Friday, 9 November 2018

A New Direction

I remember when I first started writing this blog - back in 2012 - how time flies, that my initial idea was to write a positive blog about adoption - something that showed others that adoption can have as many ups as it does downs.

It was a response to, what I felt, was the plethora of negative adoption stories that were in the press at the time and with gay adopters still being viewed with suspicion I wanted to help alleviate those fears as well.

Looking back over the past couple of years, I've realised that my blog has, unintentionally, become as dark as some of the others I was originally critical of.

I'm not going to apologise for that, or to undermine everything I have written. Yes there have been difficulties but, at the same time, I hope that I have been open and honest. Adoption is difficult but it is also incredibly rewarding and every now and then we have to stop and remind ourselves of that - otherwise we simply get caught up in the negativity of it all.

Both our boys are now in separate schools and both seem to be happy. I wouldn't say flourishing just yet - but I'll take happy.

KC just had his first report from his new school yesterday and it was pretty much all good - which considering his previous reports is astounding. They like him and he likes them - that has to be a bonus. No reports of fighting, swearing, language issues - nothing. Just positive reports.

Although this week I did have to tell him that he had a careers advice session (as options are coming up) and his reply was, "What do I need advice for - I'm never going to go there..."

It took me a while to realise that he thought I had said Korea - which did make us laugh.

But he went for the meeting and came out feeling very positive about himself - apparently he is an 'Eagle' - like Barack Obama or that lady who presents 'Bake Off', he said - a strange mix and I'm not sure what that shows us about his personality, but he liked it - so all good.

TJ has settled in really well to his specialist school - I wouldn't say he is 'happy' but he isn't complaining and, more importantly, he goes every morning without any upset - which I think for a child with his view on the world is a positive. No school refusal anymore. I was never sure about labelling him as being on the spectrum - but just having the label, alongside the FAS, has opened so many doors for him - and hopefully, we can try to get some insight into how his mind works... eventually anyway.

I thought about things and what really struck home is how much easier parenting an adopted child is when you have the right educational support in place. Yes, its been a struggle and it has resulted in my leaving work and a huge upheaval in our lives - but - the boys are settled, happy and learning. All we can hope is that by highlighting the positives that support can bring, we can show those 'in the know' that there can be a successful outcome to their investments (after all, it's all about the money!)

I hope that in the next few months I'll be able to document the positive direction this adoption journey has taken and will continue to take.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Another Positive Post - 2 in a row!!!!!!

So today I want to focus on KC and the positive turn his life has taken.

Again I don't want to jinx things and I apologise if it appears as though I'm gloating - I'm not. As you know it has been a struggle and I'm hoping that you will see that there can be light at the end of what appears to be a very long and endless tunnel.

When we decided that school really wasn't working for KC we made a huge decision to home school for a while - whilst we sorted out a suitable placement for him. KC has an Education and Health Care Plan (which used to the the Statement of Special Educational Needs) and, by law, is entitled to an education that meets his specialised needs. Unfortunately, therapeutic schools are few and far between and are costly - with local authorities struggling to balance their books etc, it does seem to be the SEN kids that are being ignored. It is easier to leave them struggling in mainstream schools - or being constantly excluded and then home schooled than it is to find and fund a suitable school placement.

KC was lucky in that I was able to give up my job and focus on battling the Local Authority to get him the help he needed. I could never have done it and held down a full time job. Not with tribunals and legal stuff and seemingly endless paperwork having to prove a need that is already recorded in the plan.

Plus, KC needed therapy - desperately. So we took the year out. We homeschooled with a tutor who came three times a week, we had therapy in place and we let KC just be himself for a year. I always think if you are going to miss a year of secondary school then Year 8 is the one to miss. Just entering the dreaded teens, not quite sure of your own identity, easily led astray and still not ready to make decisions about GCSE options etc.

In KC's case it was a good move.

With the help of the virtual head (the person responsible for the education of all children still in care and those who have been adopted from care) we were able to identify a therapy school. With an amazing post adoption worker we were then able to access the therapy KC needed and the reports he required to get a place at said school. School then offered him a place and the Local authority refused to fund it. So we took them to tribunal. The day before we agreed to meet to mediate - they backed down and agreed a placement for KC at the school. This was in May of this year - only they couldn't start till September. But it gave us something to aim for.

Shortly after, TJ started to refuse to go to his mainstream school. So I had both boys at home. I had just finished one battle to get KC sorted and now began another to get TJ a school that met his needs. Which meant that we had to go back to the drawing board and work out what those needs were and then, more importantly, provide proof of those needs.

But, we then decided that rather than stress everybody out - what we would do is simply start the boy's summer holidays a few weeks early. They could both chill and gain some breathing space, whilst I sorted out the next steps.

Come July, both boys had school placements for September and we really could let the holidays begin.

KC has now been at his school for nearly a full half term and, thankfully, he loves it!

He did comment that he was no longer the 'naughtiest' boy in school but that seems to have helped his self confidence. Neither child brings any home work home - so that has been a huge relief on the stress levels in the house.

KC only goes to lessons he wants to - but surprisingly, he attends a lot by choice - because... he enjoys them. He talks about comic books and graphic novels in English, he learns about finances and shopping in maths,  he plays drums in his music lesson,he helps out with abused animals at a local shelter as part of Life Skills, he goes mountain biking and swimming for his PE and loves to learn how to cook on a Friday. It's been a huge eye opener - and although I understand its not an education that would work for everyone (TJ would hate it as he needs structure to his day), for the child who has suffered hideous trauma in his formative years to be able to make choices is incredibly empowering.

No, he may not get handfuls of GCSE's and he may not attend University - who knows? But then I don't think he would have achieved those in mainstream schools either. But what we do have a is a happy 13 year old, who leaves the house at 7.30 every morning with a smile on his face. And that is enough for me.


Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Positive Labelling...

Yet again, I begin a post by apologising for taking so long to write anything.

It's so easy to blame everyone else - but the truth is that things have been going so well recently that my fear is that I may appear to be gloating and, even worse, I may jinx myself and upset the equilibrium.

But here goes!

I'm going to focus today's post on our youngest son.

TJ has had such a difficult few months. Firstly he had his diagnosis for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which hit him really hard and this was followed by a full post adoption assessment (something which is available to all adopted children, but is rarely offered as its expensive - so adoptive parents, if you haven't been offered one, just ask, the authority can use the Adoption Support Fund to pay for it, so it shouldn't cost them anything.) Anyway, TJ had a full assessment which revealed the depth of his ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) - obviously every child is unique and TJ's main area of concern was his ability to read social cues etc. We had always put it down to his unique way of looking at the world and potential Attachment Disorder - yes, he has that one as well. By the end of the assessment he had so many letters attributed to his many diagnosis that he started to look like a Countdown Conundrum. At first I was mortified. Yes, we had always expected these things, but to have someone sit down and explain everything to you is a very different matter. I then went away and read everything they recommended, another reason I haven't had a lot of time to write - I've been reading lots. And, the more I read, the more I kick myself, thinking how did we miss this?

Well, we missed it because we weren't looking for it or we didn't want to see it or maybe we knew but were in denial? So many possibilities.  Maybe we were simply avoiding the dreaded labels.

But the one thing labelling TJ's foibles has done, has been to open so many doors to him. Particularly with education.

He was accepted into a specialist school and, whilst to begin with we were concerned as to how he would fit in - it hasn't bothered him a bit. He loves it. He has even talked about his learning difficulties and how the school are helping him.

Yes, its very like a primary school in its outlook, but he is so less stressed. I haven't had a single day of school refusal - yet (touch wood). He is up every morning, with his uniform on and ready to go. He loves maths, science and forestry... I didn't even know forestry was a thing! He has made friends and has even been invited to a party. I can honestly say that he is a different little boy.

He still swears at me on a regular basis (I blame the FAS) and he still has his stubborn moments - like refusing to leave the house for my birthday dinner as he had a TV programme to watch and was already in his pyjamas. But these are little things that pale into comparison with what we were dealing with before and to be honest, I can sit back and laugh at them.

I can breathe again.

The house is so less stressful, Papa is calmer, I'm calmer and this boys actually seem to get on (most of the time)...

Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about KC.

Two positive posts in two days - how will you cope! :>

Monday, 20 August 2018

Gay Family Friendly Holidays

We decided to book a last minute summer holiday. Papa had some air miles to use and by the fourth week of the school summer holidays I was already running out of stuff to do with the boys. Plus, Papa was given a promotion at work, so I felt it was time for him to celebrate his hard work and also to spend some quality time with his family... seeing as how we rarely see him during the working week.

So I keyed in the air miles details and asked them to find me flights for our usual holiday destinations in Europe, Sitges, Barcelona, Malta Majorca, etc... the traditional holiday resorts where we had stayed previously and knew that being a same sex family was not going to be an issue. 

But there was nothing available... then up came flights to Sardinia . They were available on dates that suited, from our nearest airport with very nice flight times. I booked them... and then started to worry.

I quickly did a google search and found that Sardinia, whilst being seen as conservative in nature was accepting of same sex couples... all good... but what about same sex families... how would that be viewed?

Papa and I scoured the hotels and opted for one that seemed quiet, out of they way and seemed to offer everything he needed, three pools, a private beach, beautiful surroundings, peace and tranquillity. We took the plunge and booked a family room.

We were not disappointed.

Costa dei Fiori, in Pula, is divine. I am writing this from our terrace as Judy Garland plays in the distance. How gay friendly is that?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our welcome, from a chap I think is the owner (I have yet to find out) was gorgeous. Anything we wanted he could help with, which was handy as I needed a chemist as I’d forgotten my inhalers. He called a cab for me and promised that if I couldn’t get what I needed locally he would arrange for help from the local doctor. (It was fine, the chemist was charming and sorted me out).

Today I spoke with the manager, a lovely lady who has gone out of her way to look after us... especially when TJ is so particular about everything... I told her how impressed we were with the service and the staff here. It is, after all the staff that make a hotel. Ok, it may not be a five star resort (4 I believe) but it’s definitely 5 star service. TJ finds all change difficult and holidays are often draining. But anything he wanted has been found, meals sorted... I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

As a same sex family, you do worry... and we will always be met with stares, usually of curiousity as people try to work out the relationships between us all, and one family (I think Russian) were quite obviously keeping their distance from us (but I don’t want to generalise... perhaps they just don’t like any Brits!) As a same sex family with children with difficulties, you worry even more... or I do anyway.

Would we come again... definitely!

Would we recommend it to other families, regardless of make up.... absolutely!

This place is a real gem, so please keep it to yourselves! But here’s a link anyway.... ๐Ÿ˜‰

Monday, 23 July 2018

A good week!

Sometimes it feels like the only things I ever record on my blog are the negative moments - the issues etc.

And... of course, there are many but there are also many joys to adoption and to parenting in general, although they don't get as many readers oddly enough. :>

Sometimes  have to remind myself that I'm not writing a misery memoir!

But this has been a good week. I've been filling out school forms for both boys - they both have been accepted into specialist schools, albeit different ones and, as both boys have a special needs plan (EHC) they qualify for transport to and from their schools - so the school run won't be as complex as I originally feared - especially as the schools are around 10 miles apart from each other.

This weekend was my Grandmother's 95th birthday and we went along with the whole family to celebrate with her. It was lovely to see everyone and also to see how easily our boys slotted straight in with their cousins and my cousins and the cousins once removed and... well, you get the point. There were so many children that at one point we did consider playing a game of 'match the children to their parents' - just to see if anyone could remember which child belonged to whom.

TJ didn't like all the noise and was terrified that he was going to have to hug lots of people, so he went and sat outside and listened to his music in a quiet corner - but he knew that his safe place and he seemed quite happy. Later when the children all raced outside to play football in the grounds of my Nan's care home - he was in there with the rest of them.

KC, being the eldest great grandchild, was relishing the role of being 'looked up' to by the other children - literally as he is so tall now. He was the King of Cool to them - and boy, did he know it.

So we are now entering the summer holidays and now that we know exactly what's happening come September, I think we can allow ourselves to enjoy the time together - before KC becomes too cool to hang out with his dads. I don't think that is far off now.

But for now, we shall just sit back and breathe!!!!!!


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

School Refusal...

Well - it's certainly been another interesting week - it's never dull in the world of adoption. Sometimes, I'd just like there to be nothing to write about - just a boring, old, run of the mill, family week.

Yeah, right...

This week TJ refused to go back to school - ever.

I've never experienced school refusal before - that was for other people's children, that was for parents who had no discipline or control over their kids - where their children dictate the rules, where there is a lack of boundaries...

But, no. School refusal is very different. I watched as our youngest son, who has always loved going to school, became a crumpled heap on the floor, crying and begging me not to make him go. A child who clung to his bedclothes like a toddler, trying to hide within the sheets. I told him he could stay at home that day. And TJ did the unthinkable - he simply sighed and went to sleep. TJ never sleeps - never - especially not when the sun is up. As I've learned, sleep is a big issue for children with FAS, their brains simply find it very difficult to shut down and logically, why would you sleep when the sun is up. So in the winter months, TJ can be in his pyjamas and in bed for around 6.30 - in the summer though it's a different matter.

So I went into school to meet with the SENCo regarding TJ's draft EHC plan (the plan for children with special needs).

The plan is supposed to be a detailed document stating the issues that the child faces and the ways in which the local authority need them to be addressed - it's a legally binding document that has to be adhered to. In reality of course, it's a mess, written by people who have never met my child and rely on information given to them - everything has to be evidenced, even down to getting the geneticist to provided a detailed letter outlining her diagnosis - twice. But we have managed to get TJ a plan - except the plan is so vague - so the SENCo and I had agreed to meet in order to provide the LA with the language for the support needed - yes, we are writing it for them (to be honest, I think that is pretty much the norm).

To see TJ's needs written down and to hear just how much of a struggle school is for him was tough. To hear how he simply doesn't understand the social skills required to know the difference between a joke and a threat, to hear that he has never even ventured into the school playground because its just too loud and scary for him. To hear how other children get him to 'share' his lunch with them in order for them to be his 'friends' whilst he then goes hungry - how he was pushed against a wall and his glasses broken.. and so much more was hard. Yes, the school are investigating every incident - but we had to face the fact that TJ cannot cope in large school environment and he was going to struggle with later school life as he simply doesn't have the ability to think critically - to access the curriculum and because he can't access the curriculum he is called names and ridiculed... children can be cruel.

To hear all of this was tough - but then to imagine how he must feel living through it - that was harder. No wonder he didn't want to go to school. And we, as parents, had made the decision to follow the local authorities advice - to put him in mainstream school to see if he could cope. Essentially we had set him up to fail - but it was only by failing that he was going to get the help he so desperately needs. His failure was the evidence the local authority wanted.

This failure, coupled with the coming to terms with his diagnosis, led to a conversation where TJ was very open about his wish to die - why should he live - he couldn't be cured, everyone hates him, he hates himself - that was hard to hear but despite that - we have to be strong for him - to reassure him, to get him the help he needs. We've done it for KC (finally - his school placement has been agreed) now its TJ's turn.

So, the school refusal was no surprise to anyone at his school - they were surprised he had carried on for as long as he has. At one point the SENCo said that maybe the refusal was a good thing because now the authority had to listen - thank goodness the EHC was in place as now they have to find him a suitable school place - however, we now face the battle of there simply not being enough specialist places available. So, as one boy goes back into education, the other one comes out...

My life is a revolving door of educational needs - but still we soldier on!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Struggles - do they ever really end?

It's been a funny few weeks since I last posted. As ever in the world of adoption after weeks of stagnation and seemingly endless battles everything seems to happen at once.

Firstly, I need to thank all those of you who sent donations to help keep TJ in school - we were overwhelmed, but in light of the following I have requested that everyone be refunded - if you haven't been then just comment of drop me an email and I'll sort it out for you.

The fact is that the day before we were to begin the lengthy and difficult appeal process to fight for TJ's EHC Plan (which is a legal agreement between us and the local authority to provide education to meet TJ's needs and to support this through his emotional health and care). It seems like a plan that can cover all eventualities and needs but in reality it is the education part of the plan that is usually focussed upon and it was because of this that TJ's application was rejected originally - his education levels are very low, but were just above the criteria needed for a plan to be issued. However, the local authority didn't take into account his complex emotional needs nor his recent diagnosis - so we challenged it and decided to take it to the tribunal level - true to form, the day we before proceedings were due to start, the local authority called to say they had decided to concede and to issue the plan after all. So, hopefully, TJ will now get the help he needs in school - or even have access to a more specialist school that can offer him a more nurturing background than standard mainstream - where he struggles. He is enjoying the mainstream school during lessons, but at break time and lunch he refuses to leave the classroom as its all too noisy for him. He may decide he wants to stay there, I'll take advice on that, but at least now he has options.

Then, after months out of school, KC (who has an EHC Plan) finally found a school that could accommodate his incredibly complex needs - but they don't have a place available until September and they have to employ extra staff to help meet his requirements - So after fighting to get him a referral to this specialist school everything now has to go back to the local authority for approval as it will involve extra funding (doesn't everything?). So although he finally has a school place now we have to ensure that the funding is available - but having the EHC should help with that - I just hope we don't have to go to tribunal over that one - fingers crossed!

I went to see the doctor the other day, for TJ, and he looked at me and asked how I was getting on. I was a bit taken aback but he explained that most people he sees tend to be fighting for one EHC, to be fighting for two was really tough and he expected me to be struggling, he went on that he often had parents sat with him at their wits end and in tears. I think I'm tough, or at least I seem to be. But what shocked me most was not how amazingly I was coping (supposedly) but how so many people had to go through so much difficulty just getting the help their children need. Luckily our doctor understands adoptive families as his own parents were foster carers. Although getting an appointment with him in the first place is a struggle in itself!

Still TJ is back at the hospital next week, but at least I now know the right questions to ask and hopefully, come September, both boys will be in schools that can support them fully.

As for me, I'm in the last month of my six year psychology degree through the Open University - thats been a struggle in itself, so wish me luck!

Monday, 23 April 2018

Unstoppable - National Citizenship Services (NCS)

Just recently a fellow blogger drew my attention to a website promoting the National Citizenship Service (NCS) and their Courses for young people and asked what I thought about it.

To be honest, I thought it was amazing - the things that the course allows the young people to take part in are just brilliant, its not just a fun week away (although that is part of it) but essentially the young people aged 15 - 17, get involved in activities in their local community. sponsored via the voluntary sector (the voluntary, community social enterprise, to be precise). They learn necessary life skills and with the bad press young people generally see to receive it was great to see something so positive being done to raise the profile of young people, whilst at the same time giving them this fantastic opportunity.

I then looked at my two boys and thought how they could fit in. KC would love it - I will definitely sign him up when the time comes. But TJ may struggle, particularly as his 'world view' tends to be very literal.

But upon reading through the website, it may be something that TJ could be persuaded to take part in, particularly as the first stage involves the young people staying away from home - although I'm sure when the time comes a few phone calls may enable TJ to take part without leaving home - just a mammoth use of 'dad's taxi' i suppose. KC would jump at the chance to go away, but he is definitely the more adventurous of our boys, maybe if he has a positive experience then this will influence TJ in a positive way.

The theme for this year's NCS campaign is Unstoppable and for KC it is a great fit! If we can get TJ there, then he will definitely be unstoppable. And, to be completely honest, when you have children who may not be that academically gifted then anything that helps to improve their life chances is a God-send.

It's funny but since TJ's diagnosis I find myself examining the effect that will have on his future - the types of things he will be able to take part in. I am much more 'disability' aware, if that makes sense and my first question now is always 'What provision do you make for those with learning disabilities?' - and that will be my first question to the NCS - when the time comes.

But, looking at the site and reading their ethos makes me think they probably have something in place - so it will definitely be something we will be considering for both boys.

Take a look and see what you think.

http://www.ncsyes.co.uk/?utm_source=blogger&utm_medium=website&utm_campaign=summer18 

Its nice to have a positive post! 






Thursday, 5 April 2018

Easter Fun!

So Easter is upon us.

It was a bit of a strange, unplanned event.

Originally my brother and his family were due to come and spend the long weekend with us. But then things changed and we were then due to go up to Manchester to see them.

Then things changed again as my 94year old Grandmother moved into a new care home. So we decided to go over to the west of the country to see her, stay in a nearby hotel and then go up to see my brother and stay with him.

Then therapy happened - and the 'advice' emailed to me and cc'ing in social workers, was that our boys couldn't share a room or be in close contact with other children unless supervised at all times - especially at night. With TJ currently wandering around the house every night this was going to be impossible.

So the hotel rooms were divided with TJ sleeping in with Papa and I and KC having a room to himself. The trip to my brothers was replaced with a day out at a theme park half way between his house and ours.

Or as Papa pointed out on many occasions - a weekend that started with relatives visiting us had turned into a mammoth travel trip costing just short of £1000. Who said adoption was cheap!!!!!!

Which leads me nicely onto my next point and my newest discovery in the life that is now dominated by Foetal Alcohol, especially as I get to know more about it.

TJ cannot lie - it's not that he won't lie, he is just incapable of it. We know when he is lying (or trying to lie) as his story usually becomes more and more fantastic and involves many elements - known in the world of FAS as confabulation, I believe.

But a simple lie - that won't happen. We rediscovered this as we queued in line for the theme park tickets. TJ won't go on any rides anyway and as he is tiny for his age, he is too small to go on any of the larger rides. So paying full price for a 12 year old seemed silly. "We can tell them you are 11," said Papa, "That way you get in for half price."

"But I'm 12," came the reply in his high pitched treble voice,

"Today you can be 11," I said, "Only for a  minute, then you can be 12 again."

TJ looked at me as if  was mad.

"I'll keep him with me," I said to Papa, "You and KC get the tickets." TJ and I then stood to one side.

This seemed to work fine until the ticket seller asked how old the boys were. 'I'm 13," said KC proudly.

"TJ is 11," said Papa.

"12!" shouted out the little voice. "I'm 12, why are you lying, Papa?"The boy has incredible hearing.

"It's ok," I said, "You stay with me." I tried to move him further away from the line.

By now TJ was getting hysterical. "I'm 12!" he was shouting and the people in the queue were being 'completely' understanding and laughing at us - which really didn't help, as he thought they were laughing at him.

But the ticket seller was lovely, and quietly issued TJ  child ticket as we hurried a crying 12 year old into the park - a park he didn't want to go to anyway, apparently.

We got inside and met up with my brother and his family whilst Papa complained about the price of everything. All this followed by TJ reminding me that it was wrong to lie - he wasn't in the wrong at all - I guess we were. I think next time I'll take a copy of his DLA or diagnosis so we can show that although he is of age he simply isn't going to want/or be able to go on many of the rides anyway.

"You should have gone online last night," said my brother, 'They do an online family deal where the kids go free. That's what we did." He grinned.

I thought Papa was going to explode.

From that moment on I was caught between my brother gloating over the money he had saved and Papa telling me off for not checking the online prices the night before. Alongside TJ who managed to have one meltdown which involved him running off and my pursuing him through a packed theme park and the other where he lost his temper and scratched his brother across the face. But, that said, we had a lovely time.

Oh well, we are back home now and TJ is happy again. For now anyway. He even went on a couple of rides - even if they were for the smaller kids - but he enjoyed it and loved spending time with his cousins - which makes it all worthwhile.






Friday, 16 March 2018

Change is in the Air

Firstly, I have to thank everyone who took the time to send us messages of love and support after my last blogpost (well more of an outpouring than a post). I'd like to say that we have managed to sort things out - we haven't... but there is light at the end of the tunnel - or at least a glimmer.

We are still waiting for the Local Authority to make a decision on TJ's EHC Plan - which could enable him to stay at his current school, or give him access to specialist environment but, in the event, that it doesn't go through then we have to look at other options. With KC still homeschooling to keep them both at home would be untenable.

But... I met with a lovely SENCo at a mainstream Secondary School - who was amazed that TJ didn't have an EHC but also accepted that in the current climate there is every chance he still won't get one (It's all about the money!) However, she advised us to keep appealing and whilst we waited she could offer TJ a place in a small class with a specialist curriculum. I thought I was going to cry...

She got it - she understood his needs and his diagnosis. I was relieved. Although she did mention another specialist school where she felt he would be better placed - but yet again, we need that golden bit of paper - the EHC!

Then as we were leaving she asked me what TJ's mum did - I smiled, 'He has two dads' " I replied.

She stopped, 'Oh we haven't had that here before - I hope the other children don't make it an issue..."

Suddenly I'm worried again...

Sigh...

So, our final decision is (if we don't get the EHC) to give this school a go whilst we appeal. If the appeal goes through - then great. If it doesn't and TJ hates this school then we can join the army of SEN parents and homeschool him in September when KC goes back to a specialist school.

it will be a tough few months - but at least we have a plan...

And if all that fails - here is our Go Fund Me page - any millionaires out there? (well, its worth a shot!)

https://www.gofundme.com/tj039s-school-fees


Update: I had barely pressed send when the potential new mainstream school's SENCo called - to say she had been thinking about things and now she was concerned that a mainstream school may not be suitable for TJ - she didn't want to take him on and then him have to move to specialist education in Key Stage 4 - when she expects him to really struggle... sigh...



Friday, 9 February 2018

Words I Never Thought I Would Write...

So life has all turned a little bit upside down this past month.

I wasn't sure what to share here - but if the point of the blog is to be honest about adoption, then I guess I should really let you know what's going on - not everything, obviously - there is still some privacy - but the bits that effect us, as parents.

TJ, our youngest child, has recently been undergoing a series of genetic tests to find the reasons behind his small stature, his quirky features (he's still beautiful) and his slightly picky nature... he always likes things to be 'just so'.

We had always assumed him to be 'on the spectrum' (horrid phrase) but... it turns out... he isn't only that - he has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome - not the Spectrum Disorder, as many adoptive children have - but the full FAS, at its most severe.

The consultant was brilliant with him (and me). She explained everything to him - that he had every right to be angry - that it wasn't his fault and that it wasn't mine or Papa's fault either. He took it all in his stride - smiling and nodding and seemingly engaged. Until she asked him to repeat what she had just told him... nope... he hadn't actually heard a word - he had shut down.

Not surprising really, i would have done the same if I could.

The consultant then sent him out of the room whilst she had a chat with me about the next step and the potential outcome.... oh, and to let me know that by looking at pictures of our eldest son and from hearing about his recent mental health issues, that her assumption would be that he was also affected by alcohol in the womb - although, because he doesn't have the distinctive features he would be on the FASD spectrum, not FAS... all the acronyms! Yet, from the outset we were told by Social Services that FAS wasn't even in the picture... it was a genetic disorder that caused the facial features... yeah, right. Rose tinted glasses abound!!!!!

The day after the diagnosis KC revealed the truth behind his recent mental upset - I won't share that... but it was tough to hear and as a parent, I was suddenly traumatised myself... it was as if someone wanted to pull the rug from under me - suddenly the future for both boys seems incredibly bleak - how were we going to cope with all this? I don't know.

Papa and I had a long chat - if we had the worst case scenario (as the consultant put it - and as KC's confession seemed to bear out) then there was no way I would be going back to work anytime soon.

So we made the decision to remove TJ from the small private school he currently attends - he had been struggling and we simply couldn't keep paying the fees on one salary.

Then the school let me know just how well TJ was doing - how for the first time, he had not one friend but two! He has never had any friends at school before... How we was seen laughing in the playground and chatting with other children - no longer running away or hiding under the stairs crying.

The sense of guilt was and is huge - how can we take him away from that? Put him into a large state school? I can't home school both - their needs are too different. Plus I spend two days a week in therapy for KC or at the psychotherapist for Papa and I (we are now doing a course in non violent resistance for troubled children - today's blog was supposed to be about that... but my head is full of Foetal Alcohol, it consumes me.)

I worry for the boys future - KC, is definitely more settled now he is at home, but I can't shelter him forever. TJ is loving school but what happens when we remove him?

Our debts are mounting and I can't work. Today I spent the morning on a money saving website learning about how to make money from surveys etc. Anything will help.

Our adoption dream is fast becoming a living nightmare...

Luckily we have some adoption support - which I know is so much more than a lot of struggling families out there. KC now has a tutor - I can't leave the house whilst she is here - but at least I do get a break. I am lucky, I know that - its just some days I don't know how much longer we can all cope...

Hopefully, one day i will read this back and realise this was the worst it got before it got better.

Papa said in our last therapy session that he doesn't know how I carry on - that my sense of optimism and strength was seemingly bottomless... which was lovely to hear. but this week... I can honestly say, I'm struggling...

Words I never thought I would write...





Tuesday, 16 January 2018

New Year - new... well new everything!

So living on one wage is tough - really tough.

But my new year's resolution is to make this work - by this, I mean us as a family.

And that means budgeting - a lot!

So we have started tightening our belts - finding a monthly food budget and sticking to it.

It's the sticking to it bit that's the hardest and making sure you resist the temptation to 'pop down the Co-op' to get those little things that you really 'need' - but don't really need - if you get my drift.

So, I'm staying at home - still doing the home educating thing (which is a nightmare) but luckily the Local Authority have finally agreed to provide a tutor - who comes in for ten hours per week, which then gives me time to get things sorted out - although I can't leave the house as the tutor can't be left alone with KC, safeguarding... such fun...

I would have thought we would have KC placed in a special school by now - but we are still waiting for the powers that be to finalise decisions. Referrals have been made, reports issued but four months on he is still officially 'a child not in education'. But we keep smiling and keep plodding on.

He is desperate to go back to school - if only to meet other kids of the same age - its so hard for him, he wants to socialise but then gets it all wrong and ends up alone, or worse, blamed for everything that goes wrong - he's no angel, but its not always his fault.... is it?

Now we have been assigned a course in Non Violent Reaction (NVR) - apparently they are amazing and I'm quite looking forward to it. But now the boys are bigger they seem to be constantly trying to kill each other - the Christmas holidays seemed to go on forever. So we need more tools in our parenting box other than shouting and sending to the room to think about things - after all what kids actually goes to their room to think about things - I know I never did...

But TJ has gone back to school now - although we have a slight issue in that he is at a small private school - he couldn't cope with a large school and his issues aren't seen as 'major' enough to grant him a place in a special school - but budgeting means we may have to look at how we pay for his school. Luckily he gets some allowances from the government and we have applied for an adoption allowance for him - but I worry. Still it was our decision to place him there - not his. Am I whinging? I don't know - today seems like a stream of consciousness... The local authority have agreed to assess TJ for his EHC Plan (which KC already has) - which could then enable him to go to a specialist school as well - but then I wonder if its all worth it.

Maybe once KC is back in school I can attempt to find another job - even a part time one. What happened to all my career plans - the words back-burner spring to mind.

Adoption really does change your life forever.

I'm in a process of re-evaluation - which can't be a bad thing...




Friday, 15 December 2017

December

December is a funny old month for us.

Alongside all the usual festivities we have a barrel load of family issues to deal with.

December is a month of birthdays (not just Jesus') and also marks the deaths of both my parents, so all the talk of family celebrations can really hit home.

I swing from Christmas love and festive cheer to a Scrooge like bitterness on a daily basis. Today as I listened to the radio I was suddenly gripped by a dreadful sense of envy as we listened to various celebrities telling us how they were dreading the trips back home to see their familes - for whatever comical reason, mum's cooking, dad's jokes etc etc and yet I was filled with a sense of sadness that we haven't got that family to go back to.

Of course we have Ed's family and they are amazing, but a Singapore Christmas just doesn't quite hit home for me (maybe that's my problem) and Ed would rather go home for Chinese New Year (which is completely understandable).

When we first adopted the boys we always said we would spend Christmas with my family and CNY with Ed's - so the boys had a sense of a cultural link with both families.

I wish the boys would have known my dad and they loved my mum, so at least they have memories - it was strange when we were Christmas shopping the other day, KC turned to me and said, 'The last time we were in this store was with Granny.' - the strangest things remind us.

We didn't tell KC that Granny died the day before his birthday - we saved the news until after, I don't know if that was a good idea - one day we will tell him the truth I guess.

So we go from anniversaries to birthdays.

KC has just turned 13 - and boy do we know it! He still hasn't got a school at the minute so I'm in the midst of battling the Local Authority to make sure he has a placement in the New Year - although that now seems unlikely as the council begin to break up for Christmas - honestly, our local authority seems to have more holidays than school!

But they now have placed a tutor with us and he is back in therapy - so we must count our blessings. Although sometimes I don't feel particulalrly blessed.

Still, TJ is doing well - he breaks up from school today and last night he went to his carol service - by himself - he was so proud of that! I had to stay home with KC, who is on self harm watch... more festive fun!

Next week marks the anniversary of my Dad's untimely death, he was only 53 and I am fast approaching the same age - as Papa keeps reminding me. I know he is only joking but it dos worry me. I'm now on a pre Christmas keep fit binge!(my goal is not to be asked to be Santa at next year's school fayre!!!!)

I do have incredibly fond memories of childhood Christmasses - big family events, parties with my cousins, all linked by grandparents, although they were inevitably organised by one of my industrious Aunts. We never had a house big enough to host everyone (or that was my Mum's excuse anyway).

Maybe I'm just over romanticising things - but I do worry that the boys won't have the same fond memories, just boring Christmasses at home with us.

I guess we have to create our own traditions.

Then we have the big day itself closely followed by my nephew's birthday on Boxing Day and TJ's birthday on the 28th - all before New Year kicks in.

It's Papa's bithday in January that marks the closure of the birth day/death anniversary mix up for us - and then we go into Chinese New Year - where we can hopefully, relax and enjoy a family event and the boys can enjoy being with their grandparents and Papa's family.

I want to focus on the positives, on the joys of Christmas but every now and then I have to stop and indulge in a little reminiscing, maybe as we get older that becomes the focus of this time of year.

I love Christmas but I dread December.

I miss my parents.









Thursday, 2 November 2017

How Did I Miss National Adoption Week? Oops!

Blimey - how did that happen.
It's November!!!!!

I've just been catching up on all the National Adoption Week News, we were away for it this year, our first trip to Malta, and I have to say that if you are looking for a laid back, family holiday then Malta really delivers. After the few weeks we have had it was lovely just to relax as a family and remember that adoption is only part of who we all are and that, despite all the problems, the boys are struggling just as much as we are with everything and that they need a break from it all as well.

It was lovely to see KC run off with some other children his own age and... smile! I don't think he has smiled for a long time. The problem with school is it doesn't allow children to be just that... children.
The jump from primary to secondary education can just be a step too far for many children but for children with significant difficulties it can be really difficult.

We kept both boys at the same school from primary into senior - it seems to be working for TJ but KC struggled, as you know.

Homeschooling does seem to work in some ways - he is definitely more relaxed, but I know its not the solution to our problems - he needs to learn how to socialise properly and, more importantly, appropriately.

So I have to provide a series of reports to prove to the LA that his EHC Plan now needs adjusting to take into account his emotional needs rather than his educational ones.

It was funny that the Post Adoption Social Worker called me this week to ask for advice to help another family in a similar position to ours - but thats adoption for you - we are all just muddling along, hoping somehow the answers will suddenly appear.

I had mixed feelings about the theme for this year's National Adoption week, if I remember rightly, it was sibling groups back in 2014 as well - but now, three years later, I sometimes feel like saying - 'don't do it - sibling placements don't work!"

Then I watched the boys playing together over the holidays and perhaps I changed my mind - for a while...

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 Papa 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 Papa 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 mom'. 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!

ลดSo 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.