked about things TJ enjoys, his football, his maths, his pets. All things that can't judge him. It was at that point we talked about the 'spectrum', about foetal alcohol syndrome, about trauma. 

Then we talked about Dan Hughes, about Theraplay and about how they could help my troubled little boy begin to like himself. Suddenly, things began to make sense. Suddenly, there was hope.

So today I am flying off to an unplanned holiday, clutching books about Theraplay, Autism, Trauma... Most of drive I have read before, but with KC in mind. Now I will re read them with TJ as the main focus.

The symptoms are completely different, yet the causes seem to be the same... And the keys to help our children deal with themselves, their past and their present seem to lie with the same people. Hopefully it will help them unlock a door to their future.

But for now, I'm going to relax in the (hopefully) Spanish sun! 



Sunday, 20 March 2016

Moments to Treasure

"What was it like in the olden days?"

So asks TJ, as he sits doing his homework.

I wasn't sure what he was working on, so I figured that I'd better ask for more information before I regailed him with my knowledge of Tudor England or the Industrial Revolution - I am sure he will find both topics thrilling. So I asked which period of history he was looking at.

'I mean when you were young?"

I looked back at him - "You mean in the 1980's?"

'Is that the same time as 'Call the Midwife?'

So my youngest son now thinks I was born just after the war and lived in a poverty stricken East End.

I can see why he would be interested though. Recently we have been clearing out my mum's house, getting it ready to put on the market and, naturally, whilst going through the loft I found all the 'stuff' that I had left there over the years - forty years of accumulated sentimental tat that I was happy to leave at my mum's as long as I didn't have to fill up my own attic with it. My mum often asked me when I was gonig to clear it all out and I always promised I would... eventually.

So eventually finally happened and we have made two trips, so far, with car loads of afore-mentioned 'tat'. Much of which has consisted of old photos, school books and records - lots and lots of records.

It was going through the hundreds of singles and LP's that I became nostalgic for my lost youth, showing the boys cover after cover. I can't claim to be 'cool' - I havent found lost copies of Bowie or the Beatles, no, my collection is of trashy 80's pop - a collection of Madonna 'shaped' picture discs, Five Star albums and A-Ha - my favourites at the time were Bucks Fizz (I'm sure my parents knew I was gay long before I did!). But as I pulled out each record, I remembered my dad yelling at me to turn it down, or my mum comparing everything to the music of her youth, the Swinging 60's. Or my running down Blackpool sea front desparately trying to get an autograph from one of the afore-mentioned Fizzers on their UK tour. (I managed to get Bobby G's - I still have it in a photo album - that I also bored, I mean enthralled, the boys with.)

Each of those records brought back a treasured memory - even if we don't have a record player at the moment (you may note I said 'at the moment' - plans are afoot!), I'm not sure if I'll still be as fond when I play them all again.

But then I thought about what our children would have to treasure - a download? an internet game? an app? - who knows?

I do know I wouldn't change my childhood for anything - I had a great time. I only hope I can give my own children, who have had such a tough start to their lives, something that they can treasure, if only memories.

And if that means acknowledging that I lived in some ancient pre-historic time then so be it.

But one thing is certain...

I'm not swapping my ABBA stand up, gatefold sleeve of 'Winner Takes it All' for anything!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mother's Day - Yet Again...

So Mother's Day reared its head again this week and I really wasn't sure how I was going to take it.

It's the first Mother's Day since we lost my mum and so I always knew it was going to be difficult - which meant I was prepared - or so I thought.

It was also going to be difficult for the boys and for school.

After a couple of dodgy decisions made by school in past years, including the pink handbag card with stuck on flowers that TJ was so upset he had to give to me, it had been agreed that the boys would make cards and gifts from Granny. You can relive that experience here:

http://4relativestrangers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/happy-gay-dads-day.html#.VuSI5Tarx_U

Only, of course, this year that wasn't going to be possible.

TJ still hasn't really grieved for his grandmother, whom he adored, and that still worries me - I thought this could be the day that he finally cracks.

He didn't.

In fact, I don't know if either boy made a card this year, for anyone. I didn't receive anything. I asked Dylan if they were trying not to upset me. His reply, 'They haven't even mentioned it."

Suddenly the avoidance of Mother's Day was just as upsetting as the inappropriate ways it had been marked before.

So Mothering Sunday was treated as any other Sunday - we had our roast dinner, we walked the dogs - everyone was very careful around me.

The next day before school KC came down to breakfast holding a box. In it was a stone painted as a ladybird. "It's for you,' KC said, "I didn't want to give it you yesterday as I thought it would upset you."

It was so sweet of him. I put it into the cabinet with all the other precious things he has given me - on display for all to see.

We went to school.

And it was Monday that I found difficult - everyone talking about their own weekend, most people chatting about their day spent with their mum's,  some people even moaning that they had to travel to see their mum. I smiled and nodded and told everyone I had a quiet day.

I thought that if I was struggling then the chances were the boys may be too.

I wasn't wrong.

TJ had a difficult day. By lunch he was sitting in the corner of the classroom crying. I was called to go and see him. He and I sat there holding hands as he cried. I didn't have to ask him why he was upset. We both knew.

Eventually he calmed down. He didn't want to go back into the school dining room though - he wasn't hungry. I told him that he couldn't go back to school hungry and I had to teach that afternoon, but I would sit with him while he ate - he liked that.

So the two of us sat in the canteen together - I didn't go to the teacher's table, or skip the queue (as teachers are allowed). We sat and ate. We didn't talk. We didn't need to.

Afterwards he got up and went back to class.

When I collected him at the end of the day - the barriers were back up. The incident at lunch wasn't referred to - in fact, as far as he was concerned, it hadn't happened. He told me he was upset because he lost at football. I nodded knowingly.

His teacher is concerned for him. So am I. I think that even though the grieving process is tough for us all, for children who have had a string of losses, be it birth mum, foster carers etc that death can have an even stronger effect. Maybe its time for him to talk about his own sense of loss, in a child friendly way.

So it's back to post adoption therapy - this time for TJ. We know how successful it was for KC so now maybe TJ is ready to talk - maybe not - but we need to try.

On another note I went to KC's parent-teacher evening and... it was amazing! He was a different child - gone was the unhappy, angry little boy from last year - the child who hated school, life - everything. Now he was making good progress and was not only prepared to enter senior school but would, in his teacher's opinion, thrive and excel.

My mum chose this school for him.

Mum was right.

I only wish I could tell her...

But then again, I tell her everything, every day - just like I used to.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Loss...

So it's been a while since my last post.

Forgive me.

It's all been a little bit frantic.

I guess I've been putting off writing this for too long now - there's no easy way to say it.

Unfortunately, just before Christmas, my Mum, the boy's Granny - who has featured so much in this blog, alongside ASBO dog, died. She had just turned 68.

She had been diagnosed with lung cancer earlier in the year and in August they operated on the effected lung and successfully removed the tumour. Thye had caught it in the very early stages - it hadn't spread, everyone was very happy. It looked like Mum would make a full recovery.

Unfortunately, life had other plans. Mum caught an infection whilst in the hospital and ended up staying there for over a month in Intensive care but she finally came home - relieved and ready to start her recuperation.

Again, that was not to be. She managed to contract pneumonia and ended up in hospital - again. Pneumonia turned into fibrosis and by the end she decided she wanted to die at home.

Hospitals don't make it easy to discharge the dying. We need to ensure there is care at home - but with all the cutbacks the NHS simply can't give that. So we booked a private nursing company to look after her alongside her family and the district nurses. Now the hospital needed to see proof and get written statements from the private company - all before midday as the registrar left then - it was a Thursday after all. But, luckily, my brother had a contact who sorted everything out - without that Mum would probably have died in the hospital - alongside deaf Betty and screaming Susie who were both in the beds beside her. It wasn't much fun.

But we got Mum home and laid her in a single bed in the living room only to find out that the hospital had cancelled the hospital bed we thought had been booked as, in their words, 'Mum was probably not going to last the night." When the district nurse heard this she was horrified - I've never heard such language from such a seemingly nice lady when she called the hospital to see if why we had been told was actually true. But whatever she said worked, as the bed arrived at about 10pm that night and mum could at least sit up to watch tv or listen to the radio.

Mum had a stream of visitors - even when she had pretty much lost consciousness. We didn't realise just how many friends she had. But they came from far and wide to say their farewells. Everyone commenting on how peaceful the house was - the more religious felt that the Holy Spirit was present - I was convinced it was my father, coming to collect his dear wife. Although he had been gone fifteen years - almost to the day that she died - she never loved anyone else. 'How could she?' she would say - she married the man of her dreams and that only happens once in a lifetime.

I had my final chat with her on the Friday. We had listened to Cliff Richard's new song, 'Golden' - she was a huge fan - and she liked it. She smiled when we played it and said he was back on form. Then my brother and sister popped out to the pub.

It wasn't a long chat - but she wanted to plan her funeral. It seems strange now, my sitting there writing down what she said, the hymns she wanted - the fact she wanted her vicar (she was a church goer) to conduct her service and that she didn't want to be buried with Dad. She didn't like the church were he was lain, and nobody visited anyway, she said. She wanted to be cremated and for us to scatter her ashes together, as a family. She didn't mind where as long as we were together. Regular readers will know my brother and I have had a difficult history, but she wanted her death to allow us to draw a line under our past.

She didn't want any pop songs at her funeral - she wanted it to be traditional, solemn. A time to reflect. A time to pray and give thanks for her life and for our own

She died on the Monday - the day before KC's birthday - the hospital were wrong - she used their bed for a good four days.

The next day I raced back home - a four hour drive in order to be there for KC's birthday - I even had a present from Granny for him. We decided not to tell him until afterwards. It was strange watching him open Granny's present, in the card she had told him to share it with his brother, knowing she wouldn't be there for TJ's birthday.

The church were amazing, they helped us with the undertakers, the arrangements... everything and we had Mum's service sorted out just before Christmas. The undertaker called me as I drove up to Cheshire the day before the service. We hadn't chosen a song for when the curtains closed on the coffin and the congregation left. The organist was coming from the church, as we had held the first part of the service there before the committal - but I said, we need some Cliff Richard - but one of his gospel songs - not a pop one. The undertaker said, "How about Miss You Nights - does that work?" 'No," I replied. "We have Golden - his new one if you want that," said the undertaker. So Golden it was. The words are beautiful and really fitting. My aunt told me later that she was fine all the way through but when she heard Cliff, it just reminded her of mum and that was when she cried. For my brother and sister and I, I think it had a completely different meaning, it was the last time we all sat and listend to a piece of music together.

It sounds strange but it was actually a lovely day. Lovely to see so many friends and family and to hear so many stories about her and know how loved she was.

Now life is returning to normal - well, as normal as it can be when you are talking to probate lawyers and estate agents and all the stuff that happens when you become an orphan, as my brother put it.

But grief - grief is hard enough for adults but for children...

Children who have already lost so much...

It's funny but through my own grief I can finally understand a little bit of how they must have felt to have had to leave their birth mum, their foster carers. Adoption agencies talk a lot about the grieving process in looked after children - but it is only now that I can even partially relate...

By the way - ASBO dog is fine - she is living with my sister and terrorising their cat!


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...